Making The VoIP Sales Pitch

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Chad Agate, co-founder and CEO of NeoPhonetics, a Digium partner based in Tinley Park, Ill., talks about overcoming sales obstacles to VoIP solutions in general and open-source rollouts in particular:

• DON'T LEAD WITH TOLL BYPASS: The cost-savings thing has been beaten to death and [the savings between VoIP and traditional telephony] is not that significant. We try to point out features customers will gain from moving to VoIP.

• TALK UP PRODUCTIVITY GAINS: We focus more on features and applications, like find-me, follow-me features or unified messaging applications [that integrate] voice mail and e-mail. Most people are coming from traditional telephony, so as soon as you say 'voice mail and e-mail,' they're dazzled. For sales organizations, it means being able to maintain contact with customers.

• PICK A VERTICAL: We've had a lot of strong response from the education market since they began covering VoIP through [the] E-Rate [federal funding program]. We've always been pretty focused on K-12 and higher-education customers. They're best suited for VoIP.

• TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPEN SOURCE: We are 100 percent focused on Digium and the Asterisk open-source platform, along with Polycom for phones. We've had a strong response and are hopefully looking at a double-digit growth rate.

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• SEEING IS BELIEVING: Some customers are half-expecting the [open-source] solution to be lacking, but when we do our demo, they say, 'Holy cow! You just showed me all of the features the others are offering plus things we couldn't [otherwise] afford.'

• NETWORK ASSESSMENT KEY: We've built our own network readiness assessment tool and are making it available on our Web site. It looks at things like what a customer's cabling plan looks like, what switches are in place, are they managed or unmanaged. It's dynamic and, based on their answers, it generates results.

• PLAY CLEANUP: We get calls all the time from customers who had another integrator install VoIP that didn't work right because they didn't go through the basics.

• CAPITALIZE ON MOMENTUM: In many organizations, the decision has already been made that they need to move to VoIP. In the past, there were a lot of questions. Now it seems to be a question of when.