Is the Channel Too Lazy to Sell Cloud?

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
Peter
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

Is the Channel Too Lazy to Sell Cloud?

Talking with channel managers lately in the Hosted UC space, well, has been depressing to be honest. No one is having fun - or knocking it out of the park. Yes, there are pockets of success - mostly from verticals or niches (surprise!).

So one CM made the comment that channel partners are too lazy to sell cloud. "It is much easier to sell network or a box than it is to sell cloud." There is some truth to that.

VAR's and Inter-connects have a similar business model that is centered around selling a box, installation and support. So cash flow comes from selling the box. They receive a chunk of money upfront. I am not certain that any of them survive off can recurring revenue yet.

To remedy this, some master agencies and vendors are looking to pay some of the commissions upfront, but this requires risk and financing, which devalues their own companies (and makes an exit harder).

From what I have seen and heard, most channel partners - agents, VAR's, Inter-connects - sell Hosted PBX as a third option after all else fails -- and typically sell it as cheap VoIP.

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To me, this means that the service providers and the CM's have done a poor job of training and communicating who the target customer is, why they should buy UC/HPBX/Cloud, and what the value proposition is. Am I surprised by this? Not in the least. Why?

For one, many cloud companies have too many executives from the CLEC world where it has always been about Arbitrage - "Let me save you money!" And, let's face it, CLECs know nothing about marketing or positioning or branding - and neither do most cloud providers.

The other big problem is that most of these companies are enamored with their technology - as if the market gives a crap about their technology. People have iPhones and tablets and a bazillion apps. You think your tech is cooler than that??

This was a problem that ISP's had too. All techies that just like to be techies. The reason that 8x8 has grown is because some where along the way they switched from being a tech company to being a sales and marketing company. Most cloud providers are not there yet.

It is also very challenging to sell cloud services, especially UC, with its myriad pieces and components. What channel partner is going to remember all the stuff about your UC product and about the other 10-12 services that he also offers???? Um, not very many.

The flip side to this is that most cloud providers don't really sell direct. They dapple in it because it is expensive. However, if you haven't sold it, you don't know how to train or coach others to sell it either. You don't have the sales process and questions in place as tools for the channel partners.

There is another challenge right now: sales sizes are too small to cash flow for the provider or for the channel partner - so that will grind things to a halt sooner rather than later.

My CM pal also mentioned that partners don't want to explain all the features of HPBX/UC, do an ROI or TCO, check the WAN and LAN, etc. It is far quicker to just sell network or a box - and move on.

The reason that UC is stuck is because it is not exactly like what people have now. So there is training and education needed to the customer and her employees (as well as to the channel partners). This could be fixed IF the channel would actually eat the dog food. Not many channel partners actually use cloud services. If you drink the kool-aid how do you sell it to someone else? (Sales is about the transfer of emotion - if the partner isn't excited about your product, why would the customer be?)

There are a number of reasons that UC isn't selling. (Another is too many providers that all look the same.) As my brother tells me, "But, bro, Lync is selling!" Sure as part of Office 365 or to Fortune 100. And mid-sized businesses with more than 250 employees are buying UC, but are they buying it from the channel or from one of the top carriers?

Another trend is that smaller, unknown cloud providers are losing deals to better known companies - like Comcast, EarthLink, etc. WHy? Trust factor. Brand is a trust factor. So it comes back to marketing.

So is the channel too lazy to sell cloud? Or have the cloud providers just done a really poor job of picking partners and/or marketing?

BTW, there are certainly channel partners selling cloud, but they are dedicated to doing so. They drink teh cloud kool-aid.



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