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Inphonex Aims for Broader Set of Channels, With New Products

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October 07, 2010

Inphonex Aims for Broader Set of Channels, With New Products

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

“I used to spend a lot of time in the field with sales reps, sitting across the table from a business owner,” Matt Bramson, Inphonex chief sales officer, said recently. “What all of them want is Ringio (News - Alert), really.”

That’s a fairly dramatic assessment of the value Ringio can provide a business. So what does Bramson see? 

“It’s a very sophisticaed inbound call management application, married to a customer relationship management feature, without the need for a business to do the integration or pay the per-seat licenses, said Bramson. 

Inphonex itself provides wholesale communications services to third parties, traditionally resellers of one sort or another, one might say. But in a business that is changing very rapidly, Inphonex believes there might be new interest by traditional agency partners that are realizing the tools now exist to create private label services themselves, Bramson suggests.

That would allow at least some agencies to consider becoming resellers, a change in the value proposition, but also a shift toward higher gross revenue and profit margin. 

Inphonex believes the Ringio relationship could be the first of many new application relationships that are needed and wanted in the market, both by traditional resellers as well as channel partners. 

Inphonex is banking on the role its management platform provides, something Bramson allows easy creation of customized service plans.

That is by design, he said. From the start, Inphonex has relied on a “very scalable architecture for the back office,” Bramson said. “Everything we do is built to be automated.” That tends to allow the creation of customized retail offers retailers may want, without lots of overhead that adds cost for Inphonex. 

That tends to mean retail partners have more ability to create unique or tailored offerings, faster and more affordably. 

The other interesting perspective is that Inphonex is seriously attempting to engage channel partners from outside the traditional telecom and newer value-added-reseller channels that have been the staples of the channel business. 

“Almost every week a different type of player comes in and shows us a whole new window for sales,” said Bramson. “It could be a payroll processing service, water distribution retailer or anybody with a relationship with a customer,” said Bramson.

The big question is simply, “who has credible positioning with a business?

Significantly, said Bramson, “that is not the CLEC.” Partners that have credible positioning might include IT consultants, benefits or payroll or other types of business services providers, and they could be viable channels for sales of communication products as well.

“Ringio is a beachhead that we can build a whole suite of services on, including enhanced sales reporting, desktop backup or anti-virus, for example,” said Bramson. 

Part of the reason for that optimism is that the “Ringio discussion is fairly involved,” said Bramson. To complete a sale, the retail partner has to ask about, and create a solution for, collaboration inside a target account.

That means the historic tack taken by channel partners and retailers in the telecom space does not work very well. The conversations have to be more detailed, are more complex, but also can lead to other opportunities. 

That’s the best hope for increasing the scope of communication products that can be sold, as well as the scope of channel relationships Inphonex can leverage.

The issue here is a change in the role of the face-to-face telecom sales organization. Traditionally, telecom services have been shaped by the “service to a demarcation point” mentality. 

Carriers, resellers and telecom agencies have preferred to sell services that terminate at the customer premises, but do not require knowledge of, or support for, the actual business processes conducted at a location. 

But all of that started to change with the advent of hosted IP telephony services, which pushed retailers to the desktop, at least to the extent that new devices using the organization’s data network had to be configured and tested. 

The immediate change was simply that “LAN assessment” became a requirement for selling IP telephony services and systems that use IP endpoints. 

Whether that will be sufficient in the future is in question, though. To fuel revenue growth, communications likely will need to integrate more deeply into the organization’s business process environment. And that will require a level of skill, knowledge and value that is new to most telecom sales organizations. 

The marketing and sales tasks therefore become more complex. That might call for different types of channel partners, as well as more-sophisticated partners in the traditional telecom channel. 

 On the product front, communications solutions might have to move beyond those we traditionally associate with a business phone service, long distance voice and broadband access. 

In a sense, those dual challenges are what Inphonex is trying to surmount: find new types of channel partners that are trusted inside the organization, and find new products that are both valuable and adapted to sales by non-traditional telecom channel partners. 

It’s a hugely-important set of initiatives with significant implications for communications companies and their retail partners. 

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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