Arrived in Vegas for the Channel Partners Expo (in conjunction with VoIP Nation). Seems everyone I speak with is looking for sales. We have at least as many channel agents as we have always had, so why the growing need for sales?
I think one reason is that most of the channel partners are TDM. Plug and play. Show me your bill. I'll save you money. That works for transactions, but, as Telarus is proving, you can sell these things via a website.
I spoke with an agent from San Diego who is attacking the Fortune 500 spot with wireless. Not just cell phones, but routers and other 3G/4G gear. We talked about the big opportunity in M2M (machine-to-machine, whereby hardware like a monitor or a camera can transmit data via a cellular chip). Multi-tech Systems is missing an opportunity here, because the window is closing. For inter-connects and VAR's used to selling a hardware solution, 3G and M2M mean money. (It fits into the same business model).
Meanwhile, the fiber guys are looking to sell more pipe - bandwidth, dark fiber, Waves. Unfortunately, these types of sales are specialized. A long sales cycle. Very specific customer needs. The equipment is expensive and not many folks know how to administrate that kind of gear.
SAAS and Hosted PBX sales are picking up. The problem for many agents is that they are so used to plug-and-play (order-taking) that solution selling is a challenging shift. In harsh economic times, people like to stay in their comfort zone to feel secure. But that TDM World is running out of runway. Agents need to wrap their head around IP.
Microcorp told me that one of their top partners is a VAR (hardware/LAN guy) who had an A-ha moment, which led him to team up with a WAN (telecom) guy, resulting in bigger sales and more complete ownership of the customer account.
In an age of carriers segmenting customers, stealing customers, cutting agents, and clipping commissions, owning the customer account from LAN-to-WAN is security.
There are so many opportunities for upsell and cross-sell to an agent's customer base. Unfortunately, not many master agencies nor agents are taking advantage of that opportunity. Microcorp is actively looking for a Director of Sales, who can not only supervise channel managers, but also figure out what sales are being missed by agents and coordinating the upsell and cross-sell options through the channel. For example, conference calling for all Dedicated LD customers. Another example is collocation or virtual private data center for a company migrating to an MPLS network.
There are opportunities out there, but they require more than "saving money". The real gold is in providing value to the business itself by adding efficiency, redundancy, mobility and productivity.