In an article by Gary Kim, Matt Bramson, Inphonex chief marketing officer, sais some interesting things about telecom sales to SMB.
Bramson suggests that "People also increasingly are comfortable configuring their own solutions and are used to getting support from user communities. ... in many cases, "first line" support can be handled by FAQs, online chat, discussion forums and so forth." Personally, I find that most peopel can't even use Google or realize that web search engines can provide many answers. As an agent for over ten years, all calls start with me - billing, repair, FAQ - so perhaps the agent channel won't be eager to take up the sales of providers that will not be providing Tier 1 support.
I agree with Bramson when he says, "Customers can get their own bandwidth. What they can't do is pick the right cloud-based solutions." Most small business customers get broadband for Internet Access, which is not always the appropriate choice due to "best effort" service and the lack of SLA. Then an agent will sell them on Cloud, perhaps saturating that pipe. The calls will start.
This is the problem that the ISP's have dealt with years: anything attached to the Internet including unprotected computers, become the responsibility of the ISP. Now it will also become the duty of the agent.
Bramson, do you know why most agents and service providers chase the medium and enterprise space? It takes the same amount of time to close a sale; the sale is bigger; and these companies can take care of their own minor issues. This has been the issue with the mass small business space for quite a few years: expensive to support at rock bottom dollar. Few Agents can sell a cloud service and walk away. How much commission is there in cloud services to support even one phone call per week from the customer base?
For the last two years, I have been preaching that our industry has to get away from we-will-save-you-money, so I agree with him here: "We now talk about business problems."
"What will have to change is demarcation point, as well." Historically, service providers have not wanted to operate on the other side of the demarcation. They didn't want the truck rolls and the support burdens. That was why other businesses, such as the value-added reseller and interconnect business, arose. Those sorts of companies specialize in managing, supporting and fixing things that might break on the other side of the demarcation.
The question becomes will the commissions on cloud services be enough for the Indirect Channel - agents, VAR's, interconnects - to make a living while becoming the sales force, the provisioning department and Tier 1 support.