The telecommunications industry has always been fiercely competitive and grows more so with each new technological breakthrough. While most agree that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the future, implementing a pure VoIP solution can be an expensive undertaking for companies with legacy PBX systems in place. In addition to legacy systems, bandwidth, firewalls, and technical knowledge all play a role in making that move from PBX to VoIP. So what do resellers need to know to be successful reselling VoIP?
1. Understand your customer’s environment. Because VoIP has very specific technical requirements, resellers must approach each potential opportunity trained to determine if VoIP is even technically feasible. For example, is their LAN and/or WAN capable of handling the additional audio traffic in the customer’s network? How will remote or branch office workers using VoIP traverse firewalls? Is there adequate bandwidth in the customer’s network? Will the network support QoS? One way to ensure that all of these technical questions are satisfied prior to the start is to encourage a site survey before beginning to build and deploy any VoIP solution.
2.Understand your customer’s requirements. It is essential for resellers to make sure that from the earliest planning phases through implementation and deployment that they know exactly what the customer wants and whether those needs map to VoIP’s strengths. For example, does the customer frequently need applications that will be more effectively delivered in a VoIP solution? Does the customer have mobile or remote or home-based workers that could benefit from VoIP and related applications? Will systems need to be networked together to provide a seamless environment and scalability? The most successful VoIP deployments involve a partnership between the reseller and the customer where each understands the other’s requirements at each phase of the project.
3.Make sure your team is properly trained. Adequate VoIP training for all team members is crucial to winning business and ensuring successful implementations. Not only should the team have a background in LAN/WAN networks, but they should also understand the different VoIP protocols (SIP, H323, MGCP) and Voice Codecs (G.711, G.723, G.729, etc.) to ensure both a proper configuration and a satisfied customer. With each successful deployment, the reseller can build up important references and case studies.
4.Focus on the applications that VoIP can offer your customers that a traditional PBX cannot. Understanding that the migration to VoIP can be costly and worrisome for customers, it is important to make the business case justifiable. Emphasize the high-value solutions and applications that the customer will be able to leverage for a competitive advantage. For example, all-in-one solutions that offer unified messaging, IP-based contact centers, remote/mobile workers, presence, and collaboration applications in a single server environment can simplify processes and offer a significant cost savings. In addition, self-service and instant messaging applications can allow agents to be more accessible and have better access to messaging and other data sources. Also, VoIP offers a more streamlined approach in adding and building new applications, which can be upgraded more easily, and is again more cost effective for the customer’s bottom line. By offering solid business reasons for VoIP, resellers can
provide the crucial information customers need to make their decisions.
5.Focus on predefined deployment models that will be less expensive and faster to implement. Customers want the solution up and running as quickly, cost effectively and seamlessly as possible. To achieve that goal, resellers should consult with their vendors to determine which deployment models map best to the customer’s requirements and network and which ones the vendor most highly recommends. It is important that resellers use their time wisely, and the more often they can tap existing knowledge, the more they can bring the projects in with a profit margin.
6.Make sure the VoIP components have been tested and certified by the vendor. Hand in hand with consulting from the vendor, this is also key for the reseller because successful deployments rely on all solution components working. The more the reseller can interface with the vendor and other providers, the more they can ensure a smooth deployment. By knowing if there is a SIP provider for incoming trunks, if voice gateways will be used and what phones are to be used, the reseller needs to make the overall solution as plug and play as possible and maximizing the success rate.
7.Choose the right solution vendors. Make sure to align with the vendors that have data application and networking expertise. Successful VoIP solutions will be created by vendors that understand applications and truly understand that voice is an application in the network. By doing business with the leading vendors, resellers can feel confident in the products and solutions that they are deploying for their customers.
8.Leverage past experience to build up Best Practices. This takes case studies a step further and offers customers specific “what if” and “don’t do” scenarios that can keep them from making costly mistakes that could cause system downtime and thus saving the reseller from having to make emergency on-site visits or erode customer satisfaction.
9.Be able to offer a solution that is capable of a hybrid offering (both TDM and IP). Don’t risk losing the sale by expecting customers to take on the expense of embracing VoIP, forsaking all their infrastructure investments by pushing a pure VoIP platform. Many shrewd businesses will choose to migrate to VoIP in a phased manner. By leveraging existing technology in a hybrid approach, customers can migrate to VoIP at a pace appropriate for their corporate strategy, growth projections, and their current and future needs. In fact, this more conservative, practical approach can allow resellers to maintain the sale and help customers transform voice communications from an expense item to a business asset. A blended offering can provide a steady decrease in telecommunication charges over time while leveraging existing applications and business intelligence to enhance customer service, deliver new capabilities and maximize revenues.
10.Be clear on pricing. Understand the cost difference in offering a TDM-based solution versus an IP solution. It is the savvy reseller who can take all the knowledge they gained about the customer’s network, system, and overall business plan to make the recommendation that make the most fiscal sense.
As VoIP and IP PBXs continues to increase in popularity and effectiveness, resellers need to differentiate their services from the competition. The tips outlined above offer resellers the foundation for generating more business and creating a satisfied, loyal customer base. IT
Walter Kenrich is vice president of product management and head of SMB for Vertical Communications. For more information, please visit the company online at www.vertical.com.
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