RingCentral Revamps Channel Program, Sets Sights On New Partners Via Master Agents

Cloud-based communications provider RingCentral's new channel chief wants partners to know it's moving full steam ahead into the channel, with plans unveiled Tuesday to recruit thousands of new agent partners by working with master agent partners.

Zane Long, RingCentral vice president of global channel sales since January after serving as head of Unified Communications-as-a-Service provider Vonage's partner program, is now at the helm of RingCentral's revamped channel partner program.

RingCentral's former channel strategy revolved around working through distributor partners, but now the provider is going after master agent partners in an effort to attract potentially thousands of sub-agent partners, RingCentral told CRN.

[Related: RingCentral Seeking 'Thousands' Of New Partners For UCaaS Channel Charge; Forms Alliance With Westcon]

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"We want to show partners that RingCentral is available to sell," Long said. "[Partners] have been wanting to sell our services, but we just didn’t have the right contracts or compensation program in place. We recognize now we have the opportunity to expand the channel, and the way we are expanding is by recruiting specific types of partners into our program that we didn't have before."

By targeting the relatively small group of master agents in the U.S., RingCentral will be able to put its offerings in the hands of potentially thousands of agent partners, Long said.

"With the acquisition of [about] 18 of the master agent partners, those companies bring approximately 30,000 sub-agents that can quote and sell RingCentral through their contract with their master agent," Long said.

One of Long's first initiatives with RingCentral has been to reconstruct contracts and adjust compensation structures to "speak to the master agent community," he said.

To kick off the expansion, RingCentral has contracts out to several master agents, including Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based master agent Sandler Partners. The master agent is seeing success with RingCentral, which has already become Sandler's top VoIP provider based on new revenue growth, according to Alan Sandler, founder and managing partner of Sandler Partners.

Sandler partners, which has about 3,200 sales partners, expects there will be more interest in RingCentral from the channel going forward.

RingCentral's cloud-based offering is a very appealing product to the channel, but up until now, the provider has primarily focused on direct sales, Sandler said.

With Long leading the channel, RingCentral is poised to gain more mind share with the solution provider community, Sandler said.

"[Long] has a long history of driving executive buy-in for the channel, Sandler said. "As a result, we expect RingCentral’s channel partners to benefit from more education, more communication, more channel manager support, more sales incentives, and a stronger evergreen agreement."

RingCentral plans on keeping its pool of master agent partners small in the beginning.

"We want to go deep with the relationship, the onboarding, and the training," Long said. "[We want] to be able to devote more of those resources and focus on those relationships that I consider a perfect fit with what we're doing at RingCentral."

RingCentral is taking a unique approach to indirect sales. The provider's direct sales team works with its indirect sales team instead of competing, Long said.

"Once a partner identifies a customer that is 50-plus users, we engage our [direct sales team] to assist or sell on behalf of the partner to close that customer for them, and [partners] gets paid the same," Long explained.

This collaborative approach is creating significant harmony between direct and indirect sales team that other providers struggle to achieve, Long said.

While RingCentral has seen a lot of success through working with its distribution partners, such as Ingram Micro and Tech Data, the company wants to fill the gap in its channel strategy.

"We enjoy working with the distributors and have seen great success, but with the addition of the master agent community, we have the opportunity to take it even further," Long said.