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Master Agent Matchmaking: 8 Areas to Examine When Making Your Choice

Like any other long-term relationship, it starts with finding the best fit.

Buffy Naylor

November 26, 2018

8 Slides

Change is a basic tenet of the master agency.

Master agents have been around since the late 1980s, when AT&T’s forced divestiture created market opportunities to represent long-distance distributors. In the decades since then, master agents have ridden a non-stop wave of change, evolving in concert with the industry, suppliers and agent partners they serve, moving away from strictly telecom to embrace first cloud and managed services, and now taking on the opportunities available in IoT, AI and other new technologies as they appear.

In addition, as business technology becomes more complicated and the sales process becomes more complex, master agents have facilitated partners’ move from transactional sales (goods and services) to relationship sales (the trusted adviser).

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PlanetOne’s Ted Schuman

Still, the basic master agent model remains intact, viable and more vital than ever. Partners continue to look to master agents for “traditional” services, primary among them maximum commission potential, sales and service support, and a general commitment to helping them succeed.

Throughout the fourth quarter of 2018, as part of our “In Focus” series, we are featuring a series of galleries designed to help partners grow their businesses in 2019 and beyond.

“The basic back office and enablement aside, a great master agent offers partners the ability to operate at a higher level of excellence,” said Ted Schuman, founder and CEO of PlanetOne. “They also allow channel partners to earn higher compensation with greater protection and deliver an exceptional experience from quote to close and again from activation to renewals.”

“It’s not a rinse-and-repeat engagement,” he said. “A great master agent focuses on building the relationships that will get the best results for the channel partner and for the provider.”

The evolving importance of master agents is being recognized by vendors as well.

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TBI’s Corey Cohen

“As more companies large and small feel comfortable purchasing technology through consultants, MSOs, large telcos and emerging software companies are truly realizing the power of channel,” said Corey Cohen, director of marketing for TBI. “They now have mandates to increase revenue from channel partners, and those that haven’t already are creating multitiered structures, decreasing their direct relationships and instead having them roll up under masters. With a larger emphasis on channel, more resources are thrown at masters that have the back-office systems and process to speed up business, facilitating each and every deal with project management and technical resources.”

Finding the best fit with a master agent can be a bit of a matchmaking challenge for channel partners.

“Master agents aren’t all the same,” Phil Keenan, president of MicroCorp wrote in a blog on the company’s website. “Each has different benefits for different kinds of sales operations, so it’s important to check out each company.”

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WTG’s Julie Dzubay

“A channel partner should prioritize the primary needs for their business model,” said Julie Dzubay, vice president of sales operations for WTG. “For example, if a channel partner’s top priority is the services and providers they are able to access, they will want to compare the provider portfolios of the master agents. Or if a channel partner is mainly interested in sales tool automation, they should evaluate the quoting and selling automation tools that that each of the master agents is offering.”

“Technology is a relationship-driven business; a selling partner should have a relationship with its master agent, too,” said Cohen. “The channel partner needs to first assess what they need: access to vendors, inside sales, outsourced back office, marketing or training.”

“Vet the human capital a master agent will provide you, because portals don’t close deals and drive revenue, people do,” said Schuman. “This is a relationship business. We invest in our people, and they wake up every day with one goal — helping our partners grow their business faster and more profitably.”

“A partner should have a list of questions for prospective master agents, such as, ‘Do you have the service provider/vendor relationships I need to be successful?’ and ‘Do you proactively audit commission and SPIF payments so that I get what’s owed to me?'” said Alan Sandler, managing partner of Sandler Partners.

Scroll through the gallery below, where we consider eight areas partners should evaluate when choosing a master agency.

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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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