Your Trail Guide to Telecom Contracts - Part One
Introduction - Whose Trail Map are You Following?
Introduction: Whose Trail Map Are You Following?
About This Series
Business telecom vendors want to protect their own interests and get you to follow a pre-determined trail in the rigid map of their standard contract. That’s a pretty big problem when your business needs to pioneer, explore, and grow.
If you can form a negotiation strategy that addresses three criteria: Fit, Flexibility, and Freedom, you’ll be able to avoid getting trapped in an unfavorable agreement and instead get a flexible and fair contract that protects you as the maker of your own map for your business.
Beware the Illusion of the Trail Map
There’s a great moment that takes place whenever you visit a National Park. You pay your fee to get in, and then the ranger hands you a slick, beautiful, brand new map with so many trails to explore you may need to pull off the road for a moment just to take it all in.
A business telecom vendor sells you with that same sense of wonder. They present you with a trail map in the form of a contract and say “Now, you can go anywhere and do anything. These voice, data, and internet solutions will empower your vision and goals as far as you want to go!”
And really, that’s all you want: a favorable, flexible, and fair telecom contract that will support your business as it pioneers a new path.
And yet, there’s a funny thing that happens when you set off on a trail in a National Park. You start to spot places that promise a profit of adventure, a rock scramble above you or an alpine meadow below, and you realize it’s not allowed. The illusion of freedom breaks down, and the trail is all there is. It’s not bad, but it’s not where you want to go now that you realize what’s possible.
Most maps we pick up on vacation lead us through highly-curated environments that are designed to benefit the ones who drew them. The parks have natural resources to protect which are more important to them than your off-trail adventure, and the telecom vendor has their own interests to protect in the rigid map of the standard contract they present you with. It’s their trails you’re following.
That’s a pretty big problem when your company needs to do more than just follow to succeed.
Don't Miss the Illusion of the Internal Telecom Guide
It’s hard enough to need a new map, but the problem in business telecom is compounded when you realize it’s nearly impossible to find unbiased guidance for the task.
You may not realize it right away. Once you’ve navigated the complexity and risk of choosing a vendor, you’ll have a representative, and it will seem that you’ve acquired a helpful guide to take you the rest of the way.
And it’s all an illusion.
It’s not necessarily a deceitful illusion, and your rep may have the best intentions. It’s just a fact that they can’t serve you first while their allegiance is to their own company.
There’s no place where this priority is clearer than in the structure of the business telecom contract. It’s a unique, complex and technical beast, and unfortunately, it’s something that most business leaders have little experience with. On average, a leadership team only encounters this document once every three years in the midst of its other spinning plates and initiatives, and that leaves the advantage on the vendor’s side.
A telecom vendor wants you to trust the illusion so they can guide you on the journey THEY have planned, but your business deserves to determine its own path.
In this blog series, we’re going to offer you a strategy that helps you see through the complexity of telecom contracts to be sure you’re taking the journey that’s best for you.
Here are the Distractions That Make the Illusion Work.
Here are some of the reasons why businesses have trouble seeing clearly as they negotiate a telecom contract. An illusionist’s greatest tool is distraction, and there are plenty of distractions to be had to keep you focused on the telecom vendor’s map.
Price – Business telecom vendors will try to focus negotiations on rates. Discussions focused on rates create an illusion of confidence when savings are discovered. Furthermore, the vendor is prepared to bend on rates because they’ve already determined the rules of that game in their pricing structures. You’re now playing the vendor’s game, and you could be leaving a tremendous amount of value on the table. Sitting on that table is your contract, and the vendor knows that’s where the real potential lives, in the terms that govern it.
Procurement – If your company is large enough to require a procurement office for negotiating your telecom contracts, you know there can be things lost in translation between the expertise of the IT team and the generalized knowledge of the procurement officers. It’s also true that a procurement team can easily fall into the price trap above and miss opportunities to be found in the more technical aspects of the contract language.
Piecemeal Adjustments – Often, some small wins may be made over contract terms, but if the approach is piecemeal or based around routine concerns, a team can miss the opportunity to deploy a larger strategy that can bring greater benefit.
Problem-Solving Mode – Many negotiations are approached from the perspective of “Let’s make sure we solve the thing we got screwed on the last time (or with the last company)!” This approach has the same problem as the piecemeal one. It misses the opportunities brought by a more comprehensive strategy.
It Takes a Comprehensive Strategy to Break the Illusion
We all know that a well-crafted strategy is a key engine of business, but we probably hope we won’t have to get so involved when setting up or renewing a business telecom contract.
However, with business telecom, you’re dealing with one of the most critical bits of infrastructure in your business. The agreement you’re about to sign is long-term, and the prospect of migrating to another provider is daunting at best. There’s good reason to slow down and get this right.
Add to that, this is truly the number-one root cause of problems we see businesses struggle with when dealing with telecom vendors. They miss the opportunity to bring a comprehensive strategy to the table and draw their own trail map.
That’s where the next installments of this blog series will focus, on the three key elements of a telecom contract strategy.
Fit – This addresses the period before and during negotiations. You must select the vendor who is the right fit for you, but you must also be sure your contract breaks away from the standard version they have and fits your specific business like a bespoke tailored suit.
Flexibility – How will the ongoing governance of your contract be structured? How will you ensure your contract has the flexibility to re-draw your trail map over the span of three years, the standard length of a telecom contract? Three years in any industry, especially telecom, is an eternity.
Freedom – What about the back end of the contract? Business telecom contracts are notorious for being difficult to leave. They are designed to keep you on the trail to renewal, and it takes special consideration to adequately protect your right to start a new journey altogether with a new provider.
If you can form a strategy that addresses these three criteria: Fit, Flexibility, and Freedom, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the maker of your own map.
But Is There a Way to Find an Unbiased Trail Guide to Help with Negotiations?
When seeking a new contract for voice, data, internet and cloud services, your stakeholders and procurement officers think they only have two options: to work through a vendor’s direct sales rep or to engage a traditional telecom broker.
The sales rep’s bias we’ve discussed. A broker tends to focus on price and doesn’t always have the background to really understand the inner workings of a telecom vendor.
In contrast, Serviam’s perspective and background is completely unique. It was founded by former VP-level execs of Fortune 500 telecom who happened to have a complimentary set of skills in pricing, contracts, and sales. In other words, they’re able to have conversations that go far beyond rates, and they know exactly how the vendors think and what levers can be pulled.
Serviam was created to truly place a client’s needs first and to be purely of service. In short, rather than guiding clients to a pre-determined trail map, they’re guiding clients to make their own.
Next in Part Two:
Coming up is an inside look at the process they use to help clients develop a contract negotiation strategy, starting with finding the right FIT.
How Can We Serve You?
If you'd like help reviewing your telecom contracts and infrastructure for improvements in rates, contract terms, and tech, you can contact us here.
Once a contract is signed, we continue to guide clients and actively manage their vendor relationships. You can discover a long-term partner who becomes an extension of your existing IT teams, allowing your company to focus on its core competencies.
Our availability to take on new clients is limited, but we'd love to hear from you to see if we can be of service. Learn more about Serviam and its unique approach to serving business telecom clients at www.serviamco.com.
The telecom industry expects you to find your own way
through a complex landscape of vendors, options, and risks.
We guide you through those risks
to the right voice, data, and internet solutions
for your business.
Then, we serve as your partner,
managing those solutions
So you can focus on the trail ahead.