When it comes to selling unified communications, it’s a whole new ballgame.
In the second of our three-part series, “UCaaS/Hosted Telephony Spotlight,” we look at 10 dos and don’ts for selling UC, UCaaS and contact center. They range from solving problems and knowing your customer, to jumping on the cloud bandwagon.
Studies show that companies are ready to spend a lot on digital transformation, said Cherie Caldwell, global director of collaboration strategy and business development for the Cisco Global Partner Organization.
Cisco’s Cherie Caldwell
“IDC predicts that this spend in 2019 alone will be close to $17 trillion,” she said. “In the collaboration market, this digital transformation equates to customers moving to cloud-based, hosted or hybrid, unified communications (UC-UCaaS-CC) solutions. These solutions, and designs, will not only replace their antiquated on-premises solutions, but possibly change how they conduct business. This shift to UC-UCaaS-CC has generated tremendous opportunity for Cisco collaboration partners.”
Cloud adoption has completely changed the buying dynamics, said Mark Sher, Intermedia‘s vice president of UC products and marketing.
“No longer are we talking about hardware and maintenance, software and upgrades or outgrowing a solution,” he said. “The cloud changed the conversion to user subscription fees, reliability and support. When selling a solution, it must be assumed that some part of the customer’s workforce will be either mobile or work at home. It’s critical to understand how the solution will tie those users to the corporate communications platform and their customers.”
Also, with changing weather, wildfires and other business-impacting events, solutions must have a built-in business continuity aspect, Sher said.
Intermedia’s Mark Sher
“For example, a UCaaS solution should natively allow workers to work from different locations, or with or without power at a moment’s notice,” he said.
Also, with millennials now making up more than one-half of the workforce, understanding their definition of work and the workplace will impact the solutions you offer and how you deploy them, Sher said.
Lisa Del Real, RingCentral’s vice president of global channel programs and operations, said when it comes to UCaaS and CCaaS, customers are getting much larger.
“Cloud communications used to be seen as a primarily SMB solution,” she said. “That’s no longer the case. The beauty of the cloud lies in its flexibility and adaptability for businesses of all sizes, and enterprise customers are now realizing the power of UCaaS and CCaaS for achieving their unique business objectives.”
In terms of what customers are looking for, RingCentral is seeing significant demand for true agility in contact center and UCaaS, Del Real said.
RingCentral’s Lisa Del Real
“For instance, businesses with large inbound contact centers are finding that their customers want to be able to communicate at any time, from any platform — be it email, [text message], social media or phone,” she said. “The flexibility of cloud contact center allows these businesses to do that. Furthermore, companies are also seeking ways to unify an increasingly mobile and distributed workforce. UCaaS solutions allow remote employees to collaborate with their colleagues as effectively as if they were in the home office.”
In terms of obstacles, “we’re all creatures of habit and we like to stick to our comfort zones,” said Steve Smiley, Avaya’s vice president of product management for private cloud. Implementing technology can be challenging and some people adopt a “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mentality, he said.
“That leads to what I call the cheeseburger paradigm,” he said. “We all like a good cheeseburger, but if we never eat anything else, we’ll never know the joy of a great steak, a slice of halibut or a smoked pork roast from the BBQ. I think getting customers out of their comfort zones is mostly about understanding their business objectives and demonstrating the meaningful use cases that can come from a new solution.”
If a salesperson can demonstrate the hard dollar savings or compelling business value, the customer normally can be encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and try something new, Smiley said.
Laura Padilla, Zoom Video Communications‘ head of channels and business development, said when so many customers are on social media and messaging apps, it has become more difficult to capture executives’ attention.
“So much ‘noise’ makes it hard to gain awareness as a sales professional,” she said. “As a result, you have to be smarter, more relevant and make every touch point count. Also, if you understand the customer’s pain points and the leading technologies, you can rise above the noise to be viewed as a trusted adviser.”
Scroll through our list of 10 sales do’s and don’ts to give providers a competitive advantage. Then, check out part one on game-changing innovations.
Do: Sell Outcomes
Sher said he loves the phrase, “the what and the so what." The technology is the “what,” but most importantly, the business outcomes are the “so what."
"You can only sell the 'so what' once you clearly understand what the business is trying to achieve and matching your solution to that business outcome," he said.
