In recent conversations with vendors selling telephony and unified communications solutions, I get asked the same question over and over – can you recommend a great channel partner for our SMB products?  The struggle stems from the benefits and new features available with VoIP and unified communications. Selling, installing and supporting IP-based phone systems require new skill sets that few traditional telephony resellers currently have.  Data solution providers with experience in network and server support  possess the technical ability but lack the sales experience and knowledge in telephony.

Here is a great example, just last week I received a phone call from one of our telephony partners installing a IP PBX at a customer site.  After 20 minutes of troubleshooting with the reseller, we realized that the technician had little to no knowledge of servers or hardware – we identified the problem as a faulty motherboard and had our vendor ship a new one overnight to the customer site.  The technician then damaged the motherboard when installing the CPU chip causing a larger problem.  We located another partner, a data solution provider that arrived onsite and resolved the issue in a matter of minutes. I think this summarizes the current state of the channel for voice and unified communications in the SMB market – telephony resellers will generate faster sales but data solution providers can deliver the support needed to keep customers happy. 

So who should vendors partner with, data solution providers or telephony resellers?  Both.

VoIP is a fast-growing industry that is currently underserved in the SMB market.  There is an excellent opportunity for solution providers to secure first-mover advantage in many local and regional markets.  If you are a data solution provider,  it is worth the investment to train your sales team on voice and unified communications – consider hiring a sales representative with telephony experience that can share their knowledge with other members of your team.  For telephony resellers, take the time to train your sales team on solution-selling and partner with a data solution provider that can fulfill your needs for network support.

Resellers that focus on solution selling, offer network support, and have a working knowledge of voice/unified communications will have vendors knocking at their door with marketing dollars ready to spend.  Trust me, they are already asking.