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Avaya partners here in no rush for SMB logo

Almost a year after releasing a certification to encourage sales to small and mid-sized companies, only one VAR here has passed the test

It’s been ten months since Avaya Inc. delivered a program for certifying partners specializing in serving small and medium businesses. But while some 70 VARs in the U.S. have passed the program, only one of its 80 Canadian resellers is authorized to carry the SMB Expert logo.

Digitcom, a Toronto-based company with a Montreal office that sells and installs office phone systems, received the designation in July.

Digitcom president Jeff Wiener believes Avaya sales for the company, which had overall revenue last year of over $5 million, will increase as much as 30 per cent.

But the fact that only one partner here has met the test for the program is not a worry for Mark Bernitz, the manager of the Avaya’s SMB business partner programs.

“It doesn’t concern me,” he said in an interview.

“We have less established partners there than in the U.S. We had a bunch that were very close (to filling the qualifications) and had only one or two things they needed to do.”

“For whatever reason,” only one Canadian partner pushed quickly ahead, he said. However, he added, “a few others are very close” to being certified.

To be qualified as an Avaya SMB Expert partner, a VAR has to have vendor-approved marketing and business plans, have at least two Avaya-certified engineers and one certified salesperson, meet certain support delivery standards and commit to selling a certain annual volume – Bernitz wouldn’t say how much, but Wiener recalled it as about $1 million.

Industry analysts have been saying for several years that SMB is the biggest growing area in almost all IT sectors. But Bernitz doesn’t see the last of partners applying for the SMB Expert title as a sign his Canadian partners aren’t tackling it.

“Just because (his Canadian partners) haven’t necessarily fulfilled every one of the requirements doesn’t mean they’re not interested in selling SMB products,” he said.

Some companies may be reluctant to pull staff from their duties to take the required training or take the time to complete the paperwork, he speculated.

But 12 months from now he’d like to have eight to 10 VARs here certified.

The company’s main product for SMBs is its IP Office family.

Wiener acknowledged that some of the program requirements were “fairly stringent,” including “50 pages” on the company background and how it performs service and installations.

But it was worth it to have the SMB Expert logo, which he said will give clients “comfort they’re dealing with a company that has met that bar.”

Its one more thing he hopes will give Digitcom, which was established in 1991, a leg up on his major competition, Bell Canada. Bell has been acquiring most of the mid-size business phone resellers in Ontario and Quebec recently, he said.

While Digitcom had been a “very aggressive” Nortel dealer, the company added Avaya’s lineup a year ago because “we were looking for a more robust product, something that had more capability.”

Nortel’s financial problems were also “a big issue” when trying to make a sale to some customers, he added.