Intermedia Exec Talks VoIP Opportunity: We're Breaking Down Barriers And 'Overwhelming' Partners With Support

Every business needs a voice offering, and solution providers that aren't offering VoIP to their customers today are leaving money on the table.

That's what Mark Sher, vice president of product and marketing for cloud voice at Intermedia, wants solution providers to realize -- and he wants them to know the cloud IT service provider is working to remove the perceived barriers of entry into voice and Unified Communications as a Service.

"I've been thinking about what's stopping partners from selling voice, and they must have bad information. They must be believing something that used to be true but that isn't true anymore," Sher told CRN.

[Related: Intermedia: Giving Away Phones And Exploding UCaaS Myths]

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Specific to its voice business, Intermedia isn't like the "born-in-the-cloud" companies of today. Its voice solutions have evolved from switching services ad applications for traditional telecom providers to cloud-based VoIP offerings after the 2013 acquisition of AccessLine Communications, a cloud-based voice service provider. Today, the Mountain View, Calif.-based provider believes there are a slew of solution providers not taking advantage of the voice opportunity. By "overwhelming" partners with support and removing the fear of the unknown, Intermedia is looking to turn this trend around, Sher said.

Crowne Hill Consulting Group, Inc., a Temecula, Calif.-based solution provider, had been making its money from maintaining networks and Exchange servers. Geroge Ortiz, president of Crowne Hill, said the company only "begrudgingly" began selling voice when he saw the convergence happening between the IT and cloud services the company was offering and VoIP.

"I saw companies choosing cloud services and realized there was no point in fighting it, but VoIP was still something that I had no idea how to set up," Ortiz said.

Ortiz began working with Intermedia after the company acquired AccessLine and began closing smaller deals with existing Crowne Hill customers. After seeing early success with these customers, the solution provider last year "dove into the deep end" and closed a successful deal with a larger customer that was relying on Crowne Hill for other IT and cloud services.

Intermedia partners don't have to go it alone, said Sher. The vendor is helping solution providers get sales leads, and that assistance, he said, is what is resonating the most with partners that have been on the fence about selling VoIP and growing their business.

"I'm not talking [to partners] about features like call queuing and auto-attendant. I'm talking about our automated marketing platform that lets partners kick off marketing campaigns to their existing or new clients," he said.

Today, Crowne Hill only partners with Intermedia for voice solutions. That's because the provider has made it easy for partners that start off without any telecom experience to sell voice, Ortiz said.

"It doesn't really take a lot of effort – it's listening to what the customer has to say and if you can save them money on their voice services, they are going to listen," Crowne Hill's Ortiz said. "I think it’s a great opportunity and I'm trying to take advantage as much as I can, and Intermedia has made that road easier."

Intermedia lets its partner base go to market with their service in whichever way they prefer. The traditional telecom agent that doesn't want to bill end customers can take advantage of Intermedia's Advisor model, which includes Intermedia's branded services for end customers, an up-front commission, and then recurring revenue for the length of the customer's contract.

MSPs, on the other hand, can "own" the customer relationship with a white-labeled version of the Intermedia service, while Intermedia handles the telecom taxes on behalf of the partner. These partners can wrap their own services around the Intermedia solution, just as Crowne Hill has done, Sher said.

Partners also can take advantage of Intermedia's network testing tools, such as a VoIP Scout, which lets partners scan the service running over the network for any latency or jitter.

"It's changing the whole conversation around voice," Sher said. "It's letting partners educate and look out for their end customer."