Indirect sales organizations and forums have been tossing around the buzz phrase, “solution selling,” and discussing its benefits. The Brookside Group’s 2008 State of the Market Study showed why, revealing that telecom consultants directly influence 20 percent to 25 percent of the industry’s total sales of network and equipment services – and telecom consultants influence on vendor revenue continues to grow. Brookside has detected the growth of telecom consultant reliance specifically in the SMB market, and the research institution projects it will continue to grow with the advent of IP telephony and unified communications.
The Brookside research posited that telecom consultants have a widened realm of influence in the sales transaction since they are involved both pre- and post-sale. And this continued influence and extended customer relationship might be the reason for so many closed deals. Brookside found that more than 87 percent of telecom consultants offer vendor recommendations as part of their services; specific vendor recommendations are made in 50 percent of client engagements; and then a whopping 80 percent of telecom consultants’ vendor solution recommendations are implemented. And with telecom consultants recommending, on average, $5.3 million worth of solutions annually, and nearly 30 percent recommending more than $10 million annually, vendors stand to see substantial profit from their telecom consultant partners.
Telecom consultants’ ability to generate profit for themselves and, in turn, for vendors, relies heavily on extensive insight and experience with vendor products and services – a responsibility which falls partially on the vendor. Telecom consultants ranked Avaya (60 percent), Nortel (56 percent), Cisco (54 percent), Alcatel-Lucent (49 percent) and NEC (43 percent) as having the best support programs. And telecom consultants said these programs are their preferred source of vendor support at 77 percent, with personal contacts coming in second at 71 percent. Forty percent of consultants said they garnered their information from company Web sites. Brookside uncovered that among telecom consultants’ desires for vendor programs are more frequent communications, better technical support, more information/specs, documentation, intervention and more user-friendly Web portals.
Brookside found that the size of the consultancies was changing as well. Smaller telecomconsultancies of one to five people are lessening, while the study found an increase in midsized (11 to 50) and large practices, with more than 100 employees.