Microsoft Corp. said Friday it has partnered with Cbeyond Inc. and New Global Telecom Inc. (NGT), to provide SIP trunking and other VoIP services along with its Response Point IP PBX, announced in October 2007, beginning this summer.
The partnerships will enable the respective channel partners of the companies to offer a CPE-service bundle geared to small businesses between five and 50 employees.
The two VoIP providers are the first to pass interoperability testing with the Microsoft IP PBX and will be included in the Microsoft Response Point Service Pack 1 when it is released this summer for sale through Microsoft Small Business Specialists, one of the software company’s indirect sales channels.
While Cbeyond already has an agent program of its own, NGT, a wholesaler, has developed the Digital Voice Partner Program specifically for the Microsoft Small Business Specialists selling Response Point. While the providers will be working to woo Microsoft’s VARs, they also will be able to introduce Response Point to channel partners, such as telephony agents, that might be selling SIP trunking products.
Interested channel partners can become certified to sell Response Point after a single day of training and an online assessment. Microsoft is beginning a 12-city training tour next week that includes not only sales and positioning for Response Point, but also for sales of VoIP services from NGT and Cbeyond. Cost for the training is $95. Partners that pass the test are listed on the Microsoft Response Point Web site and able to share in the leads.
Partners also must be agents of the VoIP providers in order to receive compensation for the service. In NGT’s case, becoming an agent is a simple matter of signing up via a Web-based form.
“Because voice over IP is so easy to learn for people who have backgrounds in networking, this is a great way for Microsoft Small Business Specialists to bring in a new business,” said Ben Brauer, senior product manager for Response Point at Microsoft. ”To sell a phone system is a cool concept for our small business specialist. Bringing a service into the mix makes it even more enticing. We already are getting a lot of interest from our VAR community, but I think this is going to make it even more interesting.”
For the Microsoft VARs the “interesting” part is developing an annuity revenue stream. “They get better services at a lower cost and Small Business Specialists can start to build an annuity revenue stream that allows them to grow their business year over year without having to expand the business or work harder to do that,” explained NGT CEO Mike Donnell.
In addition to basic local calling features like local number porting, directory listing, caller ID/CNAM and 911, NGT also offers partners the opportunity to sell toll free services and network-based desktop fax capabilities and on-demand audio and Web conferencing – increasing their residual commission.
In addition, Brauer said, the services can help partners justify the initial capital outlay for the phone system, which retails for about $2,500 ($3,000 with LAN optimization and installation). Microsoft conducted an ROI analysis and determined that the payback on the Response Point IP PBX sold along with a SIP trunking service can be swift. “What we found was that a small business with 10-19 employees would save upwards of $8,000 in the first year of deploying a voice over IP service. … So, they are already seeing an ROI within the first year,” said Brauer.
The bundle also is designed to be a low-maintenance sale for the partner. It includes auto discovery of end points and an automatic configuration tool for selecting analog service or a particular SIP provider.
Response Point is a software-based IP PBX that is packaged as an appliance by three OEMs – Aastra Technologies Ltd., DLink Corp. and Quanta Computer Inc. DLink’s channel is being trained to sell the appliance and Aastra, whose channel targets enterprises, is developing a small business channel to sell the system as well, Brauer said.