Selling Profitable VoIP Services to SMEs

Steve Jones, Business Development for VoIP at Reading based distributor Electronic Frontier says that with BT stating that there are approximately 10 million broadband users in the UK, and with 90% of mid size businesses already having rolled out IP telephony, the last market for IP telephony to attack is the sub 50 user level, i.e. the small to medium business market who make up 90% of UK businesses.

“Voice was, is and always will be THE application and telephony is undoubtedly a service that all businesses rely on. SMEs will only move to an IP telephony solution if it provides them with the same, or better, level of reliability, voice quality and availability at a cost that is less than they currently pay.

In a survey in 2005 by Ovum only 12% of small businesses wanted a hosted service while 67% wanted a premise based or hybrid solution. These end-users will move to a new solution only if the business proposition provides clear benefits, is well priced, reliable, and easy to install and use.

To date the roll out of IP-PBX’s in the UK has been stunted due to a number of reason including lack of awareness in the end user market, lack of trust of IP telephony across broadband and lack of robust ISP trunking solutions that include not only connectivity but also a simple and reliable billing package that resellers can rely on.

While technical solutions such as a SIP trunking have been around for some time most ITSP’s have been reluctant to push this application and instead have been focused on marketing their IP Centrex solutions. Thankfully this is now changing with some forward thinking ITSP’s offering a SIP trunking service.

To move this market forward the reseller needs to offer a bundled solution that includes SIP trunking, an IP-PBX, a mixture of IP & POT phones and if possible a finance package that mitigates the risk for the reseller but leaves them with a margin and the opportunity to up sell other IP applications.

Once the customer has bought into the benefits of an all IP solution the opportunity exists for resellers to continue to sell a host of additional value added services such as security, broadband, WiFi and other IP supported applications tying the customer into a much longer and more profitable partnership and increasing the ARPU across the board.

This service mix can be further enhanced by adding more advanced services such as:

– AAA authentication

– VXML scripting

– Calling cards

– IVR

– Collaborative Working

– Video Conferencing

There are flexible IP-PBXs on the market, such as the Quadro range produced by Epygi Technologies,(who have been active in the UK market since 2005), that already provides a solution for most of the issue’s mentioned above and eliminates the need for multiple boxes at the customer’s premises.

The advantage with the Quadro-type solution is that services and switching are handled locally, if the IP link goes down, then the local service continues, voice mail is still available, and calls can be received and made via a back-up PTSN/ISDN line that is built into every unit. This gives the business manager making the buying decision the peace-of-mind that his customers will always be able to communicate with their business.

The Quadro range covers requirements for 2 to 48 extensions per site and are ideal for the small or branch office. It is an IP router, SIP gateway & IP-PBX all in one box. You can connect POTS and/or IP phones with analogue or ISDN trunk support. The Quadro supports inbuilt firewall, NAT, DHCP client & server IPSec VPN and web browser configuration together with T.38 fax support, voice mail, auto attendant.

As the PBX software (with an optional DSL modem) is integrated into the same unit as the gateway, users can have one-point-of-contact for all support issues. This removes much of the ‘it’s not our box, it’s your box’ disagreements that occur with multiple boxes at the client’s premise.

So how to move forward?

Stop talking about VoIP and turn all the marketing collateral into what IP can do for a business, e.g. improved flexibility, tele-working, home working, work/life balance, one maintenance contract, presence management, etc.

We must also ‘connect’ with those who currently own the relationship with the business and show them how to make money from VoIP, (by offering more than just VoIP), in terms they can understand.

Tim Jackson of Add Technology, an authorised reseller of Epygi stated, “The key to maximising opportunities within VOIP is to be innovative in your approach and design. Epygi provides us with a stable platform, whilst allowing us the flexibility to design our solutions.”

The resellers key to new, steady profitable income from small business customers is to offer a packaged solution that has clear business benefits. It needs to be easy for the end-user to understand, risk free, and easily deployable at a reasonable monthly price and provides a migration to enable the user to launch new services.

This takes a partnership of interested parties, who take technology and cost off the table and focus on the benefits delivered to the end-user.