Channel Partner News is in the business of educating business owners and IT departments about the different ICT (information & communications technology) managed services available in the marketplace and comparing the various ICT solution providers who offer the ICT managed services that business customers are considering and/or actively shopping for.
ICT vendors who are confident in their competitive advantage in the marketplace AND who specifically identify their direct competitors in specific solution categories are going to outsell ICT vendors who fail to directly name their competitors in marketing communications.
I've been telling vendors they need to do this for years but most ICT marketing professionals are either too shy or too insecure to actually "name names". Well I finally found an example of an ICT marketing professional, Chris Heggem of VMware, who's neither shy nor insecure when it comes to directly comparing his firm's solutions to his firm's direct competitors and that's why Chris is the recipient of Channel Partner News' very first "Lighthouse Tech Award" for "Demand Generation Marketing".
Why Identify Your Competitor's Name? Because your prospects don't know your firm's name...
When your prospective customers are searching for a solution you offer they aren't Googling you company's name. The search phrase they're generally Googling is the name of your biggest competitor, the name of your solution category and possibly a "differentiator keyword" or two
To provide an example of how this works, let me explain how I discovered Chris Heggem in the first place. This past week I was involved in a multi-vendor integration project cut-over conference call that included an appliance from a company named F5. Suffice it to say the cut-over did not complete during the course of the 90-minute conference call and all the call attendees went back to the drawing board to try to re-work the integration steps so it might succeed on the next attempt.
Since I'm not an IP engineer so much as a "hunter and gatherer" of IP solutions, I decided to start Googling F5 to see what the interwebs thought of F5's solution sets and which F5 competitors might have a solution that was getting better reviews. In just a couple minutes of searching I discovered that F5 has a history of providing hardware-centric solutions and is attempting to transform itself into a software-centric solution provider like all F5's competitors who were taking business from F5.
When I Googled "F5 Hardware to Software Migration" I found the following on the web:
The only reason I discovered that Avi Networks competes with F5 is that Chris and his demand generation marketing associates anticipated that I would be searching for alternatives to F5 and wrote internet marketing pieces that had in their titles the actual words that I was putting into my Google searches.
In under 30-minutes I quickly discovered that F5 has recently acquired NGINX to provide the software solution the F5 hardware solution needed and that VMware had recently acquired Avi Networks. By the time I completed 60-minutes of research I could hold my own in any IP conversations about how "legacy harware based load balancing" solutions have evolved into "software based, multi-cloud application delivery network" solutions and how F5/NGINX is in a pitched marketplace battle with VMware/AviNetworks contesting every opportunity to upgrade F5's old harware customers.
Did Chris Get in Trouble for Beating on F5 & NGINX in Every Other MarCom Piece He Wrote? Uh, no...
I'm sure there are a lot of reasons VMware aquired Avi Networks but somewhere in the mix had to be the fact that Avi Networks is seen on the interwebs as being equal to or better than F5 - and I'm pretty sure the interwebs would never have noticed Avi Networks had Chris and his demand generation team decided against comparing themselves directly to F5 and NGINX over, and over, and over again ...
Has VMware Asked Chris to Show More Restraint? Apparently not...
We salute Mr. Heggem, his team and whomever inspired them to pick up the "sales engineering bat" and consistently hit single after single through the legs of their employer's biggest competitors.
So should you "name names" and directly compare your company to your competitors? Don't ask me, ask Goldilocks...
Powernet, a carrier MSP (managed services provider) that leads with heavy engineering support, through its independent security consultant partners, is offering complimentary security vulnerability scans for up to 50 IPs until 11/30/19 using the highly rated Tenable.io platform.
See the following video for an overview of how the Tenable.io solution is used by Powernet security consultants to identify, investigate, prioritize & eliminate security vulnerabilities from the cloud.
If you're not offering complimentary high-end vulnerability scans to all your existing clients and prospects over the next 30 days, someone else will be (me and every other Powernet security consultant).
View the following video to learn more about how Powernet (a women owned business) independent consultants apply engineering heavy managed services to solve client challenges.
Following are the main highlights from a recent webinar showcasing Powernet's security vulnerability program (click to view slide deck) to current and prospective Powernet independent security consultants. A YouTube video of the webinar appears at the very end.Read more
ChannelPartner.News is creating a "Lighthouse Tech Sales Club (LTSC)" for both experienced and new channel partners interested in being one of the first professionals to sell new ICT (information & communications technology) solutions to "early adopter" business customers just as the new ICT solutions are coming into the marketplace.
The "Lighthouse" term comes from the 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations where author Everett M. Rogers first used the term "early adopter" and awarded the moniker "lighthouse customer" to those businesses that seek out and incorporate new technologies ahead of their competitors to maintain and grow marketplace advantages.
Channel partners who join LTSC will be invited to engage in a fun monthly sales competition of a new service, learn first hand from customers whether the service has a future and, most importantly, be able to promote their sales expertise in new tech solutions.
Active participation in LTSC will take about 5 hours per month; one hour for a conference call/training presentation from the technology provider we've selected to try to sell that month, three hours or so trying to sell the new technology service to business prospects and then one final hour on a contest wrap conference call sharing feedback and learning from the experiences of the other partners in the club about their experiences that month.
The "Lighthouse Tech Award" you see to the left will given to partners, vendors and customers who actively engage in the LTSC program for the purpose of "road testing" new technology solutions for the purpose of maximizing their benefits for the wider marketplace.
If you're interested in joining LTSC as a partner, vendor or business end-user, please email Dan Baldwin at Dan@ICTLA.com with "I'd Like to Join LTSC" in the email subject line.
New information and updates about this program will be published at www.LighthouseAward.com.
Channel partners looking for a new cutting edge but turnkey solution to sell in 2020 need to look no further than public sector fleet management.
Click the video below to learn how IoT & fleet management value added reseller Vehicle Tracking Solution (VTS) choose Kore Wireless over other IoT providers to power VTS' "Silent Passenger(r)" solution which helped Woodbridge Township, a New Jersey city of 100,000 residents save $4 million dollars per year in their waste and recycling division.
To learn more about how VTS approaches city governments, watch their "Top Telematics Trends of 2019 in the Public Sector" video below which succinctly describes what cities are looking for in fleet management solutions.
