BizTech BizTech Podcasts

72. Direct Routing or Operator Connect with Microsoft Teams? With Shelby Cooper of Fusion Connect

June 7, 2023

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Long-time channel friend Shelby Cooper joins us today and talks about Microsoft Teams as we pick apart their deployment options. Do your customers want Direct Routing, or is Operator Connect the new direction they want to go? What are the differences, and where does Fusion have success. Listen in today to find out and learn even more about the ever-changing Microsoft Teams deployment options and how Fusion Connect keeps it simplified!

Josh Lupresto (00:01):
Welcome to the podcast that is designed to fuel your success in selling technology solutions. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus. And this is Next Level BizTech, everybody. Welcome back. Today, we are talking about something that comes up all the time, Microsoft Teams, but we’re gonna dive in a little deeper. We’re gonna talk about direct routing. We’ll talk Operator Connect. Lots of good stuff to unpack here, but today I’d like to welcome on. Good man. Shelby Cooper, VP of Channel Sales from Fusion Connect. Shelby, welcome on.

Shelby Cooper (00:36):
Josh, what it is, brother . Sorry. Thanks for having me on, man. It it’s fun to be on podcasts that you listen to.

Josh Lupresto (00:44):
I get invited to podcasts, and it’s like I have to go do research and figure out who the heck that is and what they’re talking about. But with dio, I’m like, oh, I mean, it’s like getting invited to the Jay Leno show. It’s a big deal for me.

Josh Lupresto (00:57):
His cars are way cooler than mine. I have one. He’s got a lot. He’s got a lot. Maybe I’ll take it though. I’ll take it. Uh, all right, man. Let’s, let’s kick this off with your personal background. Uh, this is my, one of my favorite parts of this show is being able to understand where everybody came from. Some people this industry sucked him in, as we know, some just destined to do this. So I would love to hear, uh, whatever kind of cool blackmail or anything interesting you have in your story. Uh, how’d you get here?

Shelby Cooper (01:26):
Uh, it, it’s, uh, it’s not blackmail cuz I wrote it in my bio. Uh, I’m just kidding. But, uh, look, I was, uh, a struggling college kid and like all struggling college kids, you have priorities. Mine was try to figure out how to get some beer money, . Um, I successfully found, uh, through the college job applications, I found an opportunity at a company called Confer Tech to be a nighttime phone operator. Um, little did I know it was for conference calls and it was in multiple languages, and my typing skills were not what it should have been. But I talked my land to the job, even though I only spoke one language and I spoke it. Okay, not even really well. Um, and after sitting there, you know, and looking out the window, I don’t, I, people probably forget this, but when you are at a corporate office, the parking lots get segregated almost.

Shelby Cooper (02:23):
You know, not on purpose, but they just do. And it’s like, there’s some, usually some really nice cars in one, one part of the parking lot. And then there’s the guys like me that were driving an old pickup and things like that in other parts of the parking lot, maybe some station wagons and minivans, things like that. But there was this one row of cars right out my window at the office, and it was all Mercedes and Beamers. And there were some high end things that I didn’t even know how to pronounce at the time in that line. And I asked my, my director at the time, I said, who drives those cars and what do they do? And because I’m thinking in my head, I’m like, I’m changing my major. Like I gotta get into whatever that is because I don’t see these kind of cars in most places.

Shelby Cooper (03:07):
Turns out they were the salespeople, . And so I integrated my way through coffee breaks and did lunchroom times and things like that, and figured out who the salespeople were, started talking and mingling. And before I knew it, I got a job in account management while I was still in college. And I made, I started making enough money that I was like, I feel like I’m hurting myself working part-time. And not even full days. I’m going all in on this thing just to see what happens. I got kids coming, you know, cause I got married, I, you know, pregnant wife. I’m like, I’m gonna go make money and I’ll come back and finish school later. Well, it’s 27 years later since I’ve been in the industry. Um, still haven’t finished up my college degree. Um, but, you know, I’m planning on going back, uh, soon.

