Listen in today as we chat with Pierre Landrin of R.A.S. 3 Communications as we jump into the specialized world of hospitality. We uncover their unique set of requirements, financial modeling, and expectations around the integrations. We also get into some Sales 101 and 201 basics that will resonate across all areas of technology sales!
Hey, everybody. Welcome back. We are wrapping up a track today. We’re talking hospitality, safety, and more. Really though, we’re talking about how to revolutionize all the communications through the different integrations. Today on with us, we have got Pierre Landrin from RAS3 Communications. Pierre, welcome on, my friend. Thank you, Josh. How are you doing today? I can’t complain. It’s three and a half days from Friday, so it’s wonderful. Who’s counting?
Hey, I want to kick this off. I always like to get started. I want to hear everybody’s background. Some people have had very direct paths. Some people have had crazy windy paths of how they get into this space. So just fill us in. How did you get into the role that you’re in now? Where did it all start? Mine’s a little crazy.
I used to work for a school board in Florida, and I was in the purchasing department. And as a buyer, we would rotate categories. So every six months, 12 months, buyers would rotate. That just kept everybody fresh on different categories. And I landed in the technology category.
And we were buying computers, laptops, servers and things. And T1 was the big thing back then. So, of course, that just told you my age. I’m old as hell.
And so as well, I was in that category. I met the owner of RAS 3 Communications, Richard Shellow.
He was in the hardware space at the time, and he was selling a lot of districts hardware. We became fast friends. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hang out because I was a buyer, you know, conflict of interest.
Fast forward, I moved to a different department for a promotion, and Richard Shellow and I continued our friendship. I stayed with the school board a good 20 years and then wanted to try something different. So I went into the insurance field. I went with property and casualty, homeowners, autos, and things of that nature. Richard and I stayed friends throughout the whole time. Richard and I used to hang out before children, and today we both have grown children in their 20s. So it’s been a good venture.
Richard had always asked, come work with me, come work with me, and I was always concerned. You have a brotherhood, and then once you start working for the brother, sometimes it doesn’t work out. He said, nothing will ever happen. Nothing will ever destroy that brotherhood. Fast forward, I’ve been with Richard for seven years. Life’s been really, really good.
I get to work from home, which is something I never experienced throughout my other careers.
So you work harder from home. You work more hours. A lot of people don’t realize it, but emails come in. You said, let me just go answer this one. Let me go answer that one. Or it’s 6 o’clock, and oh, I got a couple more things. I can knock them out.
And here I am. I enjoy what I do.
I go to IT expos to learn different technologies, what’s available for our clients, our current clients, and potential clients.
And a unique thing about RAS 3, Josh, is it’s all referral based.
So we grow organically, either by our current clients that need more stuff, or they refer us out. And obviously, those kind of referrals are gold.
I love it. I love the background. I love the story. I love a good windy path. I think that’s awesome. So kudos to you for jumping in and trying it out. Clearly, it’s worked out. So good stuff. Absolutely. Absolutely. I have a ball. So fill us in a little bit now on who is RAS 3 now.
You mentioned referrals. Obviously, that’s a huge testament to the quality of the business that you’re doing. But anything you’re specializing in, is it whatever the customer needs? Or maybe walk us through that just a little bit about RAS 3. So we’re kind of a unique agency. We find solutions for you. We take projects off your desk that no one wants to take care of. Our bread and butter is really connectivity. So whether it’s a primary or secondary, or whatever you need circuit wise, is the foundation of our book of business.
Next, it goes into the voice over IP space.
We do some cloud services. We do have some data center clients.
And now how we’ve moved into the pots replacement that the industry has kind of forced us to do. The legacy coppers are going away. So we have to find solutions for clients.
