Observations on Selling Small Business VoIP

With all the talk about hosted telephony over recent years it’s no wonder some organizations feel sceptical about making the switch away from their current solution. Most organizations are inherently conservative and tend to adopt a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.  Part of this mentality comes from inherent human stubbornness and preference for what we already know we like, another comes from a reluctance to spend money when it doesn’t seem necessary.

Seeing the Value

A common situation we occasionally find ourselves in is one where it can be difficult to convey the comparative value of a communications solution vs. existing phone system. You may explain the benefits of VoIP technology and provide cost comparison, emphasize industry trends supporting the move without making any traction.

Human psychology is interesting: we value what we have and we feel risk aversion to what we haven’t experienced yet, which is why on the one hand it can be difficult to convince some people that new benefits are worthwhile while on the other hand those same individuals would never give up those new features after they’ve spent even a little bit of time enjoying them. Once we move forward and enjoy the benefits of a superior solution it’s impossible to convince us to give up those benefits, but it’s sure as hell difficult to convince some people to take that step forward.

This reluctance to believe a superior solution is really as good as it purports to be translates to another fascinating psychological quirk worth diving into…

Weighing the Negative Greater Than the Positive

Let’s say you are considering switching brands of toothpaste. You are currently using a normal tube of Crest or Colgate or whatever costs $3 at the corner drugstore. You like your current toothpaste, it doesn’t seem to do anything wrong, and we’re accustomed to it. But we’ve been reading about a new brand of toothpaste. It’s all natural and organic, it has a whitening component within it, and it will improve gum health. Sounds like a sure thing, right?

And it is a sure thing when you first hear about this new wonderful brand of toothpaste. But then you do a little bit of digging. You go on to Amazon.com and you start to read reviews. There are countless 5 star reviews extolling its virtues and you read through a hundred of them before you feel just about convinced switching toothpaste brands is a really good idea. But, just to be safe, you decide to read a couple negative reviews just to see if there’s anything you should be on the lookout for.

There are two negative reviews to read, and both of them say the toothpaste has a taste they don’t like. All of a sudden you begin to doubt whether you really want to switch to this new toothpaste or not. You’re suddenly worried about just how bad this toothpaste tastes and whether all of its benefits are worthwhile- or if they’re even real or just a whole lot of hype.

Whether you’ve ever tried to change toothpaste brands before is irrelevant- you can probably think of a ton of examples similar to the one above from your own life where a little bit of largely irrelevant negative feedback clouded all the positive benefits you once looked forward to with a new product or service.

Because we are set in our ways it often takes nothing more than a little bit of (often irrelevant) negative feedback to talk us out of making the switch to a beneficial solution. We find this is just as true when it comes to switching to a hosted VoIP telephony as when it relates to switching to organic toothpaste. And to make matters worse, that little bit of dissuading information is often not just irrelevant- it’s often inaccurate.

Aggressive sales tactics employed by some business VoIP service providers are partly to blame for some of the customer’s apprehension. In an effort to “sweeten the pill” sales reps often forget to disclose service requirements or outline the installation costs when they talk about their solution.

Fully Considering What “Cost Savings” Means

It’s absolutely true that some people overlook installation costs in their pre-buy analysis when they make the switch to new VoIP provider and they end up frustrated and annoyed that their initial cost savings go towards mitigating their initial costs instead of simply funnelling straight into their pockets as pure profit.

Others opt to not use the latest productivity features and end up feeling that they changed a familiar working solution for another one that requires installation, training and does the same thing.

In other words- ignorance is the easiest and most accurate explanation of why certain negative reviews of some of the business VoIP solutions propagate online.

Importance of Pre-Buy Analysis

Customers absolutely should look for dissenting opinions in the Unified Communications debate. Every technology has a weakness in one form or another. Knowing the weakness of every technology your organization considers adapting is an important part of educational process making informed decisions implies entertaining negative opinions on the technology.

Putting cost concerns aside, perhaps the biggest reason some people decide to stick with old phone systems and to forgo the benefits of switching to a new VoIP service lies in a fear of opting for a more complex solution that is less reliable.

There is more than one way any technological solution may fail the user. One is for it to function poorly while another is to not live up to anticipated cost savings or availability of features. For most clients who are buying based on availability of a specific feature – there is a danger in hyper-focusing on availability of that one feature.

The point here is that most situations when the solution fails to live up to customers expectations are preventable with a good thorough pre-buy analysis that takes time, education and some effort. It’s a reflection of how a buyer does his homework.  Our advice is to make time available to look at the solution before you buy it – it will be worth every second and penny spent on it.