This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
Excuse the pun, but the channel just keeps changing.
While everybody and their brother used to be an agent, in recent years there’s been significant consolidation within the channel. For example, Verizon (News - Alert), which used to have 1,600 agents, now has under 90, notes Keith Muller, CEO and founder of master telecommunications agent Interactive Telecom Solutions Inc.
That said, those channel organizations that remain seem to be working particularly hard to differentiate themselves both with their agents and with end customers. ITS, which specializes in telecom optimization for large to mid-size business, is a perfect example of this trend.
One of the recent moves eight-year-old ITS made to differentiate itself in the marketplace is form a partnership with Hudson Fiber Network, which offers financial services companies ultra low-latency connectivity across the shortest distance fiber routes. HFN focuses on buy-side and sell-side customers as well as pre- and post-trade service providers.
“ITS understands agents want to expand their offerings to include this important vertical,” says Muller. “As trade volume increases, trading infrastructure must deliver increasing data volumes with the lowest latency possible. This is key in providing financial customers with a leading edge. With this relationship, we are building our portfolio of offerings and enabling our agent partners to expand their customer base.”
Muller says the relationship with HFN is sure to increase ITS sales in the financial vertical, which he says is not a saturated market by a long shot and which requires special know-how and relationships to penetrate.
“We think it’s a very unique relationship, and it’s an exclusive relationship for two years,” he says of the HFN deal, adding that handing off the lead early is a good strategy in this case.
Overall, Muller says, ITS agents tend to focus on referrals. The company’s 10 direct sales reps are also “quasi” channel managers, he adds, so they can be very “hands on” in the process.
At the same time, ITS is helping its 250 agent partners get their hands on the information they need to help manage their accounts and the commissions related to them.
The company has a homegrown portal through which agents can check on the status circuit provisioning, their own commissions and more.
“Certainly the portal has been a big innovation for us and helped us manage our agents and manage our customers,” says Muller.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi