New CenturyLink Exec Corbin Steps In To Drive New Partner Relationships After Channel Chief Departs

Bill Corbin

CenturyLink channel chief Blake Wetzel has left the company, but the telecom giant's interim channel chief, industry veteran Bill Corbin, has a message to partners: We will be more channel-centric, and a more important partner to new and existing partners, Corbin said in an interview with CRN.

Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink has appointed Corbin, Westcon Group's former channel leader, as its senior vice president of strategic partnerships and channel operations. While the newly created position was meant to work alongside CenturyLink's Channel Alliance vice president, Wetzel has left the company to join Rackspace.

At the helm of the provider's channel organization, Corbin will lead CenturyLink's business channel alliances, including establishing, maintaining and managing strategic relationships with systems integrators (SIs), distributors, VARs and independent software vendors (ISVs).

[Related: Veteran Channel Exec Bast To Lead Westcon-Comstor Partner Program]

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The strategic partnerships and channel operations role was created to put a "hyper-focus" on new routes to market, and new channel partners that CenturyLink isn't yet tapping into, Corbin said.

"That happens to be my background for the last 25 years -- strategic partnerships and channel development on a global basis," he said.

Corbin said that CenturyLink has recently been going through restructuring, and the provider wanted to enhance its channel program so that it could execute more efficiently within both its existing partner base and through new kinds of partners.

"I think CenturyLink has focused on a fraction of the routes [to market] available," he said. "I want to explore and understand how to get into all the potential channels, and get a lift across the entire channel organization."

CenturyLink's largest portion of channel sales are driven by its telecom agent partners, and Corbin said the provider won't let up on its focus on its legacy partners.

"At the same time, there is an internal belief [at CenturyLink] that I share, too, that we can expand that partner base to all different routes to market -- like distribution, VARs, ISVs and SIs," Corbin said.

New routes to market and new types of partners will also help CenturyLink home in on larger end users, like global enterprise customers, he said.

Like Wetzel, Corbin said he shares the belief that CenturyLink is an IT services provider, and not a "telco" anymore. As such, the provider is actively seeking out strategic partnerships that can be built with OEMs and IT vendors, including Cisco Systems and Palo Alto Networks.

In the meantime, Corbin will be meeting with 20 of CenturyLink's top partners during its upcoming partner advisory council.

"These partners are obviously doing business with CenturyLink for a reason, and I want to understand how we can fulfill their requirements to expand their businesses," he said.

Corbin said he is evaluating options both inside and outside of the company as Wetzel's replacement.

Before his appointment with CenturyLink, Corbin served as executive vice president of global sales and partner management for Westcon Group. Corbin also founded RedCard Solutions, a channels consulting business, as well as Network Catalyst, a network integration company.