Partners: Strong Provider Relationships Open Doors To Cloud, Managed Services Sales


Cloud and managed services can be tough to sell for solution providers used to providing nothing but connectivity, but forming new partnerships with channel-focused, and culturally similar, MSPs can help.

That's the takeaway from a panel of telecom agent partners during master agent Intelisys' Super9 cloud training event on Tuesday in New Orleans.

For LanYap Networks, a Phoenix-based telecom solution provider, the move to start selling cloud didn't happen overnight. A self-proclaimed "circuit-slinger," the solution provider saw its customers' needs changing and it knew it needed to evolve its portfolio, too, said the company's co-founder Angie Tocco.

[Related: Intelisys And ScanSource: UcaaS Sales Are 'Off The Charts']

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Rather than have a broad portfolio of the industry-leading service providers, LanYap last year decided to focus its new business around "boutique" cloud players. Today, the company partners with Matrix IBS, a Columbia, S.C.-based cloud and managed services provider that does 100 percent of its business through the channel and offers desktop as a service, Infrastructure as a service, and managed IT services.

"The nimbleness and flexibility of a provider like Matrix allows it to morph and change along with us -- they aren't as rigid as some carriers, and that will help us grow," Tocco said.

Telecom and cloud solution provider Infinium Communications was in the same boat as LanYap. Infinium, based in Loomis, Calif., was comfortable with the telecom business they had for years. The company was working with VARs as their connectivity business arm -- a setup that was "gravy" for the first eight years, until SIP trunks started to be replaced by customers moving to cloud-based communications and contact center solutions.

"All of a sudden, my $30,000 in monthly recurring revenue is disappearing … I found that I needed to make the pivot or perish," said Patrick Wefers, president of Infinium.

Because cloud and managed services are brand new to many agent partners, selecting the right provider and building a strong relationship will be key in creating a new business around these offerings because it will remove the burden of problem solving for the agent, said Neely Loring, president of Matrix IBS.

"Partners should be wondering, 'who am I going to call at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning because my customer is having a problem?' It's about asking the tough questions about when things don't go right," he said.

Making the pivot to including cloud and managed services requires learning, and building trust with your cloud service provider partners, Wefers said.

"Get educated, and don't be afraid to bring your cloud partners -- not carriers -- with you to talk to your clients," he said. "We isolated customers from carriers in the past, but we don't need to do that with cloud providers."

Inspire Communications, a Greenville, S.C.-based telecom solution provider that was introduced to cloud selling by master agent Intelisys. The company agreed that the teaming approach -- having the right conversations with clients by having their trusted cloud provider partner accompany them to client meeting -- has been instrumental in helping the agent partner transition from only selling telecom solutions. Today, 50 percent of Inspire's sales are generated from cloud sales, including hosted voice or desktop as a service sales, said Mike Hancock, the company's founder and principle.

Inspire Communications still considers itself a provider-agnostic firm, and it partners with several channel-focused cloud service providers, including Matrix IBS. Having the right relationship in place between not only the solution providers and their provider partners, but also between providers and end customers, Hancock said.

"We talk to clients about the overall scoop of the cloud project and present them with several provider options. We tell them that we've narrowed it down and each provider [presented] is going to quote around the same, but you're going to find that right business for you that you'll want to do business with," Hancock said.

Partners shouldn't look at the relationship between their cloud or managed service providers as a three-year long contract, but rather the first three years of the rest of time, Matrix's Lorning said.

"If we're both doing our jobs, than the customer isn't going away," he said.