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Vitalone, for his part, has returned to ShoreTel at a particularly important time. His first stretch with the company lasted from 2005 to 2009 and included ShoreTel's 2007 IPO. This time, however, he's running channel management, and after finishing a listening tour with the current mix of ShoreTel partners, decided to start making investments.
One of those, said Vitalone, is the $600,000 ShoreTel pumped into solutions-sale training classes set to take place in Orlando this week, which sold out soon after their announcement. The goal is to provide a deeper-dive technical resource to partners in areas such as ShoreTel Mobility and how to get partners to upset and cross-sell their customers beyond mere sales of premise systems.
"We are now seen as a major player," Vitalone said, when asked about the biggest difference between the ShoreTel of today and the one he left three years earlier. "We have the opportunity to set the table with customers, and we have partners who want to lead with us. Back then, we were third in, and sometimes fourth in as a competitor."
ShoreTel's Petts said the company has undergone another very important change, and that's re-aligning its global sales team. ShoreTel added and also shifted regional account managers so that managers who had 25 partners per account are now more likely to have between seven and 12, he explained.
"That means you can be significantly closer to what's happening at the partner level," Petts said, adding that account managers will be spending more time with partners on their business plans and improving their close rates.
"Partners will have a lot more attention paid to them than they have in the past," added Vitalone. "The larger service provider partners tend to be more needy, so they tend to take more resources, and that was the way it used to be at ShoreTel where the squeaky wheel always got the grease. Now a rep who is used to calling on 30 partners will be calling on seven. That's a big change in attitude."
ShoreTel will also be investing more in cooperative marketing funds and working with partners to spend those dollars more strategically, as well as offering promotional tools like spiffs and making it easier for top-level ShoreTel partners to acquire demo equipment.
"We can't just have spend for spend's sake," Petts said. "There's a lot of stuff in channel marketing fund programs that just doesn't get utilized. It's Joe's [Vitalone's] and my perspective that this is a wasted opportunity to contribute more effectively to the partners."