Q&A: New Regional Intelisys Channel Manager On M&A Activity, Importance Of Partner Evolution

Taking Partners To The Next Level

Master agent Intelisys, a ScanSource company, is adding more fuel to its fire in the form of a new channel manager.

Stephanie Bouras recently joined Intelisys as senior manager of strategic partner development, Southeast region. In her new role, Bouras is supporting Intelisys partners in Florida and reports to Karla Roarty, Intelisys' director of partner sales, Southeast region.

Bouras is no stranger to telecom and the channel, having worked previously at AT&T, Cybera and most recently serving as director of strategic partners for EarthLink, now Windstream. Now, she's heads-down-focused on elevating solution providers' business by supplying them with the education and tools they need to have the right conversations, while helping them diversify their portfolios.

Here's what Bouras had to say about her new role, and how she plans on helping partners grow and evolve their businesses, even in the face of potential consolidation and M&A activity.

What will you be focusing on in your new role with Intelisys?

In my role, I will be focused on Florida primarily and my job is to recruit new partners that fit our model, as well as to maintain and grow the partners that are already in the Intelisys portfolio.

I think it’s a great opportunity because partners are really looking for help on where to take their business. Some are dabbling in cloud and are ahead of the curve, while some are a bit behind.

Everyone from the 'transactional' partners that are selling network-based services, to the ones selling enterprise and really high-end solutions, are all looking to change their business model and learn where the next step is. I'm excited to be part of the brainstorm and be able to offer the tools and resources to help them get to that point.

Having just come into this role last month, what have been your first priorities?

My first priorities were to understand what the current market looks like today, and how can I help elevate and grow our partners. The second priority, which is equally as important, is how do I find the next wave of partners and bring them on. We really want to elevate the types of partners we have and get them to a place where they are selling more to their customers and growing their revenue as well.

I'm focusing on Florida and a specific set of what have largely been more transactional partners, and moving them up because customers are really demanding the type of partners that understand that their businesses are evolving.

What's top of mind for telecom agent partners right now?

I think partners are a little concerned about all the mergers and acquisitions that are going on right now because they are concerned who will be their carrier of the future. I think a lot of them have big bases with specific carriers that might not be there down the road, or their partner programs might change. I get a lot of questions about [specific rumored mergers] and partners asking, 'Where do I bet my horse in the future?'

The number one concern is around protecting what they have and then, secondly, who to go to market with in the future. Aside from the carriers, many partners are asking which cloud providers they should also work with.

How are you helping partners with these concerns around consolidation?

I think it's about making sure [partners] diversify themselves enough so they are protecting themselves. I think going under a master [agent] is a great step because the relationships we have are very strong with suppliers. Then, looking at the solutions of the future and moving away from that traditional sale. Starting with what they can add and sell to their existing customers and leverage the existing customer base that is already there -- that helps partners diversify, so I think it’s a multipronged strategy.

Some partners built their business on the two providers that they have always sold -- maybe a cable company and a CLEC [competitive local exchange carrier] -- but now they really need to evolve. However, existing customers are your best resource and there are so many new solutions out there you can offer them.

When it comes to evolving their businesses, what do partners need the most help with?

It depends on the company. Some VARs are seeking out new avenues so they might ask for help marketing to their existing customer base or to new prospects. Or, [partners] might need education on how to add new solutions to their portfolio and how to start having conversations about cloud-based technologies.

I think our existing base is used to going in and saving money, or optimizing bandwidth or adding bandwidth, so it's been mostly task-driven versus business discussions with executives. So, some of the help they need is around how to have those C-level discussions. Partners have to be ahead of the curve. They must constantly be looking at news, know what's coming out, and how can they apply that to customers. I think for existing partners, it's really about education on business conversations around solutions, and some of them are afraid because they don’t feel like they know some of the solutions well enough, so it's about helping them feel comfortable during those conversations.

What kind of recruitment plans do you have for your region?

Today we have almost 200 partners in Florida. It’s the 80/20 rule -- we have about 20 active and consistently selling, and there's probably another 100 partners that I would like to add in the next year that make sense for us. There's about four to five [solution providers] every week that we are having conversations with about becoming a partner, so it's super active right now -- especially now with the ScanSource VARs getting interested.

It's heartwarming to know there is a lot of business out there and it's not moving partners from one master to another, it's finding a new base of partners. I'm excited I don’t have to try to recruit partners away from what they are doing today. It's about finding new, fresh partners who are ready to make the leap into this space.