J.R. Cook, Senior Vice President of the Western Region for Intelisys and ScanSource is joined by Mark Bloom, Director of the West for Fuze, a leading supplier in the UCaaS space, to discuss partner enablement, the adoption of features within the UCaaS space, and the ways partners can help businesses moving to remote environments.
J.R.: Hey, this is J.R. Cook, Senior Vice President of the Western Region for Intelisys and ScanSource. Welcome to another version of our Go Remote Spotlight. We’re fortunate to be joined by Mark Bloom.
He’s the Director of the West for Fuze and I guess they threw in the country of Canada for you in that title, which is pretty exciting.
Mark: Small piece of Canada.
J.R.: Hey, well, welcome. Thanks for joining us. We really appreciate you guys being part of this event for us. Listen, I want to start off, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know you a little bit, Mark. You’ve got some good stories, which I’m sure that our community will have a great time getting to know you personally, hopefully sometime soon. But, take a few minutes, tell us a little bit about Mark Bloom first.
Mark: Oh, well, I got in the IT industry a long time ago because I lost my business over backup. The first place I went to, to learn anything was the channel. I didn’t have any experience. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I recognized that one of our biggest competitors, that they just parted ways with their CEO. I, on a whim, hit him up on LinkedIn and contacted him and said, “I’d like to pick your brain on this channel thing. I’m new to this company. I’d just like to learn.” He messaged me back the next day and we spent an hour and a half on the phone. I took feverish notes about everything, the advice he gave me, and probably went through a pen or a notebook taking notes.
It was just a really welcoming experience into a new career for me that I just thoroughly enjoyed. Getting to know the partners, learning the process, learning what to do, what not to do, making mistakes, but not repeating them. It was the greatest education I ever had, minus from college and everything else. I learned more during those couple years in the beginning that now I keep those same principles today in the channel to where it’s all about the partner. It’s all about the relationship and all about really trying to make things grow for everybody, not only your product, but for the channel community as well.
J.R.: Awesome. Well, of course as a Vegas guy I got to bring it up. I know you had a little history at UNLV. Want to tell the community a little bit about that?
Mark: Yeah. I went there to play football and ended up getting hurt right away. The good thing about that is that I got some good advice from some coaches to actually go into the coaching profession. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do even after football. Did it for 13 years at Mitchellville High School and Santa Margarita Catholic out in California, two nationally ranked programs. We’ve produced some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez. Had a great 13 year run there and just waiting until my son’s old enough to where he can put on a helmet. My wife will sign off on the waiver so we can get him catching the pigskin.
J.R.: Nice. I think we’ve talked, our conversations, you’ve used a little bit of that strategy you learned as a coach and you’re actually using it to help coach our partners and how to be more strategic in front of their customers and how to close the deals.
Mark: No, absolutely. Because I think the one thing that as a channel person that we really have to do is that it’s not just putting the product in front of the customers and expecting them to sell it. You really have to take the approach of coaching them along the way. First, learn how to be agnostic and selling what you do. For us it’s UCaaS and that’s what we cover. We want to make sure that they understand how to pitch the product without having a logo attached to it. Do they understand the nuances to it? We coach them in each phase of that selling cycle so that when they put Fuze in that mix, it actually is a lot easier for them to have that conversation. At Fuze, we’re all about enablement with our partners, educating them on not only what Fuze does, how to position it, how we’re positioned in the market.
Some of the things that we do best, some of the things that we struggle in. I think it’s really important that the education of your partners is really what helps them get to the next level. If you expect them to do this without that coaching, you’re not going to get anywhere.
J.R.: I love hearing you say that. I’ve always said to suppliers, any supplier that’s willing to invest the time into a partner and help them to learn the technology, give them some coaching skills around how best to position the product without again, being tied to a logo, that partner is always going to be loyal to that brand. You’ve proven that, so thank you. I guess we’ve got to get to the Go Remote thing since that’s what we’re supposed to be here for. How are you doing? How are you adjusting in this working from home world?
