A New Leaf For Verizon Partners
Verizon has long been known as reliable, but easy to work with was a bit of a different story, and one that the carrier giant has been actively working to address. To that end, Verizon’s channel organization has launched a new brand, portal, and podcast series for partners, Wendy Taccetta, Verizon senior vice president of nationwide small business and channel chief, told CRN exclusively.
The freshly revamped Verizon Partner Network is “radically simple and always reliable,” Taccetta said. Not to mention, it’s inclusive of more than 13 different Verizon partner programs and its more than 5,000 partners. The partner portal has been upgraded to offer an easier experience and a faster way for partners to close deals and earn with Verizon. The new podcast series will help Verizon share its expertise with the channel community on topics such as cybersecurity and 5G.
Taccetta talked about Verizon’s new partner brand and how the company is working side-by-side – from day one, not day 201 – to empower its channel ecosystem. She shared how she is working with both the indirect side, and now, the direct sales side for small business too, and how alignment between these two groups makes partners aware of more possibilities and opportunities. She also touched on what “shocked” her to learn about 5G, Verizon Business Internet, and what partners need to know heading into 2022.
Here’s what Taccetta had to say.
Tell us about the new Verizon Partner Network.
We are as close as we’ve ever been to really bringing the channel program under one umbrella inside Verizon. We’ve gotten a lot better at [knowing] where all these tentacles of programs are so that we can have a really unified program. I think the fact that all of that gets to sit under this Verizon Partner Network brand -- it’s all about this aspiration that we have about being radically simple and always reliable. I think if we’re honest, “always reliable” has always been our brand. Radically simple has been an aspiration. But I also think it’s the perfect time to think about that. Everything you will talk to anybody at Verizon about right now will be around fixed wireless, Business Internet, C-band, and what’s coming next in connectivity. Isn’t that the perfect time to reimagine how we stand up a new business? In some ways, it’s so much simpler than the work we’ve done up to this point -- redesigning and packing things in -- versus now as we get to look at this new multi-billion-dollar market and say: “Of course, it’s going to be what you’ve always known from Verizon. It will be always reliable. But imagine if it could be radically simple for your conductivity to keep up with your business?”
I am super excited about starting a starting a brand that stands on a foundation people recognize, but that has such aggressive ambition for the future. The fact that channel is at every meeting, at every table, that we’re launching at the same time as we do through all of our direct routes, I don’t know that anybody’s ever seen that. It’s been interesting because we’re asking our partners to come into the early stages, and we all know the early stages are a little bumpier. We used to wait. Everything had to be ready to go before we ever talked to partners. Now we’re [thinking], “The moment is now. None of us have time to wait and these business owners don’t have time to wait, so come with us. Let’s have some open feedback and then let’s go and help businesses get back on their feet.”
How is Verizon striving to work with partners differently, while making it easier for the channel to do business with Verizon?
A lot of companies decide that it’s either channel or direct. We have always wrestled with that because we know that our people are a differentiator for us. What I came to the table with was that I thought there was a path where we could just widen the highway and bring partners along with us. So that’s why I say we certainly didn’t create this moment, but we had been doing the transformation work since we formed the Verizon Business Group. Part of that has been this relentless looking at how we can do better tomorrow, and channel was one of those places. But we also had to look at ourselves and say: “We’ve been doing channel. It’s not new to us. If we were going to really go after it, what was going to have to be different?” For me, some of that was that the channel needed to be at the table from Day One. I would deal with my team and would deal with explaining to the channel partners [at the same time]. And once you put that on the table, the partners are like: “Of course, I’d rather be there on Day One than Day 201.” I think COVID created a moment to ask the question. I think the idea of fixed wireless created the products that led that question to be compelling. The entire marketplace has shifted from the way customers want to do business, to the way employees want to work. You hate to say that there was a benefit from COVID, but it does align the investments we have made, the feedback we had heard, and having the right product at the right time and the market conditions changing.
I think Verizon has done a very good job of facing forward and saying: “When it comes to hybrid engagement with your employees or with your customers, technology sits at the center of that.” And you need that technology to be wide coverage everywhere you need it, to be reliable and secure, and it needs to have capacity so that you can do things as your business grows. And you need to make sure that it’s easy to use. And I think we looked through that paradigm and said: “I think we’ve got it.”
