Adding Value – Don’t Become Sanford and Son
If you’re old enough to remember having to get up and turn the dial on the TV set to change channels (all ten of them!), then you’re probably smiling with fond memories of this show. Sanford and Son was a classic groundbreaking sitcom, and it’s actually funnier to watch today, as they didn’t pull any punches back then. Bonus points, by the way, if you know who wrote the theme song – which I know is now rattling around in your head.
They sure don’t make 'em that way anymore, but Fred’s junkyard business came to mind when thinking of a segue from my last article in this series. In that article, I suggested some approaches that channels could take to add value in a “post-PBX” world. Near the end, I made a passing reference to being in the used equipment business, but there’s more to be said, so here we are.
Have you given much thought to what your clients’ phone systems are worth today? How about what they might be worth 2-3 years from now? Just to be clear, I’m not talking about Y2K-inspired purchases that are hitting end-of-life now. What’s the prognosis for much newer systems that have many years of serviceable life left, and may even still be capitalized on the books?
For anyone buying into the “post-PBX” world, this has to be central to your thinking. Whether you envision a gradual reverse migration (instead TDM to IP, it now becomes PBX away from the business), or a wholesale, forklift “downgrade” (how’s that for a new term?), there is a physical asset in play. Whether the phone system was your deployment or someone else’s, so long as you want to keep that customer, a “post-PBX” scenario becomes a new opportunity you probably never expected to see.
Just as many older PBXs can find a secondary market, a similar need will arise for IP PBXs. Will OEMs take them back, and perhaps refurbish or upgrade? No doubt aggressive competitors will make generous offers to take those phones away in exchange for going with their cloud-based, phone-free UC offering. Many other scenarios will inevitably arise, all of which will add another layer of uncertainty – and even doubt – for your customers.
Old habits die hard, and business phone systems are no exception. Any business that has successfully migrated from TDM to IP will need pretty strong assurances that “post-PBX” is not a fad, and that loyalty to their phone vendor will not end with a costly write-down. One of the key areas you can add value, then, lies in finding a home for phones that will come out of service in these situations. Your clients need a plan and confidence that you can transition them to a better world where UC does not require desk phones.
The importance of a plan is directly related to the value of the phone system today. For systems that are fairly new, there may be some form of a buyout required, either from you, or even in tandem with the OEM. Think of this as another form of creative financing. The issues are simpler with older systems, and this may well be the safer bet, especially for your first “post-PBX” deployments.
Either way, this will be new territory, but the opportunity is yours to define. You can choose the Fred Sanford route and in essence become the PBX scrap dealer, but I think that really hurts your overall value proposition. There are scavengers in all lines of business, but they’re pretty far down the food chain, and can’t add much value. A quality channel partner is in a better position of strength, and you add value by converting a problem in to an opportunity. The “post-PBX” world is too new to provide examples of how to do this yet, but they will emerge, and I believe will be a key success factor for channels. At this point, the question is simple – if you’re ok being Sanford and Son, you’re all set for now (sort of). However, if you know already that’s not going to be your plan, then you need to figure out a better solution now. Otherwise, Fred and Lamont will take that problem off your client’s hands before you know it.