US telcos are facing hurdles in differentiating themselves within the indirect B2B channel, according to recent findings from GlobalData.

While recognising the value of third-party partnerships in enterprise business, telcos struggle to set themselves apart in their propositions. Despite efforts to maximise market reach through reseller and partner programmes, challenges persist in differentiation and perception, impacting the effectiveness of these initiatives.

Without exception, major network service providers in the US enterprise market look to maximise their total addressable market (TAM) through a range of reseller and partner programmes. With this channel accounting for a substantial proportion of the overall enterprise market, it is seen as a “must-do” activity.

“The problem with the indirect channel is that it is too often seen as the poor cousin of the direct sales channel,” says Robert Pritchard, principal analyst, Enterprise Technology and Services at GlobalData. “As such, it poses potential go-to-market conflicts and is perceived as ceding control of the customer to a third-party. This partly explains why telco partner programmes often overlap even within individual carriers – and why the channel can find them confusing and frustrating.”

GlobalData’s latest report – US Telecoms Services Enterprise Channel Partners: Market Drivers and Strategies – reveals that most US channel and partner programmes are largely indistinguishable from one another, following similar patterns of support and similar products and services for resale.

“Service providers should treat the channel as valuable customers as well as partners,” says Pritchard. “These resellers and agents facilitate access to customers who fall beyond the reach of telcos’ direct sales teams, or who prefer to deal with a supplier which is not seen as a traditional telco.

“It is also wrong to assume that all customers served by the channel are just looking for the cheapest prices,” he adds. “Often, they want a supplier that can become a virtual member of their team and can match technology to business goals. Someone who is looking to deliver a business solution, not to hit a sales quota on a particular product.

“Nonetheless, telcos can maximise their addressable market through channel partners and derive incremental revenues in an efficient and profitable way,” Pritchard says. “The challenge comes in choosing the right partners and offering them optimal pre- and post-sales help and support.

“Like the channel itself, the battle for the best resellers is intense, so strong relationships need to be built alongside easy-to-use platforms and efficient processes. Beyond that, to ensure partner programs work, telcos must, like with all customers, keep asking what channel partner/customers need and how to add value to the relationship.

“The goal should be for them to realise the greatest mutual benefit,” Pritchard says.