Tag Archives: channel partners

Here's what an industry expert has to say about SD-WAN.

Helping Customers See the Benefits of SD-WAN

Struggling to sell SD-WAN? Take some advice from an industry expert.

WHere's what an industry expert has to say about SD-WAN. hile the advantages of a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) are obvious to those in the networking house, outsiders can sometimes struggle to see the strengths of this new type of technology. Fortunately, Chris Donlan, a Solutions Architect and SD-WAN Evangelist for MicroCorp, is here to break down the challenges plaguing many partners.

“The value of SD-WAN is simple,” says Donlan. “At its core, SD-WAN is an evolution of WAN technologies that allows end-users to overcome inherent network vulnerabilities to meet the new demands of business applications today and increasing migrations to cloud solutions.

Think of it this way: cable networks pose their own challenges with network performance, and telco carrier networks aren’t infallible either. Add in the inherent nature of the internet as an uncontrollable entity, and there’s a lot of opportunity for uncertainty and exposure to poor application performance. SD-WAN empowers end users to bypass these limitations with software-based solutions utilizing multiple WAN connections.

Here are a few of the more tangible benefits SD-WAN offers:

  • Connection resiliency
  • Network visibility
  • Intelligent packet routing
  • Rapid deployment
  • Improved network management

Despite these benefits, however, partners still face a variety of roadblocks when presenting SD-WAN as the most appropriate solution for customers.

“One of the current challenges of SD-WAN is that it’s new to the market as the SD-WAN ‘package.’ The technologies have been around a while, just not all packaged together,” says Donlan, “so there’s hesitancy to adopt what appears to be new technology. Another issue is that the provider landscape makes it very confusing for end users. It seems every week there is a new provider promoting their SD-WAN. And what do people do when they’re confused? They do nothing; it paralyzes them.”

But it doesn’t have to come to that deer-in-the-headlights situation for your customers, as Donlan explains. Shifting the way you think about SD-WAN, and changing the way you position it to your customers can instantly erase any confusion.

“A lot of people ask me how to sell SD-WAN,” says Donlan. “I tell them, the the important thing to understand is that SD-WAN isn’t an it. SD-WAN doesn’t have features and benefits, and it’s not something you can sell like a phone system. Instead, SD-WAN has the technological capability to allow a business to run much more efficiently. Notice, however I haven’t said it reduces costs.”

Donlan explains how some unenlightened folks may attempt to position SD-WAN as a cost-saving solution for any customer, but the technology doesn’t necessarily boost everyone’s bottom line.

“Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that SD-WAN can save everyone money,” says Donlan. “That’s not necessarily the case. In one scenario, it might, but in another scenario, it might not. SD-WAN can, however, save you soft costs such as downtime, and it makes networks easier to manage. But partners who start the conversation with ‘It’s going to save you money,’ might not end up where they thought they would.”

So what benefits should partners suggest first when presenting SD-WAN to customers? In Donlan’s view, it largely depends upon the business.

“Connectivity assurance, network visibility and management, as well as application performance are important advantages of SD-WAN,” says Donlan, “but network visibility isn’t going to mean anything to a CEO. However, for somebody whose job it is to manage the network, being able to make decisions based on visibility and analysis is incredibly valuable.”

In today’s data-driven world, there’s endless information at our fingertips. SD-WAN gives you the tools you need to derive insights from that information. “For instance, SD-WAN can show you historical reports about network performance,” says Donlan. “And whether it’s internet or MPLS, you can review your network’s performance during the last 30 days and confront your carrier if they’re not living up to their end of the SLA. But that’s just an example. There’s all kinds of information there that’s available with SD-WAN.

SD-WAN can be confusing for many individuals who aren’t familiar with the in and outs of networking. But by positioning the technology in the right light and explaining in clear terms what your customers stand to gain, SD-WAN should be an easy sell.

Contact MicroCorp and Chris to learn more about how to sell SD-WAN.

Using digital transformation to improve channel partner sales.

Improve Your Channel Partner Sales with Digital Transformation

Using digital transformation to improve channel partner sales.Improving channel partner sales is MicroCorp’s focus, and digital transformation can actually boost opportunities for partners. This process of moving from a hardware-focus to more of a software-focus is bringing with it some great new opportunities to make sales.

How Can I Use Digital Transformation to Drive Sales?

Since there are several facets involved in digital transformation, there are several ways to use it to make improve channel partner sales.

SD-WAN. One of the biggest digital transformation moves around, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) is a great fit for businesses with multiple locations. It takes what’s already worked with WAN operations and expands on it by taking the focus off hardware and putting it more on software.

Unified communications. Unified communications systems incorporate voice, video, conferencing systems and more, it’s an excellent all-in-one package, and also provides a great opportunity for sales by offering the basic infrastructure points—or even the limited hardware required—to do the job right.

BYOD. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) doctrine is a great cost-saver for businesses as employees bring their devices of choice to work. It takes some advance preparation to do correctly, though, so this is a good opportunity for channel partner sales in network security, Wi-Fi connectivity, and more.

Cloud services. While unified communications is a major cloud service, it’s not the only one. The cloud is increasingly offering a range of services from analytics to disaster recovery. Having these services on hand can mean excellent partner sales for businesses looking to branch out, better protect themselves, or perform a wide range of functions without having the hardware on hand.

Data center functions. Whether it’s on-premises, cloud-based, or a hybrid of the two, businesses are taking advantage of having their data immediately to hand and readily shared out throughout the organization. Channel partner sales benefit here, particularly for targets that have no data center or want to change the current one.

How Do I Get Started with Digital Transformation?

If you see opportunity in digital transformation, then the way to take advantage of it to start making more sales is to start working with a master agent, like us at MicroCorp. We can provide options for several stages of digital transformation. Plus, our Ultimate Partner Training program can help keep you on the cutting edge of new developments. So don’t let digital transformation pass you by; get in touch with us to get started making new channel partner sales.

Being a part of an educational ecosystem is the best way to ensure ongoing sales.

Channel Partners: Learning Leads to Selling

Being a part of an educational ecosystem is the best way to ensure ongoing sales.Every sales rep has a go-to tool to help make sales. Maybe it’s an emotional pitch. Maybe it’s a close relationship or spending time building trust. These are useful enough, but there’s one tool that’s often overlooked, but never should be. It’s ongoing learning, and every sales rep and channel partner out there should know how valuable it is to keep as current as possible on what’s being sold. If partners do not stay relevant and up-to-date on technologies and how to sell them, another technology advisor will step in to take their place.

Why Should a Channel Partner Take Ongoing Learning Seriously?

A channel partner that keeps up with learning allows several important advantages to take hold.

No costly stops-and-starts. Those who try to pack all their learning into one blast every so often incur substantial costs, and not just in course tuition. Having to stop other activities while getting caught up on the latest developments represents an opportunity cost, allowing competitors to make inroads while the partner in question is busily cracking the books.

Better chances at sales. It goes without saying that knowing one’s product is one of the best ways to make sales. The benefits of being educated are two-fold:

1)  It allows the partner to more effectively demonstrate a product’s value and illustrate the value proposition at hand. When customers object—and there’s almost always an objection somewhere—the partner is better equipped to take on that objection head-on and walk out the other side.

2) Staying educated about technologies enables partners to feel more confident in their conversations with customers, and allows them to stay a step ahead of their competition. Guiding customers through new technologies will be the clincher for recurring sales.

Developed relationships. While this relates to the last point, there’s something to be said for developing a reputation for expertise. When businesses discover their sales reps are knowledgeable about a certain point, it opens up a path for those businesses to consult sales reps about technology strategy. The astute channel partner will, naturally, be ready to upsell.

Improved Learning Quality. Some might say that it takes time to be an expert anyway; what’s the difference between spending 10,000 hours all at once or 10 hours a week for a thousand weeks? For technology, the difference is simple: technology is what’s known as “auto-catalytic.” New developments follow from old ones, so the more that’s understood about old developments, the faster the new ones can be internalized and capitalized upon. It becomes easier to learn new technologies when old ones aren’t foreign.

