MCI Pushes Ahead With New Partner Program Amidst Possible Acquisition

The launch of the new MCI Solution Provider Channel Program comes as rumors swirl that either Qwest Communications or Verizon could buy the Ashburn, Va.-based telecom carrier.

Todd Gerdes, senior vice president of MCI's solution provider channel, declined to comment on the possible acquisition of MCI, instead pointing to the company's desire to strengthen its SMB business when asked about the timing of the program launch.

"We obviously want to penetrate the small/medium business marketplace," Gerdes said. "As the needs of these customers become more complex and as these [solution] providers become more ingrained and closely aligned with their customers, it's a natural fit for us to go out there and really work with and partner with these agents and VARs to gain more business," he said.

Tuesday's program launch marks the culmination of updates and changes to its channel strategy begun six months ago, Gerdes said. In that time, MCI has seen its channel sales volume double, he said, noting that he expects channel sales eventually to triple this year compared to six months ago.

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MCI does not divulge what percentage of its overall sales comes from channel partners.

The changes included the deployment of 40 regional channel managers to help improve sales support to partners in the field, Gerdes said. The company has maintained the 20 national channel managers it already had in place, he said.

MCI's new program splits its more than 1,000 partners into three categories: Solution Provider, for partners that sell services that bring in up to $50,000 in monthly recurring revenue; Preferred Provider, for partners selling $50,000 to $500,000 monthly; and Premier Provider, for partners selling more than $500,000 monthly.

Commissions for partners range from 15 percent to 20 percent depending on their partner level and the type of services sold.

With the new partner program, MCI is also launching its first certification program for agents and resellers working the company's strategic offerings, including its security, VoIP, hosting and managed network services.

Partners that obtain the optional certifications and prerequisite training will receive an additional commission of about 3 percent on monthly recurring revenues, said Bruce Walt, director of mid-market and channel marketing at MCI.

The certifications themselves are not as important as the training that comes with them, said Jay Lewis, vice president of Visioncom, a telecom agent based in Finland, Minn.

"As long as they provide the training on the new technologies, that's what I want," Lewis said. In particular, Lewis said he has begun training on several of MCI's newer security offerings.

Lewis said he remains unfazed by talks of a potential acquisition, as consolidation has become par for the telecom course. He focuses on selling services rather than on speculation about the unknown. "It's not done yet. Will it make a difference if it's Qwest or Verizon? I don't know. For us the thing is 'business as usual,'" he said.

Like many agents, Visioncom maintains partnerships with a variety of carriers, a strategy that helps protect it from the twists and turns of telco consolidation, Lewis said.

"You've got to spread business around. You can't rely on any one or two of them," he said.