Level 3's New Channel Chief Plots Growth Strategy With VARs


As Mike Jerich, Level 3’s new vice president of indirect channels, maps out his channel strategy for 2012 and beyond, he sees VARs and systems integrators playing a big role in his organization’s blueprint for success.

“In my opinion that VAR community is where we’ll see the next evolution of the strategic partner, as well as the growth for Level 3 in the traditional agent base,” Jerich said. “Without their success, I can’t be successful, quite frankly.”

Jerich is back in familiar territory at Level 3, where he’ll direct the channel program he helped build out during his previous six-year stint at Level 3, before he left to overhaul Global Crossing’s indirect sales strategy in 2009.

Level 3 closed its acquisition of Global Crossing in early October, just before naming Jerich to his new post.

Nigel Williams, meanwhile, will move on to a new role at Level 3 as vice president of business development.

While there are a few differences between the two programs, for example Level 3’s channel program has more regional support in place while Global Crossing’s was a nationally lead program, the two companies complement each other very well, Jerich said.

“We’re fortunate, this is really a marriage made in heaven,” he said.

Jerich said he’ll keep the best of each program, with Level 3’s regional channel support and Global Crossing’s “best-of-breed” support for national distributors to provide a high level of support for all core agents. The biggest challenge of bringing together the two programs, he said, will be working through the “T’s and C’s,” or terms and conditions, of agent contracts.

“The only challenge I see is making sure we develop one contract that supports not only the agents’ needs but the combined companies’ needs,” he said. “We want to make sure that the partners feel that they have the best contract vehicles so they can be competitive in the space.”

Jerich estimates the combined program has around 150 core agents (not counting sub-agents) and accounts for 15 percent of the company’s overall sales. He’s aiming higher though, and hopes that up to 25 percent of overall sales and revenue could soon come through indirect sales.

And Jerich said an increasing percentage of Level 3’s partner base will come not only from the traditional telco agent but also from the VAR/system integrator communities. Reaching, and supporting, that community is part of Level 3’s core focus for growing the channel in 2012 and beyond, he said.

“In my opinion, our job as the carrier, is to make sure that the VAR community understands that there is enormous opportunity out there for them, which I think they’re starting to get,” Jerich said.

VARs can bring their business to Level 3 by way of a couple different avenues, whether through a master agent, or -- for those VARs that have built up a dedicated carrier services arm -- by partnering direct with Level 3. Level 3 has boots on the ground to offer dedicated channel support for pre-sales engineering, training and education, on-boarding, and to help partners understand product positioning, Jerich said.

“The way our program is modeled is that those channel managers are tasked with teaching the partner community to go out there and fish on their own,” he said.