Do You Know Where Your SMBs are?

Or who they are talking to? Qwest is offering small businesses unlimited long distance for $20 a month. I got the sales call seeking my home office usage. Compared to what I am now paying MCI, it’s less than half and sometimes as much as one-third the cost. Times 12 and I would save between $250 and $500.

For small businesses with long-distance bills in the hundreds of dollars, the savings clearly would be exponentially more. The allure is like candy to a baby. No brainer.

So much so that Cliff Holtz, executive vice president of the Business Markets Group at Qwest, says the plan, Qwest Choice, is flying off the shelves so to speak. Rallying a group of the LEC’s channel partners at a January event in Denver, he says his fall projections for the company’s in-region long-distance business (available in all but one of its 14-state territory) were aggressive, but the results have been well in excess of those projections.

In January, the company also put 75 direct sales people on the street in 21 markets to tackle the small and medium business market. This is in addition to the throngs of agents pounding the pavement on their behalf and the telemarketers like the one who called me.

I took the bait. I never made it through third-party verification … but that’s another story involving a queue and a small child.

Even though I did not see Holtz’ run sheet, I believe what he says about Qwest’s in-region sales to be true. It just makes sense, or rather dollars and cents, for the small and midsize businesses that, despite news to the contrary, still are working through the downturn.

If that’s not enough bad news for the competition that historically has been a much better partner for this target, Qwest is not the only Bell that is proactively targeting this segment. In an article coming up in next month’s XCHANGE magazine, news editor Josh Long, quotes IDC analyst Will Stofega, who says the Bells “are now taking a look at this market in a serious way.”

It appears that with the regulatory battle against Bell long-distance entry lost (rightly or wrongly), competitors now face an even tougher fight in the marketplace. This outcome underscores their need for a victory on the remaining questions posed in the Triennial Review Order.

Khali Henderson


Editor in Chief

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