Telecom 101: Go Back To School as a Teacher

Vic LevinsonBy Vic Levinson

If you ask what is the single most important challenge for the channel, some would suggest the ability to learn about emerging technologies — cloud, converged storage, the Internet of Things, and whatever comes down the pike next week.

I would counter that claim. I believe our biggest challenge is to become better teachers. We need to learn how to convey knowledge in a way that engages and informs our whole ecosystem: employees, leads, prospects, customers, even family and friends. We need to learn how to explain complicated concepts in a way that can be not only understood but that can get everyone energized by the possibilities.

My staff used to be hawk-eyed and focused on voice. Every aspect of voice — from the carrier to the structured cabling to the hardware and the systems — was understood to be a miracle of engineering and collaboration. I am proud of their ability to get down, on a very granular level, to the nuts and bolts of the solution. Today, voice is another application on the network. It comes in many forms and intersects with other line-of-business applications in a way that is much more sophisticated than ever before. A comprehensive understanding of voice now is almost myopic; it keeps us from understanding the big picture.

My marketing funnel, leads, prospects, contacts and clients, needs to be nurtured. It needs — almost craves — knowledge. Whereas before, voice was conveyed as a simple calculation of dollars and cents, it is now a process of understanding all methods of communication for each of the stakeholders in a project. It involves all departments, from HR to marketing and sales to IT and operations. It is no longer a presentation of gee-whiz features. Rather, it’s a discussion of processes and preferences.

Once installed, our solutions (hardware, software, applications and interfaces) have to work in harmony with the other players on the network. The vendor strategy of pitting integrators against carriers against technicians in an adversarial confrontation, with accusatory fingers pointing at one another, is so over. Now, everyone has competencies and responsibilities that have to be communicated and documented in order to achieve success.

Instead of looking for one throat to choke, how about we make it a goal to not strangle anyone?

Each and every member of my staff is a teacher. My sales and marketing efforts are concentrated in educating and informing our funnel. We pass on knowledge that is meant to be concise, understandable and unequivocal. My technicians have learned to never use a three-letter acronym to an end user unless they have previously explained the term. As representatives of my company in the field, they are given materials to leave with customers to further their knowledge of not only what we can do for them, but why technology is important.

My sales and operations staffs are constantly working on a personal program of excellence that involves advancing their knowledge of the field. Sure, we still talk a lot about sports at the cooler, but when we get together, we share the knowledge that we have learned in webinars and seminars that we attend. And, grades are important too, so we all have to work on certifications in specific areas to make sure that knowledge is kept current. But knowledge is most valuable when it’s shared.

A good teacher is a motivator. A good teacher pushes students — even reluctant ones — to succeed. A good teacher is passionate about the curriculum and subject matter and infects everyone with the excitement of learning. A good teacher explains complicated subjects in a way that all can understand.

In the channel, then, our challenge is to be good teachers.

Founder and president of Prime Telecommunications, Vic Levinson has more than 20 years of industry experience as an interconnect and authorized reseller for Avaya and Allworx, hosted IP telephony solutions connectivity and cloud applications. He has been instrumental in setting up the channel marketing program for SNET Communications, a Chicago-based hosted IP telephony provider. He is also a member of the 2014-15 Channel Partners Advisory Board.

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