Industry Top Partners Trek to Monterey to See what ScanSource Intelisys is Mapping Out for 2020
Few will argue that the ICT (information & communications technology) managed services industry has quite a few "master agency" distributors ... and then there's "Intelisys" - the 800 pound guerilla of the space that A) through luck or genious became B) the largest master agency in the network services industry that C) all other master agencies are measured against, and D) got acquired by ScanSource several years ago because ScanSource thought, "Hey, we've got a zillion technology equipment distributors who are experiencing declining margins ... we should synergize them up with these Intelisys network service sales savants that seem to be able to generate cash from thin air..." (or something like that).
Anyway, I'm at the 2019 annual "Intelisys Channel Connect" event that historically has been where the biggest & most successful network & managed services sales partners and their vendors get together to review the best practices that worked over the past year, autopsy that which didn't work and to plan out tactics & strategies to help their multi-location business clients solve next year's growth challenges with a heavy dose of new cloud technologies.
The big difference over previous years when Intelisys was independent (and somewhat rogue) is that now Intelisys is "owned" by ScanSource (a public company - and all that comes with that) and their most recent "front man with the hat" Andrew Pryfogle has been replaced by people who seem like they start every work day having breakfast with lawyers (not that there's anything wrong with that!)
So What's Mike Baur's Vision?
So having ScanSource CEO Mike Baur open the show instead of Andrew is a fine idea because the Intelisys sales partners in the audience are "owners" of their businesses and Mike Baur is most likely at least a minor owner of ScanSource. (Andrew was an awesome speaker but I don't believe he was an Intelisys owner - which is not a bad thing but business owners like to take advice from other business owners).
So I was very eager to hear what Mike had to say to me, an ICT consulting business owner about what ScanSource is doing to help me grow my business in 2020 and beyond.
Click the following video to hear Mike tell you what he told me and the other 1000+ people in the room. (The video starts about a minute after he was introduced)
I gotta admit I really liked what he had to say because, maybe it was just me, but he seemed to admit what a lot of us network services consultants have suspected for over 10 years (since we met out first equipment VAR and telco interconnect before the VARs) is that you can "hope all you want" but sometimes network service people and equipment people simply don't mix all that well becasue they see each other as competitors and taking care of mutual business customers as a zero sum game.
But that doesn't really matter because ScanSource now owns the largest network services master agency on the planet and so they've got to fight like hell to ensure that the deal doesn't end up looking like a huge mistake. (Desperation to avoid catastrophe tends to sharpen one's focus.)
Other master agencies are thinking really hard and investing scarce dollars to catch up with Intelisys. ScanSource however seems to have unlimited resources (As Mike Baur says in the video, "we've invested 100 million dollars in acquisitions") and they appear very focused on making sure their $100 million dollar bet doesn't go south.
I don't know if it's going to work out as well as they initially hoped, but I'm certainly happy to engage with ScanSource Intelisys now as they appear to have "doubled down" to do what's needed to guarantee success.
If you watch the whole Mike Baur video though, Mike reveals his post acquisition opinion of the ScanSource Intelisys purchase at 19:25 in the video when he states, "We're not sure partnering has worked real well either (between hardware VARs and circuit partners because the hardware VARs with the leads want too high a split of the commission for network service leads from network service partners when network service partners do all the work).
(Personally, I don't think "equipment first" VARs are going to survive the long run unless they start leading with network services and managed equipment first using a Chartec/HaaS-like model. Network "as-a-service" providers will win out over equipment providers in the not too distant future so ScanSource's acquisition of Intelisis will in retrospect look like a genious move because they were able to reposition themselves as the biggest network services distributor in the market ... that also sells alot of equipment.)
The most revealing "tell" of the video though is at 19:50 when Mike says, "We want to be wherever the customer is..." You can interpret that however you want but the way I interpret it is that any network service sales partner is in a great position so long as the customer sees the partner as providing value to a managed services solution. If, however, business technology customers follow an "Amazon-like model" where the acquisition of any business technolgy solution is expected to be executed in as frictionless an environment as possible, partners who are not engaging master agents to distribute solutions in a "software/click to buy" method (think intY or AppSmart) are going to be sidestepped (by both their customers and their vendors) in favor of solution providers that offer their clients a "direct connect" that enables a "click to buy" experience on some level.
(In my humble opinion though, ScanSource Intelisys & all other master agencies should feel ill-at-ease unless they adapt what multi-location businesses really seek which is NOT acquiring services through a "trusted partner" but through a "all-in-one" "carrier MSP" like what is offered by companies like Spectrotel who offer the "foundational platform" of a managed firewall with VPN consulting paired with a managed switch with VLAN consulting upon which all other business technology solutions are hung like ornaments and lights on a Christmas tree.
Clients only buy from 3rd party "trusted partners" because they don't know they can simply buy from a Spectrotel-like all-in-one solution provider who can offer a single invoice AND a single source for all MSP/managed service provider needs from a single carrier source. If ScanSource and the others really want to "acquire their way to safety" they need to start buying the biggest & best Spectrotel-like "carrier MSPs" they can find because when the multi-location end-users learn that carrier MSPs exist - and work - their need for "trusted partners", all the people at this conference, will dissolve.)
A Lot of People Seem to Think ScanSource is on the Right Path
Because as you can see from the following video (taken during the first day vendor fair) though, about a zillion people (partners & vendor employees) all showed up in Monterey, California to be where the 2020 success stories are being conceived. By the way, Monterey, California is nice and all but it's not on the way to anywhere else - you really gotta want to be here - which I suppose is a testament to how much all these people either believe in or hope for ScanSource to deliver on their $100 million dollar bet!
My personal opinion though is that these people are all "whistling past the graveyard" because the intYs or AppSmarts and Spectrotel's of the industry are preparing for what multi-location businesses really want - frictionless (fewer people not more people) transactions of business technology solutions whenever possible. End-users only buy from "trusted partners" because they think that's the "least friction path" - but it's not going to be in 2020 and beyond.
Bottom Line From This Show (and the others from 2019)...
My review of this show (and several others this year) is that the age of the labor intensive "trusted partner" is setting and the age of the "all-in-one carrier" "shortest path to technology acquisition" has dawning.
Partners, master agents and providers who want to still be in business five years from now need to be able to provide a near zero friction aquisition experience from a "foundational platform solution carrier" (that includes managed firewalls & managed switches) upon which all the other "ornamental" business technology solutions (yes, I'm talking about UCaaS, CCaaS, managed security and all the other "aaS"es) hang.
*** Click the link below to read a transcript of Mike's talk. ***
What are your Thoughts About 2020?
I don't know if my thoughts written above about the direction of our industry are right or wrong but I'm happy to respond to anyone with similar or differing opinions via the comment section below.
The first person I'm inviting to respond is Dan Sterling (whom I've known for many years and bumped into at the event) who was "in the room" when the ScanSource Intelisys acquisition was being conceived. As you can well imagine I'm keenly interested in whether he believes the acquisition over or under performed expectations.
Your thoughts Mr. Sterling...?
Click the audio player below or download this MP3 file to hear Laura Bernstein of CRA Telecom discuss with Dan Baldwin of ChannelPartner.News how channel partners, managed service providers (MSPs) and other information & communication technology (ICT) solution professionals use CRA Telecom to ensure accountable project management of all benchmarks that need to occur between the signature of a new contract and the first invoice for a contracted service.
For more information about how CRA Telecom can provide excellent PMaaS or "project management as a service" for your business, email CRA@ChannelPartner.News.
See full transcript of interview below.Read more
If you're a CIO or IT director who believes your multi-location business is "cyber-secure" and ready to endure an attack from the best the Russians, the Chinese or North Koreans have to take your business down, you need to watch the following video.
Jim Stickley is a "white hat" hacker and his presentation is provided by Telarus, a cyber-security nationwide master solutions distributor specializing in making sure businesses are ready for the most likely threat - the threat from employees not following proper security protocols.
So now that you see the your biggest security threats are already working for your business, contact your local "Channel Partner" to get a referral to ensure your employees are prepared for Jim Stickley types of attacks.
Whether you're an IT director of a multi-location business or a an outsourced IT company that has multi-location businesses as clients, you're a "managed services provider" or MSP facing an existential crisis if you don't evolve to "survive or thrive" the ICT (information & communications technology) convergence that you've no doubt noticed is all around you and getting ready to replace you in 2020.
To prepare to both survive AND thrive, invest 16 minutes to watch the video below of Michael Sterl of CarveDigital describe what any multi-location MSP (in-house or outsourced) needs to be preparing for to "get it done" which means confirming your business has the right technology stack in place from the right vendors all process managed by the best back office.
Bottom Line: Focus on the 6 components in this slide. In-house MSPs mostly need to focus on steps 2 & 3 (create/enhance your own data so you know what technology you need to manage it and back office support so whatever data you're managing actually get's managed). Outsourced MSPs need to do all 6 steps to ensure customers know enough about your abilities to want to do business with you and that you're generating enough revenue to stay in business.
Scroll down to watch the whole 16 minute video. It's worth it. I'm using Micheal's 6-point list to ensure my MSP business is ready for 2020!
Which MSP Support Organizations Do the 6 Components Best?
As I get my own MSP business ready for 2020 I'm going to be investigating the different MSP support organizations that provide the services in these six components and I'll be sharing my findings on this site.
If you're a CIO of a multi-location buseiness that needs to "rip & replace" your LAN (local area network) or WAN (wide area network) so you can 1) replace or augment an old MPLS network with a modern SD-WAN/VPN or 2) simply take advantage of new cloud applications you're going to need lots of cash to change out your hardware and cabling.
Click the player below to listen via SoundCloud or download the MP3 here.
Need more info? Email HaaS@ChannelPartner.News
TimePayment SuperPower Award Press Release
View interview transcript below.Read more
Does your business have remote locations that are beyond the reach of normal "landline" or 4G data connections? ViaSat is your provider! (HughesNet theoretically is in the same business but in my experience they're lightyears behind ViaSat in providing support to business applications - don't even mention VPN to Hughesnet!)
ViaSat's internet connections that travel 26,000 miles up to space & back power the most remote applications whether it's VPN (virtual private network) connections, IoT (internet of things) connections or simple credit card processing or making a simple phone call.
You may recognize the super handsome partner in the video who was making an actual test call over the ViaSat VoIP phone. He's rumored to be ViaSat's most knowledgable and experienced partner. Yes, you're correct. That's yours truly, me, Dan Baldwin.
(So now you know we're working pretty hard finding the new "best of breed" solutions when we go off to theses tradeshows!)
There's a reason even the best phone company installation techs are not employed as a guest services concierge in a fine hotel - scheduling events is not what they do best. The "local site contact" for any of your own business locations that has to take calls from a phone company installation tech to arrange a circuit installation is probably cut from the same cloth. They take care of phone & internet networks better than they take phone calls from each other to schedule installations.
Circuit Success Secret: Always Have the "Local Site Contact" be Your Best Tech Scheduler
This is especially true for multi-location businesses that are constantly adding or upgrading internet & data circuits that touch the "outside internet". I can't count how many super critical circuit installations have been delayed and postponed due to the phone company claiming that the their calls to the "local site contact" to arrange an installation time are not answered and voicemails are not returned.
I have solved this problem by insisting to all carriers I do business with the the "local site contact" on any internet circuit order is always me - because I always answer my cell phone 24/7/365.
The carriers stop fussing about me being the site contact when I remind them of what they already know - which is that few people in America these days ever answer a call from a number they don't recognize, or worse, many people have cell phone apps that route unknown callers to a spam box so text and voice mail messages are never even seen.
How To Do This...
Step 1: Practice making 3-way calls on both your cell phone and your desk phone.
Step 2: Practice recording and retreiving the call if recording is an option
Step 3: Call the "real" on-site tech for any of your locations as soon as the circuit order paperwork is submitted to have them practice recognizing your cell phone number and ask them to please add your number to their "safe list" so that when you call in a couple weeks time to arrange the installation they'll take the call.
Step 4: Answer your cell phone 24/7/365. I live in California and I get alot of circuit installation requests at 8am New York time for out New York facilities. (Yes 5am calls are a hassle but not as big a hassle as delayed circuit installations).
Step 5: Always be super nice or you'll be sent to the back of the installation line. Yelling at people or asking for their supervisor doesn't work in the circuit scheduling space. The person that calls you is pretty much the person you'll be dealing with.
Step 6: Always record the cell number, email address & full name of the installation techs who call so you can follow-up with all parties with an email confirming the installation details. Include the order number whenever possible.
