Answering Objections to Selling Wireless

Experienced wireless agents answer common objections wireline agents have about getting into wireless sales.

February 17, 2011

8 Min Read
Answering Objections to Selling Wireless

By Khali Henderson

It’s no secret that many wireline agents have not embraced wireless due to many factors, not the least of which are compensation and logistics. The complaint is that the return on effort has been low compared to wireline sales. But with mobility becoming a central strategy for practically every business customer, can you afford to sit on the sidelines? Channel Partners asked a few experienced wireless agents to clear the air about the common objections wireline agents have about getting into wireless sales. If you havent considered selling wireless in a while, you may be surprised by their answers.

Objection No. 1: Wireless does not offer recurring commissions. While it is generally the case that wireless sales are compensated upfront, there are residual commissions available from some mobile operators and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs)/wireless resellers (see related article on CLECs reselling wireless). Sometimes, when residuals are offered, they are in combination with an upfront payment and can be small.

Wireless expert Natasha Royer Coons, managing director for TeraNova Consulting Group Inc., La Mesa, Calif., explained that some mobile operators offer a small residual, e.g., less than 2 percent, to its master agents, who may choose to pass it on to their subagents or not. My advice to the agent is to understand from your master which carriers offer a residual albeit a tiny one and ask if you could take a piece of that pie because it can add up over time,” she said.

Geoff Yearack, president of master agency Voda Communications, Las Vegas, agreed that its a good idea to shop around to find a provider or master agent that fits your needs, but he cautioned that it may be difficult to find one that will offer the service and support you need with both upfront and residual.

Instead of dwelling on the lack of or low residuals, experts encourage agents to consider the upsides of an upfront payment: Coons said it adds an injection of cash that agents can use to invest in their growth. Upfront payments also mitigate risk: If the customer cancels after six months, you keep the commission,” Yearack said. Similarly, Coons added that if the carrier cancels their partner program, you already would have received all or a majority of your due compensation.

Objection No. 2: Wireless commissions do not compare to wireline commissions. In addition to no or low residuals, wireline agents assume that they will earn less selling wireless.  Experts say thats not entirely true.

For the number of people you are supporting in a wireless solution you get paid a lot more,” claimed Chris Ragland, principal for master agency Order Experts LLC, Austin, Texas. Here is an example: An agent can sell a T1 to support an office of 20 people and receive $3,000 in commission, or he can sell 20 BlackBerry devices and receive $200+ in commission per device, or $4,000 in commission. Wireless can pay better [than wireline] if you know how to sell a solution,” Ragland said.

Ragland warned agents to stop thinking about only getting paid by the carrier” for selling a phone/device. You have to get into solution selling, not selling phones,” he said, offering the example of selling MobileIron security solution along with the devices and getting paid not only by the carrier but by MobileIron.

Other opens for improving the revenue picture are to also offer a professional service, such as wireless expense management or mobile device management, he said.

TeraNovas Coons acknowledged that for the typical wireline agent, wireless commissions will never replace wireline commissions. Her advice is not to compare the two, but to view wireless as additional untouched revenue. If you dont have the time or cycles to go after it, partner up with an expert organization you trust and toss the leads over the fence. That way you can still enjoy some share of commissions and protect your account from an unknown direct team or another agent that is selling wireless,” she advised.

Indeed account protection is a significant reason for wireline agents to rethink their hands-off position on wireless. If you dont offer wireless, someone else surely will.

Vodas Yearack said wireless by nature is much more hands-on, so the company handling the wireless services is in front of the customer more regularly as employees switch out devices, etc. This can be a competitive advantage for a wireless agent, but also an opportunity for a bit of drip marketing for your wireline” service if you sell both, Yearack said.

Objection No. 3: It’s hard to get an agent agreement with certain carriers. Unfortunately, it is true that getting a direct agreement with a national mobile operator can be difficult. But there are several alternatives, including MVNOs and master agencies. Order Experts Ragland also suggested setting up referral relationships with other agents that represent carriers that you do not have a relationship with.

Objection No. 4: Selling wireless requires me to maintain a device inventory. In fact, most mobile operators have programs that do not require dealers to open retail stores or maintain device inventory. Most of the carriers indirect programs drop ship directly to the customer,” explained Ragland. In fact, it is the exception to the rule to carry inventory in terms of wireless devices. This is not the case for hardware such as routers.”

Objection No. 5: Selling wireless requires me to stay current on devices that change frequently. This is a valid concern, especially for voice plans/devices, experts said, adding it can be managed in several ways.

Honestly, most of the devices out there are very similar with a few of the leading new devices as differentiators,” said Ragland, recommending new wireless agents start by understanding the newest models and working backward. It doesn’t take long to learn.”

Vodas Yearack said that agents may not have to learn the details about the latest and greatest devices. If you sell through a partner that will do most of the heavy lifting and work with you to close clients, you have a [subject matter expert] at your disposal,” he said.

And, he added, sometimes that isnt even necessary. Most customers these days know exactly what they want and can actually tell you what the device does,” Yearack said.

Selling wireless data is much more like what wireline agents are used to. Understanding data is ubiquitous, you just need to know what the throughput is on each carrier, etc.,” Ragland said.

Coons added that wireline agents also can focus on non-voice opportunities in wireless. Her company, for example, focuses on wireless WAN, which combines mobile routers and antennas with mobile data plans to build primary or backup wireless networks. This type of solution is a lot more like wireline since it involves network design,” Coons said, noting its a good way for wireline agents to break into wireless. Going after wireless backup, for example, for their retailers or [fast food restaurant] customers might be a good way to start,” she said. They will still need a 3G router and equipment and the know-how, but its a lot closer to the wireline environment they are accustomed to.”

Objection No. 6: Its difficult to get national sales/channel support from wireless operators. In fact, said Ragland, the big four carriers Sprint, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile all have national networks and offer varying degrees of support through channel managers.

Another option is to work with a master agency or an MVNO.

My advice is to work with your master agent to get the lay of the land for that particular carrier to understand where/how they are getting their support and how to handle opportunities that are out of the region,” Yearack said. They will likely have come across these issues already since most masters have agents and deals across the country and they can advise on what support is available and how to tap into that.”

An MVNO is another option, said Coons, adding that its important to make sure they have enough bandwidth purchased to support your customers network needs and that their back office can handle billing and support as efficiently as can the underlying carriers.

All the experts advised treading cautiously with MVNOs since many have gone out of business and their offers sometimes dont keep pace with the national operators. One option might be to consider your existing CLEC partner; several of them also offer wireless with their wireline services.

Objection No. 7: Channel conflict between direct and indirect makes it hard for me to sell to my customers. According to Order Experts Ragland, this is absolutely true. His advice is to bring more value to the customer than the carrier can. You need to show that you are doing something they cannot do. The wireless industry is increasingly looking to the indirect channel to be solution sellers, not just feet on the street,” he said.

Looking for More?

Join Natasha Royer Coons, Geoff Yearack and Chris Ragland for the session Wading Into Wireless” at the Spring 2011 Channel Partners Conference & Expo, March 13-15, in Las Vegas. For more information, visit

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