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IP PBX Company Turns Focus to Channel
By Hailey Lynne McKeefry , Ziff Davis Internet


Vertical Communications was born a little less than a year ago, when the company's leadership merged two longtime IP PBX players, Artisoft and Vertical Networks, in hopes of gaining critically needed traction in the crowded computer-based telephony field.

In recent months, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company has been busy--both working to merge the best of Vertical Networks Enterprise solution and Artisoft's SMB product into a single, comprehensive solution and to improve and extend its support of the reseller channel to serve the SMB (small and midsize business) market.

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"We are big believers in the dealer model for the SMB space," said William Tauscher, chief executive officer at Vertical. "We've done a bunch of things to rearchitect how we are going to market [through the channel], and we are moving toward a common product that puts our two platforms together."

As important as the technology piece is, the $60 million company has focused foremost on revitalizing its relationship with its resellers and improving the support it offers the channel.

"The biggest change is that there is no confusion and no mixed messages—and the message now is clearly dealer-centric," said Dave Livingston, president at SST Computing, an Elite-level partner in Kennesaw, Ga. "There's no question that Vertical Communications is basing its success on the success of their dealers."

The company's first move was to winnow down the glut of partners that had accreted during its days as Artisoft.

"Over the years, Artisoft allowed anyone who was interested to sign up as a dealer, and the end result was lots of dealers on the books that weren't adequately trained, committed or resourced," said Tauscher, adding that they trimmed their reseller roster by 70 percent. "We've requalified a much smaller subset of dealers, and told the rest that we don't want them."

The Channel Insider: Solution Builder

Today, the company has about 220 dealers on its books and will be adding new partners as it finds companies that are willing to make an investment.

"In the last year, Vertical Communications has made a definite change in focus," said Jim Weldon, president of CTI Solutions, an Elite-level partner in Sacramento, Calif. "Their mentality has changed. Now, they've got a limited number of resellers, and they are focusing on helping them be successful."

The newly minted Vertical Business Partner Program offers three levels: Authorized, Preferred and Elite Partners receive free technical support, access to dealer discussion forums, pre-designed marketing programs and market development funds.

In order to participate, partners will be required to meet training and certification requirements.

Under the new program, Vertical Communications has committed to increasing its programs, as well as the potential margins that dealers can earn.

Next Page: Incentives for VARs.

     
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