How Vocus is helping the channel
We profile Julia Walsh, General Manager of Enterprise and State Government at Vocus. She tells us about her journey and how Vocus is making a difference in tough times.
Tell us about your career journey
I’ve spent my entire working career working in telco – 24 years – and I started at a really interesting time. It was in the thick of telecommunications deregulation, in the late 90s, and I was working for One.Tel back when it was a start-up in Sydney.
Since then, I’ve spent my career leading customer-facing teams, mostly in challenger brands. I also spent some time at Brennan IT which was a non-traditional telco operator. That’s where I learned the power of being able to sell customers holistic technology solutions.
I took some time off along the way to have my three, beautiful daughters. I then spent five years at AAPT (who subsequently got acquired by TPG) and now I’m coming up to four years at Vocus. In that time, I’ve watched the company transform significantly. When I first joined, Vocus didn’t have an account management program, so my first task was to implement an account management team. It wasn’t long afterwards that I took over the channel partner program. Fast-forward to today and I now head up all of our direct and indirect sales teams, nationally.
Having spent so much time at different telcos, I found that Vocus was a really refreshing company to join. It has a really fresh approach to how we provide telco services and so I haven’t looked back since.
What unique insights did you gain along the way?
The biggest insight that I’ve gained is how closely strong, customer-centric and partner-centric cultures should be aligned with a positive, internal, people culture. This drives your ability to provide exceptional customer service. You can’t have one without the other.
I’ve worked for a number of organisations in my telco career that have had different priorities concerning people culture, customer culture and the related decision making within the business. In my experience, the best way to deliver the best outcome for a customer is to put them at the forefront of every decision you make whilst also ensuring that you have a strong people culture – where the team really enjoy coming to work and feel passionate about the success of your organisation. Here at Vocus, two of our key values are, ‘Being crazy about customers’ and ‘Our people are the difference.’ We live and breathe those values every day. They’re the key to delivering a brilliant customer experience.
What are the key challenges facing your partners and your advice for overcoming them?
The rapidly changing demand from customers, during the current climate, is the key challenge. There’s been an acceleration of technology adoption and it’s driving very different customer conversations.
One of the challenges for organisations is pivoting their own strategy. They might have set themselves a 12-month, two-year or five-year plan without envisaging COVID happening. Now, they need to be agile, flexible and think about changing their strategy, quickly. That involves making hard calls about investments they’ve made that are no longer relevant to their customers.
Where does the channel need to gain expertise and support?
The Channel needs to gain support when facing the same key challenges that we’re facing ourselves. This means working out how to engage with customers during this challenging time – particularly new customers. After all, how do you build new relationships with new customers when you can’t do the traditional grabbing a coffee or having a lunch?
Another challenge we’re all facing is, how do you set yourself apart digitally? You’ve seen LinkedIn swarmed with COVID posts and you’re invited to multiple webinars each day. How do you really set yourself apart with regards to positioning yourself with new partners? The ability to have face-to-face conversations and workshops has always been key to working with partners and customers on technology solutions but we simply can’t do that. So, one of the biggest challenges has become, how do you build new relationships with new customers?
How can Vocus help The Channel?
Working together and leveraging each other's customer relationships has never been more critical. Vocus is in a unique position in our industry because we don’t compete with our partners. Our products complement each other and so we’re able to work together to provide holistic technology solutions to our customers and drive mutually beneficial business outcomes. So, the way we can help our channel is to work together on relationships that we have, both with existing customers, and potential new customers, that we’re both talking to.
We’re also lucky to be in such a critical industry at this time. While we’ve had the obvious, initial demands of bandwidth increases, it’s also accelerating demand and growth. New technology adoption has increased with regards to SD-WAN, digital transformation, security requirements and moving to the cloud. It’s all driving conversations that require, not only our infrastructure but also our partners’ products and services, to enable it.
In addition to that, reducing costs is top-of-mind to our customers and that's driving them to review their technology. This, in turn, is driving RFP activity. Being a challenger brand means there’s a lot of demand for us in these conversations.
From a negative point of view, I think the obvious callout is that businesses are struggling at this time. So, while we’re an essential service that provides critical services, there are many businesses that are really struggling to operate. They’re often needing to downgrade services and reduce their infrastructure footprints and so we’re trying to be as flexible as possible to support our customers and partners.
What are your plans for the rest of 2020?
Our plans for 2020 are to accelerate our partner program. It’s key to our growth strategy and key to us providing customers with better outcomes. We’ve got a very clear strategy to work with our partners in industries and market segments where we believe we can have the biggest impact. We’re really focused on working closely with our partners, having deeper relationships and winning business off the incumbents. We know that we’re stronger together and that our partner ecosystem is key to winning in market.