Peter Radizeski is Founder and President of RAD-INFO INC. He is an accomplished blogalyst, speaker, author and consultant. He has helped many service providers with sales training, marketing, channel development and business strategy. He is a trusted source of knowledge about the telecom sector. His honest and direct approach make him a refreshing speaker.

Look for his innovative ideas and analysis of current technology on his blogs.

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Creativity Needed for VoIP Sales

According to TechTarget, “Many on-premises systems are still out there, according to a Nemertes Research study on unified communications and collaboration. More than 700 companies participated in the study, and 47% of them still use on-premises platforms for their telephony and UC needs.”

The article goes on to state that “Just 28% have fully migrated to a pure-cloud UCaaS product in which telephony and unified communications services are provided via a multi-tenant, shared service on a subscription basis.”

Larger enterprise (2500+ employees) operate depreciated PBX systems, while Cisco and Microsoft have been pushing them to adopt Spark and Teams. In many respects, Cisco and Microsoft will win a majority of the market share.

I see a couple of problems with this kind of thinking: “CenturyLink may be motivated to help its business customers save money by migrating to IP-based voice service, but the telco is finding that businesses see efficiency and usability for their employees as the key drivers,” in a Fierce article.

Why are we still banging the “Save Money” drum? Especially from a telco that got crushed due to saving money?

“CenturyLink conducted a survey with 250 IT decision-makers that looked at hosted VoIP as well as the challenges, benefits and drivers of using or considering a hosted VoIP solution….While service cost and security are key considerations in migrating to managed VoIP, 60% of the survey respondents said they’re likely to evaluate new hosted VoIP solutions in the next year to be more efficient and innovative. Concerns about cost/ROI and security/visibility in the network each garnered response rates of almost 25%.”

We have market research (at least 10years of it) and ignore it all to sell what we want/have the way we want/have. Definition of Insanity.

Innovation may be what drives some customers.

Amazon’s Alexa for Business is one big innovation. And as I mentioned it takes the tech out of the way of the small business user. THAT is what should have happened years ago. Instead we fight over which phone type and who is paying for the handset and install.

And who was a collaborator with AWS? RingCentral. How wasn’t it Vonage Business, the Amazon Chime partner?

“These integrations with Amazon® Alexa enable the use of voice commands to join meetings, send text messages, listen to voicemails, and make calls in an easy and intuitive way. RingCentral Meetings™ for Alexa for Business reduces the friction of starting and managing online meetings or conference calls simply by using voice commands.”

Another interesting move comes from Craig Walker at DIALPAD. “Dialpad has announced the release of a new service, intended to help small businesses and remote workers by eliminating their monthly phone bills. This new release, Dialpad Free, extends the company’s missions statement from “Kill the Desk Phone” to “Kill the Phone Bill,” by offering a free business phone system without a trial period.” [UCStrategies] [Note: It is only available to G Suite users in the Bay area currently.]

And a final new look is the Cloud Key System that AireSpring rolled out. This is what telecom can sell: Replacement service with a cost saving. Wheel House!

Hosted VoIP and UC Players are going to have to re-think their product offerings in 2018. They will need to get Creative to combat the consumerization of comms.

2 Lessons From the Holiday Season

Here are two lessons from this holiday season.

One: be grateful, especially for your employees and customers. And tell them!

Two: everyone has a favorite holiday movie, whether it is Die Hard or Elf or a Peanuts classic. The holiday movie is a story that holds memories and feelings. Learn how to tell a memorable story.

Don’t be a Grinch and get caught up in all the technology. That leads to confused salespeople and prospects. And when people are confused, they either don’t buy or choose on price.

SD-WAN, VoIP, UCaaS, CCaaS, IaaS, UTM and all the rest do not mean very much to the marketplace. What they do for the business does!

Tell a better story about the business impact.

Screw the tech! The story of Santa Clause and his elves doesn’t focus on how the elves can pump out all those toys (or how they afford it). Nor is the story about how one guy can deliver to 1 billion households globally in one night.

2018 is around the corner. Start it with a new message, a new story – or at least clarify your old one by taking all the acronyms OUT, removing the tech talk and tell the story about the solution.

“80 percent of IT spending is used for maintenance; only 20 percent on moving the business forward.” [source] Businesses would like their IT department to shift more towards business innovation. To the other 20%. Can you help them with that? That’s a story – without acronyms.

Amazon and CPaaS Take on UCaaS

According to Channel Vision magazine, Amazon is bringing the Amazon Echo Show to the office. “The device offers Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, a touchscreen display, and a 5-megapixel camera for video calls. These are just a few of the UC features the Echo Show offers in addition to accessing emails and calendar via voice commands.” It sounds like it is integrated with Amazon Chime.

Now give this device a DID (phone number) with text capability and we are getting closer to a UC Killer. By that I mean a bundle that will sell faster to the SMB market.

If you take a Surface Book Pro 3 (older model) with a touch screen, add Skype + Office365 or G-Suite plus Slack or Hipchat, you would have an interesting product. Give the device a DID for SMS/text and voice calls and you have an Amazon Echo Show knock-off.

Notice that none of this is about selling a phone?

Notice that it is about taking the technology out of every day tasks like calling and meetings.

Is On-Premise Dead?

