June 19, 2020
Demand for real-time communications and collaboration is at an all-time high, but channel partners without the right sales strategy will miss this opportunity.
The unified communications (UC) market is expected to exceed $143 billion by 2024 because organizations want to increase employee productivity and responsiveness across both office and remote workforces.
Meanwhile, the sector is plagued with an assortment of tools to meet a variety of collaboration needs. Therefore, selling UC solutions effectively has proven difficult for partners without the right sales strategy.
Channel partners need to reevaluate their loyalty and be consultants for their customers, says TetraVX’s Patrick Graves. They need to offer technology recommendations that address the client’s individual challenges.
Graves is vice president of channel sales at TetraVX, which provides an all-in-one platform for calling, collaboration and contact center. He provides five tips for UC channel partners to improve their sales strategy and strengthen their client relationships:
Empower your sales team with the right sales enablement content and UC training. Then they can act as subject matter experts and consult their customers effectively.
Understand the client’s business goals, and provide guidance and expertise. Don’t simply push the product.
Gauge the organization’s UC readiness. To ensure seamless adoption and optimal call quality, partners should help their customers upgrade their IT infrastructure to make systems compatible with any new communications platforms.
Partner with the right UC provider. The right provider should work with partners to identify shared business goals and objectives. They should also provide the support to educate sales staff and drive UC sales initiatives.
Look for ways to add value. Partners need to ask themselves how else they can help their clients improve their business operations and what other technologies may be beneficial for their long-term success.
TetraVX’s Patrick Graves
We spoke with Graves to find out more about forming the right UC sales strategy.
Channel Partners: What are some of the biggest roadblocks channel partners face when trying to sell UC?
Patrick Graves: There are many potential roadblocks. On the partner side, if they have historically sold legacy/on-premises solutions, and have a lot of revenue tied up in that. Thus, moving to new solutions such as UC may not benefit them financially. So there is incentive to keep customers right where they are, so to speak. As a follow-on to that, if the partner’s sellers are not accustomed to selling monthly recurring revenue (MRR)-based solutions, versus capex, that can present challenges, too, as they’ll be less interested in positioning them.
We recently compiled a list of 20 top UCaaS providers offering products and services via channel partners.
Channel partner leadership would need to account for this because it’s not an insignificant shift. In some cases, they may need to retool their sales processes and compensation plans to specifically account for this sea change in their go-to-market. On the customer side, UC solutions lack a hard ROI. Most of the benefit is around soft cost savings, process improvement and enhanced collaboration. These are all worthwhile and important benefits, but may lose their luster when compared against projects that deliver hard ROI, particularly these days when there is uncertainty in the market.
CP: Why does what’s worked in the past not work today?
PG: In the early days of UC, vendors were eager to …
… position proofs of concept (POCs)/pilots with customers to give them a taste of how UC worked, its benefits, etc. Many of these were successful. Where things went awry was the next step: expanding the POC to address a larger user population without addressing the corresponding requirements around technical scalability and user adoption. It’s critical to begin with the end in mind.
CP: What are examples of common and costly sales strategy mistakes that can kill a UC deal?
PG: There are dozens of UC solutions on the market that are able to deliver on the benefits they purport. Once a solution is chosen, there are two key factors that can derail the success of a deployment: failing to address the company’s network readiness (the technical side), and failure to consider the importance of user adoption and change management (the human side). Once the technical readiness and human readiness are aligned, there is a much higher chance of a successful rollout.
CP: How detrimental can partnering with the wrong UC provider be?
PG: Being able to effectively communicate with customers, partners, vendors and colleagues is critical. Choosing the wrong UC solution can put that at risk. Partners are placing a lot of trust in their providers and need to think about their track record of success, the systems and processes they have in place to successfully deliver time and time again. Today, some providers are offering big SPIFFs or low prices to win business; often that can come at the expense of quality, whether related to the product, the people or the process. And the stakes are high — a partner could lose a customer if a deployment goes poorly.
CP: Is following these sales strategy tips a difficult process for channel partners? Does it require a big departure from how they’ve been doing business?
PG: It can be, because for some of them, these market shifts represent a sea change from what they’re used to. My team actively works with partners to help them evolve. We find that partners who are willing to do this have an edge over their competitors.
Zoom to Offer Encryption to All Users
Zoom says it plans to offer end-to-end encryption (E2EE) to all users, not just those who pay for the video conferencing service.
The company found itself in hot water over its security and privacy practices as use of the service skyrocketed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the company has been working to improve its practices.
This week, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan released an updated E2EE plan.
Zoom’s Eric Yuan
“We have identified a path forward that balances the legitimate right of all users to privacy and the safety of users on our platform,” he said. “This will enable us to offer E2EE as an advanced add-on feature for all of our users around the globe – free and paid – while maintaining the ability to prevent and fight abuse on our platform.”
Earlier this month, Yuan said Zoom wouldn’t make E2EE available free to users.
Free/basic users who want E2EE will participate in a one-time process that will prompt them for additional pieces of information, such as verifying a phone number via a text message.
“We are confident that by implementing risk-based authentication, in combination with our current mix of tools – including our Report a User function – we can continue to prevent and fight abuse,” Yuan said.
Zoom will start early beta testing of the E2EE feature …
… next month.
The announcement came one day after Fight for the Future and other civil and privacy rights groups delivered to Zoom 70,000 signatures demanding the company implement E2EE for all users.
Fight for the Future issued the following statement in response to Zoom’s announcement:
“End-to-end encryption is one of the most important technologies keeping people safe online, and it’s essential for basic human rights. Every company should offer users end-to-end encryption wherever possible. And companies should stand up for their users’ rights by refusing to enter into partnerships or build back doors for law enforcement agencies that routinely abuse their power.”
D&H Cloud Marketplace Now Includes Cisco
This will allow partners to bundle Cisco’s managed services solutions with hardware, software and services. It also features a tiered pricing structure.
The agreement with Cisco includes its flagship WebEx collaboration platform, its Umbrella layered security offerings, and its Stealthwatch cloud-based network visibility and threat detection services.
The D&H Cloud Marketplace is a digital commerce platform. It allows partners to buy, provision and bill an extensive selection of cloud-based services through a single interface.
For example, D&H will offer a Cisco-based collaborative Meeting, Teams, and Calling bundle built around WebEx. It can include hardware and peripherals such as VoIP phones, branded headsets and accessories to accommodate a video conferencing package.
Partners can assemble a remote worker package. That includes laptops, an associated Umbrella contract, and Webex licensing for Meetings, Calling and Teams. It also can include add-ons like laptop cases and surge protectors.
D&H Distributing’s Jason Bystrak
Bundles can include either Cisco-branded or third-party computing hardware, creating tailored packages with a click of a mouse.
“D&H has established an effective go-to-market strategy for partners looking to increase their cloud-based offerings,” said Jason Bystrak, vice president of D&H’s cloud business unit. “Cisco’s solutions are a major addition to the robust portfolio we’ve curated. The D&H marketplace puts the power of the cloud in the MSP’s hands, allowing them to deliver very tailored, high-value services in a streamlined manner. They can select the quantities and packages, then process the order all in one simple transaction. Our goal is to make it as seamless as possible for partners to become profitable providers of cloud-based services.”
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