The importance of telecoms talent for IT resellers

IT resellers have been spreading their wings for a few years now, offering their clients an increasingly diverse range of products and services. Predominantly because UK businesses looking to improve communications appreciate the simple one-stop-shop model that can give them the latest telecommunications systems, such as cloud-hosted telephony, as well as core IT services.

The market opportunity for cloud-based telephony in particular is huge. With a 35-40% margin available on reselling telecoms products, the appeal of telephony for resellers is obvious – especially with reseller profit margins under pressure. But moving into a new service area is never straightforward. Providers have to establish their credentials and build trust all over again. There are new systems to fathom, new customer requirements to understand and new legal governance to grasp.

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All these are significant hurdles to jump, but they’re not as tough as sourcing the right team to sell and install new products. It’s just not possible to sell or support cloud-hosted telephony without expertise. And that expertise often comes at a price.

There are only two ways to close the skills gap when adding new services to your portfolio:

1. Recruit
The easiest way to get expert cloud telephony sales and support teams is to hire them. Bringing in people with proven knowledge, contacts and a sales track record is a sure-fire way to turn prospects into customers. An added bonus of recruiting people into your business is that it puts competitors on the back foot, suddenly dealing with a new player on their turf. However, recruitment is expensive and time-consuming. It’s hard to find the right combination of experience, aptitude and availability, particularly with the UK’s current skills shortage in the sector. So if you do manage to find the people you’re looking for, you can expect it to come at a price.

2. Upskill
The alternative to a potentially costly recruitment drive is to look inside your business for people with the potential to acquire a new skillset. As an IT specialist you may not have anyone with experience of selling the latest telecommunications products, but someone may have the ambition and appetite to pick it up. Upskilling also has the benefit of reinvigorating jaded sellers or underperforming teams. The responsibility of learning about and selling a new priority service can act as a boost to your sales team – and save thousands of pounds (and almost as many hours) of recruitment costs.

Ask your supplier

In addition to sales people, IT resellers entering the telecommunications market will need marketing and operational resources to manage each end of the supply process. From lead identification and generation, to installation and aftercare. Not much of that know-how will already be available in-house. Yet good telecoms suppliers will understand your need for new skills and capabilities as you take your first steps into the marketplace. Many have dedicated partner accreditation programmes for support staff, billing capability training for accounts and consumer insight advice for marketing. Some suppliers will also provide a complete training package, including product demos, tips on running good sales exhibitions and prospect meeting debriefs.

As the number of IT resellers entering the telecommunications market grows (the global market is estimated to be worth USD 30.79 billion (approx £25 billion) by 2021) the skills gap will inevitably widen and experts will be in huge demand. Smart resellers will balance external talent acquisition with internal talent sourcing, staff accelerator programmes and training. Ideally it’s a collaborative exercise with your telecoms supplier, so finding the right one is paramount.

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24 March 2017 | Justin Coombes

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