Lifesize Channel Chief On 'Frequent Flyers,’ Rooms-As-A-Service, And Showing, Not Telling, Partner Commitment

'We want to recommit to partners that we are a channel company. Even though almost 100 percent of my business goes that way, I think you have to tell and show [partners] because it’s human nature to question,' says Lifesize’s Tim Maloney, senior vice president of worldwide channels.

Going Strong

Videoconferencing specialist Lifesize has always been a friend of the channel, even through a merger and eventually returning to its independent roots through a spin-off from Logitech in 2016 after being bought by that company in 2009.

Austin, Texas-based Lifesize has been hard at work behind the scenes for partners ever since. Tim Maloney, senior vice president of worldwide channels for Lifesize, came on board in 2017 and has spent his time strengthening the company's channel focus. So far, he's created over 45 partner-facing roles to service the company’s worldwide business and has been instrumental in nearly doubling the Lifesize channel over the past few years.

Maloney recently spoke with CRN to give an update on the state of Lifesize's channel program, the new offerings that the company has been working on that mean more opportunities for partners, and how Lifesize has been able to stand out in the crowded videoconferencing space.

What follows are excerpts from the conversation.

In the crowded videoconferencing space, what separates Lifesize from the pack?

Lifesize is really fortunate to have more than 5,000 partners around the world. Besides our technology, what separates us from some of the other players in this space is that we are almost 100 percent channel-focused—100 [percent] in Europe, in Latin America, and in Asia—and about 96 percent [of business] in America comes from channel partners. We are really uniquely positioned because we have 76 distributors around the world servicing 5,000 independent business owner partners.

For the last two and a half years, mine and my team's focus has really been around improving partner programs and products. Lifesize is the first company to develop a 4K product. I have a global team and, as you can imagine, language is a challenge. Customers have unique challenges because communication is nonauditory; it's subtle. If you don’t have these kinds of video solutions it's hard to determine if something is a joke or if someone is having a hard time understanding. [Video] really helps us communicate in a myriad of languages around the world. I can hear and see and I can slow it down. It enables me to be effective in a dispersed environment. I plug it in and connect it to the internet and away we go. And I can call one person when I need help.

How have you evolved the Lifesize channel strategy over the last two years?

My experience is with running a sales team. If the products aren't simple and the customers can't understand it, then the partner programs are useless. Partners [must] understand how they make a dollar because at the end of the day, most partners are for-profit businesses and they want to [make money] while also solving customer problems. We want to help them do both and they need a program that's aligned. We really try to work on growing our renewals and up-leveling resellers. I would rather have 5,000 top-level partners, so we are incenting top distributors to work with us to drive global goals. We are striving to make it simple, show [partners] how to make the most money compared to our competitors with us, in a way they understand.

We hired 45 percent more partner-facing individuals around the world, both in sales and channel support and in channel operations and marketing. We really recognize that [partners] aren't franchises, they are independent business owners that we work with to solve customer problems.

How did the partner program have to change after Lifesize left Logitech in 2016?

Lifesize has always been channel-focused, but we got acquired by Logitech before I arrived here and then we left Logitech [and] we had to go rebuild these relationships as Lifesize. There were a few years there where we were owned by someone else and when I got here it was really time to fix the program, hire the people, communicate, and scale the program.

We structured it like a frequent flyer program. People who get the most benefits are your loyal flyers and you should reward partners that do the most business—those people should get the most upgrades. My program is designed in such a way where whatever kind of relationship you wish to have with me, I have program for you. If UC is not your thing as a partner and I'm only flying with you once, then I'll give you a great experience while you're there and I have people that help you close that deal. We have three levels—Bronze, Silver and Gold—and those are based on revenue. The advantage we offer is deal protection and we always want to reward partners that did the hunting. My program allows [partners] to register a deal and know they will get the best pricing from Lifesize, so they don't have to worry about anyone undercutting them, but the levels of discounts are different based on your status. If you fly 100,000 miles with me, you'll get a first-class seat. If you fly once, I'll get you there, get you a great experience.

Tell us about the newly announced Lifesize Rooms-as-a-Service offering and the opportunity it presents to partners.

Lifesize Rooms-as-a-Service takes the fear and complexity out of getting video collaboration initiatives off the ground. Rather than assembling disparate components from multiple manufacturers into a room ‘solution’ or selling customers on the value of buying and owning meeting room systems over many years, Lifesize and our partners can help customers outfit more meeting rooms for video more quickly through room subscriptions that won’t break the bank and are supported by a single provider. We’re removing any perceived risk of solution lock-in associated with capital investments that might cause a customer to hold back from implementing video in the meeting room, while providing them with a new way to have a best-in-class, complete solution that they can pay for on a subscription basis as an operating expense. Changing how our customers consume Lifesize is helping us make sure we are always on the leading edge, and we think [Rooms-as-a-Service] is going to be a big win for us.

What's your message to partners for 2020?

One is that we want to recommit to partners that we are a channel company. Even though almost 100 percent of my business goes that way, I think you have to tell and show [partners] because it’s human nature to question. We have to experience things, so we want to make sure we recommit. We want those independent business owners to feel reassured that they made the right decision with Lifesize and are excited about the future. The partner community is a valuable ecosystem— they are thought leaders—and we appreciate them and are striving to always be better.

There are a million other things but the main things for partners are always whether or not we understand, we listen, and we try to help them grow their business while they try to solve a customer's problem.