Workplace communication products are a requirement of most businesses these days. At one point in time, Unified Communications (UC) products and services were an option to a business telephone system, but now, most businesses cannot function without them. The need to move from a PBX system to IP telephony is often the impetus that drives the UC sales opportunity and is usually based on soft Return on Investment (ROI). UC unifies voice, data, video and mobile applications over fixed and mobile networks. The main interest of UC to customers include the benefits of enhanced workforce productivity enabling employees to have quick access to the right people and data, as well as the ability to make decisions faster and work more effectively.
Many potential UC customers will have multiple locations, mobile workers and a requirement for a high level of collaboration. After adopting IP telephony, email and voicemail, many candidates for UC embrace presence and instant messaging initially. This provides immediate contact and knowledge of availability of co-workers. Web conferencing is another UC application that is of tremendous business value for sharing information across wide audiences. Video is also growing in popularity for real time communication with visuals. So how do VARs get their foot in the door to sell UC? Start with the following tips:
If the customer has an older PBX or key system for business communications, discuss the cost justification of moving to IP telephony. The best way to do this is to find out how many locations the customer has or will have, then find out what kinds of lines, long distance (LD) bills, data bills and phones they have at each location. A quick way to cost justify moving to VOIP is to analyze lines and usage and propose replacing analog lines with SIP trunks or PRI services to consolidate lines and costs. SIP trunks can be used to connect locations and eliminate LD between locations. PRI circuits can be used to replace expensive analog lines and provide Direct Inward Dialing (DID), better sound quality and fax connectivity. Data cabling can be used to support IP phones, thereby decreasing wiring costs.
Once VOIP is installed, UC is typically the next step. Selling UC becomes easier as vendors provide bundled, license-based offers based on industry standards for interoperability as opposed to selling UC applications a la carte. UC bundles can include presence and instant messaging; audio, web or video conferencing; and other collaboration tools. These tools are easy to cost justify in terms of productivity, accuracy, regained time and improved teamwork. VARs can offer an entire UC solution to a customer, including an assessment of the in-place network, an understanding of current and future needs and an analysis of what might need to be customized for each client. This is likely to create add-on sales for enhancing the customer’s network.
Don’t forget the mobile workforce: cell phone gateways can help control the costs of mobile employees. Applications can be loaded onto mobile devices to emulate their workplace communications desktop, simplifying use. VARs can demonstrate ease-of-use and cost savings to customers with mobile workers. VARs add further advantage to the products they sell through the art of consultation and design, training, implementation and ongoing service and support.
Enterprises looking to improve workplace communication tools can rely on VARs as consultants and advisors. VARs can be used for one-stop shopping since a single VAR can design an integrated solution using technologies from one or multiple vendors, and can act as a single point of contact for both implementation and problem resolution. VARs also have vast resources available to them, like their distributor and their partners, providing additional value. VARs should sell these points to clients, implement perfectly and will then have a customer for life.
As with any technology initiative, it's important for both the customer and the VAR to understand business goals and objectives before proceeding. Both need to understand if the technology being considered is the best solution for the current needs and for the future of the business. VARs should be clear on which business problems are to be solved, what results will be seen, including Return on Investment (ROI), and when they will see them. Once the customer and the VAR are clear on business needs, the VAR will be in a perfect position to provide the appropriate technology and support services to allow the enterprise to grow and prosper.
Are there other UC use cases you can think of? Share with us in the comments below.