The rebirth of the telco partner strategy: A message from a top telecom company

“The future of the telco channel is bright,” said a Channel Account Manager at a large telco company in a confidential interview with Amplifinity CMO, Trisha Winter this year. But while the future is bright, the channel present is still a little murky. The telecom industry is in the process of adapting their partner model to the looming SaaS marketplace. This is resulting in a large amount of companies pivoting their partner strategies to align with the new on-demand and service model and keep the future shinning promisingly.

“We take part in an event called Channel Partners which is a twice a year telecom channel event,” said the Channel Account Manager. “This event grows bigger every year as more companies embrace the channel and indirect model. Our company is actually behind in some ways, not because we are not trying but because it is harder for the big companies to make the drastic pivots that are needed and that smaller companies can easily maneuver.”

But this Channel Account Manager is not the only one seeing their company having difficulty with this transition. There are a lot of on-premise companies that are being forced to do cloud delivery, but they are finding that their existing partners can’t enable it. In response to this the telecom partner models are being reshaped and different types of relationships are being developed between resellers, agent, master agents, VARs, referral agents and a company.

How are you trying to accommodate the changing partner model?

Recently, the company in question came out with their first SaaS product. This change sets the expectation for other telco companies to follow suit.  Consequently, telco companies’ go-to-market model and channel team will need to change to address how their current channel model does or doesn’t fit with this kind of product.

“That is the big challenge for us,” said the Channel Account Manager. “With the old model you go out and sell these very transactional products. Now we are getting into these consultative and as-a-service products. This requires better sellers and more consultative sales techniques. This will then lead to longer sales cycles. Instead of 30 or 90 days it will more likely be 180 or 360 days. And partners are going have to have a better understanding of the products and technology.”

Trisha Winter, CMO of Amplifinity sees these challenges as the catalyst that has caused many Amplifinity clients to turn to referral partners to continue to grow revenue. “There are a lot more consultants and partner types than there ever has been,” says the Channel Account Manager. The trend toward a consultant and service model requires the sales process to be owned by a company’s direct team but still drive revenue from partners. This is the value of referral partners.

Currently, many agents and master agents are required to undergo an in-depth technology certification to become a partner and have a mature understanding of the CRM in order to be able to generate revenue as a partner. But this Channel Account Manager understands that telco companies can no longer let this be a barrier to generating revenue from the channel. “While we want partners to know the technology if a partner has a good lead we don’t want the technology to be a road block. This is when they will bring us in to close the sale.”

What do you suggest for other telco companies trying to transform their partner model?

“Partner ecosystem is becoming more fluid,” the interviewee points out. “You have to have a way to manage a partner that is there for just one deal and no more. Everything you’ve done before is kind of thrown out the window. This is much different than before when these provider would set up brick and mortar companies with 30 sales reps on the phone. Now you might only have a consultant or agent who can specialize in one particular thing. One day they might work on a deal with you and the next they will have moved onto a deal with someone else.”

This change in the way partner interact is reflective of the switch to a cloud-based sales model. The fact is, a good number of agents will have a hard time transitioning to cloud-based products which not only has a different sales model but a different buyer, especially when selling to businesses. Business buyers of telecom services have pivoted from the long standing IT titles to business leaders due to cloud technology making products and service easier to use. This results in many agents finding they no longer have the customer base to consistently reach target buyers. That is in addition to their struggle to support cloud-based technology. But companies have found that these agents are still valuable contributors who can send targeted leads to the vendor when they see a fit so as to continue to generate revenue. However, unlike the past, partner monogamy won’t be the main source of revenue growth.

“There will have to be an overall cultural shift as well as structural,” says the aforementioned Channel Account Manager. “Whether it’s unified communication-as-a-service or software-as-a-service, this type of a model, while much different than the old one, opens up much more possibilities.”

The overall message from this interview, “The channel is really growing like crazy.” But it is up to each telco business to adapt their partner strategy and technology to take advantage of that growth opportunity.

To continue to help educate your changing partner strategy, download the data report, The State of Business Partner Referral Programs, to see performance benchmarks of companies who have automated their partner referrals for sustainable growth.

