5 Things to Get Smart About in Telecom and Cloud in 2014

Cloud Trends 2014

Headed into 2014, I’ve been asked what the key areas are that people need to get smarter about to be successful selling Cloud in the new year. Even after several years of buzz and progress, there remains a tremendous amount of confusion around Cloud. Trusted advisors who understand how to apply Cloud technologies to solve real business problems are at a true premium. Those who invest in getting smarter about Cloud are going to be the big winners next year. But with so much noise around all things Cloud, where is the right place to start?  What technologies should you explore more deeply now to set yourself up for big success in 2014?  

Here are my top 5.

#1:  Desktop as a Service (DaaS)

I recently posed the question, “Is DaaS the next hosted VoIP?” There are certainly compelling parallels between the adoption of these technologies.  Hosted VoIP (voice-over IP) was a big idea with lots of promise for a long time before it went mainstream. When that happened, the pricing was all over the board. The delivery and customer experience was inconsistent. The total cost of ownership argument was unpredictable. Since then, though, those issues have worked themselves out, and hosted VoIP has won its following. Companies of all sizes are adopting it as their go-to telephony and UC (unified communications) solution.  

DaaS is on the same path but perhaps at an even more accelerated pace.  Just this year, we’ve seen a big shift from lots of quotes to lots of closes.  The lookers are now buyers as they recognize the enormous business problems that DaaS can solve.  Pricing has stabilized, and a growing list of providers are delivering excellent customer experiences, including Evolve IP, Matrix, RapidScale, and Navisite—to name a few. I’m convinced that 2014 will mark the year DaaS will go mainstream. Those who get smart on DaaS will stand to reap big financial rewards.

#2:  Cloud-Enabled Colo

More and more customers are recognizing that it makes more sense to park their infrastructure in someone else’s closet instead of their own.  Cloud is becoming a popular destination for that infrastructure but rarely is it a pure play Cloud solution. In fact, the demand for colocation is on the rise, and customers are now seeking colo solutions that can serve as a bridge into their overall Cloud strategy.  It’s not just space and power that matter, but locating data centers that are easily connected with Cloud assets:  big pipes, scalable bandwidth on demand, and low-latency peering with public and private Cloud providers. Server Central, Savvis and Internap are at the forefront of this conversation. Cloud-enabled colo will repeatedly ring the cash register for forward-thinking sales partners in 2014.

#3:  Cloud Contact Centers

You may have heard me say in the past that contact centers simply belong in the Cloud.  I still believe that, and, in fact, nearly every contact center developer and manufacturer has embraced that thinking. The good news is that most contact centers haven’t made the move yet, and many will be evaluating the Cloud as an alternate destination in the coming year.  

The other exciting trend is the number of companies embracing Cloud contact center solutions that, previously, never actually managed a traditional call center environment.  Companies are learning that driving analytics and intelligence to their sales and customer support people can drive big efficiencies and bigger revenue.  There is gold to be mined in every customer touch, and Cloud contact center solutions are a fantastic way to do just that. We’re winning big, complex deals on the high-end with the likes of inContact and LiveOps. Suppliers like iCore and Evolve IP are grabbing attention with really disruptive pricing.

Learn to have the conversation: it could be a game changer for you in 2014.

#4:  Video as a Service (VaaS)

I’m convinced this will finally be the year when VaaS breaks out. The value of video conferencing can’t be argued, and with the explosion in mobility, video adoption is finally accelerating.  Web RTC will throw gas on that fire, and Cloud is making video accessible to the masses. I love the innovative solutions that Simple Signal and Arkadin are doing in this exciting space.

At Intelisys, we’re embracing VaaS for our own use, and it’s changing the way we communicate. With a distributed workforce, there is no better way for a team to stay connected.  Strategy is clearer, decisions are better, and your competitive edge is sharper.  If you want to win more VaaS deals, use it yourself.  Use it in your offices, with your remote employees, on your tablet, on your smart phone, and with your customers.  It will change your business and will drive more revenue through the front door.

#5:  Selling is Dead: The Evolution of Solution Selling

I read a book this year called The Challenger Sale – Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.  It’s the best book I’ve read recently on the subject of solution selling. The bottom line is this: Cloud demands a different sales approach. Customers are swimming in a sea of confusion and desperately need help navigating those waters. The conversation starts and finishes in the C-level suite, and it requires expert and provocative thinking that challenges the traditional IT point of view. Selling professionals who want to crush their cloud numbers in 2014 will need to work on their solution-selling craft more than ever. It is exactly where the battle will be fought and won.

There you have it: my top 5 picks of where you should get smart in 2014. Seventy-five percent of our Cloud wins in 2013 came from those who invested time in attending our Cloud Services University workshops. Get smart on Cloud; win big Cloud deals. We’re here to help.

Good selling.  

 

Andrew Pryfogle

SVP, Cloud Services & Complex Bids


Differentiating Yourself as a Sales Agent

As a telecom sales professional, you know that you can’t win an opportunity based on low prices and a long list of features. Your goal is not to become the bargain bin of the telecom world. You chose the products and services you represent because you believe in their value. But how do you convince your prospects that your products really are the best?