And that’s kind of who we are. We really just did a neat project with a Wi-Fi cell– I’m sorry, a cell booster system for one of our large clients that has six locations, had terrible cellular connectivity in those locations, implemented the whole solution. And they’re a happy client. Not something that we do on a normal basis. But once again, we’re kind of unique. You bring us a problem and we’ll figure it out for you. I love it. Yeah, I’m going to come back to you on some of the examples here. I mean, let’s talk a little bit first about the hospitality sector. You’re never chatting about this a little bit. I think when we think aboutUCaaS when we think about feature functionality, it’s certainly changed over the last few years. It started out and it was just voice. And then voicemail, email comes along, and all these basic things. And then a video comes out, nobody’s going to use that. Clearly, 2020 kind of reset that a little bit.
And we’ve always thought about hospitality.
And it always hasn’t been a fit historically. What is it from your perspective? I know you’ve got some hospitality customers just generally speaking, what do you see about some of these unique integrations, the needs of hospitality compared to others?
Well, on a hospitality industry, first of all, most of them are old school. And they really rely on the operator going back and forth to the rooms, just basic communications, right? Nothing fancy, if you will.
Fast forward, of course, now with the cell phone evolution,
how many people really use a phone in a hotel room, right? I mean, very little, maybe just zero to call the operator because it’s easier to hit the zero versus the 10 numbers just to call the front desk.
But however, what people do miss in the hospitality is most of them are multi-floor locations. And they need help not only with the UCaaS piece, but they also need help with the replacement of the pots, especially for the elevators for safety, right? And as this whole process is moving along, this is a niche that people can take advantage of in terms of reaching out to your clients and saying, “I can help you now.” Because a couple of our clients went from $1,000 a month, let’s say, for their elevator service, just for that alone. And they were warned, but no one reads the fine print, right? And of course, with automatic payments, that’s even worse, people don’t even pay attention. And so they went from $1,000 a month to $13,000
once those price hikes kicked in. Back to the UCaaS once again, it’s just convincing them that it’s the best way to do business. It’s really the most inexpensive way to do business. There’s no equipment really that needs to be maintained.
And everything is really via the portal. So whatever changes you want to make on the fly, it’s easy. But convincing people to make a change sometimes is probably the hardest part of the sale. Yeah, and I think if you look at.
I think the way I think about hospitality is…
Some of the technology in these places is certainly still old. But there is some requirements to front desk, food check-in, food, whatever, it might be room service. But there’s also some of these requirements of legally, Kerry’s law, all these other things, they have to keep a phone in the room. So it’s how do I drag that tech along as long as I can, or do I find somebody, UCaaS wherever it might be, that has some creative financial modeling that makes it look a little more appetizing? I think that’s part of the sale as well. And another aspect of that, and when you mentioned that, is the E911 aspect of it. That’s probably the most important thing that all of the hotels are worried about in this industry, and making sure that that feature is there, and that when somebody needs help, once they pick up that phone, they could be found. So, yes. Yeah, 100%.
You brought up a good point, right? Some of the conferences and things like that. Just general question, right? You talked about, we went from when it was simple of one or two things to sell, to now all these other things that we have to sell. Thinking broadly, more than just hospitality, far beyond that. How do you stay ahead of the curve, right? You mentioned you’ve got customers coming to you for WiFi and Daz and all these interesting things. How do you stay ahead of the curve in that, this segment, other segments? How do you keep learning in that? So the way I learn it is through webinars, with you guys, probably, when you guys have things available. But really, the expos. A lot of people go to the expos to socialize. I love to socialize. Don’t get me wrong, Josh. However, when I go and try to find three or four, five different solution providers that I don’t have in my bag of tricks, and I try to build a relationship with those guys. So when I do need them, I’m not starting from scratch. And I could jump in with them, do a discovery call, and try to figure out what’s the best fit for my client.
But those IT expos are very, very important.
– Yeah, yeah, yeah, fair point, right? It’s what you wanna get out of it, absolutely. There’s a lot of golden nuggets there. Can you share, I mean, you’ve worked on a lot of projects. Can you walk through maybe just an aha moment, something that you’ve had while working on a project. Hey, I’ve done this a bunch of times. All of a sudden now, this is different. Or all of a sudden, this thing happens. Something that just changed the way that you approach. This is a challenge’s question, right? Something that you’ve shared and learned.
– Well, an aha moment.
So we were doing an install with a particular carrier. This was our first time doing an install. They’re a big carrier, right?
I’ve been through many trade shows with them.
The folks, the sales people and I have been friends throughout the last seven years in the industry.
Went in, sold, let’s say, I think it was a 100 seat deal, whatever it was, at a law firm.
And for the life of me, their IT guy, which we know also, could not make it work in that particular building in Fort Lauderdale.
So an aha moment was, you gotta go through all the hoops and hurdles. You gotta open trouble tickets every time, just so everybody understands what’s happening.
Many days of testing. And really, it was really weird, Josh. It’s just the calls were lagging and it was like an echo. And it was happening on the desktop, the mobile app and everything else. So we just couldn’t figure it out.
And the learning part of that is sometimes you have to go through these difficult installations to see and learn from it. So for your next client, you’re not experiencing the same pain, if you will. – Yeah, it’s a good point too. I think the world has built the fact that mistakes are okay. The culture is defined that mistakes are okay, especially in business.
But it isn’t that, hey, you can’t prevent all the mistakes from happening, it’s about how do you respond and how do you help the customer respond? And I think when you go through these battles with customers, that’s how relationships are built. They know that if you go through this battle and you don’t bail and you’re handling the hard stuff, you can take the easy stuff, no problem. And to you, the easy stuff might be some awesome opportunity that they’re just thinking, ah, this is the easy thing, I’ll just throw at them and here you’re going, oh my gosh, this is great. – No, yeah, you think it’s a softball pitch, right? And then you gotta take those kind of pitches with the difficult ones. So you just roll with the punches. Like you said, learn from them, the easy stuff, you can take the notes and say, this is how it was done and move on. And then the difficult ones, figure out how to get over those hurdles and give them a good product. – Yeah, all right, let’s dive into a deal here. So walk me through, part of what I like to uncover here, I think is what we’ve experienced from customers is, hey, I have this thing, I need this thing. And we get into conversation and sometimes we just find out, it was exactly that. And other times we find out, oh my gosh, there’s a lot more to this, right? So walk me through a deal that you got involved in, what did it look like? What were you told, what was the problem? What was the customer conversation? And then ultimately, what’s the solution that’s in place?
– Let me think of the last one.
Let’s, so we had a charter school district that was having difficulties. And originally it just started with the UCaaS piece, right? They wanted a change, they wanted their on-prem system changed to a hosted system. And as we did the discovery calls, it was more than just they needed a UCaaS They also needed servers to be upgraded. They needed security.
Then we went into a little bit of the sassy piece for them. And at the end of the day, so instead of just changing their voice, we were able to help them migrate into new technology, take advantage of the servers and everything else, remote access to everything, not having to have everybody, more people in place scrambling where you could have a few good people that can handle the whole enterprise and take over. So to your point, it was one product, then through the discovery, went through multiple products and the migration took maybe six months. However, at the end of the day, they’re happy with the solution. They don’t have that many headaches. We put primary and secondary circuits at all the locations and that’s the WAN box, it’s monitored, and then you move forward.
– You know, I’m interested in, when you talk to your customers and you’re solving complex problems like this, do you find that even customers that you’ve had for a while, new ones, different conversation, maybe it’s the same conversation, but do you find that they really know all of your capabilities or do you find them saying, “I didn’t know you could do that. I didn’t know you could do that.” – Right on point. They never, so once again, we’re known as connectivity guys, that’s our bread and butter. So at first, this is all they see us will buy and as we’re going through these calls and they notice that we have so many more resources available to us that we can help them with every aspect that they need.
But you know what, it’s incumbent to us to let them know what we can help them with and not to just assume they know that we can help them with a whole gamut of technology solutions. – Yeah, that’s a good point. I mean, we think that we are the most important conversation they’re gonna have. In reality, we’re a sliver of everybody’s day-to-day job, right, so we have to emphasize that when we can, whether that’s through lunches, through outings, through quarterly business reviews, whatever we can to say, “Hey, what do you got in your roadmap? “What do you got in your, you know, “what’s on your plate for the next six months? “Did you know I can help you with all of these things now?” – And some of the hardest conversations are with the larger organizations that have, let’s say, the on-prem voice solutions and they’ve done it this way for so long and have so much money invested in the hardware that to try them to even start the conversation of migrating to a hosted system. And just that conversations, it’s something like a three, four, five months, just for them to start listening and say, “Well, maybe there is a better way.”
And we never say, “You gotta do it now,” but start thinking about it, come up with a business plan, so when you’re ready, it could be migrated along and financially you can get away from all that on-prem hardware stuff that you’re married to, really, at the end of the day. – Yeah, that’s such gold advice. I think, you know, if we think about who’s listening to this podcast, right? It’s current partners that are maybe in one technology area and wanna learn from other partners about how to pivot into another technology area. It’s maybe people that aren’t partners yet and don’t know our world exists and are learning, but I think hearing that message, it underscores one that I was talking to somebody about yesterday, and I said, “If I look back “over the last five to 10 years “of the largest, most exciting deals “that we’ve ever done with partners, “they’ve always started with a customer saying, “Yeah, I think I’m good. “I don’t really think there’s anything “that you can help me with.” And somehow, just off of persistence, and they all started with the customers not knowing that the partner had all these other capabilities, and I just, we’re gonna keep drilling down on that, and I hope people hear that and understand, just stay persistent, find a way to dynamically get your value prop over and all of the technology that you can help your customers and prospects with, because sometimes it is, to your point, it is just seed planning, right? – Right, exactly. That’s exactly what it is. Just keep planting the seeds, keep reminding them what you can help them with, and eventually, they figure out, “Oh my God, I need to offload this project “because I’ve got these other 10 I need to pay attention to,” or two projects, right? And you’ll be surprised at where projects come out of that conversation, and you say, “Okay, don’t worry about it. “I got you, I’m gonna run with it. “I’ll come back with options and solutions, “and then we could take it from there.” – Yeah, good stuff. Or the one that seems to happen a lot, somebody quit, or somebody got laid off, or, “I don’t know how to do this now. “Can you help me?” It seems to be a lot of that lately. – Yes, unfortunately, yes. (laughing) – So I love probing questions. I love to help people get armed with questions to ask to uncover. So if I wanna arm somebody with a couple key questions to probe deeper into any of the technology areas that you’re talking about, what’s some of your favorite questions that we can give out to help just have that conversation, uncover that conversation, uncover that opportunity if they haven’t yet?
– Probing questions.
So I mean, one of my favorite is, okay, just what are your pain points?
You have internet, you have SD-WAN, you have UCaaS you have CCAS. You can go down the gamut of different products and say, “So what is your biggest pain point?
“What are you doing about your mobility solutions? “Are you tired of paying high cost of mobility? “Let me help you with that. “Let me figure out how to streamline your bill “to help you get control of everything.” Make sure that the phones that you have on your mobility bill really still exist. Some people don’t even pay attention to that because employees come and go, the line stays active, and you’re still paying the 70, $80 a month for a line that’s active, that really shouldn’t be active because that phone wasn’t repurposed. Somebody else came and they bought a new phone. So you’ll see a lot of that.
And it’s just about talking about every aspect of technology, continuously planting that seed, not assuming that they know what you do, and not assuming that they know, although most of the people out there are very knowledgeable, that they know everything about every aspect of technology.
And to your point, one of the hardest subjects to get across is security, right? Especially for those larger enterprises. Everybody says, like you said, “Oh, I’m good. “I’ve got that covered.”
