The Panel of 5

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

The Panel of 5

How does an agent distinguish between five CLEC's if the channel heads of those five companies spend much of an hour saying, "I agree" and "What she said".

That's what happened at the carrier executive panel at the Microcorp One-on-One event last night. Donna Wenk, SVP at PAETEC; Blake Wetzel, VP at CenturyLink; Mike Jerich, VP of Global Crossing and now Level3; Cardi Prinzi, EVP at EarthLink; and Carolyn Rehling, Regional VP of Sales at Sprint sat on a panel as Brad Miehl, CEO of master agency Microcorp, asked about plans for the Channel, products and what we might see in the Industry in the near term.

Everyone said MPLS and SIP -- oh, and Cloud - would be core products in 2012 - even Sprint, who mentioned its global MPLS. Sure, but you have to stop men tioning wireless in the same sentence as your wireline division to avoid scaring off the buyers.

Who will be the buyers? On big deals, it will be the whole C-Suite - CFO, COO, CIO and even the Board of Directors. You are going to have to talk to each one about these deals - especially Cloud - in their own language.

All five value the Channel. What else would you tell a room of agents? But Wetzel did note that 67% of all technology is purchased through the indirect channel. Half of PAETEC's revenue comes from a third party (indirect, referral).

We will see more consolidation in the next 24 months was something else they agreed upon. Donna Wenk stated that rate erosion, churn and buying power were the main reasons for scale (consolidation). Prinzi mentioned that there are companies ripe to buy right now. It has been noted before that acquiring skills and products -- like virtualization, hosted PBX, or a vertical product set -- are good reasons to buy (instead of build).

Will there still be transactional agents? Of course. Companies still need network. The five carriers are looking for partners who are willing to shoulder more of the burden (like have their own NOC, support people, etc.)

On Teaming: it can work, but real life experiences from agents in the crowd is different. You might need teaming on some deals - even if it is just to avoid the direct/indirect price war over the customer - but he who has the relationship should manage the account, in my opinion.

On Convergence: Wetzel says it's all about where they store their data. Hosted IVR, Remote Storage, Communications-as-a-Service -- all have been around for a couple of years, so all have been selling cloud for 2 years. It isn't knew. Jump on board.

The big disappointment (besides no Q&A) was that there was so much agreement, it's hard to figure out the positioning. I guess it comes down to who you like; which Channel Manager is the most helpful; and (after the TNCI BK) which carrier you feel comfortable with, because no one wants to lose revenue to a carrier bankruptcy. (Unfortunately, I think we will see more of those in the coming months as well.)

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