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MasterMinds: What Makes a Good Agent Great?

MasterMinds

Patrick Oborn**Editor’s Note: MasterMinds is a biweekly feature in which we invite leading master agents to share information, insights and expert opinions about what’s going on in their agencies, the IT/telecom channel or the business community in general.**

By Patrick Oborn

Good agents benefit everyone — master agents, suppliers, clients and themselves. They are more productive and accurate, and, therefore, sell more than other agents. But what does it take to make a good agent great? Here are nine traits that I’ve identified.

1. Speed

Response time is paramount. Great agents are easy to get in touch with and respond to their customers’ needs quickly. Even a client who wants the best possible expertise, advice and products for changing their company’s digital infrastructure will get tired of waiting if an agent takes too long to come back with a quote. Lagging response time can drive a customer to call a direct sales rep, thinking they’ll get a faster turnaround time. Most master agencies have a variety of tools available to help with the sales process. Telarus, for example, has an online pricing tool and an iPhone app with fiber maps on it. Although the tools such as these won’t close the deal for you, they can help cut several hours out of the carrier selection process.

2. Accuracy

Great agents make sure their work has been done right. Paperwork is filled out carefully and completely, and care is taken to quote product/pricing options correctly. Nothing can ruin a customer/agent relationship faster than when an agent informs the customer that carrier contracts must be re-signed because of an error in the original paperwork. Master agents who have either automated contract generating tools or an outstanding back-office staff can minimize the contract back-and-forth between agents and clients.{ad}

3. Insight

Great agents focus on helping clients solve problems, not on selling them products. Insight is key to enabling great agents to advise their clients on industry best practices and educate them about their options. Clients might not know what they want, may be confused about what they need or may be asking for the wrong thing. Instead of just quoting on what the client asks for, the great agent gets in and helps design a solution, bringing in a sales engineer to provide additional perspective and insight, if necessary.

4. Intelligence (Data)

Great agents use tools such as circuit monitoring and network pre-assessments to make recommendations and offer help on the basis of actual data from the…

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…customer’s network environment.  Telarus acquired VXSuite last year just for this purpose: providing a view into the network and changing the conversations agents have with their clients.

5. Knowledge

Great agents take advantage of the training provided to them by their product suppliers as well as their master agents. Some master agents are creating universities. There’s no shortage of educational material out there — take a few minutes each week to invest in your education.  When your clients ask you the difference between BigLeaf SDN and Cisco’s iWAN solutions, you’ll be glad you did. (Telarus offers over-the-phone live training each week, and even if you don’t work with us, you’re welcome to sit in on our calls. You can find the call-in information here: http://www.telarus.com/webinars.php.)

6. Persistence

Great agents are pleasantly persistent. They know where the line is between being annoying and being too hesitant with their customers. When great agents are in a deal, they make sure to stay engaged, keep asking questions and keep offering value — but take care not to get themselves fired for being overeager.

Sending text messages to the decision-maker (DM) can be a great way to stay in touch with customers. Busy people often won’t answer the phone, email or even LinkedIn messages. But a quick “How are things going?” text is a light enough touch that it can elicit a response without burning the DM out. It should be used carefully, however. One or two touches per week should be just fine — remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.{ad}

7. Differentiation

Great agents stand out from their competition, whether that’s a direct sales rep or another agent.  One way this can be achieved, for example, is by adding free circuit monitoring to every proposal. Another way would be to bring along an unbiased sales engineer to the appointment to answer any questions the client may have. Or if unified communications are being discussed, TrustedSky could be pulled up during the appointment so that the client can see how their network will handle VoIP traffic.

8. Retention

This is a recurring revenue business and the great agents have a retention team constantly working to service, support, and upsell their base of accounts. Whether they hire back-office staff themselves or bring in outside help, such as Telarus’ Account Management,  to do it under their brand, great agents know it’s critical to continually care for and…

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…farm their base. It could double profits over time.

9. Relationships

It’s all about relationships, and great agents know that, first and foremost, people do business with people. So they do the little things that let their customers know they care about them and appreciate them: handwritten thank-you notes, tasteful posts on Facebook, recommendations on LinkedIn, a “congratulations” on some accomplishment or even just a “happy anniversary.” Great agents stay engaged with their clients and make them real-world friends. Life is short; customers should be chosen wisely and treated like family. {ad}

Great agents are in it for the long haul and understand the value of every customer. They also understand that it’s all about the little things — and how they add up to make the difference between a good agent and a great one.

Patrick Oborn is the co-founder of Telarus and an important driver of the company’s marketing and communication efforts, pushing the company to constantly explore opportunities to improve business, service and technology. During the organization’s start-up phase, this innovative nature inspired the development of GeoQuote, the first real-time commercial telecom pricing engine. Oborn is passionate about helping partners win and believes in providing services to partners to help them grow their businesses.

Have a question or topic you would like considered for discussion? Submit it to buffy.naylor@informa.com.

 

 


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