Enterprise VoIP vendor 8×8 looks to take channel to next stage with new partner program

8x8 only began to actively a develop a channel in recent years, but now the channel has grown to the point where the company has had to introduce a new program with more resources to support it.

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Carlos Roman, Head of Global Partner at 8×8

San Jose-based 8×8, which provides services to the enterprise and midmarket, has announced Channel 2.0, the next iteration of their channel program. The program has been globalized, and assets allotted have been increased in order to make partners more effective.

8×8 has been around since 1987, and moved into its current business focus as a VoIP service provider in 2002.

“Our sweet spot is the enterprise and midmarket, but our roots are in the SMB and we have many small customers with under 100 seats,” said Carlos Roman, Head of Global Partner Marketing at 8×8. “We are strong in the mid-market and enterprise, because we can satisfy larger organizations. However, we are also strong in global deployments, because of our global reach. And where there is a requirement for a single solution adding our solution, that helps us. We rarely lose on combo deals.”

While 8×8 has been in this business for a long time, the channel part of their business is much more recent.

“We started to focus on the channel 2-3 years ago, and were direct before that,” Roman said. “With that, we doubled the number of resources committed to the channel. As a result, it is now growing much faster, and so the level of investment and commitment we are allotting to the channel has significantly increased.” The result has been that, for the quarter ending September 30, 2016, 65 per cent of MRR [monthly recurring revenue] came through the channel, representing  a 30 per cent year over year increase.

8×8 is also making a point of announcing several new partnerships with Telarus, LANtelligence and PERRY proTECH in North America and Great Outcomes in New Zealand, as well as expanding relationships with existing strategic partners into new regions, including Avant and Intelisys into the UK, and Exsel Group into Scotland.

“These are a very diverse set of partners, which shows the diversification of the partner program as we start to expand,” Roman stated.

Channel 2.0 reflects the need to upgrade its channel program to reflect the increased scale and scope of 8×8’s partnerships.

“The new program will further scale and accelerate the channel growth, providing the maturity to take the program to the next step,” Roman added.

The program enhancements begin with a new 8×8 PartnerConnect Portal, which is live now in the U.S., Canada and Australia, with the U.K. coming by the end of the year. It lets partners register opportunities, receive online product and training, run marketing campaigns and generate co-branded collateral all from a single pane of glass.

“This is also now a ubiquitous global program, where we have had a fragmented, geo-specific partner portal experience in the past,” Roman said.

The marketing program has been reworked.

“It is now designed to teach partners how to fish, as opposed to giving them a fish,” Roman stated. “It’s not just passing out leads to partners. We will have joint targeted accounts up front, so there is skin in the game on both sides. We will have internal 8×8 people run a series of campaigns, and then pass out warm leads to partners. Traditionally from a marketing standpoint, one sends out an HTML email to partners and wishes them luck. We are taking best practices, making an investment, having the partner participate to close the loop, and then provide a warm lead back.”

8×8 has also made major changes to its new partner training and certification programs.

New sales and training will be available this month, designed to help partners sell cloud services more effectively.

“Most of this is enhanced, but a post sales Technical certification is new,” Roman said. “In addition to instructor-led classes, we are also now allowing partners to be able to take the training to do this themselves.” 8×8 Academy, beginning in January 2017, will the post-sales Deployment and new Technical Support certification programs.

“On the sales side, it has been more ‘one size fits all,’” he added. “Different partners have different needs. Some are Contact Center-focused, and some are UC focused. So it’s now a modular curriculum.”

Sales enablement tools are also being increased, with much of it going to the most committed partners.

“Like most companies, 20 per cent of our sales come from 80 per cent of our partners, and we are doubling down on that 20 per cent,” he said. “Partners who lead with 8×8 will get more attention from us. But our new sales tools will enable the second tier of our three tier program, and even the third tier, to become more effective sellers to their customers.”

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