The convergence of the telecom and IT channels is nothing new to master agent Telarus, which for years has offered targeted programs for VARs interested in adding carrier services to their broader IT portfolios.
But at its second annual Partner Summit, taking place this week in Park City, Utah, Telarus urged its agent partners to further drive this convergence and to stress to traditional IT VARs that not embracing carrier and telecom services could ultimately be their downfall.
"If [VARs] aren't paying attention to telecom, they will be blind-sided by what's coming," said Patrick Oborn, co-founder and vice president of marketing at Telarus, who delivered a session Wednesday focused on best practices for growing an agent-VAR relationship.
Oborn stressed that when attempting to strike up new partnerships with VARs, agents shouldn't just focus on the more obvious reasons, like recurring revenue streams, for a VAR to get into the carrier and telecom space. Instead, he said, agents should stress that it's a must-take step for VARs if they want to protect their existing customer base from carriers that have been actively building out, or acquiring, IT services practices of their own.
"Since our last meeting there has been a roulette wheel of M&As happening between our partners, the carriers and IT companies," Oborn said, noting Verizon's 2011 acquisition of Terremark as an example.
Oborn listed off certain types of VARs -- or "Angel VARs," as he called them -- that would make ideal partners for telecom agents. Among them, he said, are those whose customers often grapple with bandwidth limitations, such as solution providers in the data center, back-up and disaster recovery, and videoconferencing space. Oborn also listed traditional phone system solution providers as an example of an "Angel VAR."
In addition to helping VARs protect their existing customer base, telecom agents and Telarus can help round out VARs' portfolios with network and carrier services, and also help transition them to the residual revenue models that accompany these services-based sales, Oborn said.
"The IT VAR channel needs the telecom channel. They don't need direct telecom reps," Oborn told Telarus agents. "We're the only ones who can bring telecom to them in the nice, amicable fashion ... so it's important that you reach out to them, and reach out to these 'Angel VARs,' and that you do it in the right way."
Many of the telecom agents on-site at this year's Telarus Partner Summit already partner with VARs in some form or another. Lance Akins, president of Crossvergence, an Austin, Texas-based telecom agent, said he actually bases his whole business model around partnerships with traditional IT solution providers.
Akins, who used to be vice president of sales at Telarus before he launched his own company in January, said he has started to build a base of "vested" IT solution provider partners who can help provide services related to the data center and virtualization, while he, in return, helps provide carrier and telecom services to their same end customers.
"I know what I'm good at, but I think my strength in partnering is more knowing what I'm not good at," Akins said.
To make sure these partnerships last, Akins said he stresses to partners that he has no plans to move into their areas of expertise, or to take over their relationships with end customers. Instead, he will stick to his bread-and-butter telecom piece, while his partners stick to the broader IT and managed services piece.
"I have to let [partners] know, 'I'm not an engineer, I'm not trained in virtualization, and pulling wire is just this concept to me. ... I'm just not that guy,'" Akins said.
Zachary Schechter, an independent sales consultant for Telarus and president of New Jersey-based agency ZCS Enterprises, said he has noticed more and more VARs becoming active in telecom and network services over the past year.
"It's not like I have more VARs knocking on my door than I did before, but I do think all the VARs I have in my funnel are more active in network services than they ever have before," Schechter said, adding that this uptick likely stems from the increasing bandwidth demands of enterprise customers today.
To help drive collaboration between agents and VARs, Telarus in 2007 launched VARNetwork.com, a resource center to help agents work through deals with VARs, pay the VARs with which they work and generate hardware leads for active members of Telarus' VAR referral networks. The main idea was that equipment or hardware leads would be sent out to VARs in the names of Telarus agents, and that the VARs, in return, would bring network leads back to the agents.
As of May 2013, Telarus said it has over 4,000 registered VARs using the system.
PUBLISHED JUNE 19, 2013