Shelby Cooper (03:51):
Not really. Uh, but just one of those things that, look, once you get into sales and you realize how fun it can be, the dynamic people that you meet running into some great industry sales leaders that I’ve, that I’ve had the pleasure of working for Josh. I don’t think there’s anything else I’d rather do in this world than be a sales guy and teach other people how to be a sales person. Right? And, and just enjoy the heck out of it. Nothing’s better than winning. Yeah. And when, when you’re winning at High Clips and you’re making great money and you’re taking care of your partners, there’s nothing better.

Josh Lupresto (04:27):
Love the backstory. Uh, love the passion. You’re right. I mean, it’s hard to call it work when you, when you love what you do every day and somebody happens that’s right. To pay you for it, right? I think that’s, that’s right. Awesome. Awesome points. Uh, let’s, okay, so let’s, let’s level set on for anybody that doesn’t know, let’s talk about Fusion Connect. Fill us in, give us, I, I know we’re gonna dive into some Microsoft stuff, but, but fill us in. Who is Fusion Connect? What are you, what do you got? All that good stuff.

Shelby Cooper (04:53):
Fusion Connect is, is one of the coolest companies I’ve ever worked for. And it starts at the top. Our CEO’s guy named Brian Crotty, who’s very channel centric. Um, back in the day, he actually started in the channel with his own agency, uh, in then matriculated over to the carrier side, which is really the opposite way that most people do it. Uh, most people start on the carrier side and then matriculate into the agent side, right? And, um, so from the top down, we are agent centric and channel centric on how we manage our partners and things like that. Um, I have the pleasure of knowing some of the people in leadership for a while, including Brian, who, who I’ve met in previous lives doing different things. Uh, he was actually my customer for a while. Um, John Dobbins, our COO, another guy that I met in a previous life, uh, but again, came, came from the carrier side of the business, understands how to run the business with agents and, and wholesale and those types of things in mind.

Shelby Cooper (05:53):
And, and understanding how critical that is in addition to a direct sales team or however you wanna augment your company. But the channel’s really the, the focus of the growth going forward here and that, that’s been amazing. We are all in for a Microsoft practice. We, we have our own MSP, uh, CSP, however, however you know it in your world today. Um, we’re globally ready for the Operator Connect status. Um, we’ve been had that status now for a couple of months, uh, that we inherited from an acquisition. Um, and I think most people know Fusion Connect as the folks that have bought some other companies throughout the years. We’ve made quite a number of acquisitions over the last, uh, six years or so. You know, the mega paths and the Fusion Connects and the CBeyond and the Birch and some other things.

Shelby Cooper (06:44):
Uh, so that’s been good. Um, and we’ve all kind of come to the point where we see the next level. The hook for us and the hook for our agent partners is every customer wants to talk about Microsoft. How can we help them with Microsoft? How can it save money? How can we give them a better experience? It’s not if they should go to Microsoft, it’s which way they should go with Microsoft. And that’s a very different conversation. It’s not like we’re stacked up against 10 different products. It’s really just how we can help solve with Microsoft the best for them to save the most money and give ’em the best experience. So, so everything else in our company, the stacks of SD WAN contact center, um, we still do POTS replacement and some other things as well, but it all starts with our Microsoft practice and helping customers there and then stacking everything else on that. That makes sense.

Josh Lupresto (07:36):
Good. Let’s, let’s go back to what you brought up there. You’re up a great point of, you know, what are you seeing, um, you know, we’ll talk trends in deals here specifically to the Microsoft products mm-hmm. , but I mean, you’re in these deals. We talked about your your crazy close ratio and, and, and when Shelby gets involved, what happens and, and a lot of goodness there. That’s right. But what, what do you see them struggling with, right? You said it’s not, it’s not when, or I’m sorry, it’s not, if they’re gonna go, it’s when, but what do you see them struggling with? How do those come to you?

Shelby Cooper (08:06):
People are coming out of a lot of interesting contracts right now. We’re, we’re seeing the, the opening of the contracts that were closed at the beginning of Covid where people rushed and slammed and put a bunch of square holes and, and square pegs in round holes and, and, and all kinds of crazy stuff. And they’ve struggled. And now they’ve realized that there’s an easier path, but they’re also a little bit timid. You know, they made a big commitment. It either went pretty well or it went okay, or it was a disaster. And people are just, you know, want to easing into it, ease into it, and understand it and see the full experience better. And I think once we sit, are able to sit down with a customer and take the approach of tell us what hurts and what doesn’t hurt, and where you, where you need more at and where you wanna spend less at.

