It’s no secret that a number of wireline agents have, for several years, shied away from selling wireless products and services to their business customers. The blame rests on the traditional mobility profit model, which has featured no residuals and low margins on devices — a recipe for disinterest among many channel partners. Nonetheless, some CLECs have grown savvy to that reluctance and started to respond with new tweaks on old thinking because, let’s face it, wireless isn’t going away.
Even so, as mobility dominates the communications world, competitive providers and indirect partners alike must adjust their financial hopes. Wireless products and services don’t look or act like wireline, so mobility commissions cannot imitate their fixed-line counterparts. For example, companies buy analog or IP desk phones once every few years, at the most. Such a sale comes with little need for maintenance and certainly doesn’t carry a “new every two" expectation. That keeps margins high. With wireless, though, device upgrades, replacements and service plan changes all have the power to eat into profits and scare away agents.
But customers aren’t leaving agents much choice about selling wireless — they want all of their communications services from the same trusted adviser. Thus, meeting as many of a customer’s telecom service needs as possible “is the wave to ride," said Rich Powers, senior product manager at TelePacific Communications Inc. That’s why operators and partners must find middle ground when it comes to compensation. And in some cases, that’s already happening.
Some CLECs have sold wireless for several years and others are new to the game. For those in the sector a few years, like Cbeyond Inc., enticing agents from the beginning was key. Having partners on board has grown even more important since that time in 2006, as wireless substitution has spread from consumers to SMBs and enterprises. Now, businesses want an entire communications package from one supplier. For Cbeyond agents, then, mobility grew into an add-on to wireline. That’s why Cbeyond gives a one-time, per-device or per-line payment on the wireless side, while still doling out residuals on wireline products.
The method seems to work well for the Georgia-headquartered CLEC. “Enough agents are proponents that we’ve had success in the channel," said Brent Cobb, chief revenue and customer officer for Cbeyond. Part of the reason is that Cbeyond takes a unique view toward voice billing. It views landline long-distance minutes, toll-free minutes, conferencing minutes and mobile minutes as all the same. Users don’t have to worry about exceeding minutes on any one device. If overages occur, Cbeyond charges 5 cents per minute, whether it’s a wireline or wireless service. So, even though Cbeyond doesn’t offer residuals on mobility, its partners receive ample incentive overall.