When NTT America set out two years ago to create a channel partner program to boost its wholesale efforts, the company faced one major challenge: A certain lack of visibility.
"We are the world's largest telecom company that nobody knows," jokes Jordan Whyard, NTT America Inc. 's Director of Indirect Channel Sales. Of course, it's not entirely true: NTT is well known as the dominant Japanese telecom provider and a global leader in virtualization and data centers. But gaining attention as a global wholesale partner required a significant effort -- one the company says is now paying off.
NTT had already succeeded in signing the top 15 master agents by earlier this year, when it started focusing on adding smaller sub-agents. To date, the volume of business in that segment has grown by more than 30%, with the addition of 100 sub-agents this year. Moving down market has required a major push on NTT's part, both to boost its visibility but also to expand its direct work with smaller partners in the sales process.
"We had been only playing with the global Fortune 500 with our direct sales organization," Whyard says. "One of the challenges as we go down market into the small to mid-sized business space is that those companies may not have been exposed to NTT, so it is an educational process -- educating our customers and our partners as to who it is we are and what we actually do.”
Collectively, its customers fall into two camps, he says: those who were already selling global services to multinational businesses and those looking to NTT to help them move their business up to that segment. The focus for both segments is on selling beyond basic services to include managed services such as cloud-based unified communications, security services and other cloud-based offers that built on NTT's global network of 150 data centers, he adds.
"We have been able to put up some big numbers, it's going wonderfully, but we think this is just the beginning," Whyard tells Light Reading in an interview. As the company's programs become better known, the sales pace is expected to accelerate.
For those already in the multinational business, NTT “helps them build their street cred” because it is an established brand globally, he says. For agents, particularly smaller companies, who haven't yet "crossed the pond," NTT's Global Solutions Channel Partner Program provides the professional services needed, in addition to the underlying wholesale network and data center infrastructure, to get started.
For many of these partners, security services are a lead offer because security is very much top-of-mind for businesses and something that is part of any service, Whyard notes. "With every single solution, security is the number one priority, whether it's network or data center or cloud," he says. The complexity of delivering security for the global market, taking into account the variety of compliance rules and the different ways services need to be secured in different companies, makes agents more eager to work with a larger global partner that already has an understanding of how that all works, he says.
"We are finding a lot of demand for professional services in this area," Whyard says. "And managed services are next. After a consulting service has been provided to ensure the customer is secure, the policies and procedure are in place and are being followed, there is a natural follow-on to manage services, as augmentation or in addition to existing IT staff."
NTT's data center footprint -- he says NTT is the second-largest data center operator globally by footprint behind Equinix -- is becoming a more important part of the wholesale conversation. The ability to virtualize data center resources allows companies to expand their reach more easily without having to dedicate specific physical assets at static locations.
"One of the unique positions with NTT, because of our data center footprint, is that you can have best of both worlds -- a physical asset sitting at a static location and then, as you pursue new markets, you can use virtualized resources that don't have to physically sit anywhere," he comments. "It can be one or the other but we enable our partners to be able to dictate this alongside of us."
One of the challenges going forward is that these sales are becoming more complex, which requires greater education of the sales channel itself, so that customer needs can be appropriately matched to service capabilities.
"With more than 100 partners actively working with NTT's network program, there is not one specific way that we do this," Whyard says. "We are heavily investing in this kind of training but it is an art not a science. What has actually proven to be successful for us is going and selling with the partners and showing a unified front and both organizations' value proposition. We are finding we can educate the partner through the sales process itself."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading