This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
Being a telecom agent doesn’t mean going it alone in the job of providing clients with dependable carrier relationships and protecting your own financial success. In fact, partnering with a master telecom agent has become an attractive and strategic move for independent agents.
A master agent is a provider of telecommunication services working on behalf of service providers and benefits telecom agents through a shared set of resources. By assisting agents in managing partners, subagents, providing back-office support and expert product knowledge, partnering with a master agent can actually help you expand your clientele and secure a bright future of long-term residual sales commissions. However, not all master agents are alike. Making the wrong choice could have a negative effect on your clients, and a stinging impact on your commissions.
Much like separating the wheat from the chaff, agents must look closely at a promise vs. a proven track record. It all comes down to 12 simple considerations:
Determine if the master agent is protecting and preserving the most favorable contract terms and conditions possible. A strong master agent invests significant dollars every year – not just to negotiate higher percentages, but to improve the terms and conditions of their agreements. There is a huge value in the agreements that a master agent secures on behalf of its agents.
Because of high sales volume, a master agent will typically offer higher paying vendor contracts to agents, along with favorable renewals and post-termination protection.
Don’t overlook the importance of intangibles. For example, a good master agent demonstrates the ability to be a passionate voice for agents and advocate for best possible pre- and post-sales support for agents and their customers.
How easy is it for an agent to connect with a master agent each business day? Are the owners of the master agency involved in the day-to-day business? Do they care about what's going on? Look for a track record in response to your calls and requests for support, as well as how involved the master agent is in strategizing to grow your business.
Let’s face it, you want a master agent that is involved in the industry and with knowledge of where it’s headed. A good master agent will likely sit on carrier advisory boards, is visible in the industry, highly regarded by peers and suppliers, and provide opportunities for agents to meet with channel chiefs and other industry leaders. In short, a good master agent serves as a voice for the channel.
The No. 1 job of a master agent is to advocate for the independent agent. Look for examples of strong advocacy skills; talk with other agents who have benefited from that advocacy. For example, if a client experiences issues, how relentless is your master agent in helping you resolve the problem? The feeling you should have is that your master agent has your back.
Ultimately, you are accountable to your client. But does your master agent hold its vendors to the same high standards as it relates to performance and commitment? Evaluating the master agent’s strengths in handling call volume (good, bad and ugly), ensuring orders flow through to timely installation, billing and commissions is crucial. Another critical consideration is whether the master agent delivers accurate and timely commissions, ensuring that providers pay commissions on all your business transactions. Does the master agent perform audits of commissions?
How many times have we heard that attitude is as important as effort and efficiency? If a master agent is available only during routine office hours of 9 to 5, what happens when problems arise at 5:15? If they've vaporized until the next business day, that’s a red flag as to the overall support they offer their hard-working agents. Look for a prompt reply to e-mails, returned phone calls and a willingness to go the distance.
Is your master agent in the trenches with you, fighting the tough fights and helping to shovel out toward daylight? Stuff happens and you want a master agent who can adapt to change, as well as the highs and lows that affect your clients.
It all boils down to experience. Does your master agent have plenty of experience in the telecom channel and street credibility? The reality is that agents make a living by selling and retaining. You need a master agent that recognizes what you need to do your job and provides that support. In fact, a more sophisticated and successful master agent will have a retention department.
A no-brainer, you would think, but a master agent must also have a working knowledge of technology solutions and what is a good fit for the customer. A good master agent provides strategic counsel on complex solutions.
At the end of the day, you want your sales commissions, but you want to be recognized for your efforts from time to time. A good master agent understands that and compensates you well for a job well done. Look for a master agent with a generous incentive program, multiple opportunities to celebrate success, socialize with channel executives and get your game face on.
Ted Schuman is the founder and president of PlanetOne Communications (www.PlanetOne.net).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi