There are several types of agents, including master agents, subagents, independent agents and referral agents — each one implies a business model in and of itself. However, there also are a number of different ways you might choose to deliver your services. Following are some of the more common of these, grouped into general categories and subcategories. In completing this exercise, we have chosen descriptive labels that may or may not be commonly used in the marketplace. Nevertheless, the basics are sound. Your business model most likely will be a mix of several of these approaches.
The business model you select will be framed somewhat by the nature of the contract you have with your suppliers as follows:
Master Agents sign volume commitments with the service providers, usually in exchange for a more attractive compensation package. As a master agent, you also agree to manage sales and orders from subagents. This model typically requires an investment in a back-office system and staff to support a large subagent network and a large vendor pool.
Independent Agents sell under direct contract with a carrier or service provider. As an independent agent, you may be a solo practitioner or a fully staffed company. You are responsible for the sales and marketing and, often, customer service support for your clients. You typically are required to meet quotas for your suppliers, so you may also become a subagent of a master agent in order to add more carriers to your vendor pool without the volume requirements associated with individual suppliers.
Subagents sell under agreement with a master agent and have access to all the suppliers with which the master agent is contracted. As a subagent, you do not need to manage your own carrier agreements, but you also will share the commission on your sales with the master agent. Depending on the master agent, you also may or may not have responsibility for customer support.
Exclusive Agents sell for only one carrier, usually in exchange for preferential compensation and/or support. You might choose this model if you are selling carrier services along with another technology solution, but don’t want to be an agent as your primary business. This might work for you if you are a PBX dealer or are focused in a particular region. Some resellers and master agents that represent multiple carriers also offer exclusive contracts. Master agents can be exclusive to a carrier, but typically represent a large number of providers.
Non-exclusive Agents, then, sell for multiple carriers, resellers and/or master agents. The upside of being non-exclusive is that you can provide multivendor quotes; the downside is that there may be volume commitments for each supplier with which you have a contract.