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The Peer-to-Peer blog is a forum for Channel Partners readers with the goal of stimulating discussion among partners about important issues impacting their business. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Channel Partners editors or publishers. If you are interested in submitting a blog, please contact Managing Editor Buffy Naylor, buffy.naylor@informa.com.

Peer-to-Peer Blog: Balance Makes the Best Channel Partnerships

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Jeff LeshinBy Jeff Leshin, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Ernest Communications

Welcome to the channel, where the key buzzword is always “partnership." We all want to find the right partnerships for our businesses, whether they’re from the carrier side or the agent side of the house.

What is a good partnership? How is that defined? The strict definition is, “it is a contractual relationship between two individuals (companies) carrying on a joint business venture with a view to profit, each incurring liability for losses and the right to share in the profit."  This seems very applicable to the industry we all operate in today. How we all determine to grow our businesses depends upon the partnerships we all form. If the decisions we make to align ourselves do not allow us to grow our businesses either from the carrier side or the agency side, then we all share in the potential consequences to the growth and well-being of our companies.

So back to what makes a good partnership. Everyone has different thoughts on this topic and, having worked on both the carrier side as well as the agency side since the mid-1990s, I would like to think I have a unique perspective on this topic.

A true partnership has to work for both sides. Looking at it from the agent side, always evaluate your carrier options and determine which ones can truly help grow your business. Does this provider offer a combination of products and support that fit into your end-user or even subagent model? If you already represent five providers with similar product sets, why would you add another carrier? Can you really drive more mindshare to your clients or your agents to this new provider? Does the carrier really understand your business model and commit to helping you grow, or are you just another agent for them? Inspect what your carrier’s future plans are for new products. How is their financial stability? Are they committed to the channel? These are all key and valid discussions to be conducting with anyone you partner with to grow your business.

If you examine this from a carrier perspective, what do you have to offer them as an agent? Does your profile of your company fit what their key product sets are? How much time will you allow your channel managers and their teams to work with your sales team or agents to better understand their business and help achieve success? As resources become tighter amongst the carriers, they are looking for partners who understand their value proposition and who will allow them to assist in the sales process by getting in front of their clients to greatly increase the likelihood of success. They are looking for agents who are increasing their product scope outside the traditional telecom space so they can offer a more comprehensive solution to clients.

Remember, the right to share in the profit and liability is the essence of a true partnership. The best partnerships in our industry are where agents and their account teams at the carriers are in sync and understand they are there to support each other and offer a unified front to clients. I have seen on many occasions where the true spirit of partnership fades at the first sign of conflicts with a client. In order for all of us to be successful, we need to realize our best assets are each other; we are a community that needs to work together to grow our businesses. 

This is an exciting time for everyone involved in our channel, but it also requires a tremendous amount of effort and patience and developing the right partnerships. So next time someone uses the word partnership, think about it for a second and decide if what they are proposing is really a true partnership that excites you and provides ample growth and stability for both parties involved.

Jeff Leshin has more than 23 years of telecommunication background in both the direct and indirect sales channels. He is currently vice president of sales and marketing for Ernest Communications, a privately held national provider that specializes in multilocation consolidation. Leshin started on the channel side in the mid-1990s with Cable & Wireless and managed key partnerships in the western region. He also spent several years at Acceris in San Diego as the vice president of sales, developing its national agent program. He also is a member of the 2010-11 PHONE+ /Channel Partners Conference & Expo Advisory Board.

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