Gaining Momentum in the Channel: Hosted VoIP Provider's Valued Partner Program Off to a Strong Start

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Gaining Momentum in the Channel: Hosted VoIP Provider's Valued Partner Program Off to a Strong Start

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  November 04, 2013

Hosted VoIP is supposed to be easy to deliver, but the plug-and-pray method of installation doesn’t always work so great for customers, or the agents that sell them such solutions. The true path to hosted VoIP success is to take the time to visit the customer location, do a site survey, handle the installation rather than just ship the customer phones, and offer ongoing support and quality monitoring throughout the life of the customer and channel partner relationship.

At least that’s the view of Momentum (News - Alert) Telecom, which works with value-added resellers to bring its hosted PBX, SIP trunking, hosted Exchange services, unified communications tools, and call center applications to small and medium business customers throughout the continental United States.

“We make it work, and the implementation process is a very important piece to us,” says Jamie Minner, vice president of sales at Momentum Telecom. “So that’s our guiding principal, and the channel has just eaten it up.”

Momentum Telecom’s move to embrace the channel is a fairly recent endeavor, but one long in the making. The idea was sparked nearly 3 years ago. Since then, Momentum Telecom has spent significant time and effort developing products and procedures for the channel. That included bringing Minner and new President and CEO Bill Fox aboard to lead the charge.

“We were very deliberate about how we did this, and built it from the ground up,” says Fox of the channel effort.

Since its launch a year ago last month, the Momentum Valued Partner (MVP) program has attracted 117 channel partners, including one master agent. Most of those partners signed on this year, as Momentum Telecom wanted to start out slow, so it brought aboard 10 agents last year, another 10 at the turn of the year, and the rest since February.

“We don’t partner with just anybody, we want to make sure to have the right fit,” says Minner, who previously worked with Cbeyond and IP5280 (News - Alert).

Momentum Telecom is looking for partners who will help it change the perception of VoIP and assist it in maintaining the company’s good reputation, he says. In return, the company is committed to providing those partners with the remuneration and support they need to build their businesses. The effort has already seen good success, says Fox, explaining channel sales have grown 500 percent year-to-date.

The Momentum Valued Partner Program has a tiered agent payment structure. Those who sell up to $15,000 a month receive a 15 percent commission; partners with

between $15,000 and $30,000 in monthly sales earn 17 percent; and at $30,000 or more in monthly sales, the agent gets 20 percent of the sale. The company also offers upfronts in select cases.

When it comes to selling the Momentum Telecom solutions, not only can partners promote the ease of maintenance and cost savings of these cloud-based solutions, and the productivity benefits of unified communications, they also can tout the company’s geo-redundant network and call quality monitoring and control.

Service providers commonly talk about geo-redundancy, says Minner, who adds that one competitor who made that claim experienced a six-week outage during Superstorm Sandy. Momentum Telecom, however, offers true geo-redundancy, leveraging its multimillion-dollar data centers in Atlanta and Las Vegas, he says. Since creating its geo-redundant network in 2010 ­– an effort that involved using the network assets acquired from CommPartners Connect and investing in new gear from Brocade (News - Alert), Cisco and Juniper – Momentum Telecom has not experienced a single minute of down time.

Momentum Telecom also provides its channel partners and end customers with transparency into its network, delivering monthly reports on mean opinion scores (MOS), which reflect call quality ratings. Its proprietary probes offer a view and MOS parameters for the Momentum Telecom network, the customer network, and both ends of the access networks. That helps channel partners and their customers better understand what’s happening within their networks and assists in troubleshooting when required.

The company’s voice services run entirely on its own network. The data network Momentum Telecom uses to deliver services is 50 percent, and it relies on NNI agreements with several other carriers, from which it brings back traffic to its own facilities. As a result, it can provide quality of service on 80 percent of the circuits sold to those customers.

In terms of support, Momentum Telecom has a partner coordinator to onboard newcomers, offering training on contract and sales best practices and procedures; providing marketing materials, which can be customized to particular geographies or industry verticals; and familiarizing them with how to use the partner portal to track their commissions.

Momentum Telecom has laid out a channel strategy whereby agents learn about and sell its products incrementally. It first offers training on its core products, which are hosted PBX (News - Alert) and trunking. After the agent and some of its smaller customers have some experience with these offerings, Momentum provides training related to its conferencing and unified communications services, which can help the channel partner up his or her commission rate.

Once an agent delivers a prospect, Momentum Telecom connects the partner with the engineer and implementation manager in that city to design the customer network and lay out an implementation plan. That involves the engineer visiting the customer site and then creating a diagram of the current setup and a second schematic of what it will look like with Momentum in the mix. The agent then delivers the proposal including that information to the customer. When the customer signs the contract, the engineer does the configuration, including call flow, etc. And the implementation program manager gets on the phone with the customer to discuss expectations for the next 30 days, during which time most customers get up a running (it may take slightly longer for very large customers).

Momentum Telecom inputs orders into its system for agents, but after that the channel partners can access the system to track the status of the order and, if there are issues with the order, see what they are. Moves, adds, changes and disconnects are all automated as well. Fox notes that this system, which Momentum Telecom built itself, not only enables the company to make these processes transparent to its partners, it also lowers the likelihood of error.

WPS is a VAR partner that sells Momentum Telecom’s hosted PBX and SIP trunking services – in addition to its own business process mapping, document management, print services, and office equipment – to businesses in western Maryland, and parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Anything that’s on the network is something we’re going to handle now because of the services side of the business,” says Debra Dellaposta, chief innovation officer of WPS Solutions, which has been a Momentum partner for about two years. “Customers want one throat to choke. Even if we don’t provide that service, we want to find best-of-class providers.”

The relationship with Momentum Telecom both enables WPS to keep as much of its customers’ business in house as possible, and it provides the company with an important source of recurring revenue. Partnering with Momentum, Dellaposta says, has helped WPS move from a one-time sale to a recurring revenue organization. So now, WPS not only sells a $4,500 multi-functional printer, through Momentum it can add to that with another $500 to $600 a month in recurring revenue.

 “We have quite a few customers” using the Momentum Telecom solutions, says Dellaposta, who comments that customers are particularly keen on the voicemail-to-e-mail, and e-mail to smartphone features available. “I checked with [one] the other day and she was raving about the service that she’s been getting.”

Dellaposta adds that Momentum Telecom’s technical team makes the process of proposing and implementing customer solutions painless.

“It’s easy to do business with Momentum Telecom, and it’s an easy solution to implement to your customers so they get the latest in business communications,” she says. “It’s not difficult at all. And it’s a nice way to add recurring revenue.”

Fox adds that the company’s product portfolio stacks up against anybody’s in the industry, but that it’s the commitment to service level and making solutions work for both channel partners and their customers that truly differentiate Momentum Telecom.

Customers have taken notice.

Many have sent Fox e-mails expressing their extreme satisfaction with their experiences. To ensure a high level of customer satisfaction going forward, and ongoing growth, Momentum Telecom plans to continue its investment in people, partners and solutions.

“We’ve had a lot of growth,” says Fox, “but we still have a long way to go.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi