AT&T opens a channel

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Data and communications vendor AT&T Australia has opened up a channel business, in a bid to reach the small and medium business market as it drives towards moving around 30 percent of local sales indirectly over the next 12 months.

Since April 1 last year, 100 percent of AT&T's revenues have been driven by its direct sales force since the breakdown of its Concert joint venture with British Telecom (BT) and the removal of a service provider agreement with Advantra.

Its new channel program has several elements. Under the “referral” program, AT&T will pay channel organisations a commission for presenting qualified sales leads to the vendor. “A lot of people in the referral program may not be providers of telecommunications services, the could be selling other services but see it [the program] another revenue stream,” said Brett Barningham, sales and marketing director at AT&T.

A “distribution referral” program will see AT&T pay resellers a fee for finding a deal that will be signed through one of the reseller's own channels. In other words, the reseller would act as a middleman and Barningham adds that these resellers may be able to service markets that AT&T hasn't been able to reach.

The “sales agency” program, AT&T delivers the services, but the reseller receives a monthly fee for brokering a deal and managing the customer relationship, Barningham said. Under the final “remarketer” program resellers will take AT&T products and services and roll them into their own offerings. Barningham said this program would be suitable for larger system integrators or outsourcers.

Barningham said the company had opened up new channels to reach markets such as small and medium business that it hadn't previously addressed. He said the company had focused on the larger deals and didn't solicit any business from the SME space.

“Up until now, we [AT&T] have been focusing on large corporate organisations and [have been] dealing directly,” he said.

AT&T is also running an additional “alliance” program which aims to build its brand awareness and educate analysts and consultants on the services it offers. AT&T is looking to shake off the old “phone company” perception and strongly market its range of global roaming, IP VPN, managed and unmanaged Internet and tunneling, calling card, and managing hosting services.

Under each part of the new program, AT&T sets sales targets for partners which are directly linked to commissions. If partners exceed their sales targets, commissions increase, said Barningham.

He also claimed the program has been setup to reduce channel conflict. Internal direct sales staff are compensated for driving business through channel partners. AT&T hasn't as yet signed any partners under the program, but is in discussions with several parties, he said.

The company recently appointed Nicholas Cunningham-Moorat as channel manager. Previously Asia-Pacific manager, channels and alliances at Rockwell FirstPoint Contact, he will work with Barningham to implement the new strategy.


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