Shelby Cooper (08:58):
Um, once we have those types of conversations, it’s pretty obvious people are trying to not spend money on two apps that do the same thing, right? If you have Microsoft teams for collab, what, uh, why do you pay for a second collab op option? That’s the most common. People are saying, well, that’s great. It works fine in the us but I also have offices around the world and, and most continents, how are you gonna help me? And they don’t realize that we’ve built the global reach at this point by the end of q2, we’re gonna be in 40 countries, um, with, with dedicated local dds, right? And so it’s, it’s one of those things that once they realize the power and the goodness that we bring to enhance something that can be economically powerful for them, we can make it people powerful for them and give ’em a great single pane of glass to do all their work in and make the collaboration experience something that helps their business, not something that they have to worry about. Oh my gosh, my, my contract’s coming up and do I go this way or that way? Or do I pick this provider or that provider? They’re picking Microsoft and we’re helping them pick Microsoft and making it the most economical and, and best solution.

Josh Lupresto (10:09):
Let’s, let’s unpack that. Um, let’s talk about, you know, via the op. I know we’re, we’re talking about Operator Connect here, but, but let’s talk about how does the Fusion platform help these customers solve it? Uh, you know, through, through Operator Connect. What does that look like?

Shelby Cooper (10:23):
Sure. Well, let’s be clear. We’re not just Operator Connect. Mm-hmm. , we do direct routing as well. So depending on the type of application the client has, if they need to solve for analog or they need to do some of those other necessarily outside of the box things, we have a lot of creative design engineers, uh, led by Terry Quarter, who I know everybody’s spoken to or heard from. Those guys are brilliant. And the things that they come up with on how to do it, where to do it, how to do it economically and how to do it, you know, pretty darn, uh, fail-proof. It’s, it’s been amazing to watch. So it’s not just Operator Connect. Now, me personally, I like Operator Connect cuz it’s the most simple thing. It’s an easy gooey to use. It’s the same Microsoft admin portal that people are already managing their licensing in.

Shelby Cooper (11:11):
If I can build a call flow, anybody can build a call flow. That’s how I look at it, Josh. Cuz I’m not, I’m not a, a guru of any of that type of stuff. I haven’t spent my whole life building PBXs and phone systems and designing those things. I’ve, I’ve done a lot of different stuff. But if I can go into that admin portal and I can build call flows and I know how to do all these different setups, it tells you how simple it is. Cuz I’m, I’m just not a brilliant guy, right? We have brilliant people on staff, that’s not me. That’s not what they pay me for. But, uh, as we’re doing it, as we’re going through it and we show ’em the ad, the, the admin center and then Fusion has built, I’m gonna step back one, one quick second because some people might not know this, this, while the crew that I’m with was at Intrado, we were one of the first to market ever with Operator Connect.

Shelby Cooper (12:00):
In fact, we worked with Microsoft to help develop some of the nuances of Operator Connect and how to do those things. And it was specific to the 911 things that, that Intrado was great at. It was specific to our deep history of working with things, going all the way back to the beginning of Microsoft on how to do voice over ip. Mm-hmm. before voice I over IP was a thing. Um, so we had a lot of experience there and we worked together with Microsoft to help create it. We took those same engineering resources, those same product resources, the same design guys. And we sat ’em down and we said, okay, you built this really cool platform that the sales team, the sales org with Shelby had a lot of success with it. Intrado, we solved a lot of problems for a lot of customers.

Shelby Cooper (12:45):
We made a lot of partners, a lot of money. If you had to do it over again, how would you do it better? Everybody in this world knows that if you give smart people the chance to do something, find their, their failures and their successes, but they get to do it over. Who doesn’t wanna do over? Right? Everybody’s gonna be better. The second time around, these guys went back in and they built it again and they’re doing international expansion a little bit differently. But one of the biggest things they did was they brought forth a, a portal and we use a, a, a partner called tcap, but we brought forth a portal that actually helps in front of that, that makes Operator Connect an even simpler thing to do with full d i d management. So you don’t have to write paperwork every month on, if you need to add five seats, take away five seats, move DDS from one location to another, all that’s done in the admin center.

