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Mitel is aiming to turn the multivendor channel on its head by asking
partners to join its Exclusive Business Partner Program and guarantee all new
sales to Mitel—a move some partners have welcomed.

Mitel, which merged with Inter-tel in August 2007, now boasts 800 channel
partners and said it is encouraging them to take advantage of its EBP program
to boost sales. 

The EBP program began at Inter-tel and has been incorporated into
Mitel. While membership is not mandatory, partners who sign up for the
program and commit 100 percent of new sales to Mitel have access to greater
levels of sales and technical support as well as training from the vendor.

According to Carter Chapman, director of channel sales at Mitel, the EBP
program has 115 partners signed up and Chapman doesn’t see the growth slowing
down. "If I kept my foot on the accelerator, I know we could keep going
and going and going," he said.  However, he said, while Mitel isn’t
turning partners away, it is focused on making sure current Mitel partners are
taken care of before recruiting new partners to the EBP program.

"We have to make sure that the promised support is in place, so we’ve
backed off a little on the recruitment," he said. 

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Steve Klenner, vice president and partner at BSB Communications, said
selling a single vendor exclusively has helped simplify his business.
 "Before we joined the EBP program, we were selling three or four
manufacturers’ products, and it was impossible to keep all our technical
people, sales and marketing up to speed on all the software, hardware and other
products," he said.  He added that being an exclusive partner gives
his customers an extra level of trust, since they know his company is
intimately familiar with Mitel’s products.

Mark McKersie, president of First Telecommunications, another Mitel EBP
partner, said that rather than putting his firm at a competitive disadvantage,
partnering exclusively with Mitel actually increases the ability to make sales
to customers with heterogeneous telecommunications environments. 

"We take on all different systems out there—Avaya, Toshiba, NEC, for
example.  And because of our product knowledge, we are able to make sales
against these other products all the time," said Klenner. 

McKersie said Mitel’s channel focus and the EBP program help him win
business and take on other vendors in the market. "Mitel really
understands the channel, and the cash flow, entrepreneurial business process
issues we go through, and it helps us work through those," he said. 

EBP partners are offered discounts, field sales and technical support, and
training, as well as access to Mitel field representatives, who share sales,
technical and marketing best practices and perform operational reviews, Chapman