Mark: Well, today I’m actually working from LAX airport on my way to Nashville. That’s one of the great things about what we do as a product, is that it gives me the ability to where I’m working at home, working at Starbucks. There’s some cases where I opened up my laptop and worked on the shuttle on the way here. Having that ability to work from anywhere, especially with COVID and how everything’s affected it, it’s really kind of changed the face and how we’re working today. What’s the real estate business going to look like for companies that have all these office spaces now that are relatively sitting empty and all these people are not working from home? I think the challenge for businesses is that they have to learn how to adapt and give their employees options, because there’s going to be some employees that are going to be afraid of coming back into an office to work. You really have to have that option available for them. I think in the partner community, again, we’ve talked about education. It’s also educating your customers in basically how to be nimble and giving them those options to where they can really plug in and work from anywhere.
J.R.: I agree. It’s funny, adoption of features within the UCaaS space has changed. Because when everyone’s working in the office, there’s probably a few features that mean something to them. But now, these employees have to learn the full functionality of what their UCaaS platform provides so they can continue to take care of their customers within today’s environment. Thanks for highlighting that. Tell us a little bit about Fuze. What’s going on in the Fuze world? What gets you excited? What’s the solution look like for our partners?
Mark: Well, I think it’s probably the best time in the history of UCaaS to be in this space. I think that one of the great things that Fuze does is that we make the complicated simple. Where we focus on our 250 employees and above, so that mid-market to enterprise company. With us owning the stack, having the built-in analytics in the backend, we actually give companies the ability to really expand their workforce and be able to work from anywhere. Whether they’re international, wherever the company may be, is that Fuze is going to have coverage for that customer wherever they are. Being that we’re one of the global leaders in this space is that… I think the best thing about Fuze is that we make everything easier for companies to do. And it’s our stack. We don’t utilize anybody else’s technology. If we have to get specialized with the customer and create some unique things for them to be able to work, Fuze is nimble enough to where we can do that. We do it in large environments. We have some of the largest deployments in the history of UCaaS with customers that are actually utilizing around 30,000 plus seats.
Having that ability to scale up and then scale down into those small 250 employees sized companies, means that they get white glove service and treated like an enterprise customer, no matter what size they are.
J.R.: You highlight something. I’ve always said that Fuze is probably one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to a very noisy space in UCaaS. You kind of highlighted, you’re not trying to be everything to everyone. You kind of know where your strength is. Just again, highlight that, why my partners have not have heard of Fuze.
Mark: Because we’re not going out there and blowing the ocean with every partner. We want to make sure that the partners not only understand what Fuze does, where we play. There’s a lot of times when we talk to partners that they say 90% of our business is in the SMB space. Great, we’ll work with the 10% that’s not. We really have to really dig in with our partners and choose whether or not they can actually sell into the space that we provide. Again, it goes back to the education on one of the most important things that we look for in a partner, is that the ability to scale. Do they go up into the size accounts that we cover?
We’ve actually expanded our partner base, not only to cover the agents and some larger MSPs in the space, but we’ve also gone after the VAR market because we know that they have access to a lot of those accounts. And really bringing them into this space means that a lot of times they haven’t really focused on the UC portion of this. It’s that we’re going there and educating them on, “Hey, this is how you do it.” We start from the basics of UCaaS one-on-one to basically go through and teach them all the nuances that we do. I think that where we see the space going is that it’s going to broaden out into the CDWs the SHIs of the world, but you’re still going to have those traditional agents. They’re the best in the business and they’re going to be able to run with us in any size account.
J.R.: No, I appreciate you highlighting. I know some of the feedback from my team is Fuze has probably done a better job in the VAR space than most. If we have Sales Partners that are working with VARS as basically lead generation partners of that nature, Fuze would absolutely be a good product to get in front of those for VAR partners. Thanks for highlighting that. Now, of course, UCaaS is a big word. You guys have your all-in-one communications platform. It’s more than just voice nowadays. Talk a little bit about your guys’ all-in-one cloud communications platform and how customers are using it. You mentioned even some specific examples, how are companies taking advantage of the full collaboration platform?
