A Channel Focus

Comms Business Magazine talks to newly appointed UK Sales Director at ShoreTel about the channel and why it is so important to the vendor.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): Tell me why the channel is so important to your business and why you have chosen the indirect route to market. 

Darren Pattie (DP): ShoreTel’s go to market strategy is customer focussed and channel centric. This means that 100% of our business is managed through the channel. The channel is therefore critical to the operational success of our company.

All of our focus, support, energy and programs are aligned to delivering exceptional customer satisfaction, low cost to serve and high margin business for our channels. ShoreTel’s Champion Partner Program delivers some of the best product and service margins in the industry.

ShoreTel constantly achieves industry leading Net Promoter Scores (NPS – see www.netpromoter.com) from our customers: During the past year, ShoreTel and its resellers earned a Net Promoter Score of 62, double digits above 50, which is considered world class. This puts ShoreTel in the company of industry leaders such as Apple, USAA and Costco.

This means that ShoreTel delivers a very high level of customer satisfaction. If end users adopt a ShoreTel Unified Communications project, it will deliver immediate value to the customers and/or their customers, it will produce a quick business impact in terms of return on investment (ROI) and has the lowest total cost of ownership in the industry.

The result is that many of our customers are net promoters and would recommend ShoreTel to other business and one consequence of our very high Net Promoter Scores is that ShoreTel has a channel community who are happy in their relationship with us and see the value we bring to their business and their customers /prospects.

High customer NPS means our channels are selling to satisfied customers who are therefore more likely to stay with the channel partner expand their relationship with that reseller. This provides the partner with significant and on-going cross and upsell opportunities.

By deploying a channel only strategy ShoreTel readily understands that customer are looking to have value added relationships with their vendors and suppliers that encompasses their total communications needs – and ShoreTel has an extensive portfolio of unified communications, customer contact, mobility solutions, on customer premise or managed services offerings to address these end user market demands.

However all of these communications elements need to be developed into integrated solutions rather than stand alone applications, which is why ShoreTel is committed to work 100% towards successful end user deployments through channel partners who can integrate solutions and add extra value to the customer business.

This model allows us to invest in research and development, high touch end user customer sales teams, channel managers and a fully featured channel partner program to reward and recognise channel success.

Overall our strategy is to invest to grow and invest to make a difference to our channels in their markets.

CBM: What is your channel programme/strategy and why do you think it stands out from the competition – what do you offer resellers that is beneficial to their business?

DP: ShoreTel believes that for channel programs to be effective they need to be simple to understand and simple to manage. Programs need to recognise skills and capability as well as reward success and growth.

ShoreTel’s program is different to other vendors in that we are a 100% channel centric business and we therefore have Channel DNA in our fabric.

If our programs do not work then we have an under motivated channel. If our channel programs work- as they do today then we have a committed, profitable channel that delivers the growth of 25% year on year we are enjoying.

ShoreTel recognises the need to support our channels to invest in the skills needed to differentiate their business, provide a high level of customer satisfaction and deliver high margin business.

The ShoreTel Champion Partner Program has cost effective training and high levels of discounts and rewards such as marketing development funds that delivers a flexible approach to how our channels use our investment to grow business volumes.

CBM: So how you have assisted your channel partners to actively increase their business over the past year. 

DP: Having a 100% customer focussed, channel centric go to market model frees ShoreTel to invest in developing our channel community.

ShoreTel’s view is that by developing individual joint business plans for each of our channel partners we will both better understand the channels current position and where they would want to grow their business. This could be by product set, geography, specialised vertical market &and/or a hosted/managed service offering.

We would then work with that channel through their Value Added Distributor to invest ShoreTel Marketing Development Funds to deliver bespoke partner marketing campaigns, seminars, events, promotions, training or in house demonstration capabilities that align with the business plan and growth strategy to produce results.

ShoreTel will also invest our own resource, as well as Marketing Development Funds and supporting collateral to form part of the partners market differentiation and overall value proposition. We invest more than just the funding – we invest our time, people, expertise and passion to make a success of the channel partnership.

To further enhance reseller skills ShoreTel provides a twice yearly an Accelerate Marketing Event. Here we deliver, at no cost to partners, a full day of best in class marketing experts from the UK to discuss and share best practice on all aspects on marketing their business in todays demanding and competitive world. Covering social media, event management, through to telesales and demand generation – these classes are currently over subscribed so we had to book a bigger venue for the next event in September!

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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