Selling in a Slowdown: Conferencing Provides Travel Alternative for SMBs

Conferencing solutions might be a good service to pitch during poor economic times since travel is expensive and businesses, therefore, might be seeking ways to connect their workforces, customers and suppliers remotely.

“Without question, conferencing in a down economy is like a communications ‘perfect storm’ – business must go on … it must survive,” says Brad Dupee, president of Copper Conferencing. “Today’s audio, Web and video conferencing tools allow for very effective meetings when geography and the expense of travel is a challenge.” Dupee says positioning conferencing as an alternative to expensive travel is a story that’s been heard before, but it’s one that resonates during an economic pinch.

“For providers and agents, this economic shift represents an opportunity to demonstrate to companies big and small, local and global, the cost benefit of conferencing on a short- and long-term basis,” adds Tom Sullivan, regional vice president of wholesale at InterCall. “When companies need a better option for their everyday business communications, conferencing solutions answer the call by providing effective communications tools that help people to connect while improving the bottom line.”

David Lemelin, senior analyst at In-Stat, says improvement in the quality of video conferencing make it a particularly viable alternative to travel, especially on the high end with room-based telepresence solutions. “I think over the long term, people will be looking to use those instead of travel, because travel isn’t as fun as it used to be,” says Lemelin.

Lemelin adds that conferencing is not only about cost savings, but productivity gains. By combining conferencing solutions with file sharing, he says, you can achieve greater efficiencies and savings from real-time collaboration. Therefore, he thinks we’ll see significant growth in conferencing, both telepresence solutions and desktop conferencing despite downward pressure on business budgets due to the country’s economic state.

Intercall’s Sullivan says “when recessions take hold and companies seek cost-effective measures for business communications, conferencing is an easy pitch.” And once the sale is made, conferencing provides agents with a new revenue stream that’s recurring, and applicable to a variety of vertical markets. He adds that with the technological innovation and creative solutions available in the conferencing market, the platform provides multiple upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Copper Conferencing’s Dupee agrees that conferencing provides excellent recurring income opportunities for agents, saying that monthly commissions of up to 50 percent are not uncommon in some scenarios.

In-Stat’s Lemelin also agrees agents can profit from this growing market, but he believes that the sales rely heavily on the persuasiveness of the customers’ IT managers. Although they themselves understand the type of savings involved, it is increasingly important for the IT managers to be able to educate the ultimate decision makers on the returns of this investment relative to their other investment opportunities, especially in hard economic times. “I think once they begin doing that and have good experiences with it, we’ll see some dramatic growth [in the conferencing market,]” he explains. Hence, agents should arm their customer contacts with accessible and accurate information on why conferencing is the right buy, right now.

Dupee’s advice to agents is to leverage the ease of implementation with conferencing services. “No circuits to install, just a toll-free number and a passcode will get your customer started,” he says. “Often, an account can be implemented the day of sale. How’s that for provisioning? And think of the time-to-money for the agent if the customer starts using the services immediately – fast!”

Dupee also advises agents to target smaller businesses explaining that a lot of larger businesses already have conferencing services installed and in use on a regular basis. “Small companies, however, see much more value in these services as an alternative [means of communication], and the concept may come new to them, allowing for an agent to establish more value, and therefore more commission,” he says.

InterCall’s Sullivan advises agents to consider the client’s goals and match the right package to its current needs (also with room to grow), so the client can reap the benefits immediately and actually see the cost benefit. He also recommends agents “think big,” nurturing a long-term relationship rather than a one-off sale. Focusing on the relationship, he says, will open up other opportunities within the organization.

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