Hosted VoIP has come of age. Service providers have spent the past decade building private networks to ensure high reliability and quality. Many also have crafted well-supported, well-paying channel sales programs. These advances come as businesses, schools, government agencies and others are hearing more about “the cloud" and realizing they can buy hosted solutions that cost less – and offer more features – than their premises-based counterparts. As a result, channel partners are receiving proposal requests for hosted VoIP in greater numbers.
The problem is, many channel partners have yet to add hosted VoIP to their portfolios. Partners’ reasons are threefold: 1) a misperception among some prospects/customers that hosted VoIP is like Vonage or magicJack service; 2) past poor experiences with hosted VoIP deployments; and 3) fear of shifting to sales of network services plus hardware.
This puts channel partners – telecom agents and PBX dealers in particular – in a quandary. If these partners don’t jump into hosted VoIP soon, their customers will turn to new suppliers and sales will drop. Yet if partners do make the leap to hosted VoIP, they have to be willing to learn a new technology and a different sales process. For agents, moving to hosted VoIP means becoming competent in the data and phone gear sides of telecom. For dealers, hosted VoIP represents opportunity in the form of recurring revenue and occasional upfront SPIFFs, rather than one-time payments on customer premises equipment. To reach that point, though, it’s necessary to understand how hosted VoIP works and then, how to sell it.
How Hosted VoIP Works
Hosted VoIP is a managed service usually billed on a monthly basis. It’s powered from a provider’s network operations center and monitored by technical engineers. Wireline calls are turned into data packets and delivered to and from the end-user’s IP phone.
In general, end-users lease those phones, although some providers have purchasing options or let subscribers use existing, compatible gear. Common IP phone brands include Cisco Systems Inc., Grandstream Networks, Polycom Inc. and ShoreTel. Customers control their phones’ features through a Web interface unless they’ve contracted the provider to oversee adds, moves and changes.
Either way, there’s no longer any need for subscribers to rely on the “phone guy who charges a hundred bucks an hour," said Tad Nikolich, director of sales at Telcentris Inc. With most hosted VoIP services, if an office’s connectivity goes down, inbound calls still reach the phone and voice mail systems, but also can be sent to alternate sites or numbers. Hosted VoIP providers also have long-distance and toll-free plans. The operator further takes care of software upgrades and plenty of such companies include coverage for broken or damaged phone equipment in their monthly service fees. Finally, hosted VoIP prioritizes voice, video and data traffic to ensure QoS.