Step 7: Provide the installation tech with the cell number of the real local contacts only after you've done a 3-way call with them to provide the proper introductions.
1. Even when you insist that techs call 24 to 48-hours in advance to schedule an site survey or installation "turn-up", the advance call almost never happens. Most the time you're lucky to get a call when they're 15-minutes out. Usually it's when they are standing outside.
MSP Secrets: Use "Spot the Difference (AKA Stare & Compare)" Plugin on Note++ Software to Find Firewall Config Program Discrepancies
Some days I can't decide if I love managed firewalls providers and their employees that my client doesn't have to hire, train & manage, or if I long for the days gone by when the client's local W2 IT employee could be "blamed" for firewall problem.
Fortunately modern software technology can help IT Project Managers such as myself (who usually can't even spell "IP") find problems in a firewall that either the local IT guy or the managed firewall contractor are fussing over (and pointing fingers at each other).
"What Was The Last Time it Worked?"
This is the first question to ask anyone reporting a problem in any ICT (information & communications technology platform).
The second question is, "Who changed what since it last worked correctly?" Unfortunately, the usual answer to question two, is "Nothing" or "I don't know".
Once you have two instances, one where the application worked and one where it didn't, all you have to do is "Spot the Difference" in the underlying application programming to determine "what changed" so you can focus in on repairing the change to eliminate a new problem that's being reported.
MSP Secret: Archive Copies of Your Firewall Configuration File
Your business firewall is an active and evolving security force ensuring that the "enemies" on the outside and your "frenemies" (employees) on the inside of your business communications network don't mess you up.
In order to achieve this protection the firewall is being constantly updated which makes changes to the "configuration file" of the firewall. This "config file" contains all the rules that allow one sort of access while blocking others. Whenever an employee reports "the internet's broke" they are likely reporting a problem in the managed firewall or a problem in the VLAN of a managed switch.
If you use a "managed services provider" or "MSP" like Spectrotel to manage your firewalls & switches at least you know "who's fault it is" if the source of the problem is "inside" the firewall versus "outside" the firewall. ("Outside" firewall problems usually involve the cables into the various ports being re-arranged).
Unfortunately most business clients don't keep close tabs on what's going on inside their own firewalls. This is a mistake as it's a required "managed firewall best practice" to create archive copies of your firewall's config file so you can easily spot changes before or after a firewall problem is reported.
Use Notepad++ & the "Compare" Plug-in to Easily Spot Changes
I'm currently trying to help my client's IT engineer confirm that a new updated firewall has the correct copy of the old fire wall's config file (with appropriate upgrades) so we don't find out at midnight when we go to swap out the old firewall for the new one.
Shawn Justice, Spectrotel's VP of Ops (and frequent target of both my professional joy and bewilderment) recently share one of his MSP secrets that he uses to "stare and compare" a problem to resolution where he uses Notepad++ and its "Compare" plugin to find differences between two difficult-to-read config files. Shawn emailed me this link to a blog post that explains to project managers like me how to do it.
I read the post, downloaded Notepad++, activated the "compare" plugin and was comparing config files in under 5 minutes.
"So What Am I Supposed To Be Doing Again That Helps Me Manage My MSP?"
1. Request "read only" access to your managed firewall
2. Download a copy of the firewall's config file on a periodic basis after getting a "Day 1" copy after turn-up
3. Use the Notepad++ "compare" plugin & software to easily find changes in your firewall config files from one week to the next.
4. Known changes are where your start asking questions when your firewall seems to be suddenly having problems
5. Unknown changes can help you spot unwanted intruders.
Carrier MSPs Versus Non-Carrier MSPs
It's worth noting that "carrier" MSPs like Spectrotel approach documentation quite differently than a "non-carrier" MSP like whomever you might be using that charges a monthly fee for "doing all your IT stuff".
Non-carrier MSPs are the "original" MSPs and provide a useful service for any business that need's maximum help both managing and documenting all IT appliances.
Carrier MSPs generally charge no monthly MSP-type fees because their philosophy is that your monthly "rental" of your managed firewall and managed switch pay for the initial setting up of the gear and periodic programming updates. If and when you need a carrier MSP to "get in the weeds" with you to solve an IT problem outside their gear or outside the "handshake" between their gear and your gear, carrier MSPs will bill you a prearranged "professional services" or proserv fee which is usually hourly anywhere between $100 and $500 per hour.
Keep Your Own Local Documentation
One of the reasons carrier MSPs charge less for what appears to be about the same service as more classic MSPs is that carrier MSPs are not going to keep up-to-date documentation of anything and everything. In many cases, the current config file for a fireall is the only config file. If you want your carrier MSP to keep back copies of anything you need to 1) confirm on your agreement that requirement, and 2) frequently check to ensure it's being done.
Write Better Trouble Tickets From Your Own Documentation
Multi-location businesses are usually the best fit for carrier MSPs as multi-location businesses generally have a small in-house IT staff that likes to focus on the headquarters IT gear and then allows the carrier MSP to primarily look after the WAN (wide area network - the internet connections that connect each location) and the VPN (virtual private network - the secure connection between business locations made over the public internet).
An important "best practice" that successful multi-location IT departments adhear to are having their local site managers keep their own "Scope of Work" or "SOW" documents. An SOW is an electronic document that starts out as a blank piece of paper but then contains the "cookbook recipe" of how their managed firewall & managed switch connect to computers on the inside LAN (localk area network) and the outside WAN. The SOW also holds diary entries of all MACs (moves, adds & changes) as well as archive copies of all config and similar files.
When a multi-location local manager needs to report a local "internet problem" much time & money is saved when the local manager can consult his or her own SOW, cite "when it last worked" and then before and after copies of the config file. The local manager doesn't have to understand how firewall's work to do this and the resulting carrier MSP trouble ticket is easy for the carrier MSP to quickly address and resolve.
I'm all bagged up as you can see in the video below thanks to GoToConnect, LogMeIn & Jive.
But now I've got no place to go. Sad Face!
But seriously, Jive get's kudos for creating a very clever marketing hook. My wife Nancy called me from home while I was at the DC Channel Partners show to let me know I'd received an unexpected box, an invitation to go to a BigSur lobster boil at the Intelisys Channel Connect event in two weeks.
Nice attention getter to let me know that "Jive and LogMeIn have merged to create a new suite of products..."
