Wide area networks (WANs) span distances between locations, connecting branches, telecommuters and regional offices across floors, buildings, cities and even countries. Network connectivity services make it all happen, with a mix of private lines, frame relay, ATM, the Internet, IP VPNs or other. Often a complicated solution sale, partners can up their chances of success when selling multi-site locations by profiling the customer’s requirements, so they know which connectivity solutions to offer. Today’s session shows partners how to "read" an account to determine the right approach to get the sale.
Channel partners have an inherent advantage in selling complex solutions, say the panelists.
"They can look customers in the eyes and sell belly to belly," explains Dan Moffat, president, CEO and co-founder New Edge Networks. The company’s vice president of sales, Steve Lovas, will be a panelist on today’s panel. "I think channel partners are getting smart about commodity services that have high churn vs. solution-based services that offer real value," he adds. "Multi-site business networks have nice margins and low churn."
Customers themselves are requesting the solution sale. "The customer wants to have a single throat to choke around the network. So what our agents enjoy is the opportunity to provide a frame-replacement capability, the ability to provide a total network," says panelist Dan Foster, chief sales and marketing officer at MegaPath Networks Inc. "People do not want to buy 60 percent of a network, buy the access from one person and the rest from another. You have to sell a ubiquitous network, with a common managed product over the top of it for a true, secure access, managed environment."
There are various methods to create that network. Joe Osborne, founder & CEO, NetComp Communications Group Inc. and a session panelist, says evaluating the right solution means balancing competing interests.
"If people connect via the public Internet, security and latency become issues, and also there’s management overhead because getting the data from point A to Point B is not certain," he explains. "Private line is more secure, but pricey — it’s distance-sensitive. Frame relay isn’t distance sensitive, but needs permanent virtual circuits, so having many sites talking to each other can become a management nightmare. And when transmitting data on IP, you have packet overhead. So you have tradeoffs, cost vs. latency and security." Osborne says he will discuss multi-label protocol switching-based IP transit during the session.
"The alternative is MPLS — IP data moves in the cloud from A to B, and it’s not distance-sensitive," he explains. "It’s secure, managed by carriers and you don’t have to worry about VPNs. You have guaranteed QoS because it gives certain packets, like video, priority."
Increasingly, IP-based, high-speed services are at the forefront of WAN technology.
"There is strong fundamental demand for business broadband services and it is going to accelerate," says Moffat. "It’s all about the movement of information content in their businesses, and it varies by business –whether it is credit card verification, pricing and inventory for retail, or moving large files for medical or dental, it’s all about speed, quality and customer service. Business customers want to remain competitive and keep down their networking costs. Customers expect more for less."
Convergence technologies such as IP telephony are continuing to impact demand — and opportunities — in the WAN space. "If you have a VPN, the next step is VoIP VPN," says Moffat. "Why not offer your users four-digit dialing over the VPN? In fact, we think VPN VoIP is the best application for VoIP right now. This is the future of business voice communications."
The midsized market is rife with opportunity, according to Foster.
"The trick is to create a scalable solution that works for a six-branch office law firm but also scales up to a Radio Shack and McDonalds," he explains. "You don’t want to miss out on that mid market, where there are a lot of great customers, like the Jenny Craigs or the Sketchers, with 120 stores around the country that rely on new point-of-sale technology and new inventory management technology, and we believe each one of those requires both a different sale but a different product solution. Agents…are most effective selling in that midsize enterprise space."
NetComp has a national VAR and agent program that features margin-based opportunities and residual commission. It also has a Web referral business and works with integrators and hardware vendors on large-scale systems. The company provides project management services, an engineering back office and a design team.
MegaPath’s Pathways Partner Program offers resellers, agents, ISPs and others broadband solutions, including fractional and Full T1s, T3s, DSL, cable, ISDN, dialup and VPNs. It offers co-selling, training materials, and order processing and billing systems for its partners, who can rebill services or earn commission.
New Edge’s tiered agent program consists of five membership levels based on performance or the agent’s total base. Program benefits include sales tools, training and marketing support. New Edge pays commission based on the total base or an increase in their base from the previous month, whichever rate is higher.