Peter Radizeski has been a columnist with INTERNET TELEPHONY for longer than I’ve been the editor of the magazine. The president of RAD-INFO (News - Alert) Inc., a telecom consulting firm in Tampa, Fla., Radizeski also has been working a book about channel managers. So we thought this might be a good time to pick his brain about the channel in general and channel managers in particular.
What's your background related to the channel?
Radizeski: I started working for a Novell VAR in 1996 in tech support. I would build and troubleshoot servers, workstations, LANs and tape back-ups. In 1999, I joined a buddy who was launching his BellSouth agency. He had a GTE agency until GTE became Verizon in 1999. We hit Gold status – just the two of us – in less than a year. I mainly was selling wholesale ADSL to ISPs. However, I provided the whole solution: DSL filters, DSL modems, routers, router configurations, etc. I was a one-stop shop for ISPs. I became a Wiltel and AT&T agent too. I was on the Phone (News - Alert)+ advisory board in 2007-08 and blogged for Virgo in 2007. I also started blogging for TMC in 2008. I was co-founder of TCA (tcasite.org) in 2008.
The cablecos/MSOs are starting to move beyond consumers to also serve business customers. How successful have they been on this front?
Radizeski: Comcast is probably the best example. Comcast started selling business services in 2006 and is now a $5.5 billion business unit for Comcast. Comcast and TWC are top five in metro Ethernet ports. Cable has taken the business market by storm, much to the chagrin of the CLECs. This group has taken it on the chin from cable. Cable's triple play is attractive to any business with a lobby TV. Cheap broadband, cheap voice replacement, and TV service for about $300. Telcos have nothing to compete with that (not even the new AT&T powered by DirecTV (News - Alert)).
You seemed pretty excited about Comcast's recent deal with Juniper. Tell us about the relationship and what makes it so interesting.
Radizeski: Apparently, Comcast and Juniper have had a relationship since 2011, powering Comcast's metro Ethernet along with Ciena. Last year, Comcast, Telarus (a master agency), and Juniper did a promotion to let Juniper VARs know that they could sell Comcast broadband ‘to power the connection to the cloud’ for their customers. It got VARs to push Comcast and sell a few Juniper routers (or at least WICs). It was unique. I didn't see ADTRAN (News - Alert) try anything like that.
You once told me what Rackspace is doing is ‘phenomenally brilliant’. Explain.
Radizeski: Rackspace did three brilliant moves. It hired Gapingvoid to create cartoons for them. What a great visual way to re-represent the brand. That’s smart marketing. It hired Robert Scoble as its futurist and brand ambassador. It could not have picked a better person to travel the globe, photographing, recording and blogging about Rackspace, its customers, and new technology; another marketing winner. Despite competing against AWS and Microsoft Azure, Rackspace announced deals to provide its ‘fanatical support’ for these platforms. It was a brilliant move to basically hijack their lack of support.
What other companies in communications and networking are doing interesting things in terms of channel sales and product positioning in your opinion?
Radizeski: EarthLink diving into the retail vertical is interesting. Microsoft integrating Skype for Business with Slack is brilliant. I am going to watch what Citrix does with Grasshopper. Momentum (News - Alert) bought Alteva; I wonder how the RLEC piece will cause indigestion. Vonage Business lost Zane and Michael Sterl, so I wonder how the channel goes this year. They are fighting with partners over the Vonage Business brand, which most can acknowledge is not an advantage when selling to business. Granite entering the MDU market is different. MetTel and its move away from POTS is interesting. TelePacific has quietly and stably made leaps beyond just network. It has a lot of channel people with very long tenure, which says so much about the company. (Full disclosure: It is a client.) Zayo buying Latisys and Allstream [is also interesting].
What are the channel's hottest selling services and solutions and why?
Radizeski: It is still network. Probably 85 percent still network. It is just easy to sell and in demand, and the channel doesn't have to change anything to sell it. Cloud contact center is probably one of the hot services. Colocation is big. It is one of my favorite things to sell. I can pretend I am a realtor for a few minutes. Before it was acquired, Netwolves said that it was making some waves selling managed security to the channel.
If channel partners embraced one new vendor and product line in 2016, the success for both would be amazing.
How is the channel doing at selling cloud-based, on-demand solutions?
Radizeski: Truthfully, I think Pareto Principle isn't even close. Maybe 5 percent of the channel is selling cloud – but selling a lot of it. InContact (contact center), hosted UC, IaaS (AWS, Azure, Rackspace, CenturyLink), Office365 are probably the hottest.
How can they do better?
Radizeski: When Accenture bought Cloud Sherpas, I had to scratch my head. But then talking to some consultants at the big three firms, cloud is outside anyone's real scope. More than 70 percent of software projects fail historically. So no one is good at software projects. And it isn't as simple as stuffing software into a cloud server system. I think to get better at cloud you have to start doing it, learning it, failing some. Certainly, channel partners should start speed-dating cloud providers to find one or two to trust and run with. Now.
How can the master agents, service providers, and vendors that work with channel partners help these sales people more successfully sell cloud-based services?
Radizeski: Vendors have to stop selling to everyone. They have to specifically define the best customer, then explain why the buyer would buy from them, and what outcome they get. When I consult to service providers, often sales does not trust implementation (and vice versa). Sales is afraid to sell stuff that implementation cannot deploy to the customer satisfactorily. We see that today without anyone saying that. Take a few CLECs that still today have problems deploying TDM. Would you trust them with something as complicated as hosted UC? Uh, no. Every cloud provider – especially in the UCaaS space – sells to anyone five to 500 seats. That isn't even close to being possible because there are too many segments of the marketplace inside that range. Each has different buying triggers. Each has different requirements. No one provider does a good enough job covering that vast of a marketplace. When you don't know what they are good at, price becomes the main factor. And we end up with customer deployments that suck with angry customers and angry partners.
You've said that new channel managers don't get much in the way of training, that it's more of a trial-by-fire scenario. What sort of training should they be getting?
Radizeski: I think that all managers should get some training. Management is different than doing. They aren't selling. They are helping partners sell. They have to prioritize, educate, recruit, motivate, placate, and more. Even if they were given some basics on educating the channel, marketing to the channel, and recruiting partners would be a huge step forward.
You've said that relationship-based selling is a lost art. Explain.
Radizeski: Talking with a hosted VoIP provider, it explained that most of the hosted PBX sales right now are people switching from one OTT VoIP company to another. The salespeople won't tell them that the problem isn't the VoIP, it is their crappy broadband because they want to make a sale, knowing this customer will leave in 11 or 12 months. I hear the same thing in many sales departments. They will sell to a customer what the customer says, even knowing the customer will be unhappy. So it’s all about the immediate sale, not the lifetime value of the customer.
How do you motivate a sales force or a sales rep?
Radizeski: That is a hard question. A manager's job is mainly to remove hurdles for the salespeople. Motivating them is more about getting them to buy in – not hand them a quota, but have them help set the quota. It is about teaching them ways that the product has changed/impacted a business, letting them know about other sales closing, including who is buying and why, to give them the ammo to go out and sell.
Edited by Maurice Nagle