Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Do Telecom Agents Really Want?

What do Telecom Agents aka “channel partners” really want from an agent program, from the carrier and/or from the agent manager?

There are plenty of Carriers out there looking to sign you up as an agent, and these guys are persistent. Generally there is no cost to signing up as an agent though be mindful of the contract terms and overhead involved to manage relationships with multiple carriers.

For me most important is the selection of services and providers which the carrier represents. Why work with 10 Providers individually when you can work with one Carrier who can represent all 10.

Also, financial viability of the Carrier is important, you want to make sure they can serve the long term needs of your customer and that they can continue to pay your residual. Make sure the carrier has a good support track record, poor support will lead to frustrated clients. Even though you are just a sales agent your clients will call you to escalate issues if the Carrier is not responsive.

In terms of compensation, look for fair up front and monthly residuals. Not all Carriers will offer up front on all services so make sure you are comfortable with the monthly residual. Some Carriers offer a minimum up front spiff and no residual, these are your last resort guys, sometimes they can offer service where others can't or can offer more competitive pricing.

The bottom line is that if you will be out selling these services make sure you are comfortable with the compensation. If not tell them what you would look for, most are open to some negotiation.

Further, the answer is to beg the question, which Agent niche in Telecom? Network? Hardware? Software? Each niche has their special set of unique requirements. Each niche gets more complex in a solution thus requiring a specialty in training and experience. Some of those who have answered the question have touched on the big sore spots for Agents in each niche.

The one glaring answer that is still missing is; Partnership. Agents wants a Vendor, whatever the niche, that will truly Partner with them. All to many Vendors have jettisoned their entire Agent Channel with a new regime or reorg flavor of the quarter. But more to the point, Agents really need a Vendor who will come along them, invest in their training, share leads with them and assist in closing them. Now both parties have skin in the game and that’s the glue that is needed in any relationship.

Sure, fair comp is good. But let’s face facts, the Agent will leave that vendor in heartbeat if the next Vendor will up the payment. Just like many customer will run down the street to save a fist full of dollars. So what the glue? “Skin in the game”. Some Vendors do need to step up their comp plan to Agents especially given their cost of sale acquisition. But where almost all Vendors need to step up is their investment in the Agent. Arm the Agent and he’ll battle, loyally, all day long for you the Vendor.

I would say there are many things that the carriers can do to build the relationship.

* Get orders completed and installed asap, if something is wrong with order, let the agents know asap, that way they can get it resolved.

* Money - you must have an aggressive compensation plan. I would suggest "checking" around to see what other carriers are offering. Some agents prefer the bigger upfront payment, some prefer high residual percentages. Or often just a mixture of both.

* Support - You must have dedicated people to support your agents. Let them know a few people they can call that will help them out if you're not available.

* Product Porfolio - Its great when you have the ability to provide your customer with everything from POTs lines to T1s, MPLS, SIP, etc. If you can offer products for each size business customer, an agency can have many different marketing strategies.

* Leads - If you have some way of providing leads to your agents, that helps alot.

* All of those things will build your relationship with the agencies. Always be there for your agents and go the extra mile. This will pay off in the long run, and your companies services will be sold more than others.

With all of the above considered ... I can hands down recommend affiliating with Telarus as an agent. Telarus is an award winning Master Agency with recognition from numerous major Telcos for their performance, support, training, and more. Everything addressed above is top notch ... for more info go to:

VAR Network

VAR Partner

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