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How does "technology solutions broker" sound to you?
October 14, 2021
Some of the channel’s largest partners have joined the movement to shutter the term “master agent” and embrace the term “technology solutions brokerage.”
Multiple firms have told the Xposure Inclusion & Diversity Council that they are officially retiring “master agent” from their branding. Other companies have begun plans to rebrand themselves as a technology solutions brokerage, according to Xposure co-founder Brandon Knight.
Telarus’ Brandon Knight
A debate has raged in the IT/telecom brokerage channel in 2021 about deciding on a new name for the companies previously referred to as master agents. These firms, which provide supplier contracts and sales enablement resources to channel partners, have gone by the moniker for decades, but partners and vendors have spoken out about their discomfort with the term. Some are calling it racially insensitive; others call it a misnomer.
But despite several public expressions of support from executives at leading channel companies, the movement stalled when it came to agreeing on a replacement term. Partners called on suppliers to make the change, but the suppliers themselves had already developed a myriad of different terms on their own.
That’s when Xposure Inclusion & Diversity Council took the initiative.
The business resource group started drafting a letter that called on these brokerage and sourcing firms to lead by example and adopt new terminology. Specifically, Xposure was calling on them to use the term technology services distributor to describe themselves.
“I think we want a collaborative effort,” Knight said in an interview with Channel Futures last month. “But the suppliers and the agents are saying, ‘You guys are the ones that are called master agents. So we shouldn’t change your name; you should change your name.’”
The promise of an open letter caught the attention of the industry. Knight, who helped draft the letter, said several brokerages reached out to Xposure.
“It seems like nobody wanted to be on the bad side of that letter,” said Knight, who also leads Telarus’ contact center practice.
However, Knight said their feedback wasn’t entirely positive.
“Not everyone was 100% on-board. Not everybody thought this was a task worth taking up,” he said.
One critique was the term technology services distributor. Some firms noted how distributors already exist in the IT industry. Richard Murray, a colleague of Knight’s at Telarus, gathered together the largest tech solutions brokers for a conversation.
“His communication was, ‘There needs to be a change. We don’t like the term distributor because there are distributors out there already.'”
That crew, which included TBI, AppSmart, Intelisys, Avant and TCG, decided to go with “technology solutions brokerage,” according to Knight. Some of those companies will be putting their own spin on the wording in their branding, but they have reached an understanding.
Knight saw this consensus as a huge win.
“I was really impressed that actively competing companies talked about it openly. To me, that’s also a nod to how important the subject is,” he said. “I was really appreciative that they respected the topic enough to have an honest conversation about it and come up with a solution.”
Knight said the dominoes continued to fall when several suppliers, including Comcast, T-Mobile, Five9 and Nice InContact, told Xposure they would support the change.
The initiative would also refer to “subagents” as …… “brokers,” Knight said.
Growing consensus doesn’t equate to 100% agreement in the industry, however. Knight said holdouts remain. He will participate in a keynote panel at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo to address their concerns about rebranding.
“There’s still dissension. There are still people in the industry who think it’s overkill. They don’t think we need to change the name. They think it’s a waste of time. Some people don’t get it,” he said.
TBI recently took official steps to drop “master agent,” even before this consensus came to fruition. A brief glance at its website shows the company branding itself as a technology services distributor.
Eclipse Telecom’s Dave Dyson
“This is a long overdue change for the industry and our team is excited to be using a term that is more inclusive in support of all communities,” Mike Onystok said. “As technology evolves and adapts, we need to change with it. We have come a long way, and acknowledge there is still a long way to go. Moving forward, we are proud to call ourselves what we are: a technology services distributor.”
Knight said it’s understandable that companies may take a long time to officially make a rebrand. Rebranding comes with marketing expenses and legal ramifications. However, he expressed excitement for their initial buy-in.
Dave Dyson, CEO of Eclipse Telecom and board member at Xposure, agreed.
“It’s outstanding that the industry has begun the process of making the change to come up with names that better represent the enormous value our channel provides to our customers,” Dyson said. “The first step is commitment to the change, which most of the artists formerly known as ‘masters’ have done at this point. The real work will be over the next few months and even years as we remove the term master from our contracts, SEO, marketing, and most importantly, our vernacular.”
Dyson penned a blistering blog about his distaste for the term “master agent” earlier this year.
Read more about:Agents
Senior News Editor, Channel Futures
James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.
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