Mark: Well, if it’s unique when you own your entire stack, that you have all these different tools that you have under one application. There’s not many companies out there that actually have and own the entire stack and control the destiny of the product. There’s a lot of companies out there that utilize Cisco or Zoom for their conferencing. Fuze, we own the stack top to bottom. When we look at the different technologies that we have, what a lot of people don’t know is we have a contact center of our own. But, we also have partnerships with Serenova, Five9, NICE inContact to where we have full integrations with them. Being able to work with Microsoft Teams wasn’t something that we’re highlighting throughout the channel right now, because everybody’s rushing to Microsoft Teams to be able to work with them, it’s that we’ve been doing it for a while. We have a pretty good story around that.
Again, it’s educating partners on how it works because with Microsoft Teams, there’s different licensing costs that are attached to it. If you don’t understand where you can actually do the cost savings and which is going to be the best fit for you, it’s that you’re going to go in there and you’re going to say, going into higher cost of a customer without actually doing it the right way. You might end up even losing the deal over it. It’s really having all these different things that we work with, with Salesforce is that we really make our product robust.
The best thing about it is with the analytics in the backend with people being remote, we can see who’s on the phone, how many calls they’re making, how many meetings they’re doing. Are they messaging? A lot of times if people aren’t working, all you have to do is flip into your Fuze app and you can see. It’s really unique that I can do all that in that data analytics and real time too. The minute I hop off this, I can run back and check and pull up our Fuze meeting. It’ll tell me how long I’ve been on here, who I was talking with. It really gives management an idea that we can be remote and still manage our employees from afar.
J.R.: It’s interesting. It’s almost to an extent an employment evaluation, employee activity, evaluation. You can quickly see if they’re taking full advantage of the technology, what they’re doing in their business. That’s interesting. Any other areas that you see where your technology is going to help those businesses that are moving to a truly remote environment?
Mark: I think that the biggest challenge that companies are having now is that if they’ve traditionally been on premise, what does it actually look like to go into the cloud? With Fuze, yes we have the entire stack. We have the chat, we have the collaboration piece, video conferencing, contact center, it’s the all-in-one tool. When we go to companies that have traditionally been on premise, it’s actually introducing them to a whole new world of what they can actually do, and the cost savings that are coming with that.
When we talk to partners about when’s the best time to introduce Fuze or even competitors, it’s that now’s the time because companies are going to be scrambling. We don’t know what COVID is going to look like come fall. If companies aren’t prepared to make that switch and understand what capabilities you have, you really got to be talking to your customers about having that conversation. Are they ready in case they can’t come back to the office the rest of the year?
J.R.: It’s amazing. Yeah. The fact that the evidence is right here in front of us. You’re sitting in an airport. I dialed into a Fuze platform in Southern California. You’re in an airport and here we are collaborating together and having this conversation over your guys’ own platform.
J.R.: Any last words of wisdom to our community? Those that are looking to, again, take advantage of this unfortunate situation as a human race, but a fortunate situation that we have the ability to help our customers to make changes in the way they do business and continue to service their customers. Any last words of wisdom you want to share with them?
Mark: Yeah. I think that what’s really important is that everybody kind of take… understand is the fact that it’s going to get complicated out there. There’s a lot of different products to choose from.
Everybody’s going to say, we’re number one here, number one there. The one thing that we can say about Fuze–and Gartner and Forrester will back us up–is that we are the global leader, hands down, in the UCaaS space. Those complicated environments that you really don’t have an understanding about, that’s where you get Fuze in. And we’ll make that complicated environment or that customer who’s worried about how they’re going to be able to work moving forward, it’s that we can go and have those conversations and really help them. Reach out to anyone at Fuze and we’d be happy to sit down and have a conversation on how we can enable you to have those conversations.
J.R.: Hey, we appreciate you taking the time to meet with us, Mark. Get your mask on you’re in an airport, get safe. I hope you get safe arrival to wherever you’re going and thanks for joining us. We encourage all of our partners in our community to visit our Go Remote Workforce page and check out Fuze–valued partner in the Intelisys community. Thanks again for your time.
Mark: Thank you, J.R.