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November 24, 2009
One of the most difficult tasks for a master agent is to talk a subagent into selling something new. True, some telecom products are on the cutting edge, but not all agents are paying attention. Beyond first-tier products like POTS or standard Internet services there are ample sales opportunities. It just takes a little exploration on the subagent’s part to get the ball rolling. Yet everyone has their comfort zone. An independent agent gets to bask in the glory of his success 100 percent, but he also experiences 100 percent of the pain of failure. More established product lines are easy to sell, and oftentimes attending training and learning new or unfamiliar products will take a subagent out of his comfort zone. And who wants to do that? Everyone should.
Why should subagents sell new products? It comes down to the most basic of principles. Why do agents do what they do? Why would anyone take a job that was 100 percent commission that involves a lot of legwork? The answer, of course, is the chance to make money. So why be satisfied with selling the base products alone? A few days of training will increase a subagent’s portfolio. After completing the initial sale, the well-trained subagent will recognize that new opportunities for profit exist at the next level. So not only are they selling SIP phones and high-speed Internet access, they also are selling routers to tie them all together.
Established customers can serve as the perfect proving ground for new products and services. For starters, who’s easier to reach – the new customer who may be shopping dozens of agents or the ones with which you already have cultivated a trusting relationship? It should be the latter. Just because you locked a customer into a contract doesn’t mean you can’t sell to them anymore. Right now, they may need your help more than you think. In fact, it is the creative and well-trained subagent who will see that the customer is ready to move into the next phase, one marked by further growth. There’s huge value in being able to reach out and offer new products to those customers. You’ll be surprised how often they will listen.
Some call this process “farming the base,” and it’s a great way to stop client relationships from stagnating. Maybe they won’t be immediate buyers, but at the very least they’ll know you are ready to work with them. They’ll know that you have a vested interest in helping them build their business, and they’ll appreciate that. When the time comes for upgrades or questions, they’ll go to you first, instead of shopping other agents. Aside from helping your clients, upselling keeps you several steps ahead of the competition.
Let’s look at an example of how upselling to your existing customer base can be successful. Perhaps you have a customer to whom you just sold a 30-node MPLS network on a 36-month contract. Their average cost per site is $500 a month. With a little extra know-how on your part, you could approach that customer again with a complementary product. For example, at $100 per site, a DSL MPLS or EVDO MPLS backup network would give them assurance that their network would never be down. A multiservice router also could eliminate superfluous switches and routers, saving the client support dollars and potential downtime. You could offer added savings on hosted enterprise software like Microsoft Exchange to help offset the MPLS costs. Plus, dollars the customer previously burned on IT support – or in this case, managing internal e-mail – could be greatly reduced. Finally, network outages would no longer cripple the business as they once did. For your efforts, you have gained further trust from your customers and now are collecting commissions on three more items — MPLS backup, the hosted services and the router. These commissions easily will offset the few hundred to a thousand dollars spent on training.
What products are best for upselling? There are many options on the market and many more to come. Some of these options have been underutilized by subagents and could be coupled with a plethora of more “mainstream” products. A few examples include:
Colocated servers or cloud computing
All-in-one network solutions
Web and audio conferencing services
Disaster recovery, backup network and improved class of service traffic management with DSL MPLS
Hosted enterprise software solutions, such as Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint
A day or two of training on any of these products will pay off, both for agents and their customers. And a growing portfolio of products and services is a tremendous value to any agent. Not only will it open new doors, but it will continue to nurture your customer base and keep the competition at bay.
Mark G. Garcia is IT manager at Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI), a master agency based in Chicago. He has 12 years of IT experience, primarily in support, technical writing and project management.
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