One of the panels last week at ITEXPO was titled Educating the Channel with Certifications. When you consider that as a founding board member and current VP of the Technology Channel Association, education is a primary objective, this topic was relevant. The panelists were Louis Haynor, CSO at Alteva, and Jim Riley of Apptix. I didn't know that Apptix was an agent of Alteva and had been through their certification program. Surprise! (The other surprise was the video cameras that Alteva had brought in to record the panel. No, I didn't sign a release. I am waiting on royalties.)
Alteva's cert program is really a sales program that consists of product training and the Sandler method of sales. Haynor did point out that agents need to know about the product but more importantly to sell Hosted UC, you have to re-think how you sell services. The certification helps with that. It is not a one-time program; it is continuing education.
The TCA has a certification called the Certified Telecom Professional. It is a baseline education program with a 100-question exam on a two hour timer. It is a challenge, daunting enough that many telecom veterans have anxiety about not passing it.
Haynor spoke about charging - $350 - for the training because otherwise it doesn't have value. It made me think that at $199 for the CTP, it is time to raise the price.
Riley spoke about the value of the cert being that there is economic impact on the Channel, the Carrier and the Customer. While there was agreement that education is vital to cloud and managed services adoption in the marketplace, I couldn't get any concrete examples out of the panel. It's a principle we can agree upon, but apparently can't quantify.
Since on-boarding is integral to a positive customer experience, I asked if that was touched on in the cert. It isn't because Alteva has a team for that. However, properly setting customer expectations is part of the on-boarding process. Many agents and VAR's want to be the conduit to the customer and want to be the one providing the timelines to the customer to manage and coordinate the deployment and on-boarding of the workforce. It seems to me that this should be a part of the training. Haynor said that at this stage, agents are more like referral partners or lead generation. Alteva sales people will close the deal. Smoothstone and other carriers have a similar take. I would suggest that if I paid $350 for training and spent the two days taking it that at the end I should be able to prospect, complete the sale and be involved with the on-boarding.
It is transferrable knowledge though. Alteva is Broadsoft based, so with that training, agents should be able to sell any Broadsoft Hosted PBX service via the Sandler sales process.