But alas...the event was sold out before I could register.
(Maybe they'll have a booth at the Intelisys event where I can get more info)
Greetings fellow Channel Partners,
As many of you know I've been a channel partner providing ICT (information & communications technology) solutions to business end-users in one for or another since 1990 and we've I've been publishing partner & vendor best practice info since 1996.
*** Interesting People I've Met ***
Many tradeshows tend to be "vendor fests" where all you hear is elevator pitch after elevator pitch from super big vendors that you already know. My acid test of a tradeshow is how many people I meet who share a good idea that I'll try to act on after the show.
Following are the interesting folks I've met thus far along with some initial notes on what makes them interesting. We'll be inviting all of the following to sit for a future podcast so you can all determine if you think they're as interesting as I found them.
1. Andy Golebiowski & Brigid Golebiowski, President & Director Operation/Marketing at TeleNet Communications from Minnesota. Andy and Brigid have been independent partners for about six years and specialize in hosted VoIP phone systems. They have some solid top choices in A) hosted VoIP providers, B) master agents, and C) where to stay in Puerto Vallarta.
2. Brad Parnell, Senior Account Manager at IPpay from Florida. Turns out Brad has over 10 years experience in the payment processing industry. IPpay processes payments for over 15 years on the gateway they created and built, specializing in payment-not-present processing. I took a page and a half of notes from all the good ideas Brad put into my head that I'll be taking advantage of for several of my own businesses and websites. You'll have to wait for the podcast in the next week or so but here's a hint to the three top ideas: A) account updater, B) dynamic descriptor, C) KAZOOcom.
3. Joe Regan, Senior Account Executive at MitoTec from Chicago. Joe shared that MitoTec is the only wholesale provider of ViaSat satellite internet. If you don't know, ViaSat is THE satellite internet provider for businesses that can't get 4G or landline internet. Sure there's HughesNet but HughesNet doesn't come close to offering the support of business networks (especially in the support of VPNs) that ViaSat does. If you're like me with lots of ViaSat invoices that you wish you could roll to a white-label situation - now you know who to call. Apparently MitoTec also has a rich background in fixed wireless which is another niche but super important service to always have available.
4. Linda Rosenhauch & Todd Baca, Northeast Sales and Key Accounts Manager at TeleDynamics from NYC. Linda shared that partners call on TeleDynamics when they need to source hosted VoIP phones but don't want to get them from the hosted VoIP provider for whatever reason. They sell phones to the hosted carriers, other phone providers such as Sotel Systems and they sell directly to agents on behalf of their customers.
5. Seth Thompson, National Account Manager at TimePayment from Iowa. Seth is single-handedly re-inventing "Equipment for Service" (anybody remember when that was a big thing for Paetec?) and looking for partners who want to be the next Alex Rogers of Chartec. If you want to put together your very own Chartec or Paetec/EFS program or you just have a lot of customers all ready for a complete network upgrade where ALL the gear needs to be replaces before they can take advantage of UCaaS, CCaaS or anything requiring a clean network, Seth's ready to help!
6. Zack Ibanez, President of EZETECH from Florida. Zack's a Sonicwall expert & MSP from Florida who specializes in helping rehab, treatment centers & other verticals needing super HIPAA compliance to avoid being put out of business by your "friendly" HHS/OCR compliance auditors. I spent the longest time speaking with Zack because he had a lot a great ideas that partners intersted in "managed security" really need to hear as he's a "rubber meets the road" security specialist. We'll be interviewing him on our podcast soon! (This guy could easily do his own "Stickley on Security" bit for those of you who saw Jim Stickley do that 45-minute keynote at the Telarus Partner Summit in Denver this summer).
7. Laura Berstein, CEO & Co-Founder of CRA Telecom from Boston. I've known Laura for several years but was able to re-aquaint myself with CRA's very unique offering to channel partners & MSPs, mainly delivering an independent staff of order processors and project managers that enable partners & MSPs to turn over the job of managing the provisioning & installation process or new orders all the way through "review of the first invoice". It's every partner's worst nightmare to "hope" that the carrier doesn't mess up the order once it's signed. CRA Telecom is the answer for channel partners who are super OCD and/or control freaks (like me).
8. Matt Clark, President of MasterStream. As most partners know, MasterStream powers the largest internet circuit retail quoting engine that many carriers, resellers & master agents count on to help a partner narrow a customer's search down to the best provider at the best price for any any retail internet circuit at any geographic location. Without access to such a tool it's impossible for a partner or a customer to know if they are missing out on some "unseen" provider with a better rate or better service for an internet connection. Most partners access this important tool exclusively through a master agent or MasterStream's mostly unknown "Drive" solution and end-user customers have no real access to any sort of similar tool. What I learned from Matt is MasterStream has in mind to "democratize" the internet circuit search process with their forthcoming tool BandwidthFinder.com. Their BandwidthFinder tool won't tell a customer or partner what the prices are but it will answer the the most important question which is, "Which providers touch any address?" such that a partner or customer will know which carriers to call to get the best price. This is big & will shift deal control to the hands of those who know how to use this new tool (assuming it works as advertised!)
9. Jay Morris, Senior Business Development at Wholesale Carrier Services/WCS. I've known Jay for a zillion years and it was good to catch up with him about his success at WCS since he returned there just under 2 years ago after working almost 5 years for a non-facilities based CLEC. For those of you who don't know Jay, he's kind of a "full solution visionary" in that he has a remarkable ability to understand the full spectrum of requirements for a multi-location business and then match any customer's unique needs to the perfect combination of products and services. When you look at Jay’s entire career, he has helped to develop and shape the Enterprise multi-location aggregation business model. He has worked for and helped several "all-in-one" carriers, and he's studied all the "all-in-one" carriers that he's not actually been employed by. I brought a very big multi-location end-user deal to one of the providers Jay worked for on Jay's specific recommendation, and after 4-years the end-user is very happy. Jay believes that everything he's learned in his long career of studying the best "all-in-one" carriers is now coming together at WCS. Personally I believe WCS has just one building block left that needs to be put in place to make them "the perfect all-in-one provider" - and they are very close to getting that last block in place. For multi-location, multi-carrier, single-pane-of-glass management opportunities, they are already 99.5% perfect. They've got some pretty serious secret sauce under their hood that if you don't know about...you really need to talk to Jay.
