Whaleback Growing Managed VoIP Program

VoIP SMB IP telephony

"There's a war between hosted VoIP versus boxes and systems, and a managed service is the best of both," said Dave Zwicker, Portsmouth, N.H.-based Whaleback's marketing vice president.

While Whaleback has always had some form of partner program in place, Zwicker said the revamped program lets interconnect companies, VARs and managed service providers offer their SMB customers a managed broadband VoIP service that gains them a recurring revenue stream with little upfront cost.

"It's not like we didn't have a partner program before now," Zwicker said. "We've just enhanced it quite a bit."

Currently, Whaleback is 100 percent channel based, but is not looking to over-saturate. Instead, it has taken on what Zwicker calls an "anchor store strategy." Similar to a shopping mall and its anchor store, Whaleback's three-tiered program is anchored by Premier Partners, its network of telecom resellers, interconnects, IT services and managed IT service providers that sell CrystalBlue in their territories in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southeast regions. Zwicker said Whaleback wants to have a small number of partners filtering business into different regions with about four to six partners operating in a major metropolitan area. Whaleback is also selective about its partners, having them sign up for productivity targets. If those targets are met, business continues, if not, responsibilities get shifted to other partners.

Sponsored post

Whaleback's service features a managed, premise-based IP PBX with key system functionality along with a broadband-based telephone service infrastructure. The CrystalBlue service features an all-inclusive, unlimited nationwide calling package for companies that need anywhere from 5 to 1,500 phone stations. It also includes a separate voice only broadband connection inclusive in the monthly price. Whaleback also monitors and maintains the entire service around the clock.

As part of the revamped program, Whaleback has set up a new sales agent program through which Whaleback administered sales agents are trained, tested and certified to help partners uncover sales opportunities. These agents fall into two categories: An Independent Referral Agent (IRA) or a Certified Partner Agent (CPA). An IRA is a member of an informal sales agent program with no quota targets or selling responsibilities who are paid a flat commission fee, called a referral reward, for each customer that is referred to Whaleback and closed by a Premier Partner. A CPA is part of a formal, structured sales agent program that features higher compensation based on a performance-based commission plan. The two types of agents are in place to help partners extend their sales coverage in their local markets and generate a higher volume of sales leads.

CPAs, who are often VARs, consultants or service providers, work with partners to find new customers on an ongoing basis and are given training and work under a more formal sales agent relationship with Whaleback. IRAs can earn up to $500 for each company they refer to Whaleback that sign up for CrystalBlue. All agents enter at the IRA level and then are certified as they demonstrate success.

Zwicker said the sales agent model helps partners bring in more sales without having to hire additional personnel. It also offers a fallback option if Premier Partners don't reach their goals; they can become an agent.

Zwicker said the Whaleback model, while offering partners less upfront revenue, helps create a stronger recurring revenue stream over the life of a typical four-year contract. While standard PBX sales can bring a VAR 90 percent upfront and 10 percent recurring, the Whaleback model essentially brings in 30 percent upfront and 70 percent recurring over the life of the contract.

"Over time they can make almost double the return on the customer sales they win," he said.

The model, Zwicker said, also helps solution providers get into VoIP without having to buy, resell and support new hardware, since Whaleback can remotely manage everything.

According to Richard Hillman, president and managing partner of Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based solution provider A2000, the recurring revenue stream is a big draw for VARs, while customers, especially SMBs, are drawn in by not having to struggle with the complexity of their own internal VoIP system.

"The customer gets less complexity, and the partner has a lower TCO," he said, adding that there is less need for staff, certifications and ongoing training offering a managed VoIP service. "There's less cost going to market with it."

Hillman said offering a managed VoIP solution also lowers the risk of having to buy gear up front and install it.

And as budgets become tighter, smaller companies are more comfortable with paying a monthly fee than a massive upfront cost for a VoIP system and with that they get monitoring and support.

"There's less risk to us as a company," he said.