How Can a Channel Partner Best Keep Up With Ongoing Learning?

Keep up with all the changes in a product line by joining a product ecosystem. MicroCorp, for example, has The Solutions Alliance, a portfolio of vetted IT service professionals to help keep channel partners in the loop and to ensure they deliver your customers top-notch service. For those who want to keep up and keep ahead, just drop us a line to get started.

Bigleaf’s John Hogan talks SD-WAN, Sales, and Advice for Channel Partners

As SD-WAN makes its way around the channel — challenging forecasts for MPLS, sales, and expertise — we reached out to John Hogan, VP of Partner Sales & Business Development for Bigleaf Networks to give us his scoop on SD-WAN as it stands today. We talk sales opportunities, the types of SD-WAN, and advice for partners. Check out the interview below:

Keenan: With all the buzz out there about SD-WAN, what are some of the essential points partners have to have in their arsenal when selling SD-WAN?

Hogan: I know the SD-WAN space can seem daunting and confusing – even for partners that consider themselves to be industry veterans. My best advice for partners looking to become educated on their SD-WAN options is to categorize the different suppliers into a few major categories, and then work with their MicroCorp support team to build a relationship with at least one solid player in each category.

At Bigleaf, we’ll be the first to admit that there really is no single SD-WAN vendor that’s the right fit for every customer. So it’s important to have a few options ready to go based on the customer’s applications and network architecture.

Here are three SD-WAN supplier categories that we tend to keep track of at Bigleaf:

Carrier-based SD-WAN platforms

  • Major focus: SD-WAN as an MPLS enhancement or MPLS replacement
  • Includes a Gateway component for cloud-based traffic

Limitations:

  • Typically replaces firewalls (complex sales process, longer install)
  • Ties your SD-WAN sale to a specific carrier
  • Support experience can be challenging due to broad product set, and the fact that the carrier is re-selling another vendor’s SD-WAN platform

Premise-only solutions (no Gateway component)

  • Major focus: Built mainly for site-to-site connectivity

Limitations:

  • Typically replace firewalls (complex sales process, longer install)
  • Not as strong for cloud-based traffic due to the lack of a Gateway
  • Some require large, upfront equipment purchases

Firewall/Cloud Agnostic (this is Bigleaf’s sweet spot!)

Major focus: Easy self-installation of SD-WAN for cloud-based traffic

Onsite router deploys outside the customer’s firewall (less complicated install)

Cloud Gateway network setup for any cloud-based traffic or site-to-site VPNs

Limitations:

  • Primarily designed for internet connections (not a fit for load-balancing with MPLS or Private-Line circuits)

Keenan: Are there any commonly misunderstood points about SD-WAN partners should be aware of?

Hogan: One of the greatest misunderstood points about SD-WAN is the common belief that SD-WAN is primarily designed as an MPLS enhancement or replacement. These talking points have been driven largely by the major carriers.

Frankly, if you’re a carrier with a large base of MPLS revenue, it’s going to make sense to target SD-WAN technology (and marketing) towards the concept of leveraging SD-WAN intelligence to load-balance existing MPLS networks with broadband to build a hybrid environment for site-to-site connectivity. And that can be a great use of the technology for an enterprise customer with a large IT budget and a long-term need for more traditional, site-to-site architecture.

At Bigleaf, we’re more focused on leveraging SD-WAN technology as a more robust, cost-effective access to cloud applications. We call our technology “Cloud-First SD-WAN”.  We chuckle when we hear people say that SD-WAN is disrupting MPLS. In our view, the cloud disrupted MPLS well before SD-WAN was popular.

For many customers that are migrating applications out to the cloud, their legacy network architecture no longer makes as much sense. Their major connectivity needs have essentially migrated from a hub and spoke model to a remote-site-to-many approach. Efficient access to hosted VoIP, SaaS, AWS or Azure, etc. have become more important than access to an HQ or single data center. Any remaining site-to-site connectivity needs can be addressed with VPNs that will always remain healthy and stable thanks to SD-WAN’s prioritization and seamless failover capabilities.

