Carriers Look To Connect With Channel Partners

Telecom carriers

But how do carriers and solution providers come together and make a partnership than benefits both sides? That was one of the big questions tackled during an XChange Power Panel Thursday, which features a group of experts from both the carrier market and the telco channel. Vince Bradley, president and CEO of World Telecom Group, moderated the panel and opened the discussion by outlining the three types of channel models for carriers today: direct carrier contracts, which require quota commitments; mast agents, which receive back office support but no quotas; and referral programs, which have no engagement requirements.

Bradley asked what it takes for a solution provider to sell a carrier's connectivity services today. "With the advent of the cloud, it's more in vogue to sell these services," said Craig Schlagbaum, vice president of indirect channel sales for Comcast Business Services. "But you need to have some expertise on your staff to sell these kinds of services."

Chris Gardiner, senior partner at Tranquility Networks, agreed with Schlagbaum. "It's not ancillary," he said. "You have to have [connectivity services] as a focus if you're going to be successful."

Bob Schroeder, director of strategic opportunities at CenturyLink Business Market Groups, cautioned the audience that connectivity services are enormously complex and that solution providers need special knowledge of both the customers and applications behind the services to make it all work.

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So if it's so difficult, then why would a solution provider want to get into the connectivity services business, Bradley asked. Ray Mota, president of ACG Research Group, put it simply: the cloud doesn't exist without carrier services. Mota added that carriers services can be built into a strong annuity stream for VARs that becomes "a gift that keeps on giving."

Gardiner said carrier services are attractive because they give solution providers control of a clients' complete IT operation. He suggested that audience members interested in carrier services start out with a referral program, which would allow them to get their feet wet and learn the business model without assuming a lot of risk.

Bradley asked what solution providers should look for in carrier partners. The panel members stressed that carrier training and education are crucial for newcomers to the market. Schroeder said credibility and support are the two most important elements for carriers to attract partners. "I think you have to look at [carriers] that can provide the parts you need to be successful," he said.