How to sell convergence

Team meeting around a table with laptop, tablets and smartphones

The benefits for customers are significant too. Unified communications (UC) theoretically offers an ideal scenario where users can save money, improve efficiency and provide better customer service by integrating their voice and data communications.

Customers can save on fixed and mobile phone costs, increase voice mobility, improve communications, cut costs with videoconferencing, increase sales with integrated voice and data applications, run video clips and multimedia together with messaging and converge fixed and mobile communications.

However, many customers are still deferring convergence and many data resellers have avoided it. Customers are deferring it because they have a number of genuine concerns that aren’t being addressed. And many data resellers see voice and convergence as a complex area which they currently don’t understand enough to pursue seriously.

Both customer and reseller concerns can be resolved and there are major advantages for both in following the converged systems route.

Key tips for selling convergence

* Step outside the comfort zone

Customers respect and pay for knowledge in difficult areas and the real money in convergence is in expertise around complexity. Convergence, whether it is fixed and mobile, CRM integration, video conferencing, remote working, workgroup coordination, wireless networking, video surveillance, or whatever, involves integrating different knowledge areas.

As convergence is based on a common platform of IP, data resellers who have an application view of traffic on the network, have many advantages over traditional voice resellers.

The rewards of success in this area are considerable. For example, less that 10 percent of the market has convergence-based security. Compare that with 99 percent penetration of firewalls in the data market.

This kind of opportunity, therefore, makes it worthwhile to understand the differences and different terminology between the two markets. This can be done through skilled distribution or through vendor support.

* Don’t try to sell the UC dream

Convergence, particularly for the public sector, SMEs and mid-enterprises is not a destination, but a journey. Very few people have a green field site where they can start off in life with an extensive UC solution. Everyone starts from a different place. You won’t sell to organisations by offering them an extensive, complete UC dream that covers all options.

Organisations want to buy a UC solution which meets their tactical needs today, at a very good price, and allows them to add further UC solutions that fit into their longer term strategy, as they grow, and as their expertise and sophistication increase.

There are a number of UC solutions that VARs can sell. Voice over IP is one UC application where a reduction in costs can easily be demonstrated. The voice/data integration of CRM systems is an application which can provide improved productivity and better customer call activity, with a resultant potential for cost savings.

Fixed and mobile phone convergence, is another solution which brings the opportunity for reduced mobile costs, together with the ease of a “single” number. This is a straightforward sale. Longer term solutions might include streaming media, web conferencing, multimedia applications, etc.

* Address user areas of concern

There are a number of ‘elephants in the room’ when it comes to convergence, that some suppliers are just not acknowledging, and these are detrimental to implementation. These ‘elephants’ are network visibility, quality of service, continuity of service, and security. They are also issues rated by users as being of greater importance than actually saving money!

Network visibility

Implementing UC typically means the adoption of high capacity applications with minimal latency requirements. Visibility of network activity, both before and after implementation, is therefore crucial.

Without network visibility, early problems can be a major deterrent to further implementation. However, with network visibility, it’s possible to identify and resolve quality issues, as well as plan for and predict future requirements.

Quality of service

Quality of service is key. If users implement converged services on their existing network infrastructure, without proper planning and the use of suitable traffic management tools, then they will probably end up with an unacceptable quality of service, manifested in slow response times and poorer voice quality on calls.

They will also find it may be impossible to use certain bandwidth heavy applications at all, because of the negative impact they have on the network.

Continuity of service

One of the biggest worries people have about UC is the danger of losing both voice and data at the same time - the perfect communications storm. This issue alone has delayed many organisations from implementing UC.

However, there are many ways of protecting against this unacceptable scenario. Companies can implement multiple different connection lines, as a fail safe mechanism, as well as deploying link balancing and load balancing.

With multiple different connection lines, if one line goes down, then you have others to fall back on - and they don’t all have to be expensive broadband lines.

With load-balancing, your traffic can be shared across the multiple lines, so you get the benefit of the capacity of your spare connection lines and an improvement in your existing quality of service. With link balancing, if the link to one connection line goes down, there’s automatic switching to another connection line. So, when used with other solutions, the concerns regarding business continuity can be resolved.


Incorporating voice and messaging into an IP network, not only exposes voice applications to the existing threats on data networks, but also exposes data networks to the voice-based threats. With many voice-based threats being different to data threats, this can significantly increase the risk profile faced by companies.

While this is often addressed in principle by running on different LANs or VLANs, in practise there will always be a bridge between the two, inside the firewall, and this is often inadequately secured.

Unencrypted voice and toll fraud are familiar threats. However many other less familiar threats still impact deployments. These include different IP PBX and VLAN security requirements from data networks; SIP trunk security (including policy divergence between supplier and user); and access security issues with IP soft phones and dual-mode phones.

These and other security risks can be overcome with the deployment of UC specific security solutions. However, unless this ‘elephant in the room’ is addressed as part of the sale process, those customers who rate security as their top concern will continue to vote with their wallets.

With surveys emphasising the importance of the above issues, winners in the sales race will be those who understand and address the ‘elephants’ early in the selling process. Knowledge of and discussion of these issues is the first stage to resolving them.

Managing UC networks

There are a variety of tools available to help manage converged IP networks and deal with the issues raised above. Traffic management, quality of service, load balancing, link balancing and network visibility solutions, for example, are available from suppliers such as Allot and Barracuda Networks. Security solutions are available from a wide range of vendors including established companies such as WatchGuard, Check Point and Sipera.

* Find the right distributor

Get a distributor who is committed to convergence and has a range of convergence solutions, as well as complementary products that address customers’ concerns about relying on converged networks.

Your distributor should provide knowledge of both the voice and data sides of convergence as well as ongoing pre-sales technical support, sales support and engineering support. They should be prepared to support you during the early sales, visiting sites and helping spec them out, suggesting appropriate solutions, helping with implementation and after sales, until you get up to speed with the technologies and issues.