How This Entrepreneur Got Ten Years Ahead Of The Market And Intends To Stay There
Finding a natural sales channel is harder than it sounds. Countless businesses falter at the outset because they didn’t take the time to listen to the marketplace and analyze its needs.
Scott Seltzer, founder and CEO of ConnectMe, LLC, had the opposite problem. He listened and understood the issues. But he was 10 years ahead of his time.
Founded in 2001, ConnectMe is a hosted voice over IP (VoIP) and unified communications services provider. By then, Seltzer had been working in telecommunications for the better part of a decade. But the technology his offering relied upon wasn’t widespread enough to enable ConnectMe to meaningfully penetrate the market.
“The availability of reliable and fast broadband access is the number one driver,” Seltzer says. “Because if you don’t have reliable internet service or if it’s not affordable, then VoIP isn’t viable.”
Now, Seltzer’s willingness to take a risk and play the long game has paid off in spades.
“We’re running less and less into companies that don’t have affordable internet service,” he says. “There’s also just better equipment out there. As time has gone on, we’re been able to maintain better quality service—it’s become more affordable and more reliable, and businesses are just starting to get the word.”
With the right technology in place, ConnectMe is in a prime position to conquer the market and outpace the competitors who were late getting into the game. But to do that, Seltzer knows he needs to focus on growing his natural sales channel—and keeping his offering fresh.
Supporting Fast Growth Through Solid Foundations
Traditionally, ConnectMe targeted three core audiences: direct-to-end-user business, referrals from independent agents, and wholesale integration partners. But after digging into its customer base, the company discovered that an unexpected fourth channel offered the largest opportunity—managed service providers.
“We found that the retention rate for customers that came from that channel was better,” Seltzer says. “They want to be able to control their customers—to have the billing go out without getting complex. We’ve really stepped up to help them.”
ConnectMe’s growth rate has been 30-plus percent over the last few years. Seltzer is hopeful that he can grow the company in four years by supporting the growth of this natural sales channel. Before that, though, he intends to become a household name within the managed services provider community.
“A year from now, I would expect that channel to have grown to the point that our name is commonly known among them—where they know who we are and we’re being referred to and from others,” he says. “Once that buzz is out there, we know we’ve succeeded. That’s when you’ll start to see close rates increase and growth accelerate even further.”
To make this possible, Seltzer has made some key strategic hires over the past few months. This includes a channel chief responsible for trade show outreach and social media marketing, and a partner identification manager to attend the trade shows and set lead appointments. Both are supported by a partner engagement manager to close deals and focus on reselling. Bolstered by some operational improvements, Seltzer feels confident that the team will both accelerate growth and help the company to scale.
“The project was put in place in January and has now started to bear fruit,” he says. “Our sales pipeline has been filling up really nicely—we’ve been running about 80 appointments a month, exceeding where we expected to be. Our close rates are well within the range we were looking for. This is where the rubber hits the road.”
Anticipating New Tech, New Problems, And New Rivals
Seltzer’s forward-thinking attitude helped him get ahead of the game when it came to telecommunications technology. But when it comes to predicting his company’s future, he’s careful not to count his chickens before they’ve hatched. Few entrepreneurs know better than Seltzer just how fast technology can change the landscape.
“We’re in a rapidly changing industry,” he says. “Anyone in this type of industry needs to be worried about the battle with time and constantly trying to stay ahead.”
ConnectMe is continuously iterating and paying attention to concerns to stay relevant. Recent innovations include the ability to use a company phone number to send text messages from a mobile app, meaning business owners can keep their personal cell numbers private.
“The feedback we’ve gotten from partners at trade shows is that we’ve really solved some niches for them,” Seltzer says. “We think our message is resonating.”
Seltzer knows that anticipating customer needs is crucial for growth. But this approach will only be a difference maker for so long, and Seltzer is very aware that he needs to act now and act fast to take full advantage of this strength.
“I’m always concerned that others in the market try to leapfrog what we’re doing,” he admits. “As our name gets out there more, other competitors that may be better funded may respond. I think they probably will. So we we have to be prepared for that, and we have to gather as much market share up as fast as we can.”
I’ll be keeping an eye on Seltzer’s progress to see if he can stay ahead of the market and reap all the benefits of an eager natural sales channel.