November 18, 2020
Telecom carriers and their partners have drastically increased their speed of business in 2020.
Craig Schlagbaum, senior vice president and channel chief of Comcast Business, said speed matters more than ever in customer conversations.
Comcast’s Craig Schlagbaum
“The most challenging item that we’ve addressed is probably getting installs done rapidly. There are a number of areas of the country where we’ve had to accelerate and expedite turnups, particularly on the East Coast and central part of the U.S.,” Schlagbaum said.
Channel chiefs from AT&T, Comcast Business, Cox Business and Spectrum Enterprise shared partner program updates during a Sandler Partners Summit session. These telecom carriers and cablecos all agreed that partners are selling and deploying faster than they ever have.
AT&T’s Chris Jones
Chris Jones, AT&T‘s associate vice president of channel sales, said the carrier has been fine-tuning its approach to eliminate unnecessary steps. As a result, it set up the USNS navel ship Mercy with a land-to-ship circuit in under 24 hours.
Such a deployment would have taken much longer to take in the past, according to Jones.
“It’s actually a positive benefit from COVID-19 that we realized how much was built into our processes that didn’t need to be there — that we could remove from the process,” Jones said.
Jones said his company has also seen an accelerated sales cycle. That’s a trend we’ve seen across the industry. People are taking less time to buy.
“Customers are willing to make decisions without meeting after meeting after meeting and proposal after proposal after proposal,” Jones said. “Customers have really been able to make decisions much faster with much less information and in a much more timely way.”
Cox’s John Muscarella
Partners Rise to the Challenge
John Muscarella, senior director of sales and channel programs for Cox Business, said customers have very quickly transitioned from office to cloud-based remote work.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, what we were really surprised at was the resilience of the agent community and their business model to be successful during this time,” Muscarella said. “We were really ecstatic to support them, to make sure we can provide solutions that their customers needed.”
Spectrum’s Michelle Kadlacek
“I think now more than ever, clients are really turning to their trusted technology advisors,” said Michelle Kadlacek, vice president of Spectrum Enterprise’s channel program. “Partners have really helped clients transition through this ever-changing world, and we’re seeing partners through various verticals help clients as they move to a remote environment.”
Kadlacek said Spectrum has helped partners meet their customers’ bandwidth needs and security concerns. Schlagbaum noted a growing demand for …
… SD-WAN in the last three months. Schlagbaum also noted a large number of ethernet deals – including many multisite opportunities – that Comcast and its partners have landed.
“It seems that customers are starting to buy again, and they’re starting to operationalize, even in their locations,” he said.
A Vicious Cycle
Not everyone shared such an optimistic view of the pandemic. Scott Galloway, a New York University marketing professor, shared a copious amount of data that shows how COVID-19 is exacerbating inequality in the U.S.
Galloway said the massive stimulus package hasn’t worked for the people who need it most.
“We’re in the midst of a crisis that is killing more people faster than any crisis in history, and people are saving more money than they ever have before. And yet we feel a need to flush the economy with stimulus. I think this alone shows that the stimulus was misguided and that it’s not getting to the right people.”
The stock market exemplifies this disconnect, according to Galloway. Galloway said many people have chosen to open trading accounts with their $1,200 check from the government. And where do they invest? In “story stocks,” which Galloways describes as companies that receive media coverage and earn the “disruptor” label.
“And as a result, you’re seeing these companies accelerate to multiples that are just unprecedented. Effectively the marketplace has decided that stocks are no longer numbers-and-narrative. They’re narrative-and-numbers,” Galloway said. “That is, if you have a good reputation and if you’re on CNBC and perceived as a disruptor, you get an irrational multiple. And if you’re perceived old economy or declining, the market just hammers you relentlessly.”
Consider that Apple reached $1 trillion in value in 2018, 42 years after inception. That number has since doubled. And Big Tech, which Galloway roasted in his talk, has benefited very much from this trend.
“If you want to determine how Tesla’s stock is going to do tomorrow, just try to determine how many Robinhood accounts are opened today. I don’t think this story ends well. I think this is largely being fueled by a lot of young men who are bored, who have additional money in their pocket, who are prone to addiction and gambling and are levering up with pull-put options and margins by buying story stocks.”
From this 26-year-old male author who started a Robinhood this year — oof.
Galloway made an interesting comment when asked about areas of investment that partners should pursue. He pushed back slightly on the idea of artificial intelligence being the key to customer experience. He argued that although AI can help augment business processes, the best sort of customer experience occurs at the hands of well-compensated and cared-for employees.
“The greatest technology ever invented is organic intelligence,” he said.
Sandler Partners managing partner Alan Sandler greeted the partner audience on Tuesday morning. He and event host Linzie Janis broadcasted from his house. They used Frontier connectivity and Spectrum cable to ensure redundancy for the stream. The master agent brought in numerous telecom and IT carriers for keynote sessions and a virtual expo hall.
Sandler Partners’ Alan Sandler
Sandler noted big changes that have occurred in 2020 for the Hermosa Beach, California-based firm. For example, Sandler has added 30 employees since January — a 30% increase. In particular, Sandler has increased its marketing department from one to six people. The company also is working to build more of an online presence, as is much of the industry.
Sandler credited his company’s commissions department as one of the reasons the master agent landed in the Inc. 5000 for the 11th straight year.
“I always said, we keep our head down, we are …
… transparent and we share everything with our partners,” Sandler said.
Sandler brought in four UCaaS channel leaders to discuss their 2020 experience on Wednesday.
Two themes played prominently this year: video and collaboration.
Mitel’s John Lindsley
Video obviously came as no surprise. John Lindsley, Mitel‘s vice president of channels, said. Video platform usage has increased 500% since the start of the pandemic. Curt Allen, Vonage‘s global channel chief, said video calling has proven itself as the way of the future. Allen said video meetings help providers more efficiently communicate with customers.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to just plain old telephone calls,” Allen said. “I also don’t think that we’ll go back to as many live meetings. Personally, I hope I’m never on the road 50 weeks a year again.”
Vonage’s Curt Allen
Broadvoice CEO Jim Murphy pointed to the rise of collaboration platforms. Many partners are the seeing the benefit of SMS-based services. For example, Sandler has been using the Broadvoice Bubble platform to send out text messages to the summit audience
“I think far too long we’ve had a lot of partners that relied on access solutions and PBX replacement as their foot in the door. And we knew that was going to change eventually, but I think the pandemic has accelerated the education into collaboration tools, both for partners and for customers,” Murphy said.
Zane Long, RingCentral‘s senior vice president of global channels
“If there was ever a time for partners to be focusing on UCaaS, this is it,” Long said.
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