Intermedia: Giving Away Phones And Exploding UCaaS Myths

Intermedia is getting aggressive about pushing its Unified Communications-as-a-Service offerings through the channel, and it boldly underlined the point Monday by announcing the company would give phones away for free to partners through the end of September.

During a presentation at The Channel Company's XChange 2017 conference in Orlando, Fla., Intermedia Chief Revenue Officer Eric Martorano and Vice President of Cloud Solutions Mark Sher made the case that selling VoIP can be uncomplicated and profitable for the channel, highlighting several of the services the Mountain View, Calif.-based cloud IT applications firm offers to make it so.

But the company figured it would be even easier for partners if they got phones for free. "At some point, you're going to be in front of a customer asking for a sale. We want to make sure that's easy for you too. We're going to throw the phones in for free," Sher said. "We want to make it easier for you to get the 'yes' from the customer."

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The offer extends through the end of September and includes Intermedia Yealink T46G and Polycom VVX440 phones.

The giveaway comes as Intermedia deepens its commitment to the channel. When Martorano was hired about a year ago, the company did approximately 70 percent of its business through partners. Now, that total is already over 80 percent. Intermedia's voice business is a big part of that push, and makes up about 30 percent of the company's revenue, Martorano said.

Still, the company faces challenges to growing its voice business through the channel, particularly in the persistence of myths that Intermedia is working to overcome, Sher said.

Those myths include:

• The cloud voice business is complex and difficult to break into.

• Selling voice is difficult and support is limited.

• Installation is complex.

• Support eats up all your profits.

• Cloud voice quality and reliability are lacking.

• Partners can't add value to someone else's service.

• Partners can't own the customer relationship.

Intermedia challenges those myths with online sales training, an automated marketing platform, materials that can be branded in the partner's name, online quoting and "concierge" sales service, Sher said.

Intermedia also offers "no downtime" cutover, free on-boarding support, plug-and-play phones, low labor costs and proactive network testing.

And as far as support is concerned, Intermedia handles everything down to taxation, Sher said.

Sher also tackled the quality and reliability question, saying Intermedia carries a 99.999 percent service level agreement, a redundant network architecture and its VoIP Scout network testing and automatic failover service.

And partners can almost immediately realize value with Intermedia's voice solutions, Sher said, especially around services like phone configuration, network testing, and bundling voice with other services they already sell.

"It's a white-label service," Sher said. "You do the bill, the support. You're in 100 percent with support. We need to earn your business on every phone call every day, week and month. There are no contracts. We have to do a good job. We don't do a good job? You're free to go and find someone else who will."

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The company is also rolling out a slate of incentives for partners that gain traction with Intermedia's voice offerings.

Partners that do $1,000 in monthly recurring revenue can have designated tele-sales and field sales, and can get more than 100 customer prospects per quarter locally. They also get biannual Intermedia updates and eligibility for up to $1,000 in MDF, as well as biannual Intermedia product roadmaps. Partners that do $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue can get up to $10,000 in MDF, over 1,000 customer prospects per quarter and white-glove automated marketing and support. Those partners also get priority call queuing and sales engineering, Martorano said. "We're trying to find ways as you're investing more, to invest more in you. As you commit more to the partnership, we're going to commit more to you."

Rob Schenk, partner at San Francisco-based solution provider Intivix, said Intivix is considering going deeper into VoIP, and Intermedia's push is intriguing. "It hasn't been a real focus for us at this point, but it sounds like they're making a big push." Schenk said some VoIP deals could stand to be simplified. "For some of the clients we deal with on voice implementations, we're dealing with specific verticals, and line-of-business application vendors are coming in and integrating their line-of-business application with a voice system and tying them together. That is complicated."