Service Provider Certifications: 'What Took You So Long?'
By Marko Spremo
Recently, it has been announced that several carrier/service providers are starting to launch training and certification programs. The question I have is: “What took you so long?"
Many clients and system integrators believe that selling carrier services is a commodity sale and that there is no complexity to selling it. That is because, historically, that is the way these services have been sold by many agents and carrier sale representatives. In the past, one might have been able to get away with selling carrier services based on price for services such as long-distance, conferencing, access, mobile devices, etc. However, in the past several years the game has changed and end users are struggling to keep up with the rapid changes and number of things they must know. The transactional agent who sells to clients based upon having access to multiple carriers' pricing and services will always exist; however, this type of agent is going to struggle competing against the agent that provides value by assisting clients with the design, procurement, and implementation of applications and services. The value-added services have enormous value and impact to a client’s business, and the more complex a service, the greater the perceived value there is in those who have the knowledge.
The one thing I have never understood in our industry is the lack of requirements for certifications and training. As per a statement by one of our colleagues during the Channel Partners Zone event in Orlando: “If you...can breathe and put fog on a mirror, you can become an agent of carrier services." This, in my opinion, is why many end users out there look at telecom agents and carrier service provider reps as individuals selling a commodity that does not provide much value. Recently, with the converging of services and a more complex solution sale required, the game has started to change. In order to ensure that their services are being represented properly, the carriers/service providers should want and require their respective agents to be certified in the technologies they are selling. This way there is an assurance and integrity of solutions being sold and maybe we can start to have a change in perception by end users that agents and carrier representatives are selling business impacting strategic solutions versus a commodity.
The fact that the carriers are going to start requiring agents to have certifications is a good thing for our industry. There are so many examples of other industries that require certifications and licenses prior to having the capability to sell the respective services. In the systemsiIntegration/VAR world, many vendors will not allow organizations to sell or support their product or services without certified individuals on staff. This presents a much larger barrier to entry and separates the competition. The more qualified a VAR is in their staff certification the greater the level of purchase discount and level of support they receive. If they lose these certifications, they potentially lose their capability to compete. If someone is selling a product/service you provide, wouldn’t you want to know that they are representing you and your product/service properly in the market?
It’s about time the carrier/service providers launched requirements for certifications of those selling their services. The question now becomes, how will they differentiate those who have obtained the certifications versus those who don’t? Does it mean that those who don’t have the certifications and training just won’t be able to sell the services or will there be greater commission levels for those with the certifications? It will be interesting to see what they are going to require and what will entice/force agents to fulfill these requirements.
For those agents who do not want to embrace this change, it’s going to take a much greater volume of the old transactional-based business because prices will continue to erode and clients will continue to see them as selling a commodity. Once agents and/or systems integrators provide clients with a value proposition that is upon their technical expertise and a full suite of solutions that includes carrier services, it’s going to be hard for transactional agents to compete. In the long run, the requirement to obtain certifications is good for our industry and it is about time.
Marko Spremo is co-founder and vice president of sales for independent agency Telapprise.