Peak 10 Channel Chief Sroka: 'Our Commitment Level To Partners Is Second To None'

Growing By Leaps And Bounds

Charlotte, N.C.-based Peak 10, a cloud service provider, wants to grow from being a regional cloud provider to a national player. The company has been heavily invested in the channel since 2012, and is now betting big on the channel to help it get there.

Dave Sroka joined Peak 10 in November as vice president of channel sales, taking over for former channel chief and senior vice president Steve Harris. Since then, Sroka has been stepping up on the cloud provider's channel efforts by adding new channel managers and educational resources for existing and prospective partners.

Sroka sat down with CRN to share Peak 10's channel strategy, why partners should choose Peak 10 as a supplier partner, and his vision for growth alongside VARs and agent partners. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

What is Peak 10's channel strategy, and how will partners help Peak 10 grow in 2017?

I joined Peak 10 at the end of last year, and my responsibility was to manage the channel program on a going forward basis. For 2017, we've rolled out a new go to market strategy and the channel is a huge part of that. We are spending a ton more money on resources for the channel. To give an example, we are growing my team to six regional channel managers that will support customers in the field, and of those, half of them are outside of our current footprint. So, we are looking to really been seen as national provider as opposed to a regional provider in the Southeast.

Are you looking to grow Peak 10's revenues through the channel? What changes have you made to encourage growth through partners?

The overall amount of revenue we have [through the channel today] is approaching half. And yes! One of the big changes we made this year that I'm really excited about is that we are, from a compensation standpoint, completely neutral for our direct team. So Peak 10 is okay paying the partner and paying our direct rep in the same way as we paid our reps who sold a deal that wasn't through a partner, to get more opportunities. Going forward, we are fine with even growing the percentage [that we pay our partners]. If you look at just that investment that we made, you can see we are all in.

W hy should partners choose Peak 10 as a cloud provider?

If you look at a [provider such as] Amazon, channel is not their focus -- they are built off that direct-to-consumer mentality. There's a couple of things that make Peak 10 unique. One is, we are really channel-friendly. We are here to grow with partners, and we put our money where our mouth is by paying our direct team the way we do, [regardless of whether they are working with a partner or end customer.] We really have a "sell with" mentality where we want our partner's help.

From a product standpoint, there's two things. We have spent the time and the money to invest in the best back office products out there for provisioning and customer service. We implemented ServiceNow for provisioning, and we are very standardized, which creates a very good user experience.

Our Net Promoter Score is 67.2 which is unheard of in our space. So as margins get pinched on circuits, everyone is talking about cloud and partners are wondering how to get into it and who to partner with because there are so many options, and they are all different. Peak 10 is big into channel support and technical resources, so we can help bring the partners along and sell with them.

How is your partner program structured?

We offer two flavors of channel right now. We have a traditional telecom agency model where partners bring us leads, and we then sell with the partner and pay them a residual. Then, we have our "powered by" model, a reseller model were partners purchase Peak 10 products and then resell to the customer which allows the partner to maintain and hold the end customer relationship. We are seeing a lot of VARs doing the "powered by" model because that's how they are used to buying and reselling.

What education and training is available to Peak 10 partners today?

We have Prince Khaalik [partner support manager for Peak 10] based in Atlanta, and his first job is educating partners. This is actually our first job role for this purpose. His job is to constantly evangelize what we do to our partner base, including talking about our products, as well as the cloud market. The one thing that has always held true with partners is that you will get sales based on your mindshare with partners, so [Khaalik's] job is to really drive mindshare with partners, whether they are resellers or telecom agents. As we move forward in 2017, we will look to augment those resources and have more people doing training, onboarding, and continuing to educate our customers.

In addition, we are in the process of developing a certification program that will be administered online, so partners will be able to take a series of trainings and tests to become a Peak 10 certified partner. We understand that without a good support and training, you are never going have any long-term success in the channel. You must continue to educate not just on your own products, but what is going on in the industry.

What are the new resources for partners that Peak 10 has invested in, and what partners can expect this year?

We hired a new head of product at the end of last year, and we have some new product developments we will be rolling out, probably in the next quarter. From a channel standpoint, we have added positions in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles where there are really great partners out there that do business within this footprint. We are excited to get new partners ramped up, and new business and new customers that we honestly haven't been able to work with in the past.

Why is Peak 10 placing its bets on channel partners as a path to growth this year?

Partners have that rapport with the customer to be able to say; "Let me talk to you about your disaster recovery, or managed storage needs," in a true consultative fashion. Being able to have that shortcut into those customers is really how we are going to be successful.

I've been in the partner space for a while, and I'm excited about the opportunity that Peak 10 gives to partners. We provide them with the technical resources they need to help the customer understand what we are selling. We are investing in a ton of resources for the channel, and our commitment level to partners is second to none.