Clearly, the Bigleaf SD-WAN focus plays out more in the small to mid-sized customer base, and the carrier SD-WAN focus plays out more in the enterprise space.

Keenan: What’s the best way partners can educate themselves about SD-WAN and how to sell it?

Hogan: Like anything in telecom, it really comes down to a combination of learning the key technology, but then also building a good working relationship with a few key suppliers. Good technology is never enough by itself. It’s the combination of technology and good service that makes customers happy.

For MicroCorp partners, I would highly recommend the Ultimate Partner Training Series for an opportunity to do a deep dive on SD-WAN, data center and advanced hosted solutions. Bigleaf has participated in several of these events in the past couple years, and they accomplish both the education component and the vendor relationship component. Or, just schedule a personalized training call with Bigleaf Networks, and at least one vendor from the three major SD-WAN categories noted above.

Lastly, in order to truly understand the capability of SD-WAN, you need to work through a few real-life customer implementations to experience the installation process and hear your customers’ feedback first-hand. All of our order forms have a 30-day money-back guarantee, but we’re also happy to provide a 30-day free trial when needed to allow customers to test our technology risk-free. Use these tools to help close some early wins!

Keenan: How should partners look at MPLS now that SD-WAN is encroaching on its market?

Hogan: With any major technology migration, there are some that will see new technology as a threat. And others that will see opportunity in the evolution. MPLS is not likely to disappear anytime soon. But I think many people agree it will die a slow death over a period of several years. So it’s important to build an SD-WAN strategy moving forward. That strategy can be multi-pronged:

  • Begin working on a proactive migration plan for all of your MPLS customers that will play out for several years. That plan won’t likely mean getting rid of MPLS for all customers. Some cloud-centric customers may certainly replace MPLS with an SD-WAN-enabled internet solution. While others may incorporate more of a hybrid MPLS/broadband approach. Either way, the future of your customers’ WANs are likely to incorporate an SD-WAN component in some degree or fashion in the next few years.
  • Don’t forget about the cloud! One of the greatest benefits of SD-WAN technology is more cost-effective access to cloud applications that is carrier and physically diverse. Every SD-WAN sale is a potential pivot-point into future cloud application sales for that customer. Treat your SD-WAN sales as an excuse to have a conversation with your customer about their current and future application needs — and how those needs can be met through future cloud migrations — and you have a built-in roadmap to a cloud-centric business plan for your company. Every SD-WAN sale results in a purpose-built roadway to the cloud, so help your customers use it!
  • Embrace the “every quote” opportunity with SD-WAN. The market is quickly hitting a breaking point where most businesses can no longer afford to work with a single, dumb internet pipe. With the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications, site-to-site VPNs, SaaS, O365, etc, the internet has become a lifeline to most businesses. So educate customers on SD-WAN as a part of every internet/VoIP/cloud quote that goes out the door. It will increase your ARPU and help combat the eventual decline of MPLS revenue.

Highlights From Channel Partners Conference & Expo – Las Vegas, 2017

MicroCorp Recognized for Largest Single Sale in 2016!

MicroCorp was recognized at the Level 3 Communications Awards Dinner at the Channel Partners Conference and Expo for achieving the largest single sale for 2016. This award was given along with recognition for 2016 MVP status. MicroCorp was also named an Elite MVP in 2015 and serves on the Level 3 Advisory Board.

ACC Million Dollar Club & Platinum Cup Partner

MicroCorp President, Phil Keenan, receiving the Platinum Cup award from ACC for the 11th consecutive year. MicroCorp was also recognized as a Million Dollar partner.

MicroCorp Partners Celebrate & Cocktail Party!

MicroCorp and provider sponsors hosted an evening cocktail party for MicroCorp partners at Aureole, Mandalay Bay!

Congratulations Frank Ferdowsian!

Winner of MicroCorp’s “So You Think You Know Cloud” campaign!