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.

Meet him at one of the many conferences he attends and speaks at.

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Goodbye, Sprint

Sprint should be an MBA case study (or three). Sprint started as the Pin Drop company – the company with fiber and crystal clear voice. Then no one knew what they were known for. There were a series of missteps.

Sprint had a fiber network but it was hard to buy access on it – expensive too. Voice services were available, but try to get it priced!

Sprint was selling Office365 in 2012!

In 2010, Sprint was pitching their MVNO offering to FISPA. Execs from Sprint even came into the AT&T building next to the Fox Theater in Atlanta (despite a protest from AT&T) to pitch the MVNO at a FISPA member meeting. It was too difficult to get a deal done.

That same year, I wasted 9 months trying to order Sprint Mobile Integration service, which integrated a BroadWorks with the Sprint network via an MPLS connection into Sprint IMS. In theory, this service would allow Sprint cellphones to become extensions on the BroadWorks. Great idea. No idea if it worked or not. They just wouldn’t take an order.

Ever since 2005 when Sprint merged with Nextel in a $35 Billion deal, it was all downhill. Despite very good products, a decent network, and a lot of spectrum, Sprint was always losing. Dan Hesse was too happy starring in commercials to put together a cohesive strategy to pull the company together and move forward.

Sprint needed a better C-Suite. The people who held the positions of CFO, CEO, COO and CMO since 2004 were overpaid and under-performers.

The lessons to pull from this are many, but I will hit on three. One of them is that a good (even great) product offering doesn’t matter if the sales process is wrought with friction. Make it easy to give your company revenue!

Take note: there are a few service providers in the channel where this is the case now. The sales process actually prevents a sale. Take the friction out of your sales process! Hire RAD-INFO INC to Secret Shop you. Do you even know what your Prospects & Buyers go through?

Another lesson is to maximize your assets. Sprint has a boatload of great spectrum (the coveted 2.5 GHz and 850 MHz), but they never leveraged it to have the fastest network or the largest downloads or even lease it out for private networks to enterprise or government. Most of the spectrum sits unused.

Let’s talk WiMax for a moment. You can’t always pick the right technology, but how do you keep picking the wrong tech? CDMA versus GMA; WiMax versus LTE. Even phones – EVO, Palm Pre and the last cellco to get the iPhone.

The final lesson: cost cutting may keep your doors open, but you won’t win. If you are behind your competitors, cost cutting will not help you catch up. Once you go the route of cost-cutting, you are forever behind the curve and losing.

5 Tips to Jump Start Q4 (2020)

What can you say about 2020? Most of us are not just Zoom fatigued but exhausted. Here are 5 tips to help you jump start the fourth quarter.

It’s been a challenge of a year, Tip # 1 is Congratulate yourself on getting this far. Many businesses are closed permanently. Seriously, celebrate the small wins – even the obvious win of making it this far in 2020.

Tip 2: Pareto’s Principle says that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. Take great care of your top 20%!!! (You should be talking to your top 5 clients monthly – if not weekly!)

Listen to them. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them What is Working and What is Not Working.  Take the “What is Working” as Best Practices to share! Take the “not working” as a task to find a solution for!

Tip 3 is about Wallet Share. It is far easier to sell more to an existing client than to find a new one. Sell more to your existing clients! How?

Learn one new product this quarter – like SD-Branch – and try selling it to your clients. If you listened to your clients as Tip #2 the product will be obvious. The pandemic has made IoT and Smart solutions (like thermal imaging) a good band-aid in your business first aid kit alongside 4G connectivity and PPE.

Tip 4 is Be a Sherpa! We understand that we need to make sales but 2020 has really been about learning to be helpful. To be Human. To Listen. Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything you want in life, if you will just help enough people get what they want.” Believe me these things pay dividends because if you are listening and human, they will buy from you when you come around with a solution to their problem.

TEM (telecom expense management) and Mobility Management will be BIG! With all the changes, someone needs to audit the networks along with the bills to find ways to save money and improve things. That could be you – even if you have to get a partner to help!

