Channel sales today requires a “consultative approach,” and vendors must supply their partners with the support they need to provide answers to their customers’ challenges, according to Eric Harvey, the recently appointed Senior Director of Strategic Channels at telecommunications services and solutions provider MetTel.
With over 20 years of experience in the channel and telecommunications space, Harvey aims to continue MetTel’s channel growth while reinforcing the relationships and partnerships currently in place. Channel Marketer Report sat down with Harvey to discuss his new role at MetTel and his thoughts on the state of channel marketing in the industry.
Channel Marketer Report: Give us some background on MetTel’s current partner program and how they are supporting the channel?
Eric Harvey: MetTel’s current partner program is well organized, with devoted support and management team personnel. Tim Hanley (VP of Strategic Channels) has had an overwhelming amount of success building partnerships and revenue within the group, and the sheer number of dedicated resources for customers speaks volumes to MetTel’s commitment. One of the factors that drew me to MetTel to begin with was the care taken with customers from onboarding and installation to continued ongoing support.
This support comes not only from personnel, but also the portals and automated mechanisms used to give customers access to their own data and MetTel’s information needed to manage their day-to-day operations. With any business division, there is always room for growth, including engaging fully with partners and bringing additional exposure to the program.
CMR: What are your short- and long-term goals improving the program?
Harvey: In the short-term, my goal is to bring partnerships and business to the table as quickly as possible. I plan on leveraging my existing partnerships and customer relationships that I’ve gained over the years from my previous positions, and also working to expand existing partners’ selling capabilities. I will take some of the partnerships that Tim has cultivated and will leverage them to expand their MetTel sales portfolio to include newer products and services (such as SD-WAN, mobility and cloud-based offerings).
In the long-term, I am tasked with expanding the team to not only broaden relationships and partnerships nationwide, but to bring on additional channel personnel to help grow our catalog of business.
CMR: How have you seen the channel space evolve over the past couple of years? How has this impacted MetTel’s program and how has/will it adapt?
Harvey: In the past, partners could rely on one to two products and/or services that they could be successful selling. Today, they have to have a consultative approach to sales, and be able to bring forth solutions to the complex challenges that customers are facing in our technology-laden world. The partners who evolved to this new model are savvy enough to the conditions of their sales environments to be able to handle and process these types of business challenges, and these are the partners that MetTel is looking to have relationships with. Where decisions used to be led by department heads, they are now driven by IT resources with the CIO responsible for managing all of these challenges and implementing appropriate solutions.
MetTel is perfectly aligned with the changes the channel space has encountered, and can support partners’ new sales focus from the perspective of a leader in the solutions providing space for all aspects of communications. This includes everything from aggregating POTS lines to cloud-based service offerings and emerging technologies like mobility and SD-WAN. What’s exciting for me about working with MetTel’s team is that we embrace these dynamic aspects of the solutions by being nimble and expansive with our own product and services portfolio. Customers can rely on MetTel to have a very comprehensive suite of solutions that aligns with their business focus and know that MetTel can handle anything that falls on the table. By embracing this concept from the top-down, as MetTel does, customers know they will have access to a portfolio of solutions that are emerging in scope.
CMR: What tools are you using to enhance channel initiatives?
Harvey: Internally, we have a number of automated tools at partners’ disposal that helps manage business from a day-to-day perspective, inclusive of the agent portal. We have initiatives such as trainings and presentations around new products and services for our partner community, and embrace social media outlets to spread the word of our partner program. We rely heavily on our strong marketing team, who does a good job at getting the word out on our capabilities, and we also look to sponsor partner events throughout the year to spread the word and enhance and grow existing partnerships.
CMR: What tips would you share with organizations looking to adapt their channel programs to meet the needs of their partners?
Harvey: The key for strong partnerships is the responsiveness of the company and partner manager in place from a day-to-day standpoint. Even companies who are innovators and leaders in the space have to still execute with their partner on every aspect of the sale – help them leverage their relationships and level of success, push through struggles and be able to seize the appropriate assets of their capabilities and the company’s to grow. It is imperative to understand everything from a technology standpoint in the products and services offering and be able to give partners a specific sales direction that will magnify the focus of their sales efforts.
While having a strong portfolio, good management in place, customer service, support, tools, relationships with the partners, etc. is important, the most successful partner programs envelop all aspects of the business from cradle to grave. Without the proper people in place throughout the business, from executives who are excited about keeping up with changing technologies to sales representatives who understand the importance of customer relationships, no program (including channel) will be successful.