Monday, February 18, 2008

Tech Data Adds More VoIP

Tampa-based VoIP Provider, Telovations, partnered with Tech Data.

Telovations Inc. and Tech Data Corporation today announced a strategic partnership designed to extend Telovations’ Managed Voice Services to select Tech Data resellers in 16 U.S. markets. Tech Data will offer its resellers the ability to promote Telovations’ Managed Voice Services to their customer base. [pr]

Telovations follows XO to Tech Data. (XO announced in December that "Tech Data's resellers will now be able to offer XO SIP, a converged voice and data service for businesses with IP-PBX systems delivered over a single, high-speed connection. A bundled solution combining XO SIP service with Cisco Unified Communications solutions will also be available." [inc]

As I mentioned then, I don't see how this helps either firm. Many (most?) of the Tech Data resellers use the API to sell hardware virtually via the web. All sales are drop shipped from a Tech Data warehouse directly to the end user without any reseller intervention.

For one thing, it's one thing for a reseller to ship the PC's, laptops, LAN gear, but it is another to also sell the Voice and Data Network. Way different sales processes and skill sets. Perhaps a few Cisco VAR's would have the competence, but wouldn't they have an agreement with a telecom master agent already?

For another, there is an extensive look at the ability of agents to sell VoIP on Phone+. At issue is the sales skills and technical know-how to do a proper analysis to determine if the small business needs Hosted PBX, SIP Trunks on premise equipment or a hybrid model.

"SMBs are confused as to which flavor of VoIP to go with. In the survey, the companies that have already bought VoIP are evenly split between trunking, hosted solutions and premises-based options. About 60 percent of SMBs with fewer than 50 employees say they don’t know what they want. The remaining 40 percent is evenly split. However, Macario says most large companies that have a holistic portfolio of hosted and on-premises solutions are incapable of leveraging that. "Inevitably, you end up being directed to a sales force that sells only one of those, not all," he explains. "So the pitch for the SMB is on a product, instead of the salesperson sitting down to talk about what the right product would be for the business at hand. They’re very much stuck in sales silos." [phone+]

Final thought: How much margin is in there? The carrier has to make money; the VAR wants a margin; and Tech Data has to make something. Not much different than the Master Agency model, but it would seem to require more management and training. And it will require man-hours in lead management (quoting, collateral generation, coaching and follow-up).

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