International Agents: Think Global, Act Local

Colt Technology Makes a Big Play for the U.S. Multinational Market

By: Tara Seals

[Excerpt from ChannelVision May – June 2016]

As channel partners move upmarket and diversify from the traditional base of dentist offices and burger franchises, they’re increasingly finding themselves with opportunities to sell international connectivity. Enterprises and mid-tier companies alike are looking to establish offices and locations overseas – and it’s an opportunity that Colt Technology Services has leapt into with a big channel push in the U.S.

Since its founding in 1992 as City of London Telecommunications (COLT, since rebranded to Colt), the company steadily has grown by acquisition into a multinational telecom carrier, offering voice, data, hosting and managed services in 13 countries in Europe. The 2014 acquisition of KVH also gave it a footprint in AsiaPacific, especially in the key markets of Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul.

Colt VP of channel sales Mike Kopp

After a stint as a public company, it became private again last year when Fidelity bought it in August. And Carl Grivner, the former CEO of Pacnet as well as XO Communications, became the company’s CEO last September. But besides the high-level restructuring, the company has doubled down on its channel partner strategy in the U.S.

A High-Touch Approach to International

With established points of presence in Boston, the New York and Chicago areas and Los Angeles, Colt offers U.S. companies a streamlined way to establish on-net offices in other regions of the world. And one of the things that sets Colt apart is its unique ability to support multinational installations with in-region resources.

“That’s particularly important in North America,” said Patrick Ferretti, head of marketing for North America at Colt. “When we talk to U.S. headquartered companies, many of them have some scar tissue from previous international implementations. We have the ability to support them on a local basis, with teams that have institutional knowledge of the culture, heritage and how things get done in a certain market.”

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Mike Kopp, vice president of channel sales at Colt, pointed out that as opposed to the States, where the grid and infrastructure is less than 200 years old and processes are somewhat standardized for provisioning, Europe represents a hodgepodge of infrastructure and regulatory challenges that require feet on the street to get orders implemented and deployed properly. It’s so complicated that many companies opt to have their satellite locations install their own, separate communications network, cut off from corporate resources. Colt’s specialty is getting locations in disparate countries up and running on the corporate network, so that locations and workers can share resources, collaborate better and lower their overhead.

“That process is local, local, local, and we manage everything on the ground,” Kopp explained. “When you send us an order for Frankfurt, that’s going to a local person in Germany who knows how to get things done there. There’s always some form that needs to be filled out, or some department to gain approval from. In America we love processes. And the process in Europe is that there is none. The fact is, you must be involved every step of the way; you can’t trust an order to go from one place to the next place without manually watching it. And the steps you need to take differ from market to market, even within the same country. We bring the management of all of that to the table.”

100% Channel-Focused

Colt_logoAs far as enterprise business goes in the U.S., the indirect channel is Colt’s only sales vertical, barring a handful of direct salespeople that sell to other carriers and very large enterprises.

“We are 100 percent hanging our hat on the channel community to drive sales,” Kopp said. “And the partner community is moving towards selling international services. They increasingly have, say, a law firm that needs a location in Paris or London, or a retailer interested in expanding to Tokyo. Just recently we’ve started to see international panels at partner events. It’s a new space for the partners, and the time is right for Colt to enter this market.”

He added that this is helped along by the trend of larger enterprises turning to channel partners to help them make sense of the changing communications landscape.

“As networking becomes more complicated, their roles as trusted advisors are opening the doors to nicesized accounts,” Kopp said. “The cloud, for instance, scares the crap out of large enterprises, and the technology is moving faster than they can hire people to keep up with it. So VARs and agents are there to save the day. And as they move upmarket, they run into places that do need locations in London, Seoul or Rome.”

Colt’s high-touch service model extends to its channel strategy – and in fact forms its core.

“I’ve watched every deal come through the funnel and my channel managers are talking to the customer directly in every deal we do,” he said. “We get right up in the opportunity to work it with our partner. We are not just passing pricing back and forth through the agent – it’s a completely different sale. It’s a technical sale, it’s a comfort sale, and there are a lot of nuances about selling internationally. Customers don’t ask for a lower price, let’s put it that way.”

Colt also has nine channel support people in place in the United States, which includes channel managers, partner support specialists devoted to problem-solving, and sales engineering. “We have a really good solid back office, if you will,” said Kopp. “We’re not just a quote shop.”

Colt is the number two carrier behind the incumbent in all 13 European countries in which it offers service, and most incumbents aren’t playing ball with the channel. However, the company, being relatively new to the U.S. scene, has one major challenge: a lack of brand recognition on this side of the pond. “Colt’s brand name isn’t out there yet,” he said. “When the partner community thinks of international opportunities, their first instinct might be to go with a Level 3 or a CenturyLink. But what they don’t realize is that those carriers are going to hand off that order to either Colt or the incumbent anyway.”

Unique Products

Beyond its management and back-office capabilities, the company is also differentiated on a product level – most notably when it comes to capital markets.

Harkening back to its roots in the City of London, one of the key verticals for Colt is financial services. It offers Colt PrizmNet, which is a secure, fully managed private extranet dedicated to capital markets, connecting more than 10,000 organizations worldwide and offering easy access to a wide range of content providers. Those include market data, research and other services.

“This is an initiative that’s unique to us and differentiates our capabilities,” Ferretti said. “And it’s an opportunity to help the channel gain traction in that industry.”

The company also has 24,000 lit buildings in Europe and a cornucopia of data centers. “Companies are moving to the cloud and that’s a bit of a sweet spot for us,” Kopp said. “All of that business that was sitting at the customer premises is being shifted, and we have data center bandwidth just waiting to be consumed. We are well-positioned as an enabler of that market shift.”

Bottom line though, Colt’s value proposition for end users and the channel alike is its supporting resources.

“When I wake up every morning and say, ‘you’ve got to go sell your company today,’ I realize that customers and partners conceive of what we do as a commodity,” said Kopp. “No one likes to speak of themselves as selling a commoditized service, because it has a stigma. But many of us sell similar services, and a SIP trunk is a SIP trunk. What sets us apart is our program, our infrastructure, and the institutional and tribal knowledge of the people we have in key roles.”



About ChannelVision Magazine:

ChannelVision is a bi-monthly digital and print magazine, read by channel partners selling all manner of voice, data, access, managed and business services (both on premise and “in the cloud”), as well as, technology, gear, and equipment.  ChannelVision is a highly focused and efficient way for service providers, hardware, and software companies to reach experienced channel partners targeting the small/medium business space.  Serving a controlled circulation of providers and indirect distributors of communications, network, IT and cloud-based business services, ChannelVision is telecom’s gateway to perspective on how to adapt, what to sell, and how to sell it.