Choosing The Right UC Features for Your Business

By Pete Engler

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This week, I’m headed to the Channel Partners Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. Not only am I looking forward to meeting existing partners and prospective cloud agents (be sure to stop by our booth and say “Hello!” if you’re at the show), but I’m also eager to hear the discussions around selling cloud-based services. It reminds me of some topics that a colleague of mine heard while attending another business technology conference. He had a chance to listen to some interesting panel discussions centered around Unified Communications (UC) and the Cloud. Out of all the new information, insights, and ideas he heard, one statement in particular held his attention. This quote brings to light a basic principle that every technology reseller should understand and practice when it comes to selling UC solutions:

 “Technology does not lead to behavior; behavior should lead to technology.”

A survey by Webtorials revealed that 75 percent of enterprises have deployed UC to some degree, with 21 percent indicating they had implemented full deployments. The businesses partially deploying UC are doing so in a trial phase and expect to eventually integrate completely. Regardless of deployment strategy, it’s worthwhile to point out that the business as w whole looks at UC differently than the individual employee – there are different behaviors driving the decision to implement the technology. A business examines the total value of UC in employee collaboration with coworkers and clients, strives to understand the costs associated with each feature, and determines which features are worth investing in. On the other hand, an employee’s behavior or interest in UC is influenced by its usability and the ease of specific UC applications to get things done. In other words, employees are concerned with how UC makes their job easier. The combination of these two behavior types leads to the decision of a company’s need for full UC integration.

With UC providing so many efficient and beneficial features, and three-quarters of businesses deploying UC to some degree, how can value added resellers (VARs) stand out in such a thriving market? The possible answer, or at least part of it, can be found in that quote I referenced earlier about technology and behavior. A VAR should first consider a company’s behaviors and needs. It’s not just a matter of pushing the idea of having “modern communications” technology on a company with the hope that the company will change its processes to accommodate the use of UC. A VAR could spend countless sales cycles trying to convince decision makers to run their business differently by touting huge UC toolkits overflowing with features. Alternatively, the best practice is to match a company’s time-tested processes with specific UC features; and demonstrate how UC will make those existing business processes more efficient.

Take video calling as an example. Video calling is cool and unique. It can allow people to connect on a different level than voice calling, adding greater depth and dimension to a conversation.  But would this UC feature alone make a company more efficient? Would it add value to a company or to that company’s customer? The real answer ultimately depends on what problem the company is really trying to solve for themselves and their customers. If that particular feature isn’t a good fit, a VAR shouldn’t expect a company to invest in the feature primarily for the sake of saying they have it.

Rest assured this is not advocating for the abolishment of a full-featured UC solution. Rather it is challenging VARs (and vendors) to rethink how UC is sold into businesses. VARs must spend the vast majority of their sales time in discovery mode, examining behaviors and searching for every pain point that a business is struggling to overcome with their current communications system.  Once the pain points and behaviors have been identified, then and only then should the technology be brought in.

For example, let’s focus on a specific businesses behavior. When talking to a business about their pain points, let’s say that two things are discovered. One, the company is spending way too much money on travel. Face-to-face interaction is part of an effort for their salespeople to build more personal relationships with customers, but this effort is proving to be expensive and time-consuming. Two, the company believes that their internal meetings via conference calls are very unproductive; and they believe the reason is that no one is paying attention.  People are on the call, but they are doing other things and not truly engaged on the topic at hand. Both of these issues can be solved with video. Video calling will allow the company’s sales reps to get that much needed face-to-face interaction with their customers – without leaving their desks; and video conferencing can also enhance the engagement levels during those internal company meetings.

In the example above, the VAR has shown a company how to significantly reduce travel costs while continuing to build personal customer relationships.  And, the VAR has helped assure the owner/manager that video conferencing will keep her staff focused on the topics-at-hand and increase the productivity of those internal conference calls.  Now, instead of video being a trendy tool that a company may or may not need, the VAR has used the company’s current pain points to illustrate that this “cool” UC feature can actually save the customer thousands of dollars, and help increase productivity in a very specific way.

UC is changing the way that countless companies are communicating with their customers, employees, and vendors. There is no question of the positive impact it has had on the productivity and connectivity of companies that have already taken advantage of it. The key to continuing to drive the deployment of UC and grow revenue for a VAR is to focus time and energy on discovering business behaviors and revealing pain points to match the UC features that solve that pain…. and then, let the company’s behavior drive the demand for technology.

 

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About the Author

Pete Engler

Pete Engler is the Channel Marketing Manager at Digium. He joined the company in 2008 as the Product Manager for Asterisk hardware products before moving to Marketing. Prior to Digium, he served as a Product Manager in the Enterprise and SMB teams with Avocent Corporation, Applications Engineering at ADTRAN and 10 years in Information Technology as a Desktop and Network Administrator. As Channel Marketing Manager, Pete is responsible for channel marketing and lead gen programs for Digium’s worldwide network of partners, as well as marketing campaigns that continue to drive demand for Digium’s portfolio of telephony products, including Switchvox Unified Communications phone systems and Switchvox Cloud; and products for custom communications projects with open source Asterisk.

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