According to analysts, the average size of a channel customer is 40 users. How can that average reseller gain business in the mid-market, say from 250 to 1000 users and beyond? In an interview with Mark Whitehead of GCI Channel Solutions we get the answers.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): How can resellers identify and qualify the needs of these larger customers?
Mark Whitehead (MW): From a perspective of selling a hosted or cloud based communication solution the obvious starting point is to determine how many seats would be required. Unlike a PBX you don’t have to allow for expansion.
What I would do next is not immediately obvious; check if the organisation has a culture of embracing change and managing that change. If they appear to be laggards then extra work will need to be put in. Next up is to find out where the organisation is along a technology re-fresh timeline. Is the current PBX creaking at the seams and nearing end of life? Ask how much CAPEX would be required to replace it.
An interesting point to note is that technology refreshes to hosted voice have been underperforming in the UK market up to 2014. This is due to the fact that only a certain percentage of the market becomes available to allow substitution for hosted VoIP due to in-life contracts. It’s these contracts ending that makes customers look to refresh to these new technologies. Growth has been linear but it is good to see that growth in 2015 has been above the historical trend.
Another point I would note is that most resellers selling predominantly in the SME space tend to have at least one larger SME or enterprise customer. In this instance make sure you fall into that category and that you speak to them to understand when their contracts end. It’s also important to explain to them the advantages of hosted VoIP when they come to do their technology refresh.
A few other pointers:
Research and understand the general needs and dynamics of their user industry sector.
Research the company website, news articles for latest wins, appointments and acquisitions etc.
Speak to user groups to understand their needs.
Offer good marketing collateral (for example, GCI playbooks)
CBM: What initial approach should resellers take with these business prospects compared to the smaller SME firms they deal with?
MW: Selling to larger mid market organisations is most definitely different than selling to SMEs. It’s important for the reseller to become embedded with all the key stakeholders in the business as it is likely to be a layered sales process.
Most importantly the resellers should have a good NDA and robust Master Service Agreement with their channel service provider. This will give confidence to the reseller, allowing their chosen service partner to work with them closely. On the thousand plus deployments it really is a sell-with rather than a sell-to situation.
Once in place get the supplier involved in the sale as soon as possible at all levels; from pre-sales staff and experienced account managers, through to senior management and directors for peer-to-peer meetings. Build trust with the supplier and work together as a team.
Expect to be asked to demonstrate proof of concept and provide workshop user sessions for end user staff to see how applications work. For example, the idea of a softphone could be very alien to the organisation.
CBM: Most SME resellers would not be able to fund the cash flows required for a 1000 user sale so how can they overcome that obstacle?
MW: This is a really good question and is an area where many resellers would be put off from the outset. However, good suppliers can quickly make cash flow in to a non-problem. At GCI our Master Service Agreement with partners has flexible provisions for such eventualities such as our underwriting of the business and/or working directly with the user in a dealer type arrangement.
Smaller resellers often fail in a pitch for larger business at an RFI stage when questions surrounding financial standing of potential providers leave them wanting, but we have the answers that will keep the reseller in the hunt.
CBM: What should resellers hoping to become successful in this market look for in a supplier?
MW: Look for supplier that has referenceability; we have channel supplied, sell with sites with more than 1600 seats so we are proven. We have more than 60,000 hosted seats installed in the UK so can point to good voice experience, Skype for Business and Broadsoft success.
Look for ISO 27001 certified data centres – we have two, and suppliers with their own network infrastructure. Having both enables us to deliver secure and robust solutions and enables our Partners to achieve higher margins than our competitors.
It’s a proven fact, if a reseller keeps us out of the selling loop the deal invariably is not made. Sell with us and the chances of going over the line will increase dramatically.