Tip # 5: Circle back to all the proposals you sent in 2020. Review all the proposals you closed this year and make a list of things customers decided to “Buy Now!” and “wait to do.” Spend a few days discussing lingering proposals with prospects. Find out what changed since the RFP. Try to up-sell add-ons you thought would inflate the original solution you proposed.  Budgets may have been blown this year – but maybe not. Who has budget left for bandwidth, security, managed wi-fi, whathaveyou.

Last ideas: Create mini goals for the last quarter of this year. Review activity from the past 3 quarters to look for trends or things you overlooked. Ask for referrals. Who do they know that needs help to get through year end? Give a Referral! Good luck!

The Rise of Video

Long before Zoom became a verb, people were Facetiming friends and family. There is a whole generation of people who think video calling is standard.

In 2013, I was working for Vidtel providing me a view into the video conferencing space SEVEN years ago. Bluejeans Networks was the big dog back then, sucking up press and $175 Million in investment. Verizon acquired Bluejeans for almost $500M – and has proceeded to push it out through their various business channels including VZW. This is a direct response to the rise of Zoom.

Today, Zoom has “zoomed” right by PGi, Webex and Bluejeans. The next top contender is actually Microsoft Teams, whose 75 million daily active users are able to phone, video, chat and conference on their laptop or cellphone on one app – something Google was late in doing and Cisco made too clunky.

Should companies have seen the rise of video?

In 2015, thinkingphones acquired a video conferencing provider called Fuzebox and re-branded as Fuze. Fuze has raised $200M and sells to the enterprise space (250 employees and up).

That same year, Siris Capital bought PGi for almost $1 Billion dollars. Video conferencing certainly had the capital markets’ attention in 2015!

In 2020, Dialpad acquired Highfive – and Coredial picked up eZuce. Not much adoption took place in the intervening years – except via iPhones.

A few things did help push video calling: wi-fi, broadband, devices with built-in webcams and ease of use. Oh and the pandemic. In a rush to establish business continuity in the face of work from home, video conferencing leaped to the forefront. Zoom was easy and free for the attendee.

Broadband, wi-fi and hardware are better in 2020 than they were in 2015 – and much better than in 2013. Cameras are 1080p, 10+ megapixel and cheap! Nice podcasting microphones are under $200. A Cisco telepresence system was a six-figure purchase. Now Logitech, Lifesize, Jabra and the rest are shrinking the budget on conference room gear while improving the experience with better speakers, microphones and cameras. They even add AI to the experience! All of the enhancements have made huddle rooms and at-home video conferencing possible, easy and frequent in 2020.

The cloud communications folks should have been talking about their video conferencing abilities before the pandemic, but hindsight is 20/20. Often an upstart takes off to disrupt a sector and that is what Zoom has done. Video chatting was enabled on browsers with WebRTC at least as early as 2013. It took a pandemic for people to start using it widely. (I am still uncertain if that is a good thing or not.)

More thoughts on this later.

Microsoft Launches Twilio Killer!

Microsoft’s big event is this week and they launched Azure Communications Services – CPaaS!! The Techcrunch article gets a few things inaccurate – Twilio, MessageBird, AWS – have similar portfolios, but so does Nexmo/Vonage, Kandy by Ribbon, Bandwidth*, Plivio, Telstax and quite a few others. Maybe each offering is less “complete” or flushed out but most of these CPaaS platforms can provide what you need.

credit: https://www.challengeachieved.com/post/jumping-10-meters-to-the-swimming-pool-r-5d177053618319271f4700af

I wonder how/when Microsoft jumped into the telephony pool? Someone asked me if it was the Metaswitch acquisition. Metaswitch gave them VoLTE experience and core routing platform but not the services.

The articles says that “the capabilities here are pretty much what you’d expect. There’s voice and video calling (and the ability to shift between them). There’s support for chat and starting in October, users will also be able to send text messages.” Porting telephone numbers and provisioning new ones is coming next month. This sounds like Bandwidth.com is in the background. They provide this service to Google and Microsoft. Now they just get pushed closer to the users.

So 75 Million daily active users now have access to telephony. Apparently, Microsoft already has supports 5 Billion minutes of conferencing daily on a low latency network that will now help power Azure Communication Services.

