How to Attack the SMB VoIP Opportunity

Service providers are using the wrong approach in trying to sell VoIP services to small and medium business customers, according to Tim Bradley, senior vice president of VoIP Services for New Global Telecom, which has partnered with Savatar Consulting to study this issue. During todays session The Executive Viewpoint: Keys to Profitably Delivering VoIP to SMBs, Bradley will provide guidance on how to best appeal to the SMBs. And Skip Lane, president and CEO at Direct Line Communications, who is also a panelist for this session, will offer his own company as a case study in how to launch VoIP service. Covad CommunicationsVice President of Marketing Debbie Jo Severin also will offer insights.

According to Bradley, most VoIP service providers open their sales pitch by talking about the feature sets they offer. That is a mistake, he said, given that small and medium businesses are most interested in how to lower their total cost of ownership.

Service providers should instead take a consultative approach to VoIP sales, comparing the favorable cost of VoIP services to their current services; highlighting VoIPs ease of management; and establishing prerequisites, such as the ability to port the service and provide directory listings, he said.

Only after addressing all these issues should service providers start talking about their features, Bradley said, adding that the SMBs surveyed by NGT/Savatar ranked features as their third concern in evaluating VoIP. So they want to see the features, they just dont want to see them first, Bradley said.

That feeds into a theme emphasized by Lane of Direct Line Communications, a company that recently sold off its UNE-P small business customer base and now is focusing exclusively on selling hosted PBX and hosted IP Centrex services to SMBs. Lane said it is extremely important to have a knowledgeable sales force, adding his company which launched its VoIP platform about 20 months ago now relies entirely on direct sales.

We found that in order to deliver QoS quality of service, with a service level agreement to our customers we needed to go upmarket on both the distribution channel and control that channel with training, a level of skills, a level of professionalism, really just sales and presentation skills that will work with C-level executives, said Lane. Instead of the old, one-call sales cycle in which the sales rep says, I can save you some money on your dial tone and your long-distance, sign here, Lane said, this is a more involved, 60- to 120-day sales cycle.

Other themes Lane will tackle during todays session include how to rifle-target your markets; installation Achilles heels of getting customers installed in NFL and Tier 3 and 4 cities; and lessons learned from working with different vendors, including Level 3 Communications Inc. and New Global Telecom.

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