ChannelVision Sept-Oct 2017

By Tara Seals Ooma was launched with a mis- sion to eliminate the traditional prob- lems with phone service: Too pricey, limited features and inflexible terms. After building a successful business in the residential market, the company launched Ooma Office phone service for small businesses. Ooma has re- cently made great strides in its Office value-added reseller program that now supports enterprises as well as the un- derserved micro-business market. We sat down with Tim Sullivan, vice president of sales, to discuss Ooma’s channel strategy and portfolio priorities going forward. ChannelVision: Tell me a bit about Ooma’s latest support initiatives that would be of interest to the channel community. Tim Sullivan: We have historically served micro-businesses with one to 20 employees. But we’re very excited going forward, because we’ve expanded our system to handle hundreds of exten- sions. So, there’s strong upside potential and the possibility of bringing enterprise opportunities to our VAR partners. We’ve also been working hard on our partner portal, which allows our partners to perform cloud activations for VoIP accounts. We have been fo- cused on giving them a very strong toolkit for activating new Ooma clients on their own, to make it easier for them to work with us and for them to support their customers. They can also track commissions and perform account management through that platform. CV: What do you think are the greatest market opportunities for channel part- ners for the rest of 2017 and next year? TS: A key differentiator for Ooma is that a VAR can install both analog and IP phones, depending on the quality of the internet connection within the customer’s business environment. If there’s poor internet, you can’t really rely on an IP phone alone and still have the call qual- ity you need. We have an on-premises device to overcome voice issues, so we give VAR partners flexibility to still offer VoIP, even if the customer is using DSL for example. That on-site appliance – which is essentially a router that we can configure through our network – provides QoS because it reserves bandwidth just for voice. We also have adaptive redun- dancy functionality that can sense packet loss and send triple packets to overcome that issue when required; and, we have a proprietary codec for voice encoding. The result is that even in less-than-optimal internet situations, we still get high marks. We have designed our product to be very easy to set up and easy for a non-expert to manage. This is great for our channel, because a lot of part- ners aren’t telecom specialists. But with Ooma, they can add hosted VoIP to the portfolio, even when it’s not a core competency for them. The partner doesn’t have to be telecom-conver- sant, just reasonably competent. There’s so much opportunity out there, because fewer than 30 percent of business telephone lines are VoIP. Half the consumer market is VoIP, but busi- nesses have been much slower to adapt. CV: What about the larger opportu- nities you mentioned? TS: It’s interesting, because all small businesses are confident that they’re going to grow. We used to have a hard ceiling at 20 extensions, based on a plan that we thought was easy for a DIY per- son to set up. But any business owner is likely thinking that, down the line, he might have more than 20 employees. So we’ve removed that roadblock. CV: How has your partner ecosystem changed in the past year or so, and what do you expect going into 2018? TS: We are seeing more and more managed service providers getting in- volved now. While we don’t have a pure, traditional MSP environment, we are an easy add-on to their other offerings. So, we’re actively investigating ways to make our program more MSP-friendly. We’ve also added a lot of train- ing and coaching, including webinars, which are very well attended. We have a regular drumbeat of people coming through and learning, then going into the market and evangelizing the case for hosted VoIP. We also provide not just technical but also sales training – key selling points, how to qualify a customer – and how to deploy Ooma for opportunities that they may not have encountered before, like the DSL scenario that I mentioned. CV: What’s guiding your overall company mission going forward? TS: Our core base is made up of residential telephone accounts, and the consumer market is an area where we have had great success. Now, we’ve shifted a lot of our growth focus to delivering that same kind of value and quality to the business telephony market. We want to provide communi- cation options that are ubiquitous and simple for the small business owner, with quality, reliability and ease of use. We’re also constantly surveying our customer base to see what features are in demand. UCaaS isn’t a major require- ment for micro-SMBs, but we’re explor- ing that and other items for our future product enhancements. On the residen- tial side, we just added door/window, water and motion home security sensors with a fantastic app. While others walk away, we add features and benefits to the residential ecosystem – and busi- ness owners and our channel partners can look at that track record and expect the same dedication and evolution. o Ooma Evolves in the Business Market Core Communications Ooma, Tim Sullivan Vice President of Sales Channel Vision | September - October, 2017 74