PlanetOne CEO To Partners: Your New Game Plan Must Include Cloud


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Master agent PlanetOne Communications will close its year with 22 percent more business than it did in 2016. The reason? More partners are taking the initiative to learn about selling cloud services.

Telecom agent partners for years have focused on selling connectivity and voice solutions, but the partners that are coming up with new game plans are reaping the rewards, Ted Schuman, PlanetOne's founder and CEO said during the master agents' sports-themed, year-end Tech Tour this week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Even the conference intro had a big game feel:

"The opportunities are unlimited for people that put skin in the game, so come up with a plan. If you don't, you run the risk of being benched," Schuman said.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: PlanetOne President Tenders Resignation As Company Closes Out 25th Anniversary]

IP Stack Technologies, a PlanetOne partner in the Tech Tour audience, is an example of one such agent partner that recently retooled its 15-year old business to focus on cloud selling. The realignment also included rebranding, said Suzanne Kennedy, principal of Latham, N.Y.-based IP Stack.

Cloud services have meant more selling opportunities with its end customers because IP Stack does not have to wait for connectivity or voice contracts to come up for renewal, said Dave Cafaro, a principle of IP Stack alongside Kennedy.

"It's a whole other bag of goods for us to sell," Cafaro added. 

PlanetOne CEO: 'There's Never Been A Better Time To Be In The Channel'

Today, cloud accounts for about 15 percent of IP Stack's sales, Kennedy said.

To see success in selling new solutions, partners must be willing to evaluate their own businesses, invest in education, and even consider their branding, PlanetOne's Schuman said.

"It's a long journey, and it will be building the pyramid a brick at a time for many partners," he said. "For the partners that are putting that sweat equity into their own business and learning the new language, it is paying dividends."

Partners don't have to be subject matter experts or even master "the new language" around emerging technologies and cloud services, but they will need to learn the right questions to ask customers, he said. 

Unlike connectivity sales, cloud selling has to start with a conversation about the applications a business is running, IP Stack's Kennedy said.

"Historically, we never asked about that," she said. "Now, those conversations are trickling into conversations around where the applications sit, so it gives you an idea of what [the customers'] roadmap is, and we plug ourselves in where we think we can fit."

PlanetOne is teaching its channel partners, like IP Stack, how to have those business conversations around the cloud.

The worst thing a partner can do is "push product" when it comes to cloud, an offense that the master agent community has been guilty of from its connectivity selling days, Schuman said.

"If you push product with the cloud, you're going to fail miserably," he said. "Talk about solutions and applications, because it's a much bigger picture with more moving parts. Those conversations will help you cast a bigger net."

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