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Partners Must Advise Customers, Not Simply Recommend

The nature of enterprise telecom is changing rapidly, and channel partners and VARs must change with it.

That change will be evident at the Spring 2009 Channel Partners Conference & Expo, in Las Vegas, and it’s the primary message from Dr. Neil Brenner, VP of converged services at Consolidated Technologies, who heads up the session on “Comparing VoIP Solutions: Premises, Hosted or Hybrid,” at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 1.

In selling IP-based networks that carry voice, data and video, partners must become more than traditional referring parties, Brenner said; they must become trusted advisors, ready to supply counsel, planning, and integration help.

Agents and resellers “have gotten a bad rap in the last 18 months or so” regarding their readiness and willingness to assist customers transitioning to voice-over-IP systems, said Brenner. “Referral partners are a dying breed — you need skin in the game for these VoIP requirements.”

That means taking a more hands-on, proactive approach to helping customers with their purchase decisions and integration process. And it contrasts with the approach of traditional IT resellers and partners. The key, Brenner said, is making sure that with VoIP the company is not biting off more than its network can chew.

“Agents who are VARs are well-positioned to assure that the customer’s LAN infrastructure can support VoIP,” Brenner explained. “They can provide guidance and solutions to help correct whatever inadequacies are in the LAN.”

This is particularly important in transitioning to voice because, even with today’s broadband connections and “five-9s” availability, a certain amount of delay and disruption is both unavoidable and accepted for data networks. That’s not the case for voice service.

“As one of my partners likes to say, ‘Dial tone is a God-given right,’” Brenner commented. “E-mail may wait but voice cannot.”

That being the case, Brenner has a set of three basic recommendations for enterprises looking at making the switchover to VoIP:

1. Leverage your trusted technical advisors. “You want someone who understands the challenging nature of voice on the desktop,” said Brenner.

2. Make choices based on the mission critical nature of voice. “If you contact me on my BlackBerry, and I don’t get right back to you, that’s one thing. If I call your desk and get a fast busy signal, you’ve got a problem.”

3. Plan for the future. “As the cost of technology decreases, you can’t chase it; but what you buy today should have a lifespan that meets your long term business requirements.”

And that’s where working with a trusted technology advisor — who knows voice and is willing to roll up their sleeves — comes in.


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