Whaleback Targets Broadband Phone Service to SMBs

Managed service provider Whaleback Systems is successfully edging its way into the SMB market in major metropolitan areas by targeting select channel partners to sell its CrystalBlue voice broadband phone service.

Whaleback Systems Inc., a Portsmouth, N.H.-based, privately held, managed service provider, is successfully edging its way into the SMB market in major metropolitan areas by targeting select channel partners to sell its CrystalBlue voice broadband phone service.

Whaleback recently signed agreements with A2000 Network Solutions Inc., Kinetech Voice Technologies and MediaConneX Inc. to sell the CrystalBlue IP telephony service to SMBs in Florida, New York and parts of New England, respectively. Within the SMB segment, Whaleback focuses on verticals such as financial services, real estate, construction, law, medical, education and retail.

To bolster its channel lineup, Whaleback also is rolling out a new, certified sales agent program that will pay commissions for referrals of sales leads that become consummated deals.

Recently the vendor decided to work more closely with a smaller group of channel players and has pared its channel roster down to from a high of 200 partners to 30 companies in 12 sales territories in the U.S, according to Dave Zwicker, Whaleback vice president of marketing.

Zwicker characterizes the new channel strategy as “transitioning from a shotgun approach to a rifle shot. We wanted to minimize channel conflict and maximize the closeness we can have with each partner." He said all Whaleback’s end-user sales originate with the channel.

“Part of what makes us interesting to the channel is that our technology helps small-to-medium sized businesses to get into IP telephony without complexity and high cost,” he said. “The way we have architected IP telephony differs from hosted VoIP and selling an IP PBX. The channel ends up with a very differentiated solution to sell.”

The CrystalBlue service ties together a premises-based IP PBX with Whaleback’s centralized voice quality management system. “We develop our own IP PBX software, package together usage and provision access bandwidth,” Zwicker said.

In addition to its current lineup of premier partners Whaleback is readying another 25 – 30 companies to sign on at that level, Zwicker said. Whaleback also is converting more than 100 former channel partners to the certified agent program.

Whaleback’s go-to-market strategy calls for establishing three-to-four premier-level or “anchor” partners in each sales territory, Zwicker said. By the end of this year, Whaleback expects to add at least three more sales areas in the west to accommodate the uptick in its number of premier partners.

Designated premier partners maintain joint business plans with Whaleback and gain access to joint sales calls, technical support, a custom sales configuration system, marketing assistance and leads. The company’s channel roster is heavy on interconnect VARs and managed service providers, and includes only a small number of network and data resellers. Whaleback imposes no financial obligations on its premier partners other than meeting previously agreed quarterly targets for the number of stations, or seats, sold.

Zwicker acknowledged that Whaleback’s channel compensation of a “recurring revenue stream” doesn’t work well for some channel players such as interconnect VARs that mainly sell hardware because it “requires a transition in focus.” Whaleback channel partners divide revenue with the vendor on activities the company provides to customers such as maintenance, support, provisioning bandwidth and long distance. Even though channel partners forsake higher one-time profit from the sale of an IP PBX hardware sale, they gain a long-term revenue annuity in return, Zwicker said.

That financial equation sets well with the vendor’s channel partners, said Chuck Garabedian, president of Intelliphone Inc., a Boston interconnect VAR that transitioned from relying on IP PBX hardware sales to the Whaleback model. “The key component of working with Whaleback is they have science behind what they are doing,” Garabedian said. “They developed the network operating tools, they have their own IP PBX and the fixed pricing enables me to create an annuity for my business. We can make money on that.”


TAGS: services,voice,VoIP,PBX,channel

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