Telarus Partner Summit… From a Rookie’s Perspective

ImageAs a new supplier for Telarus, StartMeeting was invited to sponsor their second annual Partner Summit in Park City, UT.  As a long-time admirer of what Telarus has created in the channel, I was eager to immerse myself into the Telarus world… even if it had to be at 8,000 feet (not an insignificant detail for this sea-level dweller).

When I arrived at the airport, we were greeted by Telarus support personnel who welcomed us, fed us snacks, including that liquid ambrosia of high altitudes (also known as water at home), then carted us about an hour away to the Stein Eriksen Lodge, just outside of Park City.  The setting is spectacular!

Immediately upon my arrival at the lodge, I felt the energy.  The nagging, dull, altitude-induced pounding in my head was replaced by excitement for what was to come…

Following check in, I met up with Steve Roy of TelecomBuyer.us, a long-time friend and Telarus partner, for lunch and a quick hike around the mountain.  I quickly discovered that in Utah, the sun is hotter, the terrain is more challenging (more on this later), the air is crisper, and the views resemble postcards, regardless of which direction you look.  It was time to get cleaned up for my steady stream of meetings that Telarus had lined up for me… even before the opening reception!

As you are likely aware, I am a long-time fan of Channel Partners events.  Over the years, these events have helped me generate millions of dollars in revenue.  What was different about this event was the intimacy of the community.  I felt as though I didnt need to convince anyone that I could help them grow their business.  Telarus’ endorsement already did this.  I just had to show them how.  And that is what I was planning on doing…

Throughout the 3 days that I was a resident of the Stein Eriksen Lodge, Telarus had orchestrated several meetings of pre-screened partners for me, which took place right in my suite.  These opportunities were (literally) brought to my doorstep.  Here, I will take just a second to note that Patrick Oborn did an excellent job screening partners’ interests against suppliers’ strengths to set up effective “dates”…  If Patrick ever decides to stray from telecom and IT, e-Harmony and match.com best beware!

If you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Adam Edwards, you are missing out.  Adam is a charismatic leader, motivator, care-taker, and, excuse the expression… ball-buster (of suppliers, that is, all in protecting his precious community of followers, er, partners.)  Feeling just a touch apprehensive walking into the lobby where everybody seemed to know each other, this rookie was greeted immediately by Adam’s welcoming smile and firm handshake.  He was sincerely grateful for our attendance and interest in working with Telarus.

Following a beautiful dinner, Adam and Rob Butler, Telarus’ VP of Sales, presented several awards.  Awards for top partners, top suppliers, and top channel managers.  This portion left me with visions of StartMeeting being recognized as Telarus’ top supplier at the next annual gathering…  A particularly memorable award was a personalized snow board, which was bestowed upon Blake Darling of Complete Communications, as the top partner.

The evening rounded out with a cocktail reception, where I met several new potential partners and reconnected with others that I had met over the years outside of the Telarus family.

Day 2 started with a truly behavior-altering presentation by Christophe Morin, Chief Pain Officer (that’s correct… CPO) for SalesBrain.com.  Christophe explained what his 30+ years in the study of neuroscience has taught him about consumer buying triggers…  (translation: how to sell to anyone… including our toughest prospects… spouses or significant others), by appealing to their “reptilian brain”.  This was a presentation that anyone in attendance will not soon forget.  If you are interested in some easy ways to tweak your presentations or pitches, let me know.  I would be happy to share what I learned.  Here is a quick tip:  bullets (powerpoint, not ammunition) SUCK!