Overcome the complexity of B2B Telecom sales with a 1-1 personalized referral program

In the mid-1800s, the avant-garde movement started in an attempt to push the boundaries of the status quo. This concept was taken up by artist, writers, musicians, and in recent years, many businesses, which has fueled new and creative innovation, like a referral program.  Avant-garde is still extremely relevant today and some might say a necessary part of business, especially in the B2B Telecommunication industry.  B2B Telecoms have been forced to take on tremendous change.  With the development of SaaS products, Telecoms have been able to provide a more agile application and offer a wider variety of solutions to SMBs. But because of this, the market has become extremely saturated. And to add onto that, traditional lead generation channels are decreasing in effectiveness which has forced Telecom businesses to change the way they go about customer acquisition.

Along with trying to find new, non-traditional ways to generate leads, Telecoms are also faced with the challenge of having their lead generation tactics reflect their move away from a transactional business model to a relationship-oriented selling approach. But even after a Telecom is able to acquire a high-quality lead, the complexity of the B2B sales process presents its own challenges including:

  • A long sales pipeline
  • Demonstrating value

While these challenges can be daunting, many Telecoms have been able to transcend them by creating an innovative, automated referral program integrated with sales technology.

3 referral program software solutions for Telecoms

1. Find high-quality leads organically

Google has grown into somewhat of a monster. With the recent volatility Google search has been having and the decrease in effectiveness of PPC, it has never been harder to get found digitally. Of course, that doesn’t mean many companies aren’t doing a great job riding the Google waves, but generating greater numbers of quality organic leads requires a greater and more diverse strategy. This is especially true when competing against the climbing number of B2B Telecoms. Referral programs have proven to not only resonate with the relationship-focused selling of Telecoms, but the target customers as well. In fact, after 3 years a very well-known Telecom not only had their referral program accounting for 20% of all new customers, but a 17% higher LTV than non-referred customers. And just in the last year, a relationship-focused B2B Telecom had 43% conversion rate from referrals to customers. These numbers alone are amazing, but factor in that in 2016 the paid search average conversion rate decreased to 2.70% according to a WordStream benchmark report,  and you have referral programs taking lead generation to a whole new level.

Referral programs accomplish this by creating a personalized 1-1 connection between the business and the referral by having the customer advocate facilitate a trusted introduction through attributable, online, offline, and verbal referrals. Referral programs automatically reward customers when a referral is successful to show appreciation for the time and effort a customer puts into making the referral and working with a salesperson to qualify the referral. This way, a customer is more motivated to refer multiple times because they understand that their efforts are appreciated.

On its own, a referral lead is a much higher quality lead since it is brought in by a customer who knows your product, the need of the referral, and the value you can offer. But by adding referral software that enables sales, Telecoms can not only automate the referral process but speed up the sales pipeline.

2. Speed up the long sales pipeline

In a recent eBook, How to Climb to Smarketing Success, Bob Peterson, Senior Research Director, pointed out that, “Customer advocacy can support demand generation by increasing the velocity of identified deals. Referral deals move faster through the pipeline.”

Each step of the sales pipeline in B2B Telecoms is arduous. Between challenges like having other competitors in the buying process, custom configurations and reaching the decision maker, a lead can take much longer to make it down the pipeline. A referral program help surpass the complexity of Telecom sales process as a result of:

  • Leads that come from referrals often drastically reduce competition since they already trust that the solution will fit their needs because it has been recommended by someone they trust, who has experienced its value.
  • Referrals often come in with a higher level of knowledge surrounding the business. This means that they don’t need to be sold as much.
  • Since the customer advocate knows the referral’s pain, when sales talks to the advocate to qualify the referral they will be able to understand if their needs are too custom or unaligned with their product or service offerings.
  • The referral is more often one of the decisionmakers so sales doesn’t take up as much time trying to climb an organizations ladder.

3. Demonstrate value to prospects

When selling complex products or services, communicating the value directly is not enough to drive a lead to buy. Along with B2B customers needing to be completely sure that the product will deliver as advertised, they also have a variety of different priorities that they want you product or service to accommodate.

Referral advocates have already had time with your product and can clearly prove the added value of a service or product. Even if a customer has had a bumpy road integrating your product at first, communicating the ups and downs to referrals can be beneficial. No product or service is perfect all the time, and knowing that a company is willing to go above and beyond to take care of their customers is a plus for decision makers.

