Solving the telecoms skills gap for IT resellers

The future for IT resellers is in offering a more diverse, unified product portfolio. Many are now taking on telecommunications systems such as cloud-hosted telephony, while still providing the services for which they are known and trusted. The goal is to become one-stop providers for the 74% of UK businesses that want better a better communications network to deliver better service. And with 35-40% margin available on reselling telecoms products, the appeal is obvious.

But moving into new service areas is not a straightforward process. New systems, customer requirements and legal governance are all significant hurdles to jump. But none is quite as great as assembling the right team to sell and install the product.

With cloud-hosted telephony comes the need to source expert staff who can sell the product, as well as those who can provide first-class marketing, support and aftercare. Some of whom will come at a price.

There are various ways to build a team for success in a busy market. Knowing which is the right one is crucial. Here’s how you can close the skills gap and manage the evolution of services in your business.

 

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The recruitment drive

The easiest route to assembling a sales and support team with cloud telephony expertise is to make new hires. Bringing together people with proven knowledge, contacts and a sales track record is the most surefire way to successfully turn prospects into customers. Recruiting externally also means that competitors immediately find themselves on the back foot, against a new player on their turf.

However, the very same factors that make external recruitment attractive make it an expensive and time consuming business. The combination of experience, aptitude and availability is incredibly hard to find. And sales people in particular know what they are worth to companies, especially those who are most in need of their experience. So if you find precisely what you are looking for, expect it to come at a price.

Upskill internally

The alternative to a potentially costly recruitment drive is to look inside your business for what is already there. As an IT specialist you may not find anyone with the experience of selling telecommunications products (at least not the most contemporary solutions). But there may be untapped potential, ambition and the appetite to learn.

Upskilling also has the benefit of reinvigorating tired sellers or underperforming teams. The responsibility of learning about and selling a new priority service can act as a boost to your salespeople and save thousands of pounds (and almost as many hours!) of recruitment costs.

Support the support staff

Alongside new sales people, IT resellers entering the telecommunications market will need the marketing and operational capability to manage each end of the supply process. From lead identification and generation, to installation and aftercare.

Because much of that know how will not already be available in house, you again face the choice of external hiring or internal training.

Good channel partners will recognise your need for new skills and capabilities before you take your first steps into the telecoms marketplace. Dedicated accreditation programmes for support staff, billing capability training for accounts and consumer insight advice for marketing are just three of the services you should expect from a top telecommunications supplier. Some will also add in product demos, tips on running good sales exhibitions and prospect meeting debriefs for a complete training package.

As the number of IT resellers entering the telecommunications market grows, the skills gap will inevitably widen. While the answer can, in part, be found in recruitment, it is not the whole solution. Smart resellers should balance external talent acquisition with internal talent sourcing, staff accelerator programmes and training. The last of which will be a collaborative exercise with your provider, meaning that choosing the right supplier to work with is the most important step you will make when starting out in telecommunications.

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10 February 2016 | Justin Coombes

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