ShoreTel Sees Master Agents As Sales Engine For UCaaS

Unified communications provider ShoreTel sees unprecedented growth through the channel with master agents leading the way.

"We've seen about a 64 percent increase year-over-year in the business that we are getting through master agents," Mark Roberts, CMO at ShoreTel, told CRN.

This shift channel distribution is being driven by master agents who are selling new solutions, including UCaaS, in addition to connectivity. With that trend in mind, ShoreTel is modifying its go-to-market approach to focus on the master agent and sub-agent partner communities, Roberts said.

[Related: ShoreTel Puts More Cloud Services Revenues In Partners' Hands With PartnerStart Program]

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The channel – especially agent partners – have been instrumental in the adoption of UC, namely, UCaaS, Roberts said.

"It's a natural, logical extension from selling connectivity," he said.

ShoreTel partners with several master agents today, including Sandy, Utah-based Telarus, Marietta, Ga.-based MicroCorp, and Petaluma, Calif.-based Intelisys, which was acquired by IT distributor ScanSource – also a partner to ShoreTel.

ShoreTel offers UCaaS, as well as premises-based UC products, which have been more appealing to the traditional VAR community. But the provider hasn't had the resources to grow its VAR base because of its recent focus on its cloud UC portfolio.

ShoreTel is now addressing this by announcing a two-tiered distribution strategy for partners selling its premises-based products in the U.S., just like it has in place in EMEA and APAC.

Effective July 1, ShoreTel is expanding its existing partnership with ScanSource in the North America. ShoreTel partners who currently buy premises-based UC products directly from ShoreTel today will buy ShoreTel's premises-based products through ScanSource, and eventually, Ingram Micro, Roberts said.

By aligning its U.S. distribution model with the two-tiered distribution approach ShoreTel uses in EMEA and APAC, the company can focus on doing what it does best – creating software and evolving its cloud-based UC solutions, according to Roberts.

Working with ScanSource will give partners a place to go for centralized distribution with same-day shipping. Partners can also tap the distributor's professional services teams, Roberts said.

"Inventory management is just not one of our core competencies, but it's why [distributors] exist," Roberts said. "Moving over to a distributor, we think, will be a much better experience for our partners."

ShoreTel said it will continue to provide sales and marketing support for partners who will now be buying ShoreTel's premise-based solutions through ScanSource.

Partners selling ShoreTel's cloud-based UC solutions will still be working directly with ShoreTel, Roberts said.

While ShoreTel has been growing its agent partner community through its master agent partners, the provider has limited the number of VAR partners because of challenges around inventory, Roberts said. However, ShoreTel believes that the two-tier distribution model will address these challenges and help grow the VAR community, while it can continue to grow its cloud business.

"It's time to focus on cloud growth," he said.