If you’re in the market for business phone or internet service you can work through a telecom consultant or with a direct rep employed by a telecom or internet service provider. It might seem to be safer to work with a direct rep or that an agent might add to the cost of your service, but there a number of items you should consider.
This is the first addition of a multi part series comparing direct reps to telecom consultants or agents.
Almost every provider has an agent channel. In fact, the providers that don’t utilize agents typically take a monopolistic approach in their business strategies. They tend to be rigid, slow moving, controlling; they offer above market pricing and they’re behind the industry in their product offerings. For instance, incumbent phone companies were slow to offer SIP and when they did so, their pricing was high. There’s a reason why providers don’t employ agent channels, because they want to be able to control their pricing and the approach towards prospects. I worked for a competitive local exchange carrier that was very aggressive. I was competing for a deal with another direct rep and an agent representing my company – three people, representing the same provider, fighting for the same piece of business. You would be correct if you guessed that this customer received the provider’s lowest possible price. Meanwhile, certain providers have shut me out, even though my client asked me to secure pricing for them. That’s because the provider wanted to keep their pricing and profit margin as high as possible.
Experience. Telecom sales is a young person’s game. Not too many experienced telecom people are going to be able to put up with the way providers treat their direct sales reps. Limited territories, forced cold calling, twice daily manager meetings… are just some of the indecencies that telecom sales reps have to put up with. Less experience means less knowledge and telecom companies don’t have the training budgets they used to. How is a direct rep that received less than two weeks of training going to be able to recognize an MPLS application, much less configure the network? High turn over, insufficient training and fewer sales engineers offering support make it difficult to find a competent sales rep. A direct rep won’t be able to consult with their customers the same way a more experienced agent could. Agents have years of experience and have usually worked with a number of providers; they’ve had to prove themselves repeatedly just to stay in business. They aren’t limited to one company and the flavor of the month service.
Choices. Direct reps sell one company’s services and are steered by their management to sell certain products. Typically those products are the most profitable and least popular. If the services were being sought after they wouldn’t be on promotion or pushed as much. Agents can sell most any company’s services and are always putting client’s needs first. That’s because their boss is their client, not the carrier.
In next week’s addition we’ll discuss how agents and direct reps are compensated and channel integration.
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