After lunch came the moment that we suppliers were either dreading or relishing… the Supplier Rapid Fire.  Each sponsor was given 4 minutes to address the audience and demonstrate what makes us different and why the Telarus partners should work with us.  As the only conferencing provider represented at the event, it was easy get noticed.  They key was to leverage these 4 precious minutes into tangible business.  Limiting StartMeeting’s differentiators to only 3 (oops… I just gave away another key to appealing to the reptilian brain), I highlighted our value proposition, providing triple the capacity at half of the cost of GoToMeeting, customization opportunities with our Meeting Wall, and ease of account set-up with our unique URL tracking.  The brief presentation was capped off by a success story, as told by Tom Spooner of Telecom Insite, who provided StartMeeting service to a lawfirm looking for a comprehensive audio and web conferencing solution.  Thanks, Tom, for going under the gun to share your experience!

The Supplier Rapid Fire was followed by the Supplier Fair.  This gave partners to opportunity to speak one-on-one with us suppliers.  I am happy to report that I had a steady stream of partners interested in adding StartMeeting to their list of services that they offer to their customers.  After being happily bombarded for 90 minutes, the fair ended, giving us just enough time to squeeze in a couple more pre-arranged meetings, followed by the Partner Dine Around.  This was a great concept…  once again, Patrick played matchmaker and paired partners with suppliers for a night out on the town and the opportunity to strategize over a memorable meal at one of Park City’s finest restaurants.  My companions for the evening were SolveForce’s powers-that-be, including CEO Ron Legarski.  i would be remiss if I didn’t mention the restaurant… J&G Grill.  What an amazing experience!  To reach our meal, we were loaded onto a frenicular, which is kind of a cross between a posh gondola and a slow roller coaster, which eased us up the mountain to the welcoming culinary retreat located within the St. Regis Hotel.  Rather than bore you with the details of our spectacular meal, I will just say:  “GO!”… you won’t be sorry.

With my schedule spanning from 7 am to the wee hours of the following day, I can honestly say that this day felt a little more like telecom boot camp than anything else.  The previous 17 or so hours emplanted StartMeeting into the brains of some of Telarus’ most successful agents.  The exhaustion that followed was well worth it.

The following morning, partners and suppliers were whisked off to various activities, including fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and “spa”-ing.  As a former, relatively competent mountain biker, I jumped at the chance to ride.  The key word here is “relatively”.  I quickly learned that the east coast trails that I used to frequent, pre-wife and kids, only vaguely resembled the trails snaking thru Deer Valley, 8000 feet above my preferred altitude.  Our 3+ hour ride was filled with rugged terrain, sharp switchbacks, vicious drops and single track barely wider than my tires.  Having been catapulted over my handlebars not once, but twice, I am eternally grateful for the arm and leg armor that I was encouraged to strap on before mounting my beautiful full suspension ride.  The picture above shows what remained of the group of 12 who started the trek.  Seth Ferguson of Telarus, to the right of yours truly, holding his bike and showcasing his “taco-ed” front tire, was awarded the spill of the day, resulting in a badge of honor cut on his face and a sprained wrist.  This ride was one for the books…

We hobbled from our rented bikes to the closest lunch spot to recount our favorite moments of our ride.  I found myself among some really top-notch telecom and IT folks.  Conversation meandered between aches and pains that were setting in and how we all might be able to work together.  I do believe that this experience had been a bonding event, not unlike boot camp or the trials experienced by the Gilligan’s Island inhabitants following the wreck of the Minnow.

The Telarus Partner Summit wound down with a dinner, slideshow of pictures shot within the past 48 action-packed hours, and a farewell by Adam and Patrick.  Thinking of just about every detail possible, Adam announced that they had made special arrangements to have the NBA championship final game broadcast on the large screens in the banquet room… not an easy feat given the room was completed only 2 weeks prior and was not wired for this type of broadcast.  They found a way to make it happen and treated the attendees to one of the most exciting finishes in NBA history!

I am writing this from thousands of miles away, both physically and mentally.  I am now on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard with my family.  While the island bike trails here are much more tame, my mind continues to drift back to my first Telarus Partners Summit.  Congratulations to Adam, Patrick, and their incredible staff who put on such a memorable and productive event… regardless of your perspective:  partner or even rookie supplier.

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