10. Rob Keres, Thad Schultz & Billy Sue Glover, Channel Chief, Sales Engineering & Channel Manager for Cogent. Cogent specializes in providing fiber internet & connectivity to 3200 "tall, shiny buildings" in 205 markets around the globe. They insisted they are "different" from other "lit building" providers in that their buildings are 100% lit from the basement to the roof. They also stated that even though they had 500 direct W-2 salespeople, their lit buildings are only 25% saturated and that successful partners like RDS out of NYC were doing very well representing Cogent using Cogent's published lit building maps.
11. Khali Henderson & Dylan Crawford, Senior partner & PM/Social Media Guru at Buzz Theory. The former editor-in-chief for ChannelPartners/Phone+, Khali knows everyone in the business and everyone knows her which positions her company BuzzTheory perfectly to provide outsourced marketing, event planning and public relations for any channel company.
12. Steven Chesser, President of VelociCom & Data Privacy Group. I met Steve on the way to the Telarus Spy party and we had a very interesting conversation about his two companies. Veloci provides video conferencing and other unified communication services while Data Privacy Group provides data security services to large enterprise companies engaging in international trading with a $10,000
"gap analysis" starting engagement package. We spoke quite a bit about the problem that many security MSPs have hiring and retaining employees and how he's alleviated that problem by participating in getting IT staff through a 4-part security certificaion program where he then leases out highly training security staff to his enterprise clients.
13. Dyna Meade & Eric Stark, Regional Sales and Channel Chief of ViaSat. We spoke about several items including their new VoIP over satellite hosted voice service (which actually works), whether or not their highly anticipated "Business Hotspot" WiFi solution would ever actually be released to the channel to sell to coffee shops, when and if they'd ever have a portable internet solution for people like me who own an RV and whether or not MitoTec is in fact ViaSat's "exclusive wholesale distributor" which MitoTec's website clearly states.
14. Chris Aikens, Kristy Lynch, Courtney Starnes & Jamaal Savwoir, Marketing Team & Sales Engineer for 8x8. I challenged the marketing team to help me understand the differences between RingCentral and 8x8 that business end-users would notice, understand and care about. They immediately pointed out that RingCentral's "unified communications" suite was not unified at all in that unlike 8x8's seemless transitions from IM (instant messaging) to voice call to video call to screen sharing, RingCentral's solution from their Glip IM tool to voice to the Zoom video conference & screen sharing app actually involves jumping between 3 different applications that definitely do not provide a seamless feel for the user. At some point during the conversation there was open speculation about what would happen if Zoom were to expand beyond just providing video collabloration and into unified communications to be a direct competitor of RingCentral.
15. Dewayne Chandler, Channel Manager for Warner Telecom. In speaking with Dewayne for five minutes I believe he told five different partners the same thing over & over, "No, we're not Time Warner Telecom". Warner Telecom ("We have no time!") is a wireline telecom expense management/TEM company that A) helps businesses with multiple phone bills go down to just one phone bill through their rebilling progtram, and B) audits all the phone bills they put under their cover "pass-thru" bill to save an average of 15% in exchange for a 5% surcharge on the entire spend. Assuming that's true, business clients of Warner Telecom then save a net 10% AND get the convenience of a single audited telco invoice.
16. Barry Sergeant & Mark Gagnon, National & Regional Channel Manager, Intrado (formerly West). I learned that they still do tons of UCaaS and CCaas but also health & safety/911 service as well as "digital & data". They hoped that by rebranding to Intrado (a company they aquired) that partners and business customers will see them as more than just UCaaS and CCaas voi ce providers but also the company that helps clients "turn information into insight".
17. Matt Hiles, COO of Mosaic Networx. Turns out Mosaic is A) one of the few "all-in-one" providers who offers managed appliances like firewall, switch & SD-WAN B) allows the busines end-user customer direct access to the SD-WAN control panel (the VeloCloud Orchestrator), and C) Matt lives in Lake Elsinore, the same town I live it!
18. Stephanie Lamouroux & Cindy Minney, Partners at Focus in Tech. I met Stephanie & Cindy at the Telarus Partner Summit earlier this summer and then again at this event. Stephanie has been "channel partnering" for several years but Cindy is pretty new to the business. I asked if Cindy was up for joining a new "Sales Club" I'm thinking of forming for new channel partners and any channel partner that wanted to sell new services for the purpose of just teaming up with others to figure out how to get started selling.
19. Evan McLean, Client Solution Consultant for CCH SureTax. Evan helps telecom resellers & carriers ensure they are tax compliant with their customer invoices. he states they only have one competitor in the industry which is Avalara. I asked if his company would be interested in doing some short educational webinars with partners to educate them about what was a legitimate telecom tax and what was a optional carrier surcharge. He said he'd need to check with their marketing person Mark Schlosberg and their tax expert David Rubenstein but he seemed to think it was. He added that they also had a referral program for any agents or partners who helped any carrier switch to their tax compliance service as 8x8 recently had done.
20. Evan Rice, VP Sales & Marketing for Rev.io. Formerly "H2O", Rev.io has one of the leading edge billing and customer management & portal software packages used by 160 telecom providers including Spectrotel. I'm intimately familiar with the Rev.io portal software because I spend half the day in it everyday managing a 30 location business client that uses Spectrotel. I can personally attest that the software is very robust, very helpful for my client management needs and my client likes it as well. Spectrotel like 45 of their clients uses the higher-end "Enterprise" level of the software. Rev.io has a referral program as well that rewards partners who help them secure new portal clients.
21. Nancy Ridge, Principal, Ridge Innovative. Nancy is well known in the industry as being Executive Vice President of Telcom Brokers, a master agency based in Southern California for the past 14 years. Now heading her own firm, Nancy is focused on A) new technology sales for business clients, B) offering one-on-one private sales coaching for any VP or sales director, and C) promoting a new book she helped produce called, "How to Be a Woman in Technology (while Focusing on What Matters Most)" a book that I just ordered.
22. Patrick Oborn, Co-Founder of Telarus. I met Patrick in the late 90s when he was first learning the industry as the web-master for Kevin Anderson of Cognigen Networks. Even then he was certain he could "technologize a better wheel" and then did just that with their patented, real-time pricing tool "GeoQuote" software after starting Telarus with long-time friend Adam Edwards in 2002. At this show ai spoke at length with Patrick about what technologies would roll-out from the master agencies over the next year to enable partners to become even more efficient as well as how MasterStream's new BandwidthFinder.com either would or wouldn't alter the "balance of power/information" between vendor, partner & end-user.
