Vonage Channel Chief: 'We Are An Enterprise Solutions Provider'

Not Your Grandfather's Vonage

Vonage has a new channel chief leading the charge and he's ready to bring the cloud communications provider's VoIP and unified communications technology to the business masses.

Mario DeRiggi, senior vice president of channel sales and business development for Vonage, joined the company in December. The Holmdel, N.J.-based company offers consumer and business communication services, but Vonage has historically been a more visible communications provider in the consumer space. However, Vonage's UC services are more than ready for business users, and DeRiggi wants to harness the power of the channel to help Vonage actively pursue midmarket and large enterprise customers.

DeRiggi sat down with CRN to share how he'd like to boost channel sales to account for half of Vonage Business revenue, his plan for supporting partners, and why partners need to take a look at where Vonage is going – not necessarily where they came from. Here's what DeRiggi had to say.

What has Vonage tasked you with since you came aboard last month?

Vonage has been making a major push to grow and develop a robust partner program. When I came aboard, the goal was, how do we not only continue to expand the partner program, but really, how do we get much deeper with partners we have? So, I'm being tasked with a couple of things. First of all, we are evaluating the current program -- what's working well, what's not, and were we can add additional support structures to increase our presence. The other piece is, how do we continue to get deeper with partners in order to help them get better understanding of Vonage and why it truly the best solution for their customer base.

What are your goals for 2019?

My goal for this year to really develop an onboarding process for our partners that gets us in a better position for them understand the value proposition -- Vonage has an unbelievable set of services and solutions, and what we need to do as a company is really spend the time to [help partners] understand what the differentiators are and how they can use that differentiation to get deeper with their customers. The bottom line with partners is, they want to go to market with a company that can help them drive additional revenue to their customer base. There are a lot of companies, so how do they choose which ones are the best and how do we get that mindshare so when they look at an opportunity that Vonage is a good fit for, the first thing that comes to mind is Vonage has a product set that is different from everyone else.

Outside of growing revenue long-term, the short-term is goal is to build much stronger relationships with our partners out there. We need to structure an onboarding process that lets our partners be thought of as an employee, so they can manage and build a quote and onboard that customer to give them a better experience that is far above what they'd get from anyone else. The long-term goal is long-term growth of that customer with Vonage.

Why are partners so important to Vonage's sales strategy this year?

We do have direct relationships as well as partner relationships, but why partners are so important to me is really speed to market. You can really develop relationships with partners and they are going to be able to get your products to market much faster because they already have that end user within their customer base. Our best partners are those trusted tech advisors. Your route to market to is much faster, so you need a good mix of both direct and indirect.

What sets Vonage apart from its competitors?

We have a unique set of capabilities and solutions and can deliver a product suite that a lot of our competitors can't. It's not just UCaaS, which is great, but we spent a lot of time on developing our own proprietary platform that is integrated into [Amazon Web Services]. I don’t know another UCaaS player out there that has integrated into the AWS platform the way we did, but for us it's taking the contact center, and then with Nemxo [Vonage's communications Platform-as-a-Service offering], the programmable voice functions, and really developing that under the One Vonage umbrella to bundle and deliver a solution that no one can compete with.

What really exited me about Vonage is the ability to say we own our technology -- we own the [intellectual property] and we control the roadmap. When you can go to market with a solution set that you control the roadmap, is very difficult to compete with. If I look at the APIs we have and the software services we offer, really, there's not many people who an compete with that. A lot of companies rely on white-labeling other products to deliver their own, and we are really controlling our own destiny.

What can partners expect from Vonage this year?

Partners are going to see a lot more around our One Vonage program and how we bring all the products to market with them. They are going to see a lot more around training, development and how we work with them to get a better understanding of the transition to cloud and how to solution sell into their end users to get a more sticky customer. They are also going to see a better process in the field with our Vonage employees working with them to bring solutions to their customers -- we are going to put a major focus on viability.

What do you want prospective partners to know about Vonage?

We are absolutely committed to the channel. We are investing in and are going to continue to expand the program. It’s truly the leading go to market strategy we have today. The big thing is, we are not the old Vonage. Vonage has a history in the consumer segment, but Vonage is an enterprise-level solutions provider. When I talk to partners, I tell them, you can't look us where we came from and you have to look at where our roadmap is, and that’s around enterprise software. For me, that's what I want our partners to understand -- we are an enterprise solutions provider.