Shelby Cooper (13:37):
And you don’t have to write paper. Your billing is automated so that you don’t have to worry about your bills being right or anything like that. If you turn it on, you get billed for it. If you don’t turn it on, there’s no bill. Right? So it’s one of those things that we gave these brilliant people with all these great ideas in the first place to help invent Operator Connect the chance to redo it and they did it. And they’ve done a spectacular job. Not only that with what Fusion had already built, with our disaster recovery on the way that we can route calls outside of teams if needed, if Teams is down, we are literally writing in our contracts, Josh, a hundred percent uptime guarantees for our Operator Connect platform. Yeah. Can’t beat it. . I, I don’t know if there’s a such thing as 101%.

Shelby Cooper (14:22):
If there was, we’d write it for that. But it, it, the way that we’ve designed it and the way that we’ve built it, being able to do it over has just been spectacular. And I’m so proud of the folks here at Fusion and the way that they’ve done it and um, the way that our operations team has done it. Um, and I think one of the biggest and best surprises for me is how great Fusion is already at implementing these customers. So we had a customer that was in the dire straits with another provider. They were down hard couple of days they got back up, but as soon as they were up, they signed a new deal with us. We had imported in production fully with hundreds of seats in the US and eight days.

Josh Lupresto (15:07):

Shelby Cooper (15:07):
So from Signature, which look it included all the, the porting paperwork too, the alleyway and everything else, but full paperwork package to being in full production on a brand new UCaaS platform in eight days.

Josh Lupresto (15:23):
Love it. Pretty good.

Shelby Cooper (15:24):
Pretty good.

Shelby Cooper (15:27):
That’s been, that’s been one of the big pleasant surprises is how good we have been at that.

Josh Lupresto (15:32):
Yeah. Let’s, let’s dive into that. I mean, I wanna unpack, maybe let’s even go deeper into the example, or, or if you wanna do a different example either way. I, I what I love about this part of it is, you know, I I think we’re formulating where you fit what you do, what some of your offerings are for anybody that’s not familiar. But I, I think what we always find is that, you know, we, we, we get told that, hey, this is the problem. This is this. I just need to buy this thing, right? And mm-hmm. , the reality is it isn’t always what we thought we were gonna sell is what they end up buying. So I would love for you to walk us through maybe just an example of, you know, I, I got brought into a situation and it looked like this and the reality was we ended up putting this and this and this and this in place and you know, these products and you know this, right? This, this is what it solved. Give me, let’s go through one of those.

Shelby Cooper (16:19):
So I had a customer, and this is just a couple of days ago, obviously I’m not gonna say the customer name mm-hmm. . Um, and I, I might be lying to you if I knew the customer name cuz we’re doing so many of these meetings every day. I probably have, I’d probably have it confused anyway, but the long and the short was they currently had their own deployment of direct routing in the us uh, US, Canada, and Mexico for 8,000 users. Pretty sizable. They didn’t want to touch that. What they wanted to do was change where they were buying their sip from to to run their own, their own, uh, direct routing. Okay. So we talked through it and you know, and, and we were quoting out the SIP for them. But I stopped them and, and honestly the partner kind of was like, Shelby, don’t go here, don’t ask these questions.

Shelby Cooper (17:10):
But I was curious cuz I I wanted to know why that was a better solution for them than working with something like Operator Connect. So we spent 15 minutes and I was asking questions specifically about some of the technologies and these poor guys, they, they’ve made probably a dozen acquisitions the last few years. They had, if you can, if it ended Intel as one of the premise based phone solutions in the last 15 years, they had one. Yeah. And, and if it would, if it ended in Cass, they had one of those cloud solutions in place. So I mean, we were, we counted no less than a dozen different solutions inside their network currently. And they wanted to move everything to Teams. Teams and their direct routing. And, and look, these guys were pretty smart. They had a pretty good solution set up for how they wanted to do it, and they knew exactly what they wanted for the sip.

