CenturyLink Sets Channel Sights On The Cloud

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If CenturyLink is to double its overall percentage of channel revenue within the next five years, it will need the buy-in of both traditional and cloud-centric solution providers interested in a cross-sell approach to network connectivity and hosting solutions.

That won't just happen on its own, so CenturyLink's top priority in 2013 is ensuring its thousands of partners have more enablement and support than ever for a broader range of products and services, according to Blake Wetzel, vice president of sales for CenturyLink's Channel Alliance.

"Our entire organization is set up to enable the legacy telco partner," Wetzel told CRN in an interview at CenturyLink's Alliance Expo in Denver last week. "We want to have a logical amount of growth across the entire portfolio, because there's tons of market to get at here."


[Related: 10 Networking Predictions For 2013]

The Monroe, La.-based company, now the country's third-largest telco, has spent the past few years digesting three game-changer acquisitions: Embarq in 2009 and Qwest and Savvis in 2011. Compared to other cloud and telecom companies, executives said, CenturyLink's breadth and depth with cloud solutions -- from managed hosting to Web consulting, infrastructure, colocation and Web performance management -- is the greatest.

Partners have voiced concerns that so much billion-dollar acquisition combined with both corporate restructuring and channel program retooling have left CenturyLink in constant flux. But according to Wetzel, CenturyLink has a goal to grow its channel revenue percentage from 15 percent to 30 percent in three to five years, as well as to equip partners in areas such as its Savvis hosting business, where only 5 percent of revenue is channel-driven.

CenturyLink has a goal of certifying 1,000 partners, Wetzel said -- 400 have signed on so far -- even though certification itself is not required for the Alliance program. CenturyLink also preserved initiatives such as the former Qwest Million-Dollar Bonus program -- for high-achieving partners growing CenturyLink business by $2 million over a five-year period -- and Savvis' hosting solutions consultants (HSC), which are effectively overlay staff designed to help partners identify and develop new market opportunities.

"Product-plus-channel doesn't necessarily equal success when the product and service are so new and disruptive," Bob Hollander, CenturyLink senior vice president, sales, hosting solutions, told CRN. "You have to light the path to opportunities, otherwise you're wasting everybody's time."

Hollander said CenturyLink will continue to focus on targeted-offer bundles, such as the recently announced SavvisDirect program, and making those resources both repeatable and scalable, depending on the type of CenturyLink partner and the size and nature of the deal it pursues.

NEXT: Helping Partners Cross-Sell, Up-Sell And Strategize

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