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August 17, 2015
**Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of profiles featuring Channel Partners advisory board members. Meet McNeese and the rest of the board by attending Cloud Partners, a Channel Partners event, this fall in Boston. Register here.**
As Rachel McNeese puts it, it’s not about the technology.
She was speaking in the context of cloud services, which her company has harnessed in recent years – but with moderation.
“We work really hard at not talking about cloud or pushing cloud or saying cloud, but in capturing the IT spend for the client, understanding their business and how they go to market, and how they function internally,” she said.
Richardson Communications and Consulting’s founder and president says the McKinney, Texas-based consultancy doesn’t merely sell cloud “just to say we’re selling cloud.” That’s for fear of ignoring what the client truly needs.
“The technology comes at the very end of our process, and whatever technology it is that we’ve [recommended] to meet the client’s needs is what we’re going to be discussing and presenting,” she said.
McNeese advises that channel partners imitate Richardson’s mindset in their business transactions.
“My advice would be to focus on the client and their needs and not worry about the product or the technology that you’re trying to sell,” she told Channel Partners.
Just as it’s important to know the client, McNeese says understanding carriers is crucial. She says she tries to keep up to speed on carrier news as much as possible.
“So we spend a considerable amount of time understanding what’s going on with the different carriers and where they are with their product set, what they’re rolling out, what they’re grandfathering, how their network is performing, how they are financially, what changes are coming financially, and how those impact [our] clients,” she said.
McNeese had both the client and the carrier on her mind when she formed Richardson in 2008. She had previously worked in sales and account management at Avaya and WinStar, a now-defunct CLEC.
“I had seen the way other companies were managing clients, and definitely, there was a missing component between the carriers and the customer, and a lot of the partners out there, in my opinion, were doing more of a cafeteria plan in saying, ‘Here, I can give you multiple options. Pick any one you want.’”
She says she’s OK with the “cafeteria plan” concept, but she personally disliked …
… competing against direct sales and working without the client’s commitment.
“Before we start work, we really save a lot of time and effort in the sales cycle by selling them on [Richardson] prior to doing any analysis or quoting,” she said. “So our close ratio obviously is at 100 percent once we sign the MBA and that’s when we start the bulk of our up-front work.”
That focus works well for McNeese, who has a passion for customer service and establishing relationships.
“I took my collective experience and background as well as my understanding of a process around migrating a customer from one technology to the other – [then] created a very high-touch, repeatable, executable process to bringing in clients and closing business,” she said.
But starting a business, as McNeese found, was no simple process. She was a single mother at the time, providing her home’s only income. In addition, she was launching a business model that may take 18 to 24 months to hit full stride.
“It could take you up to the ninth month or even more before you’re compensated on implementing a solution for a client,” she said. “Very slow and methodical and steady is the way you have to build the business.”
She says the pressure left her shoulders when Richardson secured two large clients. The emphasis shifted from survival to reaching the next level. Now McNeese is a board member for Telecom for Change and Channel Partners, and is ranked as one of her city’s top 25 businesswomen by McKinney Magazine.
She says a crucial part of Richardson’s success was “finding good people” who can help sustain the growth. The theme of people and relationships echoes in McNeese’s final advice, as she reiterates the importance of staying close to both the client and the carrier.
“The competitiveness in the marketplace means that you can never assume anything. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Protect your revenue and your relationship with the customer from every possible angle that you can think of,” she said.
Read more about:Agents
Senior News Editor, Channel Futures
James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.
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