Business News - AgENt Conference Stresses Education, Training, Selling

Channel Partners

May 1, 2000

5 Min Read
Business News - AgENt Conference Stresses Education, Training, Selling

Posted: 05/2000

AgENt Conference Stresses Education, Training, Selling

Nearly 1,000 people shared their knowledge and expertise while they searched for new ways to create unique agent opportunities to move into the telecommunication industry’s future during PHONE+‘s March 26-29 AgENt Conference and Expo in Las Vegas.

“Warp Speed 2000,” the show’s theme, set the tone for the event, which featured nearly 100 exhibitors.

One goal of the show was to create dialogue between agents and providers. Fittingly, the March 26 “Carrier Works” kickoff offered an intimate, informal setting for agents to chat with representatives from some of the major carriers in the industry, including AT&T Corp.
(, Sprint Business (, Telegroup Inc.
( and Trans National Communications International Inc.

On March 27, the session called “Sounding Off: Carriers and Resellers on the Agent Channel” featured a high-spirited panel that answered questions from attendees. The panelists included Arunas
Chesonis, chairman and CEO, PaeTec Communications Inc. (;
Gordon Stark, vice president, Qwest Communications International Inc. (; George Hampton, vice president, MCI WorldCom Inc.
(; and Bob Loftis, vice president, Partner Programs, Cable & Wireless USA

Initially exploring relatively tame issues of product training and transitioning from long distance to data, the panel heated up over installation support, commissions, provisioning and SLAs.

Chesonis rocked the boat several times during the session. He predicted long-distance rates would fall to a half-cent per minute within 24 months, offered to take Qwest’s agents off its hands, and stated that as a rule, carriers “suck at agent support.”

After the volatile session, motivational speaker Omar Periu gave the keynote address.

Later that day, the roundtable discussions were standing-room-only. Ranging in subjects from “Selling Cellular” to “Becoming a Virtual ISP” the roundtables gave agents a chance to discuss important changes and growth affecting their business.

During “Contract Negotiation,” Steve Hitchcock, an attorney with Technology Law Group LLC
(, offered advice some agents probably did not like.

Hitchcock emphasized that carriers should keep agents informed of changes of service or rate-structure modifications for consumers the agents represent. He explained, “The line sometimes is a little blurred. While you may have signed up the customer, in reality, it is the carrier’s customer.”

Hitchcock added that in any agent-carrier negotiation, parameters need to be clear so the agents can fire the CLEC if the service promised is not provided.

A related roundtable discussion, “Legal/Regulatory Compliance,” offered participants solid warnings of what might happen if they do not follow the letter of the law.

Ernest Ellis of Telecom Compliance Service Inc., warned agents to ensure that carriers with whom they do business are certified properly within the state of business. He cautioned them to get the assurance in writing, because it would become their only legal recourse should the CLEC be found out of compliance.

“The value of your company is directly tied to your ability to do business, and if you are in regulatory or legal trouble, it is a direct reflection on your company,” Ellis explained.

He predicted that within a year, all U.S. states will impose some form of Internet user fees.

“Lawmakers will pass fees they can charge you; they just can’t label them taxes,” Ellis said.

Greg Praske of the Association Resource Group and Scott Swartzbaugh of the Network Consulting Group led a roundtable on “Selling Local Services.”

A highlight at this discussion was Swartzbaugh’s prediction that CLECs will find their way into the nation’s rural areas.

“CLECs have to deliver a certain amount of services,” by law, he explained. “Something has to drive the technology there, and the day will come, but it’s got to be an efficient way.”

During the final hour of the roundtables, Jim Gledhill of
( and Rick Shelton of Intelisys Inc.
( teamed up to offer tips on “Making the Sale: Increasing Your Odds to Win.”

The tag-team spelled out clear differences between independent agents and those who are tied to carriers.

“I believe the Agency Channel will be the dominant channel, because that is where the real experts are,” Gledhill said. He added that it is imperative for agents to know why a potential customer objects to going through an independent agent.

“If you don’t know what the objections are, you don’t know what the competition is saying about you,” Shelton added. He explained the potential customer will not come up with the objections unless the direct company salespeople planted them.

On the conference’s final day, dubbed “Technology 2000 Day,” NxGen Data Research Inc., subsidiary of National Paradigm Resource Group
(, president Gary Kim presented “10 to Watch: The Technologies Turning Our Business Upside Down.”

Kim cited broadband technologies, and e-commerce and other Internet applications as the growth areas in coming years. From Internet marketing and advertising to enhanced privacy features, Kim painted a dynamic and exciting future for the industry.

The “Panel of Pros,” which followed Kim’s presentation, offered insight from the industry’s equipment manufacturer’s perspective.

Theit, general manager, Lucent Technologies Inc. (, and Ray
Shedden, manager, Siemens Inform-ation and Communication Networks (, explored how developing distribution channels and advances in technology offer new opportunities for agents in equipment sales.

The final day also featured six concurrent sessions devoted to data services.

At any conference, the floor show is as important as any presentation, and the AgENt exhibition hall was full of energy.

It was at its booth that PaeTec unveiled its equity program; TelePacific Communications Inc.
(, Global Crossing
Telecom-municatons ( and RSL COM Canada
( launched new agent extranets; Access One Communications announced its acquisition by
(; and National Basketball Association Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson sat in Broadwing Inc.’s
( booth to autograph miniature basketballs.TriVergent Communciations
( passed out binoculars, the most popular toy at the show, while WorldxChange Communications
( highlighted its recently revamped agent program with the most eye-catching booth.

Exhibitors included large carriers such as Global Crossing Ltd.
( AT&T, Sprint, Qwest and Broadwing as well as next-generation technology companies, such as Inc.
( and e.spire Communi-cations Inc.

Plans already are being made for September’s AgENt Conference & Expo in New Orleans, where the focus will have a heavy emphasis on the tools and training that are needed by master agents, sub agents and others to keep up with the constantly changing industry.

–Bruce Christian and Stacy Lane Linkmeyer
contributed to this story.

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