Mitel Shakes Up Partner Program With New Value-Based Rewards, Ranking Structure

Mitel is restructuring its North American channel program so that solution providers are no longer ranked and rewarded based exclusively on sales volume, the unified communications and contact center vendor said Monday.

"We know our channel partners are a lot more than just the revenue that they provide," said Sandra Hill, vice president of channel management and distribution at Mitel. "So [we] wanted to create a rewards system that recognizes partners' credential and capabilities, and therefore can reward a broader spectrum of channel partners, from small to large to various verticals and areas of expertise."

The new Mitel partner program, which goes live in North America early next month, has three separate tracks, including one for Mitel solution provider, carrier and cloud provider partners.

[Related: Mitel Launches White-Label Partner Program For UCaaS ]

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The solution provider or VAR track, Hill said, is for solution providers selling a mix of both Mitel on-premise and cloud-based UC offerings. Partners in this track will be segmented into four different categories: Authorized, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Mitel's Diamond level, the highest-ranking partner tier, is being eliminated under the new program.

Mitel will rank partners as Authorized, Silver, Gold or Platinum based on a combination of their annual sales volume and the number of Mitel certifications they hold. In the past, partners were ranked exclusively by sales volume.

At the lowest-level Authorized tier, partners need to hold two technical certifications: one for Mitel's miVoice UC platform and one for any other Mitel application, such as contact center or video.

Silver partners must have one miVoice certification, as well two more for any other Mitel application. Gold partners need to have eight miVoice certifications, in addition to six certifications on other Mitel applications. Platinum partners need to have 16 miVoice certifications and 12 more on other Mitel applications.

Partner earn these certifications by sending a staff member through Mitel's technical installation and maintenance training courses.

Gold and Platinum partners are also required to reach a certain number of pre- and post-sales certifications and minimum demo kit capabilities.

The new sales volume targets for each level are $250,000 or below at the Authorized tier; between $250,000 and $999,999 at the Silver tier; between $1 million and $3.9 million at the Gold tier; and $4 million and above at the Platinum tier.

According to Sandy Janes, director of channel strategy at Mitel, a partner's technical requirements carry more weight than their sales volume when it comes to segmentation.

"If you match the Platinum criteria on a revenue basis, but meet Silver technical certifications, then you would be a Silver partner and receive the Silver discount structure," Janes said.

Partner discounts and resources, such as MDF, increase at each of tier. Janes said partners' base discounts will continue to be based on their tier and their annual sales volumes, as was the case in the past. The new Mitel partner program, however, also offers partners additional discounts and rewards based on their "operational achievement." Partners, for example, who identify any bugs within Mitel's software will now earn reward points, Janes said.

Herbert Rosen, president and CEO of Trans-West Network Solutions, a Phoenix-based solution provider and Mitel partner, said he welcomed the new partner program and the more value-based partner rewards structure.

"We have invested heavily in [Mitel] products over the years, as far as training and being involved. We also have been more or less a permanent beta tester for them, so when new products come out we run them in our office," Rosen said. "It's nice to hear that we are going to be rewarded for the extra efforts we put out for Mitel. We now get benefits for being a vested participant with their company and with their products."

There are roughly 500 partners in the U.S. that will fall into the VAR or solution provider track of the new Mitel partner program. Janes said she consulted with at least 50 partners when creating the new program.

The cloud provider track will be structured similarly to the VAR track, but will be exclusively focused on partners that are hosting or reselling Mitel's cloud solutions, such as its MiCloud suite of hosted collaboration tools.

Rosen said Trans-West Network Solutions is definitely seeing growth in its Mitel business, with much of that growth stemming from Mitel's cloud-based or hosted.

"What's growing the most right now is in the hosted arena, because we can tell a better story. Businesses are changing. They don’t want an IT department if they don’t need one," Rosen said. "They want to focus on their business and don’t want to have to support the hardware, the software and the staff. This way, we take pieces of that away from them."

The carrier track is exclusively for Mitel carrier or service provider partners, Janes said. It's possible for partners to participate in multiple tracks.

"We do have partners that do both. They sell both on-premise and cloud-based solutions. In those cases -- and we have a lot of them -- what we are going to do is treat them like a whole partner," Janes said. "So let's say I have a partner that does $1 million in on-premise solutions under the VAR track, and $1 million on the cloud side, we treat them like a $2 million partner."

Janes said new partners who joined the Mitel channel through its recent merger with Aastra or acquisition of PrairieFrye will have until early 2015 to join the new program.