The answer lies in differentiation. In order for your client to believe that your services would really address their problems you have to be able to answer two questions:
1.What makes your product better than the competition?
2.What makes YOU better than other telecom sales agents?

Product Differentiation
After your initial consultation with a client, you understand their telecom goals, limitations, and expectations. Although you know the ins and outs of your product as well as the competing products, your client doesn’t. He or she is relying on you (or another agent) for advice.

First, consider your competitors. When bidding on an opportunity, when do you feel you have the competitive advantage? Alternatively, when do you dread going up against your competitors? This will help you clarify your product’s strengths and weaknesses and highlight them accordingly.

Next, to show that you are a true advocate of your product or service, you must use them yourself – or at least have access to demo equipment and accounts. Let the client know that you use your own products and services and what YOU like best about your product? How have these products helped you save time, increase efficiency, or improve processes? 

Take this a step further and ask your current clients how the solutions you have recommended in the past have positively influenced their businesses. Have they improved customer relations because the phone solution you recommended resulted in less dropped calls? Has employee satisfaction risen because you sold the company a solution that allows more mobility? When you get a customer quote, try to get the specific solution-and-effect details.

Sales Agent Differentiation
If you were in the client’s shoes, why would you choose to work with you? In addition to finding value in your product, the client has to find something enjoyable about working with you. The attributes that a client needs in a sales agent are the same attributes you would want in any business relationship:
•Reliability
•Foresight
•Likeability

As you will find on most business’s web sites or brochures, anyone can SAY they are the best. But you need to SHOW that you are the best. Show you are reliable by making yourself easily accessible. Don’t let as many client calls go to voicemail. Respond a little more thoroughly in emails. Show foresight by informing your client how a solution will affect them one year from now and five years from now. And finally, just be easy to get along with. Make jokes. Share stories. If you want to have a long term client relationship, try to make it enjoyable for the both of you. 

In a highly competitive field, it can be difficult to stand out. What are your sales strengths and how do you illustrate those to new clients?

7 Tools for Successful Selling for the Telecom Agent

telecom tool cart
No matter what your art form is, there are always tools to assist you. Even the most experienced artists use tools to create their masterpieces. Auguste Rodin, creator of “The Thinker”, had clay, casts, marble and bronze while Leonardo da Vinci had oil paints and wood pallets. These tools allowed them to create some of the most well know art works in history. 

As a Telecom Agent, perfecting the art of successful selling is a constant journey. Here are 7 tools to help you create a sales masterpiece:

1.  Got attitude? This is the single most important factor to getting the sale! No one wants to do business with someone who has a bad attitude; they are discouraging, unwelcoming and typically unsuccessful. With a positive attitude you encourage a sale, are hopeful of a sale and create opportunity for you to get the sale. 

2.  Be Confident. Be convinced of yourself and your product. If you are confident and believe in yourself and your product your customers will too. With confidence you are creating an impression that influences your customer experience.  If you want to seem smarter, trustworthy, and credible then be confident that you are!

3.  Set goals. A good sales individual has vision and doesn’t just think about today or tomorrow, but years ahead. They see the BIG picture. Understand that a sale is never ending; it is constantly evolving along with the relationship with your customer.

4.  Know your audience. Make sure you do your homework. Know your customers pain points, needs, and industry in advance. Be knowledgeable enough to point out challenges and problem areas and then suggest solutions. 

5.  Ask questions. By asking questions you are showing interest in your customer’s success. You are also giving yourself an opportunity to listen for keys to developing a relationship with a customer. Make sure your questions are open ended and solicit detailed responses. The most important question to ask? Ask for the sale!

6.  Be prepared, clear & flexible. Have a planned agenda, presentation and flow for how you would like your meeting to go, specific to each customer. Make this clear to your customer, the biggest frustration for a customer is confusion. Once you have this established, practice. Be prepared to shift focus based on the feedback received. 

7.  Follow-up. Stay in constant communication with your customer. Follow-up is key to getting the sale. Send a thank you note, make a call, email or send a singing telegram. Follow-up will assist you in keeping your finger on the pulse of the sale until the deal is done. 

Selling is an art! It takes skill to create an opportunity, but tools like attitude, confidence, goals, questions, and follow-up to successfully sell. Work on perfecting your art form with these tools and be a world known Telecom Agent! 

What tools have helped make sell successfully? Anything we missed? Please share your comments below. 

Telecom Agents: Learning from Lost Sales

As full-time telecom sales agents, you are constantly trying to replicate success. You take note of what works well and you develop a sales process. Whether that is a formal, written process for your organization or just your own personal ritual, you repeat proven tactics and techniques. But what about your process for lost sales? 

You are well advised, in any task, to learn from our failures – but how do you learn from lost sales? By developing a quick Lost Sales Process, you can analyze your losses and correct any destructive patterns you find.

Vent and Disengage

No matter the situation, it is difficult not to take rejection personally. This is why you’re allowed five minutes, and only five minutes, to vent, wallow, or pout. Once those five minutes have passed, move on. Distract yourself with an activity where you can burn off some of that frustration. Go for a walk, do a set of jumping jacks, run up and down the stairs, play with the kids – it doesn’t matter. Try to gain a sense of clarity in order to move on to the next step so you can reflect on the lost opportunity more objectively.

