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UCaaS: Sales Boot Camp

Edward Gately**Editor’s Note: Register now for the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, the gathering place for the technology services community, April 10-13, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.**

The global unified communications (UC) market will reach $143 billion by 2024, says Grand View Research.

The explosive growth is being driven by international expansion, and an increasing need for real-time and efficient communication systems that enhance the inter-organizational exchange of information. Partners need to be ready to seize this revenue-generating opportunity.

During this Channel Partners Conference & Expo concurrent education session titled “UCaaS: Sales Boot Camp,” moderator Joel Maloff, course developer at The SIP School, and panelists Shelby Cooper, West Unified Communications Services’ vice president of wholesale sales and support, Brian Crotty, Broadview Networks’ COO, and William Rubio, CallTower’s chief revenue officer, will tell partners how they can prosper selling UCaaS.

Broadview's Brian CrottyIn a Q&A with Channel Partners, they provide a sneak peak of the information they’ll share with partners.

Channel Partners: Are customers’ UCaaS needs changing? What are some of the latest trends?

Shelby Cooper: The mobile workforce is projected to comprise nearly three-quarters of our country’s employees by 2020. As the workforce becomes more mobile, customers are increasingly looking for UCaaS solutions that enable their employees to work and collaborate from anywhere.

Organizations’ mad dash to the cloud has paved the way for emerging persistent collaboration tools like Cisco Spark, Slack, and Microsoft Teams. These UC newcomers are challenging business leaders and IT teams to rethink the way they collaborate across different platforms while achieving ROI through adoption. Customers are increasingly looking for flexible solutions that enable employees to interact more frequently and to keep a pulse on projects in real-time.{ad}

West UC's Shelby CooperAs the recent partnership between Cisco and Microsoft illustrates, interoperability is also becoming a major focus in the collaboration industry. Improved interoperability across vendors allows customers to make smarter, more scalable UC investments while removing burdensome communication silos.

Brian Crotty: Customer needs are always changing and UCaaS providers have to keep pace. We have seen a few trends that are defining our development cycle.

The first is an increase in knowledge about and demand for a secure platform. While most agents understand that systems hosted in the cloud are less vulnerable to local disasters, thefts and hacks, most do not realize calls and messages should be encrypted when carried over the Internet.

Customers are also seeking platforms that have APIs, plug-ins and integrations available for CRM and other business applications. Businesses want to see the big data and statistics that go as deep as which sales representative made the most calls on a certain day.

Additionally, end users want to have …

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… more control over the entire UC platform and be able to easily make changes on the fly themselves, without having to involve others or place a service order like they did in the past. Another trend is the growing need for UC to support and enable true mobility so that employees can communicate and collaborate regardless of their location or device.

The SIP School's Joel MaloffJoel Maloff: Absolutely, customer requirements are continuing to evolve regarding unified communications. The emergence of more and more applications based on WebRTC stands out. This will have significant implications for those service providers that rely on the download of a client before their services can function. WebRTC uses the browser (so far, Chrome, Firefox and Opera, but not Edge, IE, or Safari). This allows for convenient establishment of real-time communications like voice and video. Additionally, I expect to see substantial growth in the use of APIs to link various service providers together into a unified communications ecosystem that is then marketed to a specific set of customers. Furthermore, customers are only just now starting to understand what UCaaS can offer them. Larger organizations have been aware of UCaaS for some time, but now businesses of all sizes are starting to use such services — even if they have no idea what UCaaS is!

William Rubio: Recently, I read an article that over 60 percent of companies today are still dealing with legacy and disparate communications equipment/PBX. It’s expensive to maintain and simply doesn’t fit the needs of their business anymore. To remain competitive in today’s global marketplace, IT teams are looking to UCaaS business solutions to hit financial and productive goals for a more dynamic and digital workforce. Wainhouse Research states the unified communications market is forecasted to grow to $28 billion by 2020. This industry is thriving!{ad}

CallTower's William RubioToday it’s not a choice of when you are going to adopt a unified communications solution, it is a question of which UC solution works best for their business.

CP: How do you stand out in an increasingly competitive UC market?

SC: Since today’s UC market is a very crowded space filled with disruptive startups as well as established players, organizations looking to stand out will need to show distinct differences in their products. They’ll need to demonstrate true innovation in transforming unified communications to meet employees’ needs rather than creating clones of solutions already in the market. Innovation can come in the form of commercial innovation, product innovation or delivery innovation. Vendors that are able to provide a one-stop shop will also be more appealing to large organizations looking to commit to one UC provider rather than deploying standalone solutions. In 2017, we’ll see more organizations using one primary vendor for their UC needs, which means it’s more important than ever for vendors to bolster their offerings. The channel will also be essential as newcomers like Amazon Chime look to make traction in the saturated UC market.

