PlanetOne's Kristen Cunningham On Partner Recruitment And Telecom Opportunities Beyond Connectivity

Emerging Opportunities

PlanetOne Communications, a Scottsdale, Ariz-based master agent with a self-proclaimed "cloud first" mentality, has hired a director of solution sales for its Southern California region who is no stranger to emerging technologies.

Kristen Cunningham comes to PlanetOne from IT service provider Neustar, where she directed partner programs and most recently served as strategic account director for the company. She also served as a channel alliance manager for Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and was a director of the alliance and partner channel for NTT America. With more than 18 years of channel sales experience under her belt, now she's here to help PlanetOne's partner community get up to speed with cloud, security, and SD-WAN opportunities that will ramp up recurring revenue.

CRN sat down with Cunningham to hear about her partner recruitment goals, and what she is bringing to the table for MSP, VAR, and telecom agent partners. Here's what she had to say.

Tell us about your newly-created role: director of solution sales.

In this brand-new role, I'm primarily going to be focused on amplifying PlanetOne's business development, partner recruitment, and solutions sales efforts around the [managed service provider] MSP, VAR, and telecom [agent] partner communities. I'm going to be working to scale partners, as well as to educate and engage partners on the business value of working with working with PlanetOne.

I'm coming into this role with a significant amount of experience and a successful track record in channel sales and working for large companies like CSC, NTT and [former cloud provider] Savvis. I've always focused on that managed services space, so I'm really comfortable having those conversations and working with partners to develop a strategy so they can have those conversations with their end customers.

What is the next big opportunity for partners beyond connectivity?

It's going to be a different conversation based on what partners are focused on. But I'll be working with each partner to develop a specific strategy around cloud and emerging technologies, and I'll work with them to grow that incremental revenue.

I think the emerging opportunities we are seeing today for technology partners is around SD-WAN, cloud, and security. Coming from Neustar, security is something that I've been working position to partners and sell for the last seven years.

Why did PlanetOne create this new role?

PlanetOne has understood that here has been a change in the telecom industry. It's no longer about selling circuits – it's really about understanding what the business objectives are and understanding the technology and application availably, and ultimately, the end user experience. I think with my background of working with managed services and security, PlanetOne thought I'd be a great to fit to help partners pivot the discussions away from being just networking-related, and really talk about a fully-managed, end-to-end solution.

What is your first priority in working with PlanetOne partners?

For me, it's getting out here, shaking hands, and meeting people. I'll be attending events and tradeshows, and also leveraging the relationships I have within the channel today. I really want to be reaching out to as many prospective partners as possible to spread the word about the value that we provide.

I would like to add as many as partners as I possibly can! I want to educate partners on how PlanetOne differentiates itself [in the market] and the value we add compared to the other masters in the industry.

How does PlanetOne differentiate itself among the master agent community?

I have worked for a lot of large companies, and the experience and energy within PlanetOne immediately drew me in. It's really a very hands-on, boutique-style program. PlanetOne really works with all of its partners, and they match those partners with the right tech suppliers to provide the best solution for the end user.

What is your message to partners?

I'd like them to know I'm here to help them identify and pursue new business deals around emerging technology like SD-WAN, security, and cloud, and that I'm extremely passionate about the channel. I think there is a tremendous opportunity in front of us and I'm really excited to be getting out there, meeting with new partners, and evangelizing PlanetOne and how we can help them have those conversations about solutions.