But since Telecoms cater to a wide variety of customers that can have substantially different needs, understanding how to go about displaying value can also be a challenge. In an automated referral program, sales has the advocate details and the referral details at their fingertips. When reaching out to the advocate to qualify the referral they can get the details about what the referral is looking for and their business needs in order to focus on the specific needs of the lead from first contact. This way a company can communicate that they have a deep understanding of a customer’s pain and the solution to that pain.

How RingCentral and Cable One Business use referral programs

RingCentral has seen the remarkable value of referral program software for sales. RingCentral had three iterations of a referral program. The first two were manual which gave them insight into the potential for a referral program to become a top lead generation initiative but had too many challenges, including referral to advocate and reward to advocate attribution breakage. Upon implementation of an automated referral program, RingCentral has been able to provide sales the ability to:

  • Enter trackable verbal referrals.
  • Let sales check the status of a referral in their own platform.
  • Qualify referral leads through their advocates.
  • Reallocate resources that were used on their previous manual program to focus on program growth.

As for Cable One Business, they have many different B2B referral programs for each of their different advocate groups. Two specific B2B referral programs that have been highly successful, targets salespeople and customers. Cable One’s salespeople are a large part of their program and the ability for them to submit referrals was necessary for their success. Rewarding was an important functionality to Cable One Business since they reward their salespeople and customers in different ways within the different programs. Cable One offers two rewards to their salespeople:

  1. Points for each successful referral that can be used in a store similar to Amazon.
  2. Money added to their paycheck that is 1X the customer’s first monthly bill.

Both of these reward methods motivate salespeople to continue to nurture advocates and referrals.

For their customers, they offer something similar. Once a referral is successful they assign bill credits equal to the first month’s payment of the new customer.

The technology requirements for each program were different. The ability to integrate these programs with different parts of Cable One Business, including their CRM, is what contributed to the success of these programs.

Do you want to discover how your Telecom could benefit from a referral program like Cable One Business and RingCentral? Try the ROI calculator now!

 

How referral marketing helps SMB business services claim more sector revenue

What marketing channel are SMBs using to initiate growth?

Of the 390,000 business services companies in the United States, the fifty largest have under 25% of sector revenue. But this isn’t surprising. The SMB business services sector is inhabited by a number of diverse industries including telecommunications, security, fintech and SaaS. These industries have different target buyers, offerings, and benefits, making it difficult to capture a large percentage of business service revenue. However, with total annual sales equaling $815 billion, the overall business services sector contains tremendous growth opportunity no matter what industry you inhabit within the business service umbrella. And with that in mind, the question that many business services professionals are now asking is how to go about initiating that growth.

Read More

Amplifinity Announces Automated Referral Solution for the Telecommunications Industry

Telecommunications companies focused on customer service are using referral software to generate organic growth from satisfied customers.

Ann Arbor, Mich., January 28, 2016  — Large telecommunications businesses are household names, which makes it difficult for smaller companies to compete. While some telecoms may not be able to outspend their larger rivals, they can offer a more personalized experience. The challenge is to get the attention of new customers who are looking for exceptional customer service. Telecom companies like RingCentral, Jive, and Charter Spectrum are successfully using customer referrals to help spread the word.

Today, Amplifinity is announcing a new telecommunications industry solution based on its industry leading SaaS (software as a service) platform. The solution offers telecommunications businesses the capability to cut through the marketing “noise” with a referral automation platform to address the need to attract and acquire new customers. Studies have shown that one-to-one referrals from a trusted source, like happy customers, immediately increases the trust level that a new customer has with telecommunications provider. The Wharton Business School discovered the lifetime value of a referred customer is 16 times higher than a non-referred customer.

