In my job, I hear from telecom agents who are frustrated by the status of the channel in the carrier world. They feel like second-class citizens. I’ve wondered if somewhere, there’s a committee meeting secretly in a seedy tavern to craft what will one day be presented as a Partners’ Bill of Rights. If so, the first Amendment, no doubt would be: The right to evergreen commissions for the life of the customer, including renewals, upgrades and additions even in the event the agent’s agreement with the carrier is terminated.
I jest because some of this talk is just bluster from “agents done wrong." But, some of their concerns like getting paid and being terminated without cause are valid. And, it's hard to ignore their comparisons to channels in other tech segments where indirect sales account for a majority of sales, not the minority.
They understand that, right or wrong, Majority Rules! Agents have been campaigning for a more significant role in the supply chain. Raising awareness of the issue makes sense, but just talking about it won't make it happen.
The Technology Channel Association, which was formed two years ago, is one group that is working on that. I, on behalf of PHONE+, was involved in the group's early meetings so I understand some of their long-term goals, e.g., establishing credibility for the channel through professional standards. I also think TCA's founders were smart in choosing a name that would be inclusive of partners from other tech segments; TCA is beginning to market to these groups this summer with trade show participation at a popular VAR conference, XChange Americas. As it rallies the troops, it is wise to seek allies.
Certainly, numbers — and organization — are critical for partners in gaining the respect (and ultimately business) they desire. However, as individual partners, there's plenty to be done in this regard — namely become more valuable to customers and, in turn, vendors by becoming knowledgeable business and technology advisers. This is an investment to be sure, but it's a worthwhile one. And, there are opportunities that are no- or low-cost — from vendor training to vendor-neutral seminars at the twice yearly Channel Partners Conference & Expo. At the upcoming event, Sept. 20-22 in Washington, D.C., the education will take an application-based approach to helping channel partners with their professional development.
The time is right for the channel. Communications options are complex and numerous. Businesses are eager for help in choosing and managing these technologies. Vendors, including carriers, cannot provide the level of consultation nearly every business customer today requires. Channel partners can step into the breach.
Make the first step by coming to D.C. Get Started. Get Educated. Get Organized. Rest assured there is substance behind the slogans. Case in point: The State of the Industry Keynote Roundtable featuring three leading executives in healthy discussion – and possibly light debate – on the challenges and opportunities for our industry.
I look forward to seeing you there.