Shelby Cooper (17:59):
And it was, but we just started talking through it and I said, what if, and we laid out all the benefits of Operator Connect with the, with the support, with the understanding of how to build these flows and how you can connect it and how it works with other systems inside of, of what they were looking at and how it connected to their contact center. By the way, I had four different contact centers, so looking at all this stuff and I said, can you please just let me give you a proposal of replacing those 8,000 direct routing seats with Operator Connect and the benefits of the portals and the other things that have come through because what your goal is to have built out in the next five years, we can get done for you in the next 90 days. Mm-hmm. from A to Z.

Shelby Cooper (18:46):
And we talked about the project plan specifically. We talked about the technology or the porting and oh my god, the porting with these guys. I mean, they had carriers that I hadn’t heard of. Josh had been in the industry almost 30 years. They had carriers that were rest boards that I have never heard of before. So they’re in some interesting locations too. Um, so it’s, it’s one of those things that we just had the conversation and we did the math together on the call. This call was supposed to last 30 minutes, it lasted almost three hours. Oof. But we were whiteboarding and we were doing the math and we were solutioning and our design engineers were jumping in ad hoc and writing stuff out. Um, and I was just kind of sitting back and I learned, you know, whenever you can learn stuff in a deal, yeah.

Shelby Cooper (19:31):
They’re a great place to be. And our design engineers were just so brilliant in how they looked at it and how they worded it and the things that they did. Turns out we we’re sending ’em paperwork, they’re very likely gonna sign that deal. And even if they don’t, the message is this, it’s been hard for me to find a deal where Operator Connect’s not the right fit. And I don’t care if it’s a 10 seat deal in one location with people that maybe will never use it. Or on the end of the spectrum, tens of thousands, even a hundred thousand seat deal that we’re working on right now that’s in all of those 40 countries I mentioned we were gonna be in later. Like, there’s not a fit. That’s not great. Yeah. For Operator Connect because everybody’s got Microsoft. Look, if there’s one fit, if you’re using Google Docs and you’re a Google shop, Microsoft Operator Connect’s probably not for you.

Josh Lupresto (20:26):
. That’s fair.

Shelby Cooper (20:27):
Right? Fair. But that’s a but the rest of the market, I have yet to find everybody else that it’s not great.

Josh Lupresto (20:32):
Right. Fair. No, that’s good. That’s a really good example. Love that. Uh, it’s a great story. We always love it when the, when the 30 minute call goes three hours, that’s usually never a bad thing. .

Shelby Cooper (20:42):
Yeah. It depends how much coffee you drank that morning, but Absolutely. In most cases. Fair. You’re right. Fair. You like those three hour calls.

Josh Lupresto (20:48):
Good stuff. Uh, all right. So we, I I think we covered a lot of good stuff as we, as we wrap up. Yeah. The, the final couple thoughts here. Uh, what maybe I’m a partner that, uh, you know, we, we get some partners that listen to this that maybe just have been selling security or maybe we’ve just been selling SD WAN or network or mobility or whatever and, and, and haven’t tackled the team’s side of things or aren’t comfortable having the team’s conversation. Um, you know, we know obviously Telarus plug, we’ve got some awesome resources on our team, Mikey be and, and, and the broader team to help with these. Right?

Shelby Cooper (21:19):
Megan and Mikey B are two of the best in the business for sure. Some Superstars.

Josh Lupresto (21:22):
Absolutely. But from your perspective, if, if you are wanting a partner to, to come in, uncover some opportunities, what’s the talk track? I’m a big questions guy, but, but what’s that talk track? How do you want the partners to walk into these conversations given what you’ve kind of mentioned so far?

Shelby Cooper (21:40):
It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever sold, but like I said, I’ve been doing this 30 years, almost 30 years. I’m not quite old enough to be doing it close. Um, it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever sold. Josh and I sold conference calls for 50 cents a minute. Okay. So that I’m dating myself a little bit. But, and that used to be a bargain. And, and it used to be I didn’t have to make outbound calls. I was taking orders. This is easier than that and it’s a bigger value and it’s a better solution. It’s simple. If you ask your customer what they’re doing for their Microsoft practice today and if they’re interested in looking at Microsoft Voice as a part of that stack, if the answer is yes, call Mikey B and Megan.

