Guest Column | May 25, 2009

The Basics Of Building A Unified Communications Business


Written by: Reyna Thompson, VP of product management for SYNNEX's Integrated Communications Group

The total worldwide gross revenue for unified communications (UC) is expected to grow from $9.52 billion in 2007 to $15.9 billion by 2012, a compounded annual growth rate of 51.5%. The portion of growth rate for UC solutions is expected to grow from $200.8 million in 2007 to $2.433 billion by 2012. Professional services will increase product revenues from 18% in 2007 to an estimated 40% by 2012. Clearly, this growth presents tremendous opportunity for resellers. However, the technical aspects of this burgeoning market also create challenges and obstacles that may be daunting for under-equipped or ill-prepared solution providers. Success requires planning, partnership, and commitment.

For resellers, developing a successful unified communications sales strategy begins with understanding their own business goals and then building a clear path to achieve those goals. The first step is building a solid relationship with a distributor that not only understands the value of such a partnership, but also demonstrates an ability to engage and assist, beyond merely delivering product. A responsible distribution partner must be able to provide services and support that help a reseller navigate the unique complexities of selling UC solutions that truly meet each customer’s specific needs. Once this relationship is established, the necessary business details — terms of agreement and payment, budget, etc. — can be worked out. Beyond this point, the reseller and distributor can begin crafting both short- and long-term UC strategies.

The next step involves the discovery and planning process to establish strategic goals and objectives for the reseller, based on that VAR’s inherent capabilities and budget. As part of that, the distribution partner must be able to aid the reseller’s sales efforts, not just push products. Distributor support can mean providing financing, filling in gaps in technical capabilities, or providing market penetration and lead-generation. Both sides must work together to set expectations, develop an effective sales and marketing mix, and agree on long-term goals that lead to success, yet remain flexible enough to permit adjustment as conditions develop.

Once the reseller and distributor partner have worked out the responsibilities of each party and the objectives they wish to attain, a go-to-market strategy is the next phase of a comprehensive UC sales strategy. Resellers new to the market can typically rely on data from the distributor to identify key markets, verticals, and the most viable opportunities for rapid growth. Established UC resellers will already have an existing customer set and knowledge of the market, but they may still leverage a distribution partner’s larger customer database to greatly expand their reach. A strong go-to-market strategy involves penetrating the channel through education of sales reps and customers, participation in multivendor programs and outreach, and ongoing development of marketing and communications plans. Sales incentives for adoption and growth of UC technology among reps and customers are vital as well.

Once the sales effort is underway, there must be an ongoing measurement of results, compared to the goals and objectives established at the outset. A proper plan details a schedule of vendor expectations and activity launch dates that should demonstrate sales results. Business metrics — sales reports, rates of growth, customer head-count, etc.— are measured against the projected goals to show both resellers and distributors what is working and, more importantly, what is not. This permits the reseller to adjust its strategy to focus on the points of success and abandon (or modify) dead-end efforts.

Finally, it is incumbent on a reseller to set the stage for long-term growth, beyond meeting goals and expectations. Resellers can proactively adjust short-term strategies, set progressive sales milestones, and continue to grow their internal capabilities, supplemented by the distributor’s offering. In turn, it is incumbent on the distributor to regularly update their services and support offerings, maintain a viable channel presence, and continue to identify complementary UC vendors that bring additional value to the reseller’s solutions.

The market for UC is growing rapidly, and because it represents an evolutionary leap in the way the world communicates, its potential is enormous. However, there are major impediments to breaking into this market, due to the technical complexity of available solutions and the knowledge gap that exists among potential customers that may be resistant to adoption. The good news is that the business principles and strategies for unified communications remain largely the same as with other technology segments. If a reseller can partner with a knowledgeable, engaged distributor, sales success in this market becomes much less of an obstacle and much more of an opportunity.

About The Author
Reyna Thompson is the VP of product management for SYNNEX’s Integrated Communications Group. With a team of dedicated technical sales and support professionals, SYNNEX Integrated Communications delivers complete data, voice, and network security solutions, providing a focused line card of high technology vendors, partner enablement tools technical certification and partner business planning, and a preferred partner program to drive diversification.