We all know it’s about job security. But so you try to ease your way in, make them feel comfortable about having the conversation, and make them feel 100% comfortable that you’re not trying to replace them, replace their staff. You’re here to augment them and their staff.
However, that’s probably a hard conversation because no one sees it that way. They see it as the solution coming in to replace me. – Yeah, I love the word augment in those conversations. I think people are sometimes trying to feel us all out of, “Okay, what’s this guy’s real agenda?” – Exactly, yeah, yeah. – I know, look, I don’t wanna displace providers if you have providers that are working. I wanna make your life easier and I wanna augment so you can focus on what it is you need to focus on. Yeah, but what’s your real goal? How do you really get paid? I get paid the same as everybody else. It doesn’t make any difference. I think that’s gold. And your other thing, I’m gonna beat this drum again. You talk about security, right? Security guy here, so that’s near and dear to my heart. I promise you, a lot of people cold called MGM, and MGM told a lot of people, “We’re good. “We’re good, we’re good.”
And the way that they got into MGM and MGM and shut everything down for the last few weeks was simple social engineering, making a call to pretend to be somebody that they weren’t, and they got admin credentials, and look at everything that’s transpired of that. How many, probably hundreds of millions of dollars that was lost out of this? So if that drives anybody from a sales perspective to just be more persistent and go layer by layer by layer, to your point, there’s so much opportunity out there, even people that tell you, “I’m good.” – Yeah, and just be patient.
I know one of the things you asked me was an aha moment. So we had a client that literally took 10 months to close the deal, not a big client. Two circuits, primary, secondary, SD-WAN, UCaaS seats, 50 seats, and they were with a carrier, and no, we’re good. No, we’re good, no, we’re good, until it went down several times, and then they were disrupted. And then the latest thing is they were charged an extra $1,000 a month to keep their lines, their copper lines.
And now they want everything in the yesterday, right? But it was one of those things, I got back in October of last year, I gave a presentation, we give demos, they were happy, but they didn’t wanna move forward. Every month I did what I call drip marketing. I would hit them up, “Are you guys ready yet? “Are you ready ready?” And the last time I sent an email, they said, “We’re ready now.” And I said, “Are you okay?” And then they told us the story. I’m like, “I’m here to help, that’s all I can do.” – Love it.
Love it, awesome example, good stuff.
All right, Pierre, final question. If we look into Pierre’s crystal ball here, we have obviously seen a lot of evolution in this channel where we went from just single one or two products to sell to kind of where we’re at now.
Broadly, or focus on a certain technology, totally your opinion here, where do you see this all going if 12 months look out?
– There’s so much technology out here now that you’ve really got to weed it, weed through it, to try to figure out what’s the best fit for clients. Not everything fits every client, right? It depends on their needs, how they’re trying to accomplish it, it depends on their budget.
It depends on how is it important to them, how important is it to them to have continuity of internet services or to have security on their products because if they’re down or if they’re hacked, how much money are they losing? What’s the ransom gonna be on that? You do the ROI for them or with them and try to say, here are the numbers, the numbers don’t lie. So all I can do is present solutions based on a particular client and give them the numbers because I give them total cost of ownership at the end of the day.
I’ll do a spreadsheet, I put it all the way out 36 months, determine the contracts, and this is what it’s gonna cost you. Oh wow, that’s a big figure, right? Yeah, but if you don’t do this and something happens in between, what are you losing other than sleep? – Yeah, yeah, yeah, opportunity costs. People don’t factor in opportunity costs into that, that’s a great point. I love that you’re drilling down into that. – Yeah. – Well, good stuff. All right, Pierre, that wraps us up, man. I really appreciate you coming on the podcast today. – Thank you very much for the invite, Josh. Thank you very much. – Awesome. – And definitely we’ll run into each other soon. – Oh, absolutely. – Okay, everybody, Pierre Landrin RAS3 Communications. Until next time, I’m your host, Josh Lupresto SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus.