Channel Partners

September 1, 1998

7 Min Read
Selling Long Distance as an Agent Revisited

Posted: 09/1998

Selling Long Distance as an Agent Revisited
An Updated How-To Planner for 1998-’99

By Dan Baldwin

Two years ago, shortly after forming the One Plus Agent Association (OPAA), we
conceived, wrote and published on our website (www.opaa.org) our 70-page book, "How
to Sell Long Distance." At the time it was the end-all, be-all in the industry, as it
covered the basics a budding entrepreneur would need to know about getting into the long
distance agent business. While the sales philosophies written in the book two years ago
are still valid, we receive at least one request a day for an updated version. What we
unveil in this month’s column is a brief overview of the update, "How to Sell Long
Distance as an Agent–A Complete Plan for 1998-’99."

Simply put, the plan has four parts: Identify your market, communicate with your
market, build credibility with your market and, finally, sell to your market. OPAA has led
and will continue to lead the effort to provide agents and their vendors all the tools
necessary to execute this plan.

For reasons of brevity, we will focus here on the particulars of this plan as it
relates to "telemanager"-type agents, which present themselves as
"telecommunication technology consultants" to their customers or prospects.
However, the general plan works as well for the two other agent types–the
"telemarketer," who simply sells low price alone, and the "marketer,"
who sells through an affinity-type organization.

Step One

The first step of the plan is to identify the market an agent wishes to pursue.

If agents knew how to identify those 1,000 hot prospects, agents would either do that
or find themselves picking stocks. Unfortunately, the process is more akin to a needle in
a haystack. The biggest problem is picking the right haystack.

In my experience, the best prospects are the most obvious ones –small, growing,
single-location businesses that need to "communicate with the world."
Manufacturers are the perfect example. They make their widgets in one place but sell them
worldwide. Customers, prospects and suppliers call them (hopefully on their 800 number)
and the employees then call them all back. The worst examples obviously are gas stations,
banks and convenience stores–they make few, if any, long distance calls.

So how many prospects do agents need on their lists? That depends largely on an agent’s
city or state. How many businesses are there? The first thing agents need to do with their
list is call through it to verify the names. A good number to start out with is 5,000.
It’s reasonably manageable (with a computer, of course).

Where can agents get a list? The quickest place is the local library. Librarians can
assist agents in compiling a list of all the manufacturing companies in a particular city
or state, sometimes in a matter of minutes. However, many times the list is in hard copy,
which is not very useful.

The most efficient way agents can get a list is through a list broker. Most are listed
in the Yellow Pages under "Mailing Lists." Agents should expect to pay anywhere
from 5 cents to 50 cents per name. (Mid-America Lists, an OPAA vendor, can help.) Starter
lists also can be obtained by contacting OPAA. Our list isn’t the best, but it’s certainly
not the worst and the price is right.

Getting the list, though, is just the start. Successful agents need to maintain it
scrupulously by adding new businesses as they hear about them. Subscribing to the local or
state business journal to get such information is a must.

Step Two

To make any headway past obtaining the list, agents must communicate with those
companies included on the list. The easiest way is via e-mail; unfortunately, however, the
5,000 companies won’t give agents their e-mail addresses unless there’s something in it
for them (more on that later).

The quickest way for agents to contact them is over the phone. Obviously, telemarketing
works or there wouldn’t be so much of it. Unfortunately, however, most agents don’t
command the resources to pull off a logical, successful, long-term telemarketing program.

One of the most expensive ways to communicate is via mass media, but television, radio
and newspaper advertising are best left to the big boys. The best way, in our humble
opinion, to communicate with the companies on the list is via direct mail in the form of a
newsletter. A well-developed objective monthly newsletter containing how-to articles
written for the small business telecom decision-maker is by far the most reasonable and
respectable way for telecom agents to make their contacts. As well, the cost of printing
and postage can be subsidized by selling advertising to other telecom vendors with whom
the agents don’t directly compete, such as pagers, cell phones, etc.

This newsletter form of contact must be combined with a phone call once each quarter. A
possible script goes something like this: "Hi, this is Dan Baldwin with ABC
Telemanagement. We’re the folks who send you your monthly telecom newsletter. The reason
I’m calling is we’re offering our subscribers a free audit of their phone bills to confirm
they’re getting the best deal possible. We’ll be in your area tomorrow and on Wednesday.
Could we drop by at 10 a.m. either day to help you with a quick 10-minute review?"

Step Three

To make this plan work, agents must build and maintain credibility. To decide what a
credible agent is, look at our peers. What makes a real estate agent or stockbroker
credible? Successful agents don’t try to be what they are not, and they’re extremely
responsive to their clients. Also, they’ve been trained and

re-trained on the latest products and sales techniques. Plus, they are backed by a
credible association.

When communicating with their lists, agents should lead with their competence. This is
how agents will edge out the poorly trained reps from the Big Three. Agents should tell
their customers where they received their training. If agents were straight inside sales
reps for a regular telecom company, they should let their customers know that. If they’ve
just fallen off the turnip truck with nothing to show for themselves but a shoe shine and
a training certificate from their industry association, then they should lead with that.
If agents have the wherewithal to knock out an objective newsletter month after month,
their prospects will know they have "staying power," which will provide agents
with the ultimate credibility.

To assist agents in shoring up their credibility, OPAA soon will roll out a
private-label end user newsletter as well as an agent training and certification program.

Step Four

The plan’s final step requires agents to sell, sell, sell, sell and sell. By having a
list, the ability to communicate with the list and credibility, agents can’t help but sell
something, even if all they do is answer their phones. If, on the other hand, agents just
do just what new Big Three reps do (i.e. work hard making cold-calls eight hours a day,
five days a week), they will earn what the Big Three reps earn–$3,000 a month in new
sales.

Of course, OPAA believes agents’ should aspire to more. Agents should "own"
their city or state, modeling their business after their town’s biggest real estate
office. Agents are the brokers, the in-house experts and lead salespeople, surrounded by
eight to 10 productive "wannabe’s" whom they train and take a cut from. Under
this model the business could bring down $30,000 a month easily in new sales.

Dan Baldwin is the president and founder of the One Plus Agent Association (OPAA), a
non-profit organization dedicated to serving the needs of agents and the carriers they
represent. To join OPAA, call +1 619 522 6221. Baldwin also owns his own long distance
agency, San Diego Telemanagement, and Baldwin Consulting Group, which does one-on-one
consulting to agents and carriers. He can be reached at [email protected]

Read more about:

Agents
Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like