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How to Make Agents Great Again

It’s time for agents to set aside an antiquated mindset.

Lynn Haber

August 9, 2017

5 Min Read
Superhero Businessman

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Lynn Haber

**Editor’s Note: Register now for Channel Partners Evolution, Sept. 25-28, in Austin, Texas.**

What agent doesn’t want to be great? And how many believe they’re already at the top of their game? Well, they may not be because the game has changed — as have the rules they’re playing by.

So, in a concurrent education session – What Makes a Good Agent Great – at the upcoming Channel Partners Evolution Conference & Expo,Sept. 25-28, in Austin, Texas, Patrick Oborn, co-founder of master agent Telarus, will provide some insight on what it takes to achieve greatness. In a nutshell, he says that agents need to understand that they’re not selling technology and services anymore — what they are selling is an experience.

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Telarus’ Patrick Oborn

We chatted with Oborn about the role of today’s agent, how the business is changing, why partners need to change, and why agents should attend his session.

Channel Partners: Why address this topic now? Is there something happening at this particular point in time that makes it relevant?

Patrick Oborn: I think there is. Five to 10 years ago when a lot of successful agents first came into this area, the rules were that agents did all of the work and they’d write their orders through a master agent who basically takes their orders and pays a commission.

That do-it-yourself model is really outdated. The master agents, the vendors, and everyone around the agents have made investments in tools that agents can leverage … and if the agents don’t take 10 seconds and pop their heads up and see what’s out there that they could be leveraging, they can be left behind. That’s because all these players have created resources that these agents are not taking advantage of.

CP: Why is the do-it-yourself outdated? And, what exactly did it look like?

PO: It was absolutely do-it-yourself … I need to find my own leads, I need to close my own deals, I need to provision my own circuits, I need to do my own account management, I need to do my own renewals, I need to do everything myself.

What that would lead to … for new agents, that was great because you’d build up a book of business — but then you start getting customer issues, billing- and circuit-related issues … and you’d have to drop what you’re doing, go back and fix it, and eventually your bucket is so full of customers that your ability to hunt new logos goes away because you’re saturated.

This model was in place from about 2000 to 2010.

CP: What were these agents typically selling?

PO: Connectivity – MPLS networks, voice, sub trunks —  maybe some hosted voice.

CP: So, what’s changed?

PO: As things have gone more cloud, the vendors themselves want us to sell …

… different things – more complex services – and to be able to do so, they have more resources, such as trainings, staff resources that we can use to make that transition. But agents are still doing the old model … I have to do everything myself.

CP: If vendors are pushing agents to sell more complex services – and are offering resources – but a lot of agents are not taking advantage of this and are still doing things the old way, who is selling the complex services?

PO: A lot of agents who do well now started out a few years ago and know how to sell these products. Companies that you typically wouldn’t have associated with telecom a few years ago are coming into the business. For example, people familiar with managed services — but maybe they aren’t making money on the bandwidth, or people selling Microsoft — but maybe they’re not making money on disaster recovery, so they’re coming to the channel to plug those holes.

The transition we’re going through goes from long-distance brokerage services — and what do you have to know for that … you pay 10 cents, I can get it for you for 6 cents, purely a price thing.

Then you go to T1s; now you’ve got to look at loop links and a few other items but nothing super complicated, and then you have MPLS networks — now you have multiple sites, multiple speeds at each site, you have quality of service, class of service, so it’s starting to get a little more complicated. Throw in hosted voice — now you have more complexity with all the local call features; then you go to unified communications with VoIP phones accessing things like SugarCRM, Salesforce.com, mobile apps, mobile find me/follow me … all of these email integrations. Now we’re talking email, Office 365, Microsoft.

We went from brokering long-distance minutes to selling Microsoft services, Azure … it’s a mind bender. So, your old skills no longer matter.

CP: What does matter for today’s agents?

PO: There’s a list of items that make agents great, but at the crux of a great agent is that they’re leveraging outside resources that are being made available to them to help them better “recommenders,” better consultants, people who are able to design things better and turn things around faster.

CP: You mentioned a list of items that makes partners great. What’s on the list?

PO: At Telarus, we meet with partners and give them the recipe, or best practices, for being a great agent. In the upcoming session at Channel Partners [Evolution], we’re going to publish the recipe, and the nine bullet points that make up that recipe.

You know, there are people out there who already get this. The market is getting crowded – I wouldn’t say saturated – and the great agents are going to get a lot of revenue.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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