Leading communications company Mitel seems to continually be in the press, delivering new innovations and updates to the marketplace. The most recent announcement to hit the media came when Mitel decided to reduce its distribution network from over 60 companies.
In a recent interview with Channelnomics Europe, Jeremy Butt, Senior Vice President International at Mitel was quoted as saying that the justification for cutting the UC giant’s distribution network from “over 60 to a maximum of 20”, was that some of its previous distribution partnerships were “no longer fit for purpose”.
To learn more about the changes to Mitel’s distribution strategy, we caught up with Richard Roberts, Mitel’s Vice President for UK, Ireland and South Africa. Richard has been in his VP role since January 2018, and has a broad history in the communications market, working with companies like Cisco, Purple WiFi, and more. We asked Richard to give us a rundown of what the new distribution plan means for Mitel, and what we can expect going forward.
What Prompted the Decision to Reduce the Distribution Network?
I began by asking Richard what had pushed the decision to start cutting down the distribution network for Mitel. He told me that, like many decisions in the brand’s go-to-market strategy, it had begun with the end customers.
“Our users were demanding a certain level of support from their partners that we couldn’t deliver consistently. In today’s economy where customer experience (CX) is everything, it was really important for us to create an environment where partners could offer the right support to all of our customers. That meant that we needed to get closer to our network, closer to our partners, and work on a much deeper relationship.”
Roberts said that Mitel has used this change in their distribution strategy to focus all of their energies on providing partners with the best possible experience so that they can deliver the right support to their customers.
“We’re concentrating all of our energy downstream, towards giving customers the experience they want, by taking best in class distribution partners and using them to empower resellers and end-users.”
What’s Happening with the Distribution Market in the UK?
In some markets, Mitel has decided to partner with multiple distributors. In the UK, the company relies on Westcon-Comstor, Exertis, and Trust Distribution to deliver their services to resellers and customers. “We’ve chosen distributors with a strong presence in the market, who have built a high level of trust with their customers. We believe that there are a lot of opportunities in the UK, and that’s always something that you need to be sure of when creating a go-to-market strategy for value-added distribution.”
By choosing distribution partners more carefully, Richard believes that Mitel is taking a far more mature approach to the communications market. “I also think it’s better for our partners overall. When you have a long trail of partners to deal with, it’s harder to deliver that focused quality of support directly. Now our distribution partners can offer the right support in a much stronger way.”
“When we went to our partners and explained the situation, the feedback was very positive.”
Richard also noted that Mitel had wanted to give resellers a choice in the UK, which is why they have three different distribution partners to choose from. “This has gone down really well. We’re making sure that any value we create as a company is available to our distributors too so that they can sell any one of our unified communications and collaboration solutions. It may take some time to get everything squared away, but our strategy is to ensure that every distribution partner has complete access to our portfolio.”
What are Mitel’s Distributors Doing Today?
Richard told me that the distribution partners working with Mitel today are doing everything you would expect from a distribution network, from educating partners in terms of demand generation, to delivering a range of professional service options.
“Our aim isn’t to remove services from our partners. It’s actually to improve the quality of service for every partner with a link to Mitel.”
Roberts told me that Mitel has invested a lot of resources and time into making sure that all of the distribution sales desks associated with Mitel are inspired, trained, and empowered to sell their products. Using this strategy, Mitel has been able to scale significantly, and that means that they can generate new opportunities both for the distributor, and the reseller.
“One of the things in our favour is that we’ve been in the UK market for a long time. We’re the number one on-site UC provider across Europe, and the number 2 in the contact centre space in the UK. We’re also the number 1 for SMB contact centre. We’ve got a huge amount of legacy skill in the partner community, and I think we’ve really developed a good skills base in the marketplace that’s available for distribution to recruit if they choose to, and partners to leverage if they want to.”
How Does This Link to the Master Agent Model in the US?
There’s been a lot of talk around Mitel’s new distribution model, and how it relates to the US strategy of the “master agent.” Mitel has seen a significant rise in cloud sales coming from master agents, and these partners are also beginning to set up shop in the UK.
Richard told me that innovation in the US market is driven by customers who are very aware and know that they can consume services like collaboration and communication much more easily than they once could.
“These customers want to interact with partners they know they can trust. Those partners might not have all the skills, but they have the relationships, which is important.”
The master agent model has seen significant growth in the US over the last 2 years, and it’s a lot different from what we currently have in EMEA. “The UK is one of the most diverse cloud environments anywhere, so it’s going to be more of a mixture over here, whereas in the US it was a complete step to the master agent model.”
How Will You Measure the Success of this Distribution Strategy?
Finally, I asked Richard how Mitel will be measuring the success of their new model. He told me that the company will be looking at the growth that emerges in the UK. “Our customers will determine whether the decisions we’ve made were the right decisions. I think that the result will be strong growth and significant growth for our distributors on the back of that.”
Richard believes that Mitel has embraced an opportunity to drive even greater market share from the private and public cloud in the UK market. “If we execute this strategy correctly, we’ll be the number one player in the market, which means big things for our partners too.”
There are currently still partners in the UK that work directly with Mitel, although they’re required to have the platinum level of certification, and they must be doing enough business for Mitel to be able to support them directly.
“Most of our partners prefer to drive their business through distribution, however.”