BC: When a business just replaces a system, only small incremental gains are possible. However, when agents can offer their customers a way to transform how people do their job, that’s when …

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… customers see the big wins. One example we saw recently was a home improvement company that reduced the complication and time spent of a supervisor driving around in a van solving problems that a local tech could not handle by using our video-conferencing feature to triage trouble from a smartphone.

JM: Differentiation in a crowded UC marketplace is always a challenge, especially since most vendors will be working together with one another to one degree or another. The key is to find a specific market segment or niche and focus on delivering services to those targets. Whether we call these verticals, personas or something else, the important concept is not to be all things to all people, but rather to select markets where you can establish a foothold, grow those markets and create a sustainable competitive advantage.

CP: Are there particular verticals that offer lucrative opportunities for UCaaS providers? What are some examples?

SC: While it used to be focused on the large enterprise, we are finding UCaaS opportunity in almost every vertical and every size from F500 down to the mid-size enterprise down to 50 seats and below.  Everyone has needs around UCaaS, and with our broad portfolio we can provide a variety of solutions that are a perfect fit for the customer. The companies with the biggest needs are the ones that have not moved into the technology on any level, collaboration, equipment, migrating to the cloud … all at once or one project at a time.{ad}

BC: Any organization with a distributed workforce – remote and mobile workers, branches, teleworkers, large sales teams – needs mobility tools, like hot desking/hoteling and video-conferencing services, that UCaaS can provide. For instance, realtors can showcase homes with a client before ever stepping foot in one with video conferencing. These same organizations are seeing the value in employees having easy access to their customers through advanced features like mobile twinning and softphones. In addition, by using designated business phone numbers instead of their own phone numbers, the company saves sales when an employee leaves and the customer calls the business, not the former employee. An added benefit of 100 percent UCaaS systems is having all contacts, call histories and call notes stay in the cloud and with the business at all times.

Multi-site organizations, such as retail stores and nonprofits, are also switching to UCaaS to eliminate the complexity and high costs of supporting multiple systems.

Regional health-care facilities are using Broadview’s highly secure infrastructure and comprehensive solution because it allows these HIPAA-regulated organizations to use OfficeSuite UC from various devices without diminishing HIPAA compliance.

JM: Absolutely. Although there are many segments of business that can benefit from UCaaS, those that involve distributed personnel are most attractive. Health care (as long as HIPAA is considered) is an excellent target. Other verticals such as …

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… state and local government, nonprofit organizations, education, legal, or finance and accounting should be considered. Again, the key is to understand what the UCaaS provider does well, and to then “speak the language” of your target segments.

WR: CallTower has seen success in multiple verticals, including the financial, engineering/manufacturing, education and legal verticals. All industries are a perfect candidate for UCaaS. It’s becoming more of a standard then the exception. It aids organizations in process efficiencies, security and response time, plus provides a competitive advantage.

CP: Are there potential pitfalls to watch out for when pursuing UCaaS customers?

SC: The two biggest things we run into today are customer resources to implement something new and the budget to buy all of the UC services that are needed. Professional services to make these sales implement as efficiently as possible are key. The budget issue is one that is common, but with the reduced cost of access around upgrading or even starting your UC solution, [you can] start slow and adopt a crawl, walk, run approach to help mitigate your costs and resource requirements.{ad}

BC: The goal of UCaaS should be about improving the way business is done, not just saving 10 percent on an organization’s communications costs. When speaking with a UCaaS customer, agents should be focused on talking business instead of just tech or price. While it is important to work with the head of the IT department, ultimately, the CEO signs the order. Make sure the CEO, or senior executives, are active in all conversations and understand the business value, not just the technical benefits. Business leaders will appreciate agents demonstrating to them how the technology of the UC system will enable them to become more nimble in the competitive market and increase employee efficiency, which is much more valuable to an organization than a relatively small cost reduction. They will also be able to share with you the daily problems the organization is facing, and agents should work to solve those business problems with UCaaS services. Agents should also consider involving finance or corporate reporting teams and sales teams so they can see the value of the system for themselves.

JM: As with any service offering, it is important to understand the environment where your customer lives. As mentioned earlier, if you are targeting medical, are you willing and able to sign a business associate agreement (BAA) to comply with HIPAA in the United States? For other industries, are there regulations and statutes that must be adhered to? If your services are offered internationally, what restrictions might you encounter? Does your customer require a service-level agreement (SLA) and is your SLA sufficient? How do you address security issues? Are you providing any security measures? I am certain there are many other traps but these should get us started!

WR: The biggest pitfall for channel professionals is not being ready to bring a UCaaS solution to your customers. Your customers are going to make the choice to go to a UCaaS solution over the next few years. Channel professionals need to align with a partner that can support the needs of their customer base through the entire process: sales enablement, discover/consultation, project and customization management, implementation, training, continuous feature enhancements and long-term support. If they are not, someone else will.


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