VoIP Vendor Offers Relationship Tips

CommPartners, a nationwide IP-based network operator that provides wholesale VoIP and enhanced IP applications to VARs, recently hired a new president, Gregory K. Roeper. Roeper spoke to VARBusiness about how his company plans to invest in the channel, stepping up lead generation efforts and trends in IP solutions.

VB: In your experience, how can vendors and VARs work together to improve their relationships?
Roeper: First, there must be mutual commitment to the business and the effort it takes to be successful. For CommPartners, that means investing in the channel to ensure it is successful and in ensuring we have available the right solutions in our applications and product portfolio to meet the SMB markets' need.

We also need to make sure it is easy for VARs to do business with us and have attractive margin opportunities. For the VAR, it means dedicating the sales and technical resources and engaging in solid business practices, including training, that are essential to making their IP solutions services successful.

Second, set -- and meet -- realistic standards of performance.

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Third, avoid channel conflict.

Fourth, effective two-way communication. We need to hear from the channel how well we are doing in meeting their business requirements and in providing competitive and attractive solutions for them to sell to their business customers.

VB: As the new president of CommPartners, what plans do you have for your VAR partners? Will you be adding partners? How will you strengthen your relationships with your VARs?
Roeper: CommPartners plans to significantly increase our roster of VAR partners over the next 12 months by providing them the type of quality IP solutions that match the enormous opportunity for solution providers serving the SMB market. We offer a choice of programs that includes both a "white label" offering as well as traditional agent programs, and in either case the VAR has the opportunity to earn significant margins and monthly recurring revenue.

We also plan to step up our lead generation efforts for our VARs. Since we have no direct sales force, they are our exclusive and essential channel. There has not been channel conflict at CommPartners, and we don't intend to change that. The reality is we need to invest more in our channel programs to help make our VARs as productive as possible, for their benefit and for CommPartners'. Automation, training and the tools to succeed and scale are all critical initiatives for us. I also see more incentives and promotions -- and rewards for the channel and CommPartners -- as we expect business to quickly ramp over the next 12 months.

VARBusiness: What trends do you see your partners dealing with in terms of IP solutions? What are their customers looking for? How will your company address those needs?
Roeper: CommPartners has built an incredible knowledge base over the last three-plus years as it deployed IP solutions to the SMB market. Our partners are looking for IP solutions where the complexities are minimized, both for the solution provider and for the end user customer, and where the benefits are quickly realized in terms of ROI. While the business market has heard about the economic and productivity advantages of IP communications, it doesn't want to sacrifice quality or reliability. That's where having our own nationwide network designed for business quality voice is a tremendous advantage.

A migration to IP communications can take several paths from trunk replacement using our IP trunking product, to a fully hosted IP PBX solution. Providing our VARs with a range of solutions to meet their business customers' needs is essential.

We also think the "plug and play" simplicity of the Linksys One product and its design as a platform for additional IP applications will be very attractive to VARs and their SMB customers, and that's why we created the CommPartners Connect for Linksys One product.

CommPartners takes the time to certify equipment that will be connected to our network to ensure interoperability of the feature functionality and hosted applications. Over the next year, I expect certification of more equipment and relationships with more equipment manufacturers and their established VAR channels.