CenturyLink's New Channel Focus: First Tiered Program, Plans To Bring Third-Party IT To Partners

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CenturyLink is rolling out its first tiered channel program and will shortly expand it by making a wide range of products and services from its strategic vendor partners available to channel partners who need such products to meet customer requirements, but may not have direct relationships with those vendors.

CenturyLink's plans to bring third-party vendor products to its channel partner community were introduced at the company's CenturyLink Alliance Ascend partner conference being held this week in San Diego.

CenturyLink has had a channel program for years, but it was a single-tier program that treated all partners equally, said John DeLozier, vice president of channel alliances for the Monroe, La.-based communications, hosting, cloud, and IT services provider.

[Related: CenturyLink Merger With Level 3 Gives Partners More To Sell In The Enterprise]

The new CenturyLink Ascend Metals channel program has five partner levels, ranging from bronze to diamond, differentiated according to partners' recurring revenue and sales commitment, DeLozier told CRN.

As partners move up the tiers, they gain increased access to marketing assistance, market development funds, and incentives for bringing in new customers, he said.

"We used to have one level," he said. "Everybody was treated the same. No distinctions. Going forward, we will never apologize for treating the best partners the best."

The next major enhancement to the new CenturyLink Ascend Metals program will be the availability of a wide range of third-party products via CenturyLink to its channel partners.

CenturyLink has strategic partnerships with a number of top IT vendors including NetApp, Cisco, VMware, Microsoft, Juniper, and others, and has traditionally sold products from those vendors direct to business clients, said Bill Corbin, CenturyLink's senior vice president of partnerships and channel operations.

Starting in the second quarter, the company will bring those vendors' products to its channel partners via CenturyLink's Ascend Metals channel program as a way to bring additional value to the CenturyLink services those partners currently offer customers, Corbin told CRN.

It is a big opportunity for CenturyLink channel partners who do not currently have relationships with those vendors, said Bill Hurley, the company's chief marketing officer.

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