Hosted VoIP: Why Bother?

By Tom Shinners, General Manager of Denver and Director of Hosted VoIP Sales, PRO OnCall Technologies

I was invited to participate in a VAR roundtable discussion as part of a preconfrerence workshop at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo on hosted VoIP for VARs. As I was preparing for this discussion, I came with a list of important considerations for VARs and interconnects looking at this opportunity, particular as an agent/reseller of a hosted VoIP service provider.  This is just one perspective on the discussion, which will take place at 8:30-10:30, Monday, Sept 20 at the Gaylord National Resort in Washington, D.C. I hope to see you there.

Interconnects are losing more and more business in terms of volume. Of the deals they are losing, many are going with hosted providers, so stop losing and look at it as recurring revenue just like carriers.  Its not going to be huge $$ out of the chute, but 6, 8, 12 months down the road and with consistent focus, you can be pulling $2K, $4K, $7K a month in commission or more. 

When I started my company in Denver before merging with PRO OnCall, in 14 months time I had built a recurring revenue model that paid more than $13K a month in recurring revenue from circuits, hosted VoIP and monitoring.  I was a one-man show I did it all, sales, ops, project coordination. It is a long-term strategy to build a recurring model that builds the foundation and avoids the monthly  ups and downs of sales.  Then the systems and one-time hunt kill eat” sales are icing  the sweet huge kicker when you get them.

Here are some considerations when looking for a hosted VoIP provider:

  • Not all hosted providers are the same. Many do great marketing campaigns, but do not deliver well or consistently. They play a numbers gamehigh percentage stick, lose a percentage of newbies and that is acceptable to them. Are you buying hype or production?
  • Find a company that can be an extension of yours. Its the same as with carriers —  who works well with you and who helps you and your business, not strictly focusing on the customer.
  • Make sure expectations of what your company requires is set up front. If you want to do the install, some providers allow it and some dont.
  • Is hosted the providers only game or is it diversified. Does it offer additional products to bundle:  fax, e-mail, web hosting. A lot of providers have fallen in the last three to five years; everyone can put up a switch with funding. What makes them different is if the company is more than a one-trick pony. 
  • Similarly, what happens if they go away?” if the answer is, We have deep pockets and can weather any storm,” remember, so did Lehman Brothers.
  • Sales support should be similar to that of a manufacturer in premises-based sale. Will the company assist? Will its staff help with proposals? Does it have a system that everyone follows? What does the provider do to help us sell products?
  • Coverage/ territory Does the provider cover the country or only a region?
  • Is the network redundant? What are the SLAs? Response times? Ask for references.
  • Can customer move from hosted to a premises-based system if they grow and hosted is no longer affordable or efficient?  Very few can do this.
  • Can the customer use their existing circuits or must they buy from the service provider? Historically customers have a contract; how do you get around that? BYOB, but then is that secure and does it provide QoS?  

Tom Shinners has spent more than 14 years with a principal focus on the SMB market providing IT solutions and enterprise-class communications via local and national partnerships.  He serves as the general manager of Denver and director of hosted VoIP sales for PRO OnCall Technologies.  He focuses on managing existing partners and internal sales teams to sell PBfleX, the companys hosted VoIP system, as an alternative to their other premises- based phone system offerings, with the ability to bundle in other hosted or premises-based voice/IT/carrier services to customers and prospects.

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