|Khali Henderson Blog|
Khali Henderson, editor in chief of Channel Partners, draws on more than two decades of experience covering telecom and IT for her observations about the technology and business trends impacting the channel.
Khali Henderson Blog: Why Wireline Agents Still Don’t Sell Wireless
Several times in the last 60 days I have found myself in the conversation about why wireline agents don’t (want to/like to) sell wireless.
One inquirer was incredulous when I confirmed that it boiled down to compensation. Wireline agents expect a recurring revenue stream. And, typically, that’s not how mobile operators pay their dealers. Instead they offer an activation fee. Sure, this can be substantial on an enterprise-wide deal, but then it’s over. And what’s leftover is the hassle of help desk and device replacement and charge backs, etc.
When you look at this in contrast to the virtually pain-free T1 sale with residual commissions over one to three years, it’s really a no-brainer as to what gains agents’ attentions.
I also understand that many wireline agents’ discrimination against wireless services is primarily around the voice/device combo. They are contented to sell wireless modems for laptops and backup connections. There is no mystery here; it’s similar to selling access, which they do all day long. It’s easy and you can make a few bucks without doing much.
But, my inquirers argued, mobility is the future of the communications industry! Can’t agents see that?
Of course they do; not one of them isn’t packing an iPhone or a BlackBerry device or both. Rewind five years and most agents were eager to get on the wireless boat. But the wind quickly went out of their sails (and sales) when they realized the return on their effort would be nothing like they were used to.
In order for agents to sell anything, there has to be a significant upside (e.g. money) or a significant downside (e.g. customer defection). I think up until recently, wireless has offered them neither. Now, I hear rumblings from some agents that they have wireless dealer agreements in place in case customers ask. Why risk losing the account to another dealer or service provider? I do not think they are at all charmed by the still lopsided effort-to-compensation ratio.
I have heard, but have not confirmed, that some wireline-wireless carriers are imposing wireless quotas on their wireline agents to push product. If true, it’s a shame that the carriers have resorted to arm-twisting when they can easily sweeten deal. It’s not like customers don’t want to buy.
Opportunistic wireline agents are looking at the wireless opportunity very differently than just getting a few bucks from turning up a phone. Instead they are beginning to look at ways they can make recurring revenue from professional services around the mobile service. Wireless expense management and mobile device management are two revenue-generators that wireline agents are starting to explore.
That’s my take on this, but I’d love to hear from wireline agents about their opinions on the wireless opportunity.