Verizon Opens Up 1,700 'Top Enterprise' Accounts To Channel

Following a massive redesign of its U.S. partner program last year, Verizon Enterprise Solutions said Wednesday it's opening up more than a thousand of its top enterprise accounts to partners.

The enterprise-focused arm of U.S. carrier giant Verizon also revealed Wednesday plans to expand its Verizon Partner Program into Europe.

Janet Schijns, vice president of corporate, medium and indirect channels at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, told CRN that, starting now, an additional 1,700 of Verizon's top enterprise accounts have been opened up to the channel. Previously, these accounts were exclusively managed by Verizon's direct sales team.

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"We are enhancing our U.S. program to allow the members of our partner program to offer Verizon-branded enterprise-class products and services across all of our customers," Schijns said.

In the past, the Verizon Partner Program was focused exclusively around Verizon's medium-sized or low-end enterprise accounts. But Schijns said customer feedback showed that larger enterprise organizations also wanted the opportunity to work directly with Verizon partners when needed.

"As customers embrace this new world with cloud, mobility and more complex solutions, and try to simplify that within their businesses, it's not so much about the vendor waiting in the hall or the partner waiting in the hall," Schijns said. "It's the ecosystem sitting at the table and designing with the customer the solutions that they need. In that world, you need to work together."

Schijns said the idea is that partners will work hand in hand with Verizon's direct sales reps on these larger deals. Both groups, for instance, will be able to register deals through Verizon's platform, and then loop each other in.

"[Partners] may register a deal and bring us in, we may register a deal and bring them in, but it is now open for partners to participate in these accounts and design best-in-class solutions," Schijns said. "It's a fundamental shift in how we service the customer."

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The Verizon Partner Program features five solution tracks -- networks, mobility, advanced communications, cloud/applications and machine-to-machine (M2M) -- in which partners can be specialized and become certified. Schijns said Verizon had already started to open up its larger enterprise accounts to partners in the mobility and M2M tracks. After the model took off, the New York-based company decided to expand it to the three other tracks.

Gina Pigott, CEO of TeleDomani, a Bethpage, N.Y.-based master agent and Verizon partner, applauded Verizon's decision to let partners work with its larger enterprise customers. She said, in the past, TeleDomani had helped grow many of Verizon's midsize customers, but because enterprise accounts were off-limits, TeleDomani wasn't able to stay with that customer once they reached a certain size.

"Many accounts we grew over the years and then we were unable to sell [to them]," Pigott said. "Now, with this, it's inviting us back to so many people we have worked with over the years. It lets [Verizon] leverage our relationships and for us to use their overlays and their staff. Now I think the customers will get the best experience."

Schijns said partners selling into the enterprise will have access to the same Verizon tools, like its rapid delivery order and deal-registration systems, that they've used when selling into the SMB market. With the addition of the 1,700 enterprise accounts, 100 percent of Verizon's accounts are now open to partners through deal registration, according to Schijns.

Verizon has taken several steps to revamp its channel strategy over the past few years. In 2013, the company introduced a redesigned version of its partner program that combined six previous programs into one. The program, which ushered in the Verizon Partner Relationship Management Portal and other resources for partners, was meant to simplify and streamline Verizon's route to market through the channel.

The program also allows partners to select how they want to do business with Verizon, offering three business models: the agent model, where partners sell Verizon products and services on behalf of the company; the resale model, which offers partners flexibility to package, market and resell Verizon services; and the "sell with" model, where partners jointly market and present complementary solutions but don't actually sell Verizon products or services.

Pigott said Verizon has "reinvented itself," for the better, through the new partner program. She said Verizon is now TeleDomani's top-selling carrier -- something that wasn't always the case -- and that their partnership is stronger than ever.

"They've just been earning the trust and partnering up with us so well," Pigott said. "We work with a lot of carriers and this one is going to be the program to be reckoned with."

Verizon's efforts to reboot its channel strategy seem to be paying off. Schijns said the carrier's partner base has grown 145 percent in the past year, now totaling around 1,000 partners that are a mix of IT solution providers and telecom agents. The intent, however, is not to scale the program to include "tens of thousands" of partners, she said. Verizon, instead, wants to work more closely with a smaller, but committed, group of partners.

"We are recruiting and bringing in the best of the best, because that’s what our customers expect from Verizon and deserve from Verizon," Schijns said. "So the phenomenal increase in the number of members you can expect to slow down as we move forward."