Master agency Telarus is launching a referral partner program, enabling the company to work with what it labels “a different type of agent.”
“When master agents sit back and look into how to build more revenue, the answer is always that they need more agents,” explained Patrick Oborn, vice president of marketing at Telarus. “If there’s one thing you learn walking around the PHONE+ Channel Partners Expo, it’s that every agent is literally very different. Some are just consultants; some get paid by a carrier direct rep that they kick that lead over to; and sometimes they don’t get paid anything. …Working with more types of agents is really what Telarus is all about.”
For the past few years, Telarus has been focusing on onboarding independent and smaller master agents and setting them up to be self-sufficient using the Telarus back office; and when the company was approached by agents who wanted to align with Telarus as referral partners, Telarus had to either turn them away or sometimes refer them to other master agents.
Telarus’ new referral partner program is very similar to the agent program in the way the partners are supported. Each partner is set up with its own back office, just as an agent is, with only slight variations. Referral partners have the ability to enter leads into the Telarus CRM, run carrier-neutral quotes, and most importantly, they have the capability to track the referrals they’ve entered to see how they are progressing in the sales process.
Referral partners also are supported by an in-house team. Telarus just hired two new business development managers (BDMs) to support the program, and the master agency has an anticipated hire rate of one business development manager every 60 days for 2010, producing a team of eight by the end of next year. These business development managers work totally independently from the traditional agent side of the house, which Telarus also intends to grow with an additional channel manager every 60 days, in the alternating months.
The program is a residual referral program, and therefore, Telarus is focused on medium-to-large referral partners as opposed to those looking for one-off deals or one-time upfront payouts. Oborn made it clear, however, that Telarus is not setting up the referral program just so it can deal directly. On the contrary, this program is also for agents’ use, and agents are encouraged to go out in their own communities and set up referral partner networks. Agents also can dictate the commission split with each referral partner. All of the commissions then flow through the Telarus commission system and Telarus sends the check to the referral partner for the agent.
Oborn said Telarus decided to start the referral program because there are a lot of good sales opportunities presented by agents who just do telecom as an add-on, whether they are some type of professional consultant, real estate agent or equipment dealer, for example. The Telarus referral program allows these “agents” to employ the full-service sales support of the in-house team and tap into a residual revenue opportunity. In fact, if the referral partners want Telarus to meet the client, the Telarus team will obtain business cards with the referral partner’s logo and brand themselves as the carrier specialist for that company. The partner also can put Telarus on their PBX calling tree to refer to a Telarus sales specialist who will brand themselves as part of the referral partner’s company. The program essentially allows referral partners to add carrier specialists without adding any of the overhead.
“Once people find out how smart our guys are, they want their customers in front of these guys because it’s just going to make the referral partner look better, as if their company has more expertise in telecommunications even though they don’t specialize in it themselves,” said Oborn.
As of right now, Telarus works with approximately 100 referral partners, most of which are smaller equipment shops, in the pilot program called the VAR Network. The company wants the referral side to account for at least 25 percent of its overall business over the next two years. Deals coming through agents that originate from a referral partner also count toward this revenue.
“We really do want to be everything to everybody – even though the saying is that you can’t be – but now that we have a great software platform and talented WAN engineers from New Edge Networks and AT&T on our [business development management] team, we can, and we will,” said Oborn.
Telarus is holding a “Lunch and Learn” referral program launch event on Oct. 29 at the XO Corporate Alliance Center in Midvale, Utah. More than 170 agents and referral partner prospects from the Utah area have been invited to hear about the program, compensation and software.