The two things I hear most often when I tell a prospective client or a networking contact that I’m a telecom agent and explain what it is I do are:
- I didn’t know that existed.
- Don’t you add to the cost of the services?
I thought it would be a good idea to explain how telecom agents fit into the telecom industry, the role they assume and their value.
First, what is an agent?
A telecom agent is an independent consultant that can offer just about any telecom carrier option available. Agents typically work for their clients and only receive compensation when a sale is completed.
Some thoughts about the telecom industry, specifically how it relates to telecom agents:
- Almost every carrier has an agent program. Verizon, CenturyLink, Sprint, Comcast, Time Warner Cable… all have agent channels.
- Most agents start out as carrier reps, where they receive months of training and on the job experience. They transition to the agent world by either leveraging client relationships or the contacts they’ve established with other agents. The agent way is appealing to many telecom professionals because it’s freeing and it can be more rewarding to develop long term client relationships versus focusing on monthly sales quota attainment.
- Agents don’t add to the cost of the business phone and internet services they sell. The most important component of a successful agent channel is to provide agents and direct reps access to the same pricing. If it was possible for a carrier’s direct sales force to undercut their agent counterparts, the agents would steer their clients away from that carrier and it would lose out on potential new business.
- Carriers have a love-hate relationship with their agents. They love the business agents bring but don’t like that agents press them to deliver lower pricing. Carriers like control and they have complete control over their own people but that’s not the case with agents, because agents work for their clients, not the carriers.
- Agents make bad boyfriends (or girlfriends). Carriers would love it if agents were exclusive. They establish quotas and minimums in an attempt to make that a reality but an agent can simply become a sub agent of one of a carrier’s master agents, to avoid being manipulated in any way.
- Some deals can’t be won by a direct sales channel. Direct sales reps are paid a salary and earn a one-time commission on the sales they make. They’re unable to compensate a third party for referred business, at least not to the extent that an agent is able to. Because agents are paid a residual monthly commission, they can offer a percentage of that to a referral partner. Many businesses utilize IT and Phone Equipment vendors and rely on them for guidance when it comes to purchasing business phone and internet services. Many of them want to be compensated if they deliver business to a carrier. The only way that can happen is if the vendors work through a telecom agent or become agents themselves.
- Some carriers fight against adopting an agent channel or make it difficult for their agents. AT&T established a separate company, ACC Business, in lieu of an AT&T agent channel. Agents were told that they could resell the AT&T network but customers were wary and the pricing was typically higher than what AT&T’s direct sales force was offering. TW Telecom won’t allow agents to service certain named customers. That named customer list is confidential and many of the companies are unaware that they’re on the list. Verizon Wireless won’t let agents resell 4G. Cox Cable only offers onetime commissions to agents.
- Smaller, less established carriers love agents. It’s much more cost effective for a carrier to offer their services through an agent channel because the fixed costs related to an agent channel are much less than the fixed costs associated with a direct sales team.
If you would like to experience the difference of working with a knowledgeable telecom agent, contact CarrierBid today or complete the web form on the right side of this page.