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Five Ways IP Telephony Impacts Agent Dial Tone & Data Sales

By Dan Baldwin, Sales Director, ATEL Communications Inc.

I just got back from the VoiceCon 2007 West Coast show in San Francisco, a show for end-user business telecom managers that want to better understand the benefits of migrating some or all of their business phone systems from TDM (time division multiplexing) voice networks to IP (Internet protocal) telephony and converged networks. I went to the show to see VoiceCon’s special track on “Next Generation Contact Centers” since I primarily consult with call center owners and managers every day about their dial tone and data network issues. Specifically I wanted to learn how all this talk of IP telephony migration was going to affect my clients’ and prospects’ voice and data network service options (and my sales of those services).

The following is what I learned:

1. End-users still need to buy voice and data services

The “IP telephony decision” many telecom managers are pondering isn’t a decision about whether or not they’ll still buy voice or data/Internet T1s, it’s a decision about upgrading their business phone system from an old technology to a new technology in order to access enhanced options of communicating with employees, customers and the outside world. IP telephony also involves choices about whether a businesses phone system will be mostly server and network based (as Cisco seems to hope) or primarily software based (as Microsoft seems to hope).

In any event, after a business makes all the decisions they’re going to make about IP telephony, whether they buy a pure IP telephony solution, a hybrid IP telephony solution or no IP solution at all, the communication that occurs between a business and everyone that wants to communicate with the business will still occur over voice and data T1s, which will still be purchased from a network service distributor or vendor. (The exception would be those businesses that choose to access dial tone over SIP session initiation protocol ¬ trunks instead of regular PRI T1s but SIP trunks can be sold by agents).

2. Network service selection is seen as important, but secondary

The companies making the most money from IP telephony are probably those companies that sell headache remedies. Because IP telephony is already fraught with many built-in headache causing challenges, the last thing IP telephony vendors seem interested in doing is complicating an already delicate sale by trying to also sell the voice and data network service the customer is going to need to make the IP telephony solution work. Of all the energy consumed by an IP telephony migration decision, probably no more than 20 percent is used up considering the voice and data network service that will need to be ordered or reconfigured. While the selection of network service is important (if the network service doesn’t work the IP telephony solution won’t work) it’s seen as a commodity decision.

Because the selection of network service is seen as a secondary and somewhat inconsequential to the IP telephony decision, distributors of network services should position themselves as knowledgeable but objective bystanders for both the end-users and IP telephony distributors.

3. Network service savings often critical to IP cost justification

While some industry pundits predict the conversion of business phone systems from TDM to IP as inevitable, those trying to sell an IP migration this month need to involve some sort of hard dollar cost justification and that usually comes from redesigning the voice and data network services a business customer is using. The easiest way for an end-user to justify an IP conversion this month is to point to current dollars being spent this month that will be saved next month. While IP phone system designers are great at selling IP features and benefits, third-party dial tone and data circuit specialists are needed to confirm savings that are to be accrued from reworking a business customer’s voice and data network services to accommodate an IP phone system solution.

Lowering or eliminating cellular roaming charges, international long-distance charges and redundant line and circuit charges are most often cited as the main contributors to lower network service cost justifications. While many IP solution distributors may not want a network services consultant to verify the IP distributor’s network service cost justification numbers, business end users certainly will. Properly positioned, network service consultants can be in the position of giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to an IP solution cost justification proposal.

4. Expert network service consulting is key

It used to be that network service consultants selling voice and data T1s simply needed to be able to credibly quote circuit prices and installation intervals (and find the vendors that had the lowest prices and quickest installs). Now a successful network service consultant needs to be an expert at everything that has to do with or touches a voice or data T1 as well as learn everything there is to know about “the new dial tone” the SIP trunk.

Take QoS for example. It seems you can’t sell a dedicated Internet access (DIA) T1 for a VoIP application without being asked, “Does it come with QoS?” To me, asking a question like that is kind of like asking a bartender, “Is the beer any good?” A bad bartender will say, “Yeah, the beer’s good.” A good bartender will say, “Depends on what you like in a beer.” Network service is like beer you can’t measure if it’s good or bad but you can measure everything else. In beer, among other qualities, you can measure the temperature in degrees and the taste in bitterness units. In VoIP/data QoS you can measure jitter, packet loss, MOS (mean open score) and many other variables that may or may not affect the quality of your beer, I mean VoIP call.

Of course having an initial measure is just a start. With beer and telecom there are lots of ways to influence what you’re measuring. With beer you add more or less hops. With data you can reconfigure the routers to prioritize voice traffic. The bottom line is that if you want to sell beer or telecom you need to become an expert in proving to the customer that the beer or telecom does what the customer expects it to do. In telecom that means you need to learn from your vendors everything there is to know about how voice and data quality is measured and affected. If the vendor won’t teach, find another vendor or get educated through a master agent that specializes in selling dial tone, data and SIP trunks to IP telephony customers.

5. IP telephony distributors need to be partnered with

Like it or not, IP telephony is pretty hot and it’s sucking in all the good leads. Most IP telephony distributors are over run with business prospect leads from all the advertising they’re doing (type “IP Telephony” into Google and look at all the paid ads). Network service distributors that want to get in on the IP telephony party should make a list of all the IP telephony vendors in their area and contact them monthly to make sure the IP distributors know that you’re available to consult with their IP telephony prospects and clients about the voice and data T1s or SIP trunks that will need to be ordered or reconfigured to make the solution work.

To learn more about how to sell SIP trunking, attend one of the following workshop/seminars:

Sept. 27 in Secaucus, N.J., by AireSpring, McLeodUSA and Magellan Hill Technologies at Channel Partners

Sept. 10-11 in Los Angeles by Ingate Systems Inc. at ITEXPO

Dan Baldwin is founder of TelecomAssociation and director of sales at ATEL Communications Inc. Founded in 1985, ATEL is the largest NEC telephone equipment dealer in Southern California. Baldwin works with ATEL’s carrier services division that acts as an in-house telecom master agency to sell network services (including SIP trunks and other specialized IP services) to ATEL’s embedded base of 2,000 phone equipment customers. For more information about ATEL’s carrier services division please visit www.ATELcc.com. TelecomAssociation is a membership organization founded in 1995 that serves the information & communication needs of its 2,500 members who distribute telecom and related services to businesses.

Got an experience that complements this blog posting? E-mail printable submissions to

Dan@ATELcc.com

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