23. Amanda Jardine, Jim Coucoulas & Mike Day, Marketing, Engineering & Sales for RingCentral. Amanda stated that RingCentral's main 2019 focus was reminding all partners of RingCentral's expertise in CCaaS/contact center solutions. I said, "your 'home-brew' CCaas solution for the low end of the market & your InContact resale CCaaS solution for the high end of the market, right?" To which she replied something to the effect, "We're making sure partner know that no provider does CCaaS better than RingCentral". I stated that my largest client uses RingCentral and the InContact CCaaS RingCentral/Resale solution and was very happy with it. I also stated that 8x8 was certain that they did many UCaaS features way better than RingCentral and that I hoped to publish what 8x8 thought they did better with hopes that RingCentral would be interested in agreeing or disputing 8x8's claims of superiority.
24. Denis Raue, VP Business Development of AppSmart. For those of you who saw the original Channel Partners Online post about AppSmart acquiring Telegration, the post left out any mention of what happened to Denis, Telegration's founder and I believe sole owner. Well I spoke with him and he's fine - but not retired - by his own decision. He's got a 4-year contract to work for AppSmart as the VP of Business Development and he's eager & interested to help AppSmart grow organically & through acquisition - maybe some of his agency owning peers at the Agent Alliance?
*** Show Networking Events (Parties) I Attended ***
I met about 80% of the people mentioned above at one of the following networking (AKA party) events. Thanks to the master agents and vendor sponsors of the following events.
TBI Mixer Sponsored by MetTel at City Tap House - A smaller party but with engaged guests and very high-end bar food. The guests all seemed to know one another and did not seem overly interested in new people. After being checked in by a TBI staff employee (I think) I didn't have a single MetTel or TBI employee introduce themselves to me to see what I was interested in. I thought that was a bit odd.
Channel Partner's "First Timers" Mixer Sponsored by Verizon at The Dignitary - This was a pretty packed medium-sized party with actual real "first-time" attendees. This was the party to be at if you're looking for new, impressionable partners & MSPs.
Intelisys Party Sponsored by Many Vendors at The Capital View at 400 - This was a classic Intelisys large straight-up party. Everyone who wasn't at the MSP 501 dinner was at this party. Certainly the best "view" party. The great thing about Intelisys parties is that the highest channel executives at the largest vendors usually show up which is great for partners that need to say something to them after a couple of stiff drinks.
Telarus Party Sponsored by ViaSat (and others) at the Spy Museum - This was by far the most eclectic and wide ranging party of the week as it started in the lobby of the museum but then spread over 3 floors. Guests were given a "vendor party card" to get stamped at 8 different vendor stations to qualify for a drone drawing. The vendor stations were among very interesting museum exhibits and on floors away from the main party so guests were able to actually hear themselves speaking to the vendors.
Avant Event Sponsored by Many at Penn Social - The final party of the show, this was one of the biggest parties and also the loudest with a DJ revving up the croud even though no one was dancing. Everyone was having plenty of fun playing the free arcade games and mixing it up at the end of two and a half hard days of conferencing. The party had the feel of a college kegger especially with the blue plastic Avant logo party cups.
Note: While I'm philosophically opposed to the master agents spending their vendor MDF/market development funds - the money vendors give to master agents to create more business dollars on alcohol, until such time as they start spending the money on something that leads to a higher return, I do show up and have a complimentary beverage.
*** Audio Podcast We're Trying to Do As a Result of Show Conversations ***
- Have WCS discuss how their Asterisk-based, Bicom switch, hosted VoIP platform compares to other "white label" type "buy/sell" opportunities like the Coredial platform and when partners are better off placing a deal with Coredial and/or WCS.
- Ask RDS out of NYC to share how they position Cogent against Cogent competitors in high end NYC lit buildings
- Have Ryan Cunningham of ClearConnect share how he helps provide inbound "inside sales" solutions for partners selling the likes of ViaSat, Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, Vonage, RingCentral, Pax8 & others as suggested by Dyna Meade.
- Have Light Networks share have Warner Telecom provides a wireline TEM solution that makes a difference for Light Networks' clients according to Dewayne Chandler.
- Have Avant's marketing & vision team Kristine Su, Joan Courtney & Alex Danyluk share how their boot camp training programs for partners are better and/or different than what partners have experienced over the past several years from Intelisys, Telarus and the other master agency "boot camps".
- Have Joe from Espita Mezcalaria (at 9th & N Street around the corner from the convention center) share tips on how to order tequila & mezcal from a fancy mexican restaurant in a sensible way
- Compare HIPAA security practice experts compare HIPAA Vault to other similar vendors
- How to convert analogue fax POTS lines to HIPAA compliant fax server
- Which firewall to HIPAA compliance MSPs prefer - Sonicwall, Fortigate or...?
*** Who Have You Met Who's Interesting at the CPE Show? ***
Please share with the audience the info about interesting people you've met at the CPE show in DC this week as a comment below.
[PR] WTG Integrates with AppSmart, Relaunches with Platform that Delivers Pioneering Technology to Agent Channel
** Press Release **
WTG Integrates with AppSmart, Relaunches with Platform that Delivers Pioneering Technology to Agent Channel
The first-of-its-kind merger combines a telecom master agent and a cloud service provider to offer channel expertise and the most diverse portfolio of business solutions.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF., SEPTEMBER 4TH, 2019 — AppSmart, the channel-led, one-stop shop for all B2B technology services, today announced that it has completed the integration of master agent WTG (World Telecom Group) into its company and the relaunch of the combined team under the AppSmart brand. The new AppSmart offers the digital transformation expertise of top channel leaders, best-in-class technology that's purpose-built for agents, and the most diverse catalog of solutions, giving customers one touchpoint for every business technology need, including cloud, voice, connectivity, IoT (mobility/energy), services and support.
"In today's fast-paced digital economy, master agents need to partner with technology companies to be successful in the long term," said Vince Bradley, former CEO of WTG. "Our vision from the inception of WTG was to be a ‘utilities master agent’ with the most diverse portfolio coupled with automation. Joining AppSmart fully embraces that vision, and opens an immensely promising path that will allow us to serve our agent and MSP partners, as well as their customers, with the best solutions to meet their needs."
Developed and refined with input from an agent advisory council, the AppSmart platform offers a range of groundbreaking features available to agents for the first time. These include:Read more
*** ICT.ms Best Practice ***
At some point in the future, every ICT project manager is going to wish they could have an associate at a remote business location use their laptop and Ethernet connection to validate 1) a specific static IP address to be used by some network appliance, or 2) provide a laptop usable internet connection from a fiber internet edge device does not do DHCP (as seems the case with most all fiber internet edge devices).
Fear not. If and when this moment happens to you, simply email your associate this link which is the YouTube video you see below:
** A Day in the Life of an Independent ICT.ms Project Manager **
After a hard day of a zillion conference calls and emails helping clients get through the bustle of managing a multi-location WAN & VPN it's kind of nice to take a short break to relax with the other sales engineers & fellow PMs at the companies that provide the actual ICT managed services the client is subscribing to.
And that's what I got to do Wednesday of this week, courtesy of Broadboice, a UCaaS/VoIP provider & Telarus, a large national technology services broker. Yep, I got to go on a cruise in San Diego Bay aboard the yacht, "Bella Luna" piloted by Captain John and first mate Brandy. (If you're looking for a San Diego Bay boat event for up to 50 people call Captain John at 619-928-2441).
So the event was very low key and hosts Eric Brooker & Yvette Bratt at Broadvoice and Molly Lozano & Andrew Bowser from Telarus mingled with the 20 partners attending to ensure they understood the benefits of working UCaaS deals with Broadvoice through a master agency like Telarus that ensures the best vendors meet the best partners, consultants & independent project managers.
I did not meet any partners who had sold a Broadvoice deal but I'm looking forward to 1) meeting & interviewing any consultants or partners who've installed a Broadvoice deal, and 2) being part of a Broadvoice end-user deal so I can experience first hand why a business customer would buy & a partner would sell Broadvoice.
I did meet some other really cool partners & consultants though and I'll be interviewing them at this site over the next several weeks.
Here are pics of what you missed:
ViaSat, BEC 4G, Fortigate & Spectrotel - Emergency WAN/VPN & Internet for Serious Weather & Power Outages
If you have business locations in the middle of the country you already know you need to plan for power outages caused by some serious weather.
Following is a cellphone screenshot sent to me last night by a client in Oklahoma City letting me know their power was out due to serious local lightning.
As I marveled at the awesome graphic of the lighting strike area that looks like a bullseye I was pretty happy that I had the client connected to three internet connections...Read more
What experience have you had with Broadvoice as a business phone system or "UCaaS" (unified communications as a service) provider? Do you know how they compare to Dialpad, RingCentral or Coredial - the three VoIP (voice over internet protocol) that I'm most familiar with?
I ask as I've been invited by Telarus to attend a Broadvoice event this Wednesday in San Diego. I'll be bringing my "this is what my clients like in their business phones" frame of reference as well as any questions you all might have, let me know.
When I wrote my last blog post in December of 2017 I was on a business trip visiting my client's 30+ installations and I predicted the end of the "legacy" partner era was upon us.
Well I finished that business trip back in April 2018 and have spent the last 16 months practicing being a "NexGen" partner so I could figure out what this new role is all about and how to explain it to both vendors, clients and my peers.
The photo above was taken at the half-way point of my client trip at the very end of Key West Florida at sunset. The folks in the photo are other visitors that day but as I looked for an image to re-inforce the headline of this post, the photo & the captioning jumped out.
Over the next several months (and then forever after that) I'll use this blog space to share what I've learned about what it takes to convert oneself from a legacy to a NexGen Partner (NGP) and what clients and vendors need to know about how to get what they want from each other and when they need the assistance of an NGP.
In case the image above doesn't give it away...
NGP Rule 1: NexGen Partners are closer to their clients than they are to their vendors.
More NGP rules to follow...
If you've successfully used telemarketing appointment setters in the past but don't use one now because you can't find one to hire, please contact Dan Baldwin at Dan@ICTa.us.
I've recently met a very experienced appointment setter with a 3-person coldcall team who is currently setting appointments in Illinois in the manufacturing industry for temp agencies.
They have worked telecom wireless programs in the past and are interested in doing a trial in December to set appointments for multi-location businesses looking to improve their phone, internet & cloud services.
Interested parties will be offered a special December rate to conduct a trial appointment setting program.
Please contact Dan Baldwin at Dan@ICTa.us if you're interested.
Dan Baldwin, Executive Director of ICTA & Telecom Association explains how both partner members and vendor members will significantly benefit from working with the association in 2018. Specifically, ICTA new "metro coop websites" targeted directly at CIOs and IT directors will recapture lost low-end orders, recycle that commission revenue to a coop of the top 10 partners in each metro.
Because the new websites have end-user tutorials and an instant order phone number, new "lead referral" agents will flood back into the industry to help drive in multi-location prospect appointments for the experienced high-end partners working with the new agents through the coop.
To learn more about how this program can benefit you please contact Dan Baldwin at Dan@ICTa.us.
ICTA has created a new website at www.ICTPro.tv to help ICT partners & vendors promote themselves directly to business end-users.
Beginning 1/1/18, ICTA will publish a weekly email newsletters promoting Recommended Partners & Recommended Vendors directly to business end-users. ICTA will also make the end-user videos available for ICTA members to publish on their own websites and marketing email newsletters.
View sample videos that will be available for end-user marketing at this link.
ICTA will also be producing "explainer videos" such as the two below that ICTA members will be able to use on their own websites & marketing publications.
Whats ICT? (Information & Communications Technology)
Who Is An ICT Pro? (Anyone who conects business apps to data networks)Read more
Dan Baldwin of ChannelPartner.News shares important "Make this Video Before It's Needed" advice for IT directors, project managers and ICT consultants who want to keep their jobs or clients after the inevitable "Our Internet Stoped Working" phone call from the boss/client.
If you're an IT director, channel manager or ICT consultant, make sure you watch this video and heed the advice (to make a similar video for your boss of clients). Your boss and clients will love you for it after their internet goes down because you know it's not a matter if "if" just "when".
For more information please visit www.ChannelPartner.News