The noise level of hype about UCaaS sales is high. Another analyst report sales it is over 30% growth — yet not one provider has demonstrated that in their numbers!

“Let’s Talk About the Looming Death of the PBX.” Is on-premise dead? It’s pretty inexpensive to install and maintain Asterisk and 3CX. Avaya didn’t close; they went into bankruptcy. Windstream and Frontier are heading that way. Is telecom dead?

Mitel, NEC, Zultys, Star2Star (hybrid) and Fonality round out the PBX guys still kicking. By the way, has Cisco put an end of life on Call Manager? Yeah, no.

If it is so grand, why did BSFT sell? Why are 8×8, RC and Vonage looking to exit?

“It’s time to go all in on UCaaS. Not convinced?” No. I am not. Just like how cloud is a blanket term, so is UCaaS. Hybrid wins. It has been that way forever.

I think CPaaS – defined as SIP Trunking with features – is going to win the game. (I’m not alone either.) Why? The world is being eaten by software. It will be the software that wins. Voice, video, text and other types of features will be add-ons to the software running the business.

UCaaS provider want to be all things to all things. Well, that’s dial-tone. Verticals and full stacks are where the gold is. It isn’t like 8×8, RC and Vonage don’t know that! It’s just they don’t want to abandon the WHOLE market because Wall Street will kill them. When you say that the addressable market is $30B, you can’t take a position that you are going to take a chunk of just $1B. Or at least no one has had the balls to do it yet. They’d rather swim in the same shallow pool with the other 2000 providers. I guess they would get lonely.

Another point: Cloud is about Worldview. Some people feel safe in the cloud; others do not. Some techs worry about job security, so on-premise is there answer to job security. SMB SaaS Survey says that 21 percent said cost was a barrier to implementing a cloud-based solution; and
53 percent said security was an issue.

The TCO on UCaaS is not a cost savings as so many have claimed for so long. At $34 per seat, how is a SIP Trunk not less expensive? Most folks do not need all those features. Voicemail is annoying.

Learn a new system. Learn a new phone. That is Change! No one likes Change!

“UCaaS customers will be with their provider much longer than they kept their PBX.” You think someone still using a Nortel believes that? Or someone with a ten year old key system?

The churn numbers don’t match that. In fact, customer retention is one of the biggest issues facing the industry. The service delivery has holes. User training is needed for user adoption, but it is often over-looked or an expensive add-on. And it happens once, instead of regularly over the course of the contract. Employees churn in other industries besides just telecom, folks.

It isn’t that I don’t like UCaaS. I just think that it too often gets sold on price because of a lack of vertical integration; positioning; and business case impact.

I am tired from all the hype around a garbage can term like UCaaS that doesn’t mean ANYTHING to the buyer.

All too often, we think cloud means jam your box in the data center. That isn’t cloud!!! That is hosted at best and relocated. Let’s replace your PBX by selling you a cloud one is like saying ACT! was replaced by Salesforce.

There are a number of good reasons for a business to choose cloud comms, but using myths to sell it makes you untrustworthy.

And on bigger deals (200+ seats): How low was that seat price? How many seats actually turned up in 120 days? Did the partner get the full commission and spiff or did he just get based on a percentage of the deal?

Elements of a Successful Channel Program

There are companies re-vamping their channel; others are starting their change (Hello, Office Depot!); and some are scratching their head wondering about their channel program.

Over the years, companies looked at the Cisco and Microsoft channel programs as ideal. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand the underlying elements of those channels.

The underpinning was the training and certifications. THAT was what won.

The other element was focus. There was a theme to the program, like small business software or LAN/WAN hardware.

Today, the focus is gone. The program catalog of services is bursting to overflow.

The training is gone too. I don’t mean there aren’t a ton of webinars. I mean the training is missing. To go beyond the basics requires training in the product, its uses, its buyers and how to sell it. [There is also the user training that is needed for adoption and customer retention. That too is missing.]

In the UC space, providers look at the channel programs of both 8×8 and RingCentral. Because they are public, there is more detail. Yet it goes beyond the single point of: “New MRR sold to midmarket/enterprise customers and by channel sales teams accounted for 60% of total MRR booked in the quarter.”

There were elements (or ingredients) that had to be baked into the program for success. Here are a few:

  • This was a 5 year pay-off. It was not a short term gamble. Long term and expensive.
  • They had a goal. They were aiming for the mid-market from there sales in the VSB segment.
  • They had Focus. It is a limited product set.
  • They invested – in talent, in the Channel and in marketing.
  • They stayed the course. Again it wasn’t short term gain.
  • They knew how to sell from years of direct sales.
  • They built a program. 8×8’s first channel program was crap. RC was an affiliate marketer. That changed to SPIFFs, MDF, recurring commissions, national accounts and implementation.
  • They flushed out a more complete product. RC went from auto attendant in the cloud to a complete UC suite. 8×8 has integrations into many practice management software systems, like Allstate. They both made acquisitions – like Glip and Sameroom – to add functionality.

Training is lacking in both programs but the other ingredients have been fully baked in.

If you are re-vamping our channel or launching a new channel, what elements do you have? What elements are lacking?

If you need help, RAD-INFO has helped quite a few providers with their channel program.