VARs are Replacing Agents

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

VARs are Replacing Agents

In an article in Channel Partners magazine, Master Agents discuss how all their future growth will come from VAR's. Carriers are chasing VAR's for any growth in Channel numbers. Where does that leave the Agents?

Well, Agents can partner with VAR's to be the telecom provisioning department. Or Agents can start getting uncomfortable or irrelevant.

Exam the fact that most Agents do not want to sell cellular. Part of it is the commission structure. Part of it is that Agents are at a disadvantage selling cell phones - in available models, discounts, and plans. But the top two cellcos want the Channel to sell mobility because they don't want to be phone companies. That's an impasse.

Look at Hosted PBX. Agents ignore it for the most part. I was surprised that my panel on SIP Trunking at the CP Expo about adding value to the SIP sale ended up being about the fact that Agents have to get used to the idea of selling SIP. What? Five years after the first SIP panel, Agents still have to be convinced that SIP is taking over?  Wake up, people!

And when you do sell it, you sell it as a cheap replacement for PRI. Deep sigh! 

Then there is the whole IP, Internet, Cloud situation. The Internet is not a fad. Broadband sales are growing at 1% a year. That means you have to start taking on other forms of revenue - and most of that revenue will be ATTACHED to the Cloud.

var-agent101.jpgAgents typically have only sold to on the WAN side of the demarc. VAR's typically take the LAN side of the demark, except when they also host servers and applications (like MS Exchange) for clients, but that has been mainly on-premise servers until recently.

VAR's typically touch more Layers of the OSI Model than Agents. Agents sell at Layer 2 (transport) or Layer 3 (Internet Access). Rarely do Agents do cabling (Layer 1) or apps (Layer 7). VAR's however touch Layers 1, 2, 3 and 7.

The scenario playing out today reminds me of when Agents only sold LD and they would ride that into the sunset. It looks like we will see that again. With commission changes, channel structure changes and product changes, something has to give.

Here are some suggestions for the Agents:

  • First, Get your CTP certification!
  • Start networking with Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and HP partners. Even Xerox and Ricoh dealers.
  • Plan on spending at least 90 minutes per week online learning about services that your favorite carriers are offering. It's time to expand your knowledge and your own portfolio.(TCA has monthly webinars and so do most of the carriers.)
  • Join the local technology association to learn about any new cloud providers that you can get to know and become comfortable with.
  • Get used to the idea of being uncomfortable. Growth only happens when we are outside our comfort zone.
  • Attend a conference or two to meet potential partners or providers or just to get some deeper knowledge.
  • If you are stuck, call me.
Good luck!

BTW, growth doesn't mean adding cable providers to just stave off the reality. You need to get deeper into IP, Apps, Cloud and the customer's total IT and telecom spend.

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