Up until recently, value-added resellers (VARs) had to really sell the benefits of IP telephony and Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC). Now the technology is aligned with the way people expect to communicate and work—dynamically and collaboratively, anytime and anyplace. VARs have a huge market of premises-based, managed, or hosted and hybrid IP and UCC sales available to them. For 2015–2019, VARs have a shot at $19 billion worth of UCC product and service sales per year. The global market for UC and VoIP (voice over IP) services will reach $88 billion by 2018. So what is UCC from the perspective of a VAR, and how can a VAR use it in order to make a profit?
Today, business telephony extends far beyond the traditional desk phone. VARs know it enables unified communications, digital collaboration, mobility, and video. As communications become increasingly blended, IP telephony is now at the core of the UCC landscape. VARS need to educate customers on the benefits. Next-generation telephony solutions need to:
- Provide real-time voice, video, and conferencing across the enterprise network
- Integrate with collaboration tools such as instant messaging, email, and desktop sharing
- Pass conversations seamlessly between fixed and mobile devices
- Function based on network-integrated system management
- Deliver a higher ROI than ever before
When deciding between selling on-premises and hosted, managed, or cloud communications, VARs have a number of points to consider. In general, on-premises UCC usually allows for a high level of flexibility and customization, with a variety of solutions and available approaches, which can improve VAR profit. This option could also potentially lower the cost associated with ownership for a business, as it generally requires a one-time investment rather than an ongoing outflow. Managed, hosted, and cloud-based solutions’ advantages typically center on ease of use. Overall, businesses can observe lower capital expenditures, a more scalable approach to managing system upgrades, enhanced features, simplified support, and more efficient security with cloud UCC. VARs can gain more frequent sales from customers using this model.
On-premises solutions typically work best for larger organizations, especially if workers are clustered in central locations. On the other hand, cloud solutions tend to work well for businesses that have multiple locations and a substantial number of remote or mobile workers. In addition, organizations experiencing rapid growth tend to look to cloud-based UC in order to more easily add users and features as their business evolves. Hybrid solutions give customers the option to reuse some of their existing equipment, allowing their VAR to expertly integrate old and new services, which is the most common way to sell UCC. VARs deciding on a model should do some research on the customers in their area in order to determine which method may be more profitable or, if possible, make options available for both types of solutions.
Some ways for VARs to sell UCC to decision-makers include addressing:
Productivity – Productivity gains can be hard to measure, but it’s clear that this is the most important selling point for UCC. A big part of a VAR’s conversation with the customer boils down to how collaboration among their employees can make their businesses run more efficiently and save them money in the long run.
Quantifiable Savings – Show customers that by unifying communications, they can save on capital investments like the infrastructure needed for separate voice/telephony networks and video/data networks. Hard dollar savings can be shown by integrating these networks. Operating costs can also be monetized by showing savings on consolidating data center space and power, internal telephony, and data-transfer costs and licensing and maintenance expenses. Soft savings, like reduced travel expenses, should also be tracked, but VARs will find that hard costs will take them a lot further.
Importance of Mobility – UCC is not complete without mobility. Collaboration from anywhere on any device has become a critical component of UCC. VARs should keep that in mind when selling it.
VARs should plan a strategy by identifying the communication requirements of user segments, lay out business cases for high-value projects, and evaluate the organization’s network and application infrastructure for readiness. VARs and their partners should align the products with the organization’s needs and each user segment and then create a deployment plan and ensure solutions are compatible by using road maps, trial groups, and evaluations. Upon deployment, ensure that users receive training and try to head off potential issues. VARs should continue management and oversight of communication use patterns; develop a UCC center of excellence that allows people from all over the organization to share expertise through each phase and evaluate and rank partners for future use. Finally, monitor manufacturer and vendor road maps in order to determine potential opportunities for UCC upgrades for existing customers. This road map to success will make the sales, service, and maintenance of UCC systems smooth for VARs and painless for customers.
Does your company sell UCC today? If not, can you see how this lucrative market should become part of your business?