Hosted VoIP: Ample Opportunities in Small Business Market

CHANNEL PARTNERS Whats the good news for channel partners in the hosted VoIP market? Plenty of small businesses are still using traditional phone systems, leaving ample room for sales of VoIP systems.

I think we are at the stage where [SMBs] are joining the party,” said John Macario, managing director of consulting firm TelcoFuture, during a workshop on hosted VoIP at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo Wednesday in Chicago.

Roughly 50 percent of the purchases that are going on right now are being done through the channel,” Macario remarked later, yet only a small percentage of the market thinks of channel partners as the go-to source” for purchasing IP phone systems.

One challenge agents face is convincing a notoriously frugal segment of the business market that it makes sense to install a hosted VoIP system and move off their traditional phone platform.

Our competition is AT&T and Verizon. Its the TDM world,” said David Byrd, executive vice president of marketing and sales with Broadvox Communications. 

Costs remain a huge consideration for SMBs. A TelcoFuture survey found that economics was the most important factor that a business would consider when analyzing whether to move to VoIP.

In case any of you didnt notice, small businesses are cheap,” Macario said. They are always looking for ways to save money.”

Another important issue that businesses would examine is whether a new system is easy to manage.

Macario advised channel partners to consider the specific needs of small businesses when selling a hosted VoIP solution. At the lower end of the market, small companies are making a business decision rather than a technology decision, Macario said. Therefore, it makes little sense to give a sales pitch that emphasizes the dozens or hundreds of new features that hosted VoIP offers. Instead, learn about a few features that are relevant to a company, such as the advantages of mobile apps for real estate agents.

You need to sell on a business basis” to smaller companies, Macario said.

The technology, he continued, plays a greater role in the sales pitch at the larger companies.

Byrd of Broadvox thinks the sweet spot for channel partners is in the market with 50 or fewer employees. One advantage of hosted VoIP, Byrd noted one day after an earthquake struck the East Coast, is business continuity. Unfortunately, many companies dont care about business continuity until something happens.

Byrd agrees that its a bad idea to discuss all the ingenious features of a VoIP communications solution when talking to small businesses. The reality is that people only want to use a few features, such as personal assistance and notification apps. One advantage of a hosted platform, Byrd said, is that it allows a business to obtain additional features when it wants them rather than pay upfront for hundreds of apps it doesnt need.

The SMB market for hosted VoIP is so great that narrowing a focus to only a few vertical segments like healthcare and manufacturing could limit opportunities for channel partners.

Stop worrying about verticals,” Macario said. Youve got 85 percent of the market to go after. If you are putting too fine a point on it frankly you are wasting your time.”

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