My take on this is: This is like OCS. OCS was a good concept but it took how many iterations to become a winner as Teams? OCS > Lync > Skype4B > OFF365 > Teams. OCS launched in 2007. This is a 13 year journey. It may come quicker than that but new services from MS always come with a blue screen of death.

I don’t know how easy the CPaaS platform is – but Twilio and Amazon aren’t exactly plug-and-play either. The three factors: Pricing, Ease of Use and Service Delivery.

Pricing: it is a usage/metered service from most providers. If it ends up being really expensive, users will shop.

Ease of Use: how easy will it be to add these capabilities to MS Teams and other places? Currently, Twilio and Amazon require a devops team. The closer this gets to plug-and-play, the more usage it will see. The more friction, the more enterprise stays with Intelepeer or Twilio or whomever.

Service Delivery: Where the rubber meets the road! If this does just work, dead in the water. Email is a service that requires five 9’s but telephony requires more! SMS gateway struggles will kill this service. So if it doesn’t work flawlessly in October, oh well.

To all the companies that have worked on and launched Microsoft direct routing for Teams: OH CRAP! You better hurry to – not only acquire customers – but make them very happy! Microsoft Partners buy from Microsoft – right or wrong! (They know where their bread is buttered.) That said: not too many MS Partners will jump into the pool of CPaaS too fast, so that gives UCaaS providers about a 15 month runway.

Cisco: it’s your move!

I know Zoom is the Kleenex of video calls, but for businesses MS Teams will eventually replace that. It used to be clunky to be an external attendee of a Microsoft conference – not any more! And now the video calling and SMS will be native!

PGi, GoTo/LogMeIn and others – time to brainstorm and to talk to your largest clients to see what they need/want.

SIDE NOTES:

MS Teams is getting Headspace-partnered meditations to improve mental health, per SeekingAlpha.

Azure is also getting satellite imaging as a service (Azure Orbital) from KSAT, SES and others per GeekWire.

Doing Video Calls Right

Watching a virtual conference this week (and after months of other video calls and webinars), there are 3 things that need to be considered if you want to be a presenter.

Contemplate the session. What are you trying to convey? How can you best showcase the subject matter, the speaker and your company?

If your company provides video conferencing, wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward? Not a dark scene or a weird camera angle. Doesn’t your HQ have a video huddle room with a really good camera and microphone? Why wouldn’t you use that instead of sitting behind your desk?

For those at home, buy a better camera. The laptop 720p built-in webcam is easy but the audience experience is not desirable. Lighting is important, too, but if the camera isn’t great, neither is the picture.

A Logitech BRIO 4K runs about $230.

Selfie lights and Zoom lighting are categories now. See HERE and THERE.

Next is the audio. Too often the audio is garbled on not just webinars but also on audio conference calls. While I understand that cell service isn’t ideal everywhere (and broadband is in fact not ubiquitous in all of America), if you work for a service provider of voice services and your voice quality is bad, what does that tell the audience?

Granted some of the poor audio is cell reception. Try wi-fi calling or a landline!

Another factor may be the microphone. Bluetooth headsets don’t always work. I have been on a number of calls and demos when they have stopped providing a clear voice.

A Blue Yeti microphone is less than $200. A HyperX Quadcast is about the same price but you can get a USB microphone with 4.5 stars for under $100 (HERE).

Some of the audio quality is due to poor broadband. Well, guess what, SD-WAN is sold by hundreds of providers (including, most likely, YOUR company). Spend the money on SD-Brand gear and a second broadband connection. Need help with a second provider? I can procure 4G or satellite services for you anywhere in the world. Call the office at (813) 963-5884.

Everyone is treating the pandemic as temporary. It isn’t going away soon – and neither is work-from-home – so spend the money to improve your communications with partners, customers and employees. If YOU won’t do that, how can you expect to sell that Bundle to customers?

Final tip for presenters on a virtual conference or webinar: Practice! Practice to ensure the equipment works; that you know how to use the webinar platform; and that you sound and look good. Practice so that the audience’s time isn’t wasted. You have about 5 minutes before they change the channel, use it wisely.