 

Amplifinity features that drive telecommunication success:

 

  • Better customer engagement: Amplifinity’s platform can help improve customer relations while growing revenue. Amplifinity provides sales enablement features that help sales and customer success teams stay involved and informed in the referral process. Access to customer advocate data enhances each interaction and improves customer engagement by enabling company representatives to recognize and thank customers that make referrals.
  • Mobile Access: Customers often refer during interactions with friends and family. By enabling the ability to refer from a mobile device, advocates can refer at the moment the opportunity arises.
  • Reward Choice:  Consumers will be motivated to refer for many reasons.  By offering the consumer the ability to select from different rewards types that are tailored to a customer’s preference, more referrals will naturally occur. Some popular rewards are bill credits, gift cards, and charitable contributions.
  • Advocate Nurture: The Amplifinity solution automatically sends customers proactive and informative messages that help nurture the referral process. In addition, advocates are always able to login to their customer account and see the status of every referral they’ve made.
  • Salesforce Integration: For companies already using Salesforce as their CRM, Amplifinity is fully integrated, so referrals can automatically become leads for the sales team. Amplifinity offers a fully integrated and certified managed referral application available on the Salesforce AppExchange.

 

“Referral programs are a very effective way for telecommunications providers to acquire customers and drive growth,” said Amplifinity’s CEO Larry Angeli. “Your happy customers will readily refer you to their network. This is a win-win for businesses focusing on delivering differentiated value with customer service.”

 

About Amplifinity

Amplifinity’s referral amplification software turns customer, employee and partner advocacy into revenue. Our platform provides complete referral tracking and management with 100% accuracy so none are missed. Enterprises like ADP and DirecTV trust Amplifinity to enable high-quality acquisition while providing an engaging, fully-branded experience for their advocates. www.Amplifinity.com

 

 

SMB Telecoms become tele-competitive with referral software

A revolution is taking place. One that might have very similar roots as the all-so-famous Revolutionary War. But what does this mean?  Well, in many areas of the country and the world, large telecommunication conglomerates have the monopoly on their telecom industry. Customers have only a few choices in their television, Internet, email, or phone service provider. In any way that matters, these telecommunication companies are essentially king.

So how are small and medium sized telecom businesses and newer technology driven technology driven telecoms supposed to convince customers to riot and switch over to them? Well, as you yourself may have experienced or heard from others, smaller customers don’t always feel well-cared for by the kings, and while they might provide great prices at first (this usually changes later),  many people have become frustrated and disenchanted with their unapologetic treatment of customers.

This alienation of customers leaves an opening for SMB telecoms. While SMB Telecoms  might not be able to match the pricing of the telecom kings, you can provide something that people and business are ready to revolt for, a personalized customer experience.

How RingCentral personalized their customer experience

RingCentral delivers cloud business communication solutions with a relationship focused sales approach. The success of their business depends on keeping every interaction extremely personalized. In their blog, RingCentral’s Sales Organization: Building Success by Building Relationships, they emphasize how building a relationship with customers is a necessary part of their business model.

To keep to this relationship focused approach, from the first phone call RingCentral starts their interaction on a positive note, which they believe can make all the difference in fostering a fruitful relationship. If your sales team demonstrates how they care for their potential customers and understand their pain points you can start to establish a relationship that builds to a sale.

For RingCentral this often pays off when pursuing a company that has more than one location. RingCentral noted that the previous fostered relationship then opens the doors for a client to test out their product in one location, and when it succeeds, the company often revolts against the previous telecom technology and fully implements RingCentral’s technology instead.

RingCentral claims that this success is “a direct result of our relationship-building efforts.”

And because RingCentral had proof of the power of a relationship focused sales approach they understood what the next step was to their approach – referrals. With small and medium sized telecom business increasingly focused on customer relationships, why not grow your business through mass personalization by incentivizing the customers who already know how valuable your product is? RingCentral thought along the same lines, and that’s why they implemented Amplifinity’s referral software to make their customers their best sales force.

The next step to relationship building sales – referrals

Referral software is the next weapon to spur the masses in the customer relationship revolution. Referral software mobilizes the customers you already have by incentivizing them to become advocates for your service or product. By empowering referrals with referral software you extend the trust between an advocate and their network of family and friends to include your business. The result of this is a drastic increase in your quantity of quality leads.

In fact, with referral software:

  • Customers are 400% more likely to buy (Nielsen)
  • Leads convert 4X better than marketing leads (emarketer)
  • LTV increases by 16% (Harvard Business Review)
  • Conversion rate from referral to purchase is 36% (Amplifinity)
  • Churn decreases by 18% (Marketing Business Review)

Discover your personal referral program ROI with the ROI calculator now!

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Questions? Email me at JEdmondson@amplifinity.com