The Last Buffalo Hunter

Comms Business Magazine follows up on the keynote presentation delivered by GCI CEO Adrian Thirkill at the Convergence Summit earlier this year on the subject of not becoming the ‘Last Buffalo Hunter’.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What was the overall message of ‘The Last Buffalo Hunter’ presentation?

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 10.29.48Adrian Thirkill (AT): I believe there is too much resistance to change and apathy in the channel. Things are changing. People are changing and you can’t stop how they want to consume information and collaborate. So selling standard voice, a PBX, without unified communications (UC) is just wrong.

In the next few years we’ll see organisations with say up to 20 staff going online and ordering their services from Microsoft, plugging in one box and connecting to a Software Defined Network (SDN) for almost instant service. No 40-50 day wait for the services to be installed.
My message was therefore, ‘Where is the opportunity for resellers in that?’

In a world where everyone wants to collaborate but can’t control QoS, the choice of supplier is going to be driven by user experience. Service is therefore really important but how do you engage with users, change work habits and make UC a good experience?

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What do you think are the key challenges facing resellers today?

AT: Resistance to change is the starting pistol for a race to the bottom in an increasingly commoditised market where resellers are still mostly selling ‘same old, same old’.

None of us can ignore the generational change that is happening right now – the ‘Millennial Effect’ means that influencers are now fast becoming the decision makers and buyers.

However, I believe there is an Elephant in the Room syndrome – for example, pretending that Microsoft and Skype for Business is not happening. The fact is that UC is now growing at five times the rate of traditional voice and is driving more complexity for resellers.

One result of this is that stand-alone voice services with no collaboration or productivity gain benefits, no longer cuts the mustard for most businesses. It is a case of resellers clearly struggling to up-skill themselves to sell SfB and needing a proven Partner to help support their journey.

Meanwhile margin squeeze on connectivity services means future EBITDA challenges. More simply the value of the resellers business will be affected.

CBM: What advice would you give to resellers looking to secure income streams for the future?

AT: I see three clear options. Firstly, invest and up-skill, secondly, find the right partner or lastly, sell before the value of your business is reduced to the value of your customer list.

Therefore my advice would be to confront the brutal facts. Don’t try to hold back the tide… or be the last Buffalo Hunter. Instead add value – don’t just sell ‘stuff’ and think about selling solutions as opposed to a random set of disjointed products.

Focus on an area of expertise and become known for being an expert and trusted advisor in that space. Really get to understand your customer and sell them what they need, not what you want to sell them. Finally, think more about customers’ service experience.

CBM: Where do you believe the key opportunities lay for resellers over the next two years?

AT: Think broader than a traditional mix of PBX, peripherals, maintenance and minutes and think about selling differently – solutions not products.

PBX sales are falling so embrace Skype for Business, UC and mobility and check out the emerging UC Smartboard solutions too.

Take specialist skills into specific verticals, for example SfB for the Legal sector; PCI DSS for the Debt Recovery sector; etc. Establish a strong reputation via referrals and focus on the SME sector because it’s an area that will not get targeted by the bigger players.

Remember too that solutions can be a complex consultancy sale so ensure you become comfortable with the ‘Sell With’ as opposed to ‘Sell To’ models while looking for the gaps in the market. Look for sticky pull-through services such as ‘PCI as a Service’ which is a great example that ties in contact centre solutions as well as traditional calls and lines.

Resellers need to acknowledge what is changing around them and need to embrace that change.

Find a partner that can offer you Portals, Windows and Walls. Portals for automated supply, Windows to see what’s going on through performance monitoring and Walls to allow user comment on service – a la TripAdvisor.
In essence, think, act and sell differently.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine