Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI) is the first master agency to sign on to support the new Microsoft Response Point, software-based IP PBX. But rather than being simply another distributor, TBI has a different role — helping Microsoft Small Business Specialists manage the connectivity part of the bundle.
“TBI provides our Response Point channel partners another important sourcing option,” said Rex Backman, senior product manager, Microsoft. “TBI can be their single point of contact for all of their PSTN and SIP trunking needs in the U.S. and Canada.”
As of mid-March, Microsoft has certified eight providers to work with its software out of the box. These include Bandwidth.com Inc., Cbeyond Inc., Junction Networks, New Global Telecom Inc., Packet 8 by 8×8 Inc., SMB Phone Inc. (Canada), Telesphere and TotalTel. More are in the queue for certification.
Managing these providers is TBI’s expertise, said Ken Mercer, TBI’s senior vice president. When a Response Point system is sold by a Microsoft Small Business Specialist they have to recommend a telecom service to the end user, he explained. They have to know things like the geography of the approved provider, the interface (POTS, PRI, SIP, ANALOG or digital) to request, how to quote the providers, how to process the contract of the approved provider and how to project manage the install between the provider and the end user.
These are functions TBI performs for the reseller and pays them a residual commission on the connectivity sale. Mercer admitted that dealers can go into the accounts and not sell the connectivity, but he argued that adding it in helps ensure a successful implementation and possibly repeat business. He added that often the savings customers realize on the connectivity also can cost justify the equipment purchase. Finally, he said, leaving the door open to a service provider to come into the account independently with potentially competitive gear offer also puts the account at risk.
While managing the service providers is a value to the dealers, managing subagents is a value to vendors. Mercer said many of the Microsoft Small Business Specialists are smaller channel partners with four to eight employees. Service providers typically prefer a master agent like TBI to manage such smaller agents on their behalf. In fact, Mercer said, two of the service providers — Cbeyond and Bandwidth.com — came to TBI with the request to take on this role for Microsoft Response Point dealers.
Since the program launched Feb. 2, TBI has signed 40 Microsoft Small Business Specialists who are certified to sell Response Point. And it has hired a dedicated channel manager to assist them. Mercer said these specialists are already processing connectivity orders.
TBI also can act as a traditional distributor, Mercer said. However, so far, he has found most existing agents want to source the hardware themselves directly from the OEMs. However, for those that don’t, TBI can buy the hardware and arrange to have it installed. TBI is negotiating contracts with three field service organizations. No deals were completed at press time in mid-March.