Do: Avoid Niche
Partners should be careful of becoming too niche, Del Real said. It’s great to have a vertical to specialize in, but UCaaS
is a solution for every business, so partners shouldn’t narrow themselves to a small vertical or business segment, she said.
Don't: Fear Complexity
Partners shouldn’t shy away from UCaaS and CCaaS
for fear of complexity, Del Real said.
"Because we’re dealing with cloud communications, much of the complexity regarding installation and maintenance has been taken out," she said.
Do: Problem Solve
The biggest do is to always start with the customer’s problem or objective, Smiley said. Most businesspeople are pretty sharp — they understand their business and they have specific things they are trying to improve or achieve. Listen carefully to what those things are and then propose a thoughtful solution, he said.
"Too often salespeople start with the latest solution and their pitch sounds like, 'I have a new widget; you should buy it because its new (or faster, or more powerful — insert your favorite adjective here)'," he said. "The customer’s frame of reference is the only frame of reference that matters, so ensure that the pitch matches that: 'I understand you want to improve X at your company. Our solution Y can do exactly that.'"
Don't: Hammer and Nail Trap
Don’t fall into the trap of being the hammer that sees every problem as a nail, Smiley said.
"We have toolboxes because we need to do more than drive nails all day," he said. "Solutions today tend to be based on an ecosystem of supporting elements and services. Migration
services may solve the customer’s biggest concern over 'how do I get there?' Customers are normally pretty adapt at explaining their concerns – don’t stop at an 80% solution – listen carefully and achieve a 100% solution by using all the tools in your toolbox."
Don't: Limit Yourself
It’s important for partners to stay up to date on market trends, new products and offerings, Padilla said.
"Suggesting limited options to customers will negatively impact the trust in the partner as the company's needs evolve," she said. "An example of a don’t in selling UC-UCaaS
to partners would be to sell on-prem offerings when the customer is looking to go to the cloud."
Do: Know Your Customer
The customer profile is changing “big time," Smiley said.
"IT are losing their role as the technology gatekeeper," he said. "Line-of-business (LOB) managers are skirting around IT to get the solutions they need, when they need them. Cloud technology
is also allowing this control to be placed closer to the business as opposed to requiring IT for business rule changes, etc. This has pros and cons, but it comes from the fact that LOBs are no longer so easily satisfied. They have their own, often challenging objectives, and many are not prepared to fail because they can’t get IT to recognize their needs. The con here is the potential for technology anarchy, but the pro is much faster deployments and innovation that drives the enterprise forward. The solution, I think, is to find platforms that are flexible enough to accommodate fast-changing and often unknown demands. Open, robust solutions with a strong track record are the way to go — nothing can take the place of experience in the field. Customers look for that experience and the due diligence that comes from a reference architecture approach as part of their decision making."
Do: Jump on Cloud
One of the limitations of the cloud in the past was the reliability of the network, Del Real said. UCaaS providers have worked diligently to overcome these concerns, with some in the industry even achieving a financially backed uptime SLAs of over 99.999%, she said.
"Still, cloud reliability has been a favorite battle cry of on-premises communication providers when attempting to discourage cloud customers," she said. "With the rise of SD-WAN
being sold alongside cloud communications solutions, reliability issues are even less of a concern for customers. Furthermore, with Wi-Fi 6 and 5G on the horizon, the writing is on the wall for some of these legacy on-premises solutions. If you as a partner are not selling the cloud, you’re setting yourself up for trouble down the road. As the quality of networks continues to improve, the customer experience with the cloud will only get better."
Do: Evolve Your Approach
In the past, the partner that met commitments and deadlines drove product value realization, and/or were the most competitively priced, typically won the customers’ business, Caldwell said.
"With UC-UCaaS-CC, this is no longer the case," she said. "In order for partners to capitalize on these UC-UCaaS-CC opportunities, they have had to transform from a product and simple deployment services model, to a customer improvement approach that requires new sales motions, enhanced skills and an evolved go-to-market approach."
Do: Bring Up Competitors
Letting the customer know that their competitors are using new solutions to great effect also can be very helpful, Smiley said.
"We’re competitive by nature and ensuring that the next guy isn’t getting one up on us can be a powerful motivator," he said.