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Programs: What Should an Agent Look For in a Partner Program?

By Khali Henderson
December 22, 2010 - Article

As an agent, you must evaluate many criteria before entering into a distribution agreement with a carrier or master agency — both about the supplier and its partner program. Here are some tips to get you started.

Carrier/Service Provider

Competitive Product. Look for a supplier that has a service comparable in feature set and price to others in the marketplace. Flexible rates and service options also are preferred.

Geographic Reach. Look for a supplier that serves the geographic area you plan to sell into. In many cases, this will be a national footprint.

Service Record. Look for a supplier that provides reliable service and responsive customer care. These two items can most impact your ability to sell the service and retain customers. Ask about customer-retention rates and results of customer satisfaction surveys.

Financial Stability. Look for a vendor that has a track record and is financially stable.

Channel Revenue. Similarly, look for a supplier that counts on a significant portion of its revenue from the channel if possible. This is an indicator of a greater commitment to an indirect sales strategy.

Chemistry. Look for a supplier that shares your goals, belief systems and work ethic.

Channel Commitment. Similarly, look for a demonstrated commitment to the channel in terms of how many resources are dedicated, the number of years in service and the proportion of revenue derived from the channel.

Feedback Loop. Look for a program that enables you to provide input on the program and the vendor’s competitiveness in the marketplace. Some solicit feedback through an advisory council or a partner summit, for example.

Master Agents

Anyone who signs a master services contract directly with a service provider can call themselves a master agent, but there are vast differences in the capabilities, so look for master agents with the following traits in addition to the general advice for evaluating partner programs below:

Investment in Technology. This is necessary to manage the complexity of dealing with multiple vendors, subagents and end-users. Common investments include portals that provide carrier service details to subagents, commissioning platforms and the enablement of branded websites subagents. Other investments often include end-user inventory or telecom expense management applications.

Commission Alignment. Look for master agents that align commissions with the work that its individual subagents provide, whether that’s making referrals or handling all the pre- and post-sales work.

Carrier Contract Expertise. Evergreen, revenue commitment, survivability and other clauses can be negotiated in order to protect the interests of the master agent and downstream subagents.

Manageable Vendor Pool. There are staffing, reporting, certification and training requirements for each vendor. Master agencies that spread themselves too thin will struggle to develop expertise and/or hit revenue commitments. Subagents should look for master agencies that focus on a reasonable number of carriers.

Project Management and Technical Support. Having engineers and technical support on staff can add value to subagents that don’t have the expertise to manage complex opportunities.

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