Alcatel hopes seven will be its lucky number this year.

The French-based telecommunications manufacturer wants to add that many resellers before the year ends, to bring the number of Canadian VARs it has to 10.

The company doesn’t want to stop there, added Gino Siclilano, who earlier

this year was appointed Alcatel’s director of Canadian channel sales.</P.

“If we can double [that number] in 2006 I’d be more than pleased,” he said.

The hunt for VARs is part of Alcatel’s plan to dramatically increase the number of North American VARs. As part of the strategy last week it announced an overhaul of its channel program.

Until now the company had three separate programs, for its voice, data and carrier products – the last of which weren’t sold through the channel in this country.

The new North American Business Partner Program combines all three programs. In addition, carrier products will now be sold through VARs.

It has three levels:

–Expert partners have to be trained and certified to sell at least two of Alcatel’s six product lines, and meet an annual $1 million sales target:

–Certified partners have to be trained and certified on at least one product line, and meet a $300,000 sales target;

–Authorized partners can only sell an Alcatel component (such as a blade for a switch) and have a credit line with one of the company’s four Canadian distributors.

Alcatel already has three partners: SSP Telecom of Trois-Rivieres, ESI Technologies of Montreal and MDM Systems of Burlington, Ont.

Siclilano said that in addition to looking for telecommunications VARs, he is also on the hunt for security resellers and wireless VARs who don’t have wireline products.

As those two markets converge there should be opportunities for Alcatel’s products, he said.

Alcatel sells roughly $18 billion a year in hardware and services, 42 per cent of that in Europe. North American sales account for 15 per cent of revenue.

Products range from gear for carriers to microwave enterprise solutions to desktop phones, a reach which Tom Eggemeier, vice-president of North American channel sales and marketing, gives Alcatel an edge over competitors.

Resellers considering signing up should see the company has a broader portfolio than competitors such as Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks, he said.

In addition, he argued, there are few Alcatel VARs in Canada, which should mean partners will be able to gain more margin. Alcatel also offers its VARs more margin on products, he said – over 10 per cent on data and PBX products.

Earlier this year the company merged its sales and marketing departments to help channel partners get more business.

The new channel program is designed to reward partners for selling more than one product line, Eggemeier said.

“We really see a good way to grow our breadth and depth with channels in Canada,” he said.

“Canada should be 10 per cent of our channel revenue, and we’re not there yet, so we see the relaunch of our channel program, the hiring of Gino and the emphasis on channel marketing . . . is a way to increase our market share.”

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