As carriers add cloud services, we find that a majority offer the same stuff. DUH! That happens with everything in telecom - Integrated T1, Metro E, EoC, Hosted Exchange, SIP Trunking, yadda yadda.
As we enter an era of cloud and social media, I find that most of the service providers are still not branding. Call it anything you want - value proposition, positioning, differentiation, marketing. Most service providers do not Brand.
Now in sales, there is always more than one sale occurring. The customer has to buy the salesperson, the service and the company - especially for cloud services. That's 3 sales. It has to do with Trust. Brands can deliver trust. No brand, then the sale has to be made over and over - and it really comes down to the sales partner sitting in front of the customer.
Without branding, the sales partner has the real control. It is after all his reputation on the line.
Agents have been brokering telecom services for many years. Long distance, POTS, PRI, T1, DS3 and so much more for a while. Certainly, customers ask for the ILEC quote sometimes, but that doesn't mean that the broker isn't influencing the decision. (I don't say that in a bad way - the ILEC isn't always the best solution nor is it always the worst solution.)
As we push to SIP Trunks, Hosted PBX, SAAS, VPS and other cloud services, the differentiation and branding is even worse than in the CLEC world. Think about it. In the world of backup, consumers know and use Dropbox - more than Sharepoint, Box, or any other company.
I think the world of music is a good example. Consumers know iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, Grooveshark and last.fm - a couple are household names to the point that they have been included on auto software and in commercials for cars. That is Branding. That never happened with record labels - and barely happens any more with radio stations.
That lack of branding means that the channel becomes a big source of word of mouth (as well as sales). It also means that the Agent could become a cloud broker as well. (Round about way of getting here huh?)
In the same way that an Agent represents many CLEC's, ILEC's and other service providers, an Agent can certainly start brokering for cloud services. Being a CSB will be different because there are many more pieces to consider with a cloud sale than with a telecom sale. Someone is going to have to do more project management per sale - the agent, the master agent or the service provider.
It isn't just backup that can be brokered either. VPS (virtual private servers) are just another hosting play - and there are numerous players in that space.
CRM - not everyone wants Salesforce, but you might as well as broker the ILEC and its competitors, right?
Hosted PBX is like a commodity. If 400+ companies utilize Broadsoft, what's the difference which one the customer uses? Billing, customer care, reliability, and most important on-boarding. The same as it has ever been.
I see some master agents already lining up to become master CSB's. We will see if 2013 is the year that Agents jump on board too.