Adtran Focuses Networking Partners on Mid-Tier

The provider of networking and communications services and equipment, wants a bigger piece of the SMB and mid-size enterprise markets and is bringing out a revamped channel program heavy on specialization, certification and incentives to urge its partners in that direction.

Adtran Inc., a  provider of networking and communications services and equipment, wants a bigger piece of the SMB and mid-size enterprise markets and is bringing out a revamped channel program heavy on specialization, certification and incentives to urge its partners in that direction.

The Huntsville, AL-based vendor recently unveiled new enhancements to its three-tier ADvantage Partner Program, nearly all of which target its middle level of channel partners with revenue inducements, access to new products, marketing tools, product specializations, certification and training options aimed at uncovering sales opportunities in the SMB and mid-size enterprise market segments.

Ted Cole, Adtran vice president of channel sales, said that when the vendor added the mid-tier designation to its partner program last year, “we set our sights on the SMB market—we created the mid-tier specifically to focus there.”

Of Adtran’s roster of 1,800 channel partners, about 400 comprise the mid-tier or ADvantage level. Approximately 200 partners carry the ADvantage Plus designation--the vendor’s highest level. The remainder, or about 1,200 partners, operates at the Registered level with fewer benefits.

Adtran’s mid-tier is framed by a reworked annual purchasing commitment of $25,000, as compared with the top tier’s $100,000 buy-in. The lower purchasing requirement for mid-tier partners will bring more channel players to the vendor, according to Cole. Adtran is intent upon leveraging the program’s benefits to help boost its ranks of mid-tier partners by up to 50 percent, Cole said. “We increased the partner program by 50 percent last year and we want to do the same this year,” he added.

To further assist its mid-level and high-end partners, Adtran has altered its direct sales model, eliminating its field-based business development managers in favor of an expanded lineup of territory managers whose charter is to match customers and partners in a joint sales approach. “The focus [in the field] is on partner recruitment, enablement and support,” Cole said. “A high percentage of sales always went through the channel, but now it all does."

With the partner program upgrade, mid-level partners now can achieve technical specializations previously reserved for the vendor’s high-end players. For example, mid-tier partners can obtain specializations that allow them to sell Adtran’s IT telephony and inter-networking products, such as Adtran’s NetVanta 7000 series, into the SMB and mid-size enterprise segments. The vendor has tacked on additional product discounts up to 20 percent for partners that opt for higher levels of specialization.

The technical specializations allow mid-tier partners to expand their product portfolios and reach into blossoming markets such as the telephony segment. Additional program benefits include priority access to pre-and post-sales support, advance product information, beta programs, inclusion in the vendor’s partner locator, demo units at discounts up to 75 percent and sales leads. Mid-tier partners may also participate in the vendor’s partner council.

Cole said that the vendor examined how its partners sold into the SMB and mid-sized enterprise segments and discovered that they operated as managed service providers, “making money on technical services as well as hardware.” When those partners asked for more specialization tools, rather than requiring them to step up to a high level of dollar volume commitment for the addition benefits, the vendor instead “added the ability to achieve specialization as a mid-level partner,” Cole explained. “Some partners selling to SMB can’t make the higher level but still want to specialize and now they can."

 Adtran also is promoting to its mid-level partners certification and training options that it says will bring increases in sales and profitability. “We looked at our partners that added training and certification, and compared them to those that did not. We determined that the certified partners grew their revenue by up to 40 percent,” Cole says.

Mid-tier partners are required to have on staff two certified sales professionals, one certified technical support associate and one certified technical professional. Certified sales and technical support training is provided free to partners but the technical professional certificate can cost up to $1,600.

The vendor also added business skills options for ADvantage Plus and ADvantage partners. “We recognize that in a lot of cases there’s not the ability for partners to develop business skills that are necessary [to sell to SMB].” He added that the vendor now regularly conducts business skills webinars “to give partners information they need to be successful.," Cole explained.

Adtran’s program improvements, in particular the technical specializations, will help smaller partners to “sell a lot of telephony products into the SMB market,” said Joel Kappes, a founder of Milestone Networks Inc., a VoIP solutions provider based in Englewood, CO.

Milestone recently changed its Adtran partner classification from ADvantage Plus to ADvantage. The upgraded program benefits and certifications will help Milestone turn up new sales opportunities without the high volume commitment, Kappes said. “The lower revenue commitment is something we can easily make, and we still have some huge benefits,” he said.

“Our core business is IP telephony. Adtran is our networking layer that we put under the telephony that we sell. It’s not a big focus of our business but it is a very important one. The changes in Adtran’s channel program will help us make money.”



TAGS: Microsoft,networking,marketing,VoIP,telephony

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