How big are the opportunities around Verizon Business Internet for partners in 2022?
There is no business owner I’ve sat with that isn’t thinking about how to do a rich, remote experience. And that’s what Business Internet is. It lets you have workers anywhere across the globe -- especially in the domestic U.S. -- and it lets your workers get the rich experience that you can charge a premium for. I think the time of the beginning of COVID, we were willing to have a lesser experience because we understood everybody was going through the growing pains of being at home. But now, our expectations for experience have never been higher. If you’re a business owner, you have to have a connection that works. No one wants to see buffering and it has to be secure. It can’t be like Wi-Fi at Starbucks -- no one wants that. And you can charge a premium. So, it feels like all the work we’ve done around our network and the investments we’ve made for C-band are for this moment when the entire world needs to care about how they connect. [Connectivity] that is rich, and you can count on it when you need it, whether you’re talking about a client or you’re talking about engaging with your workers, or you’re talking about remote sales teams.
Companies are able to [do things like] take their business and make it into a food truck and go to a festival and take payment real time. Those things change your whole operating model, and they change what’s possible. How do you move your business around so that you can go where people are and thrive? I am tapping [my credit card] to pay, or we’re not doing business. Well, you need connectivity that you can rely on, otherwise, you don’t look like a big business. You don’t look real about your business. We’ve seen business owners coming to us and saying: “What else could I be doing?” One of the good things about coming alongside the direct team is that we are doing crazy things with lots of companies. Anything you’ve dreamed of doing, we’ve probably sat in a room with a company and thought about it and we are always willing to share our advice. So yes, we may not be able to do what Walgreens can do at scale, but the same types of concepts can work at your local drugstore. Part of what’s been important to me and this is just been an interesting part of developing our product portfolio. How do we take the things we sell to enterprise or public sector that may be way too robust for smaller businesses and how do we create an app to make it easy for you to try? What is your entry level into this product so that you then have the ability to take stair steps? Then, we can help you understand what your cost of ownership is going to be over time?
With Verizon Business Internet, we’re locking in our price for 10 years. As a business owner that matters because then I can decide that every employee can get it because I know exactly how much it’s going to cost. I know I can use one partner. I think those types of things have really opened up new conversations with these partners.
How big will 5G be for partners next year?
Partners and customers are all asking [about 5G] because everybody wants a future proof their business. But here’s the thing. Number one, I don’t think any customer should only be talking about one kind of kind of connectivity. You must have backup -- there’s no question you need a backup solution, so what are the two connection points? The other thing that that they’re thinking about is: “I think I need 5G,” but here’s the thing that shocked me. About 40 percent of what people want to do with the internet needs 4G. 5G is going to be great, but you have to be ready for the richness of it [and] you have to be ready to do different things. With things like payment, menus, and being able to drop-ship outside; if that’s where you’re at, 4G is your solution. And like I said, 40 percent of what customers have fiber for today can be solved through 4G. So that means on Day One of 2022, I’m selling into this Business Internet market and that will just continue to grow as we add the C-band. Partners are asking about it because customers don’t necessarily know, so we’ve got work to do to keep telling them that story. There’s so much you’re trying to do that you could deploy right now and be ready to go and doing more than you were doing two years ago.
2022 is going to be the most important year yet for the Verizon story and we are excited to have our channel partners on the ride with us.
Now that you’re leading small business as well as indirect sales, how has your channel strategy changed?
I don’t know that it has, because from a small business standpoint, the majority of small business Verizon did in the past came through our retail stores. We are reimagining that whole thing. I am expanding an entire inside sales team. We call it inside sales, but in my brain, I call it virtual selling. Because I have the same challenge that our business customers have. If I can do virtual selling on all of our products, I can hire anywhere in the country. That’s pretty phenomenal. So, what it is made me do is, if I can make it work, virtually [and] digitally, then it is ready to go and packaged for any partner. Can a partner take it and run with it? At the core of that is the same question. Can the customer get it easier than they have in the past? It literally is the anchor of our message for next year, we are going to create moments that matter for people, for our people, for our customers and our partners. Because they all deserve the best. If you were to sit in my sales rally, this is what you will hear me tell my team. It’s not about doing. It is about doing the right things explicitly, consistently and reliably. If I can do that all year, I think we’re going to stand up a whole business that the industry hasn’t even seen yet.