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CRN Exclusive: Partners Ready To Grow Alongside NTT's Blossoming Channel Program

As NTT America signs on master agent partners to its year-old channel program, partners say the ICT provider is helping to expand their reach to larger, global customers.

Global information and communications technology (ICT) provider NTT America got serious about its channel strategy when the company launched its first Channel Partner Program last September, opening up its entire portfolio of services to select master agents. Now, the provider is aiming for over a quarter of its revenue to come from the channel next year, and partners are eager to help.

The initial goal of the NTT America Global Solutions Channel Partner Program was to attract and sign on a select set of 15 global master agents within a two-year period that would help NTT sell its global ICT services, including cloud, IP, network functions virtualization and software-defined networks, and data center solutions. One year into the program, NTT has signed on nine master agents, with two additional relationships in the works, according to Rob Westervelt, vice president and general manager of sales and global solutions for NTT America.

The program is expanding recurring revenue opportunities for master agents and their solution provider partners by extension, said Vince Bradley, CEO of Malibu, Calif.-based telecom master agent and connectivity services distributor World Telecom Group (WTG), an NTT partner.

[Related: WTG Opens Global Cloud, Networking Services To Channel Via NTT Partnership]

The relationship with NTT is helping WTG sign on new partners because of NTT's global footprint, an important quality for solution providers that not many large domestic carriers can offer, Bradley said.

"In less than a year, NTT is already in our top five for [sales] opportunities, which is huge," he said.

With NTT's breadth of global products, partners can put together solutions using a single provider's infrastructure and services – rather than going through multiple providers -- making the solution more reliable, NTT's Westervelt said.

"Today, if a [partner] is looking for a data center in North America, one in China, and one in Singapore, they can come to us and we can put that under one agreement and tie all those data centers together with our network," he said.

Through its partnership with NTT, Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based master agent Sandler Partners has been able to reach increasingly larger customers, without running into the typical difficulties associated with working with a large provider that partners often encounter, said Alan Sandler, founder of Sandler Partners.

"Working with NTT Com is opening up opportunities for us to serve U.S.-based multinational companies, which often are protected accounts for the major U.S.-based telecom service providers, such as AT&T or Verizon," Sandler said.

Like WTG and Sandler Partners, NTT's global presence expanded the reach for master agent Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI), too. "We have more options for our partners now on a global level [and] larger enterprises with hard to reach international locations are considering us more," said Ken Mercer, vice president of Chicago-based TBI.

Through its relationship with master agents, NTT this year has been able to reach enterprise and midmarket customers through 3,000 to 5,000 distributor, MSP, system integrator and VAR sub-agents, Westervelt said.

"We didn't want to go out and sign 50 agents; we wanted to get the top partners in the industry. … We actually targeted certain [master agents] that we knew would be a value add for us and for those companies, they've never had a company like NTT in their portfolio before," he said. "With the 15 master agents we are targeting, we are really hitting every sub-agent out there."

Not only does the relationship between NTT and its master agent partners open up new global product sets to the channel, but there is a much more noticeable focus on the channel from NTT, WTG's Bradley said.

WTG had been selling NTT products in the past, but that relationship didn't give WTG access to specific NTT services, like MPLS. "It was really problematic for us, so we didn't do much business because it was tougher back then," Bradley said.

Agents are taking another look at NTT now because of its reimagined channel focus, Bradley said. "There is absolutely an awareness and interest. When we see that commit to the channel, that makes a big difference to us agents," he said.

"In addition to NTT Com’s brand and international reach, it is easy to work with and channel-friendly," agreed Sandler.

Not only are new master agents being onboarded, but NTT is starting to see deals closing, too, Westervelt said.

"The funnels are growing and deals are being signed now," he said.
"Over the last three months, we've doubled our new logos each month over month. We are getting some large opportunities that surpassed my expectations as well -- in the $2 [million] to $3 million plus total contract value."

With the majority of its targeted master agent partners signed on, NTT will be focusing on education moving forward, Westervelt said. Partners have access to an onboarding deck that gives them an overview of NTT products and services, as well as regular webinars. NTT is also looking into incorporating a certification program into a portal that partners can achieve.

"We want to put Web trainings and recordings out there," he said. "I think the key to ongoing success is to be able to give them those trainings on demand when an opportunity pops up or when they want a refresher. Partners like to be educated, and to do things on their own."

With no channel strategy in place just last year, Westervelt wants indirect sales through partners to account for 25 percent to 35 percent of revenue in 2016. These sales will be helped by new products, such as infrastructure and management services, coming down the pike, he said.

"I think as we start to go up the stack, it's going to bring significantly more revenue opportunities for the partner community," he said.

NTT America Global Solutions Channel Partner team is available to review the terms and conditions of its partner program with interested parties at the Cloud Partners 2015 conference this week in Boston, the company said.


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