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Zoom Video Refocuses Channel Efforts On Agents, Recurring Revenue-Minded Partners

UC and video specialist Zoom is now making its widely-popular voice and video solutions available through the agent channel.

Zoom Video Communications is launching its first-ever referral partner program, which the company is calling the "cornerstone" of its new approach to the channel.

As part of that effort, nine-year old Zoom is working with a handful of master agents, including AVANT Communications, Intelisys, Telarus and Pax8, to bring Zoom to the agent channel.

"I've never had so much demand for a vendor in my life," said Ian Kieninger, CEO of master agent AVANT, a brand-new Zoom partner. "I think overnight, Zoom is going to catch a lot of momentum with this community."

[Related: Coronavirus Making A Strong Case For UC&C Solutions, Says Partners ]

AVANT believes that the agent channel is uniquely qualified to sell Zoom's UCaaS and voice solutions because compared to the traditional VAR channel, agents have been successfully selling solutions from the likes of Zoom's competitors for years, such as 8x8, RingCentral, and Vonage.

"If you want to penetrate the small business and even enterprise accounts today, the agent community has been leading the charge in selling UCaaS for years. I think they can do a better job than the channel Zoom has had in place prior to now," Kieninger said.

Zoom for the past two years has been working with VAR partners in a reseller model, with partners selling Zoom on their own paper. With the advent of Zoom Phone, a highly-regulated cloud-based voice offering introduced in 2019, partners needed help selling the solution to avoid having to handle telecom taxes on their own, said Laura Padilla, head of channel and partners for San Jose, Calif.-based Zoom (pictured above).

"We're evolving our channel from focusing on VARs to more of an agent channel because of Zoom Phone and the regulations around it," she said.

Zoom Phone today is available in 17 countries and one territory, and the company plans on introducing a beta version of the service in an additional 25 countries starting this month.

Zoom will be keeping its VAR channel, which will become more "selective" moving forward, Padilla said. The company will keep its relationships with some of the largest distributors, such as CDW and SHI who are well-versed at selling UC and collaboration software and solutions, she said.

The new Referral Partner Program will give partners access to Zoom's entire product portfolio, recurring commissions for the life of each contract, and a simplified sales process, Padilla said.

Like agents, many VAR partners are also starting to show interest in selling in a referral model and earning recurring revenue on Zoom Products, she said. "To bill, upsell, and keep track of renewals; it's complicated," Padilla said. "There's a lot of complexity operationally."

Zoom also plans on doubling its channel headcount this year internationally, with a team dedicated to the master agents, she said.

Zoom today is doing about 10 percent of its business through the channel, according to the company.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began impacting travel in January, videoconferencing providers, including Zoom, are seeing their stocks rise as many of the world's largest tech vendors are experiencing the opposite. Many industry events scheduled for February and March have been cancelled or postponed, including Mobile World Congress 2020, Aruba Networks' Partner Summit, Eaton's Partner Summit, and Cisco's Partner Connection week. Some vendors are opting to do virtual meetings, while many companies are opting for videoconferencing and UC solutions instead of face-to-face meetings.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said in a blog post about business continuity during the outbreak that the epidemic has broadened his view on what it means to be a video communications technology provider in times of need.

"I know many organizations are grappling with how to maintain business continuity and keep employees engaged amid the threat of the virus, and I’m compelled to help anyone who needs it," Yuan said.

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