Personal Evaluation

It is always helpful to find someone willing to offer an outside perspective to help you find missteps you might not have noticed. We’ll get to that. Before you are influenced by any outside remarks, it is time for a personal evaluation.

Take a moment to ask yourself a few quick questions:

-What went well in the prospecting process?

-What was the point where you believe you lost the sale? Did the loss come as a surprise to you?

-What did the winning competitor do differently?

Client Evaluation

After you’ve reflected on your own view of the lost sale, reach out to the client to get a little feedback. 

Be prepared for generic answers from clients; Studies show that only about 40% of prospects and clients are completely honest when answering why they turned down a solution. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news – so to make the situation less confrontational and more analytical, consider creating an online survey or having an assistant or marketing representative make the follow up call. Try to include a couple of simple but open ended questions like:

  • What needs did you feel were not met by the proposed solution?
  • What did you like about our services? What didn’t you like?

Peer Evaluation

After you receive feedback from your client, have a short brainstorming session with the team of people who helped you with your presentation and proposal. Share the client’s feed back with them, ask what they felt worked, and find out if they saw something you might not have. 

Record in CRM

Wrap up your process by updating your CRM. Your best bet is to add a field for “Reason for Opportunity Lost” with a drop down menu and a separate section for notes. Suggested menu options are:

  • Wrong Decision Maker
  • Unqualified Lead
  • Wrong Pain Points Addressed
  • Too Much Contact
  • Not Enough Contact
  • Pricing

Schedule yourself to run a report every six months based on “Reason for Opportunity Lost.” This way, you can catch the most common reasons your team loses opportunities and work to correct them.

Don’t let all of the work you put into prospecting and proposals go to waste. Developing a Lost Sales Process can ensure that a lost opportunity does not equal a lost lesson.

What are some of your experiences with lost sales? How did they help you with future sales?

 

 

The Art of the Cold Call

Until we perfect lead generation or can afford to hire the marketing team behind Apple, cold calling will always be a part of the job of an Independent Telecom Agent. Here are a few of ideas to make your calls go a little smoother.

Do your research!
It surprises me how many sales calls I get at work for services I sell myself. This may seem like a rookie mistake, but a couple minutes of research can go a long way for anyone. With a quick Google or LinkedIn search, you can typically find all you need to know about a company. By learning out what they sell, how many employees or locations they have, and what kind of press releases they have posted, you can typically determine whether they are really in your target market before you pick up the phone.

Make friends, not sales
The most successful sales people I have met all have one thing in common – they’re personable. Most of them can make anyone laugh within the first couple minutes of meeting them. It makes sense – people want to work with people they like. Be confident and conversational, not pushy and rushed. New to the independent sales world and think that strength in sales can’t be taught? Think again. Join a group like Toastmasters or find a mentor who has a strong sales record.

Keep track of calls and conversations
What’s even worse than failing to research a prospect? Finding out that you have already given your introductory speech to the person on the other end of the line. There are several free CRM tools out there to keep notes on which companies you have called, to whom you spoke, when the best time to call back is, etc. Use them.

Making cold calls takes a little bravery and a lot of resilience. Making successful cold calls takes a little wit and a lot of preparation. What has led you to be successful on cold calls? Any horror stories?


Making the Right First Impression: 3 Tips for Creating a Telecom Website That Sells

I recently read an article on how to make a bad first impression. With only seven seconds to make a first impression, the pressure to immediately impress is imperative. Don’t miss out on an opportunity with a bad handshake, black eye, or tardiness.

Your website is often the first impression you give prospects; don’t let it be the black eye of your business. Your expert technology knowledge and customer service skills are a great foundation, but your marketing efforts need to compliment your business model to capture and pique interest in your business offerings. This means it needs to not only engage the viewer, but also inform and call them to action.

Start small; ask yourself these three questions to begin building a Telecom website that sells:

Who is your audience?

What characteristics best describe your ideal customer? Cherry pick a few of your current customers and identify what makes them a good fit for your business. From here you can begin to build the profile for potential customers. This will also help create the voice that your website will be written in. For example, are your customers primarily IT executives? If so, you will want to appeal to them with more in-depth information on your processes and service offerings.

What is your message?

As a telecom agent, you have the opportunity to build a website that is unique to your business and one that stands out from your competitors. Identify what telecom products, platforms or services distinguish you from others. Be sure to also talk about the benefits of partnering with you, the agent, not just the features you offer.  Do you consider yourself a vendor, partner or consultant? When creating your website you want to clearly communicate this to your viewers.

Is your core competency telecom or design?

All good websites start with good design. If you want an eye catching website and your core competency is telecom, not design, enlist the services of a professional web designer for the best result. Your ideal designer with have familiarity in your field and a track record of success.

The right website can make or break others’ first impression of you and your business. Position yourself and your business in exactly the image you wish to communicate by accurately identifying your audience, messaging and selecting the right web designer to take your website to the next level.

Have a success story on what makes your website sell? Did we miss any tips for creating a telecom website? Share your comments below.