Telecom services, specifically carrier services, are in-demand. To help attendees zero in on the best opportunities in this space, the CompTIA ChannelCon conference recently featured a panel discussion on Best Practices in Selling Telecom.

The panel was powered by Channel Partners and the CompTIA Telecom Advisory Council and moderated by Khali Henderson, editor-in-chief of Channel Partners.

The panelists included:

  • Ken Bisnoff -- Senior Vice President of Strategic Opportunities for TelePacific Communications 

  • Paul Cronin -- Senior Vice President of Atrion Networking 

  • Jeffrey Ponts -- Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of DataTel Solutions Inc. 

  • Dwayne Sloan -- Partner of PCM Networking 

To set the tone for the panel, the Best Practices in Selling Telecom session began with a few overview slides from Khali Henderson. From these slides, three key themes resonated most with me:

  1. Clients now work differently. Consider how many people in your own company and your clients’ companies sit chained to a desk Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. A distributed workforce increasingly comprised of remote workers, telecommuters, and contractors is driving huge demand for telecom selling and embracing carrier services. If your company intends to participate in this demand, you need to be able to centralize apps and data and excel at delivering unified communications (UC).

  2. Clients now buy differently. The recession has really accelerated interest in converting capital expenditures to operating expenses (OpEx). And clients have really latched onto the idea of outsourcing and managed services as a way to get a handle on the complexity. 

  3. Carrier services should be embraced as the next logical step. This transitioned the discussion towards the panelists, focusing on enabling these newer services, providing end-to-end solutions, subsidizing equipment purchases, building recurring revenue, defending the client base, and leveraging existing client relationships.

From the panelists, I noted seven takeaways for those that need to improve their Best Practices in Selling Telecom:

  1. There are four basic related opportunities: product reselling, selling voice/Internet carrier services, selling related data center projects, and selling related professional services. If your company can address most or all of these four categories, you’ll enjoy stronger pricing power and margins, and better protect your client accounts from being poached by competitors – which brings up the next key takeaway.

  2. If you're not touching the telco infrastructure, competitors come in. It’s that simple and not a new issue to the IT channel. (Many technology providers who, over the years, initially refused to support Apple Mac hardware learned this the hard way.)

  3. The clients are driving convergence because they’d like fewer throats to choke. For decades, traditional IT service providers built businesses around this pain point and delivered the single point of accountability. Those buying telecom services have now figured out the same thing: every “throat to choke” has an associated cost.

  4. Telecom introduces your company to new business decision-makers. While more of an issue in the mid-market and enterprise than in smaller SMB clients, the decision maker for selling telecom is often a different person than the decision maker for selling IT services. (And even the IT decision-maker is changing rapidly as cloud computing and mobile computing become more widely adopted.)

  5. VoIP changed the game: Once it was on the network, you had to take control of it. Once voice-over IP graduated from niche, pet projects to more widespread, mainstream adoption, IT solution providers had to get involved -- to properly manage and secure client networks and maintain account control.

  6. The residual income is great but forces you to rethink your cash flow. Traditional IT solution providers and their sales teams are used to selling big projects. These big projects usually bring immediate, or at least relatively quick, positive cash flow. Selling telecom and carrier services is based on a residual model. Solution providers and their sales teams must reflect this in their financial forecasts.

  7. Selling telecom often requires its own sales force. To ensure adequate technical expertise and a grasp of the sales cycle, many technology providers will need two sales forces: one focused on carrier services, and one focused on selling more traditional networking services and solutions.

  8. Quotes for telecom services should always include other IT-related services. Avoid the temptation to provide “naked” quotes that only include carrier services.

  9. The consistent revenue stream from selling telecom, just like selling managed services and cloud services, makes it easier to manage a business. With a predictable source of ongoing recurring revenue, you can build off this model.

In this post, we looked at three big-picture trends and nine panelist takeaways from the Best Practices in Selling Telecom discussion panel at ChannelCon.

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What do you think is most important to selling telecom? Please let us know in the Comments box below.

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