Shelby Cooper (22:27):
Uh, it’s that easy. Right. Um, Mikey b uh, I’ve spent a lot of time with over the last year. We’ve closed a lot of business together. Uh, Megan is building an amazing funnel with our, our, the partners on the west. And it’s just been transforming and transitional, uh, to say the least. But the two of them are pretty darn smart, and I’m okay at this stuff. Right. I have some sales reps that are pretty, pretty good at this stuff, but our design engineers, these guys that, that kind of help hatch this idea from the beginning, you have access to them through us. You have access to whatever solutioning you needed to get done. Um, heck, we’re working on one of the biggest conference call solutions I’ve ever seen. It. It’s a company with 400,000 global users, but they can’t get conference calls economically in some locations around the world. So we’re actually working with Microsoft and MI in, in insider teams, and we’re gonna work on doing some amazing pricing metrics to save them hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on their bills. Right. And that’s, that wasn’t even, we don’t have a PDF for it. Yeah. We don’t promote it Nimble.

Josh Lupresto (23:40):

Shelby Cooper (23:40):
I’ve sold like three of those in my entire Microsoft Practice career. These, these conference calls solutions. But these guys are like, it’s the perfect fit for them. And our design engineers are like, no problem. It’s easy. Here you go. Lovely. And, uh, you know, it’s just, it’s been phenomenal. So are you Microsoft Shop and have you thought about Microsoft voice in, in, in looking at that for you business? If the answer’s yes, give Mikey b and Megan a call your local Telarus Channel manager, whoever it is, everybody at Telarus can get ahold of us. You know, I’m sure that Josh will share our contact information, but let’s get those deals registered and let’s start making y’all some money.

Josh Lupresto (24:17):
Love it. Okay. Final thoughts. If we look into Shelby’s Crystal Ball, uh, we’d like to look out, you know, 12 months, maybe a little more. Uh, I, I, is there anything that, that, you know, besides what you’ve just laid out of how to have these conversations, anything different trends you’re seeing to keep their eyes open for, for the partners as they’re talking to customers? Anything, anything in addition?

Shelby Cooper (24:40):
Um, I, I don’t think you have to overcomplicate it with anything else at this point. I could probably spend the next two hours talking about what I think might happen or could happen or I think that’s over complicating it because what our folks and our partners need to know right now is that we are in the middle of the Gold Rush. It’s just kind of teetering. There’s 300 million Microsoft Office users today. 300 million, 12 million of them are using Microsoft Voice today. That’s a pretty good chunk of the market that’s left to go get. And Microsoft is actually publish, published some of these graphics, but there’s a reason that two years ago, Intrado and a few others were the only ones that you saw doing the Microsoft practice. And now I think every time you turn around, you’re seeing, you’re bumping into somebody that’s doing direct routing.

Shelby Cooper (25:32):
Mm-hmm. , you’re bumping into somebody that has a Microsoft integration. Just keep in mind that there’s only a few of us out here doing the Operator Connect and just be, when you hear Operator Connect, that doesn’t mean we’re only Operator Connect. We do everything backwards too, down to the direct routing and integrations. But the point of the whole thing, don’t overcomplicate this. This is the simplest thing you can sell. You have more support from our, our partners, uh, like Telarus and, and Infusion that, that we will help you. We will, we will help you sell it and finish it, implement it, and take care of these customers like you’ve never seen before. Just ask those couple questions and then get us on the phone.

Josh Lupresto (26:10):
Love it. That wraps us up. Man. Really appreciate you coming on doing this. We covered some good stuff.

Shelby Cooper (26:16):
Hey Josh, I forgot to tell you, happy Valentine’s Day . Um, we, we, when we first talked, we were both gonna wear, you know, heart shirts and, and things like that. We totally forgot. I think we both, I think we both blew that. We pretty badly with our sweaters tonight, but we did. Um, happy Valentine’s anyway, brother. I hope everybody out there has a great Valentine’s Day or has and this is probably coming out what, after in the middle of March Madness.

Josh Lupresto (26:38):
Yeah, it is,

Shelby Cooper (26:39):
Right. It’s so good luck on your brackets too. .

Josh Lupresto (26:43):
All right. All right. Good stuff. Okay, everybody that wraps us up. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales engineering for Telarus. Shelby Cooper, VP Channel Sales Fusion Connect. Until next time, thanks everybody.