Are You Sitting on a Gold Mine?

Are you sitting on additional wireless revenue from your current customers that you have not mined yet because you dont want to:

A) Learn countless, confusing wireless price plans.
Study an endless myriad of devices.
Get called on a Sunday to replace a water-logged BlackBerry device a CEO dropped into the lavatory.
All of the above.

If you picked D, thats understandable. If your bread and butter comes from selling wireline services, it makes sense that you would rather focus on what you do best. And, since it still generates a lucrative residual income, its a decision that makes good business sense for the short term. However, to ignore a growing piece of your customers telecommunications needs means you are leaving the door open for another provider maybe even a wireless dealer, who is savvy enough to go after your customers wireline business.

If your customers treat you as their trusted adviser, they would probably like nothing better than to consolidate more services with you to simplify their own telecommunications management. Besides, the synergies between wireline and wireless are clear: If your customer has a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, a GoodLink Server or a Microsoft Exchange Server running Windows Mobile hosted on premises, does that require an IP port? Sure it does. Does each mobile broadband card that is accessing intranet corporate traffic at headquarters have to terminate to some type of WAN port like IP, MPLS or frame relay? Of course. Does every company use wireless technology in some way to keep in touch while away from the office, be it voice or data? Most likely. Are they thinking about and planning on leveraging the best of mobility initiatives to enable always and anywhere access to critical business information? You bet.

Lets run some quick numbers to illustrate what type of gold mine you might be sitting on. Lets assume you have 20 customers. Ask each a simple question such as, Do you have salespeople or technicians who need access to applications and information via their laptops while on the road or at a customer site? If each of the 20 has two people who need this solution, youve sold 40 mobile broadband cards. The commissions vary by carrier and master agency, the higher the monthly recurring charge on the plan type, the higher the payout. Wireless commissions are mostly likely a one-time payout. As a sales partner, you can estimate conservatively that for an unlimited data plan of $59.99 on the Sprint network, you will receive a payout of $100 per activation if you run your business under a master agent. Some masters pay more, some less. You should look for the total package of solutions available and the level of support you can expect from both the master and the carrier you are putting your business with.

Here are some other questions you can try:

Do you have company guests who need Internet access while at your location? Would like to keep your network secure and not hassle with Ethernet cables and providing passwords into your company LAN for guest networking? If the customers answer is yes, youve now sold a mobile broadband card with a Wi-Fi-enabled wireless router. This represents more value for the customer and more revenue for you. If you are interested in receiving a commission or distributing the routers, you can either work through a master agent or the manufacturer. Intelisys, for example, provides a few options for its agents. One is to simply receive a commission on the router and Intelisys will invoice the end customer. The other option, which provides a higher margin, is to become a reseller yourself. This requires holding inventory and invoicing the end customer a higher level of commitment and cash outlay.

Do you run mission-critical information across your WAN and you cannot afford to have downtime? If the customers answer is yes, youve now sold them a mobile broadband card and router in every location while providing them true land/air diversity since there is no local loop in a wireless backup solution.

Do you have key executives or customer-facing employees who need to stay in touch while in the field? Of the 20 companies in your existing base, if each has two people who have this need, youve sold 40 mobile phones with a potential data plan for e-mail. Typically, the sales partner will be compensated on the voice plan according to the monthly recurring charge and receive an additional data add-on component. The amounts vary by carrier and master agency. The higher the monthly recurring fee, the higher the payout. Data either will increase the monthly fee or trigger an additional compensation component from the carrier.

Now, lets take the questions to the next level to uncover need for wireless data applications like GPS and salesforce or field force automation. Do you have field personnel who provide services to customers? If so, how much would it save you in fuel costs if they had turn-by-turn directions and did not get lost en route to appointments?

How much more revenue can you drive if each field personnel could handle one more job a day because the dispatcher could pinpoint whom was closest to a job? Will it save you in labor costs and paperwork if each field personnel or driver clocked in and out every day via a digital time stamp with GPS longitude and latitude readings every day? GPS and other wireless applications also increase the monthly recurring fee which provides a higher payout from the carrier if that particular GPS vendor is part of the carrier portfolio. Some GPS providers will spiff dealers directly in addition to the carrier payout.

The sales processes described above are oversimplified but illustrate how much revenue is available in your existing base. This is revenue that you wouldve missed. More importantly, you have simplified your customers purchasing and procurement process by funneling them through you the one they already trust with their network.

As a business and telecommunications adviser, if you can understand why your customers do things they way the do, you have a greater ability to help leverage technology and mobility initiatives to improve their operations and provide real-time access to information that drives revenue and increases customer satisfaction. If you can do that, then you have just elevated the customers estimation of your value as their holistic telecommunications consultant.

To get you started, the list of questions will help you uncover basic information about what is happening in your customers current environment. These IT-focused questions will help you gather enough information to put together a proposal. The questions are not designed to be asked in a meeting with CXOs of a medium business or enterprise. A different set of questions is required to help a company create a mobility strategy that solves business challenges. Instead, this list offers a guide to gathering the information you will need to work with your master agent, carrier and wireless applications vendors to put together a sound solution.

Remember, you are not an island. A few master agents have in-house support that is available to help you with your mobility sale. In addition, carriers like Sprint Nextel Corp. have solutions consultants dedicated to the channel to drive wireless data application sales. GPS vendors like TeleNav, Xora, Gearworks and field service automation vendor Corrigo also have reps who will team with indirect sales partners and the carrier to sell their solutions directly to your customers.

As you can see, its not too hard to increase your value and your revenue by asking questions about your customers holistic telecommunications initiatives bridging both wireline and wireless environments for a fully converged solution.

Natasha Royer Coons is the founder and managing director of TeraNova Consulting Group, a new firm providing fully managed mobility solutions and wireless WAN products, services and expertise to channel partners nationwide. She brings a decade of experience as a former solutions consultant and SC manager advising partners on wireless and wireline products for Sprint Nextel Corp. Reach her at

Wireless Customer Discovery Questions:

  1. What are the key applications that drive your companys revenue or cost control?
  2. Does your company have a mobile workforce? If yes, who manages this workforce (sales, service, marketing, management)?
  3. How do they send and retrieve company-specific information while away for their desk? What are your remote access solutions (dialup, VPN, 802.11b)?
  4. Is your company currently using wireless services for your mobile workforce?
    1. If not, how does your workforce access realtime, important information?
    2. If yes, what devices does the workforce use (laptops, pocket PCs, Palm devices, wireless phones, proprietary devices)?
    3. Do they have specialized uses for wireless services (dispatch, access and send work orders, inventory, etc.)?
    4. Could your companys productivity and competitiveness in the marketplace be increased by your mobile workforce having anywhere/ anytime access to your applications and data (e-mail, inventory, work orders, trouble tickets, etc.)?
    5. Does your company sell into any vertical markets (legal, medical, financial, insurance, real estate)?
    6. Do you have a list of all the areas in which the phones are used?
    7. How many minutes do you use per month?
    8. Do you need nationwide or local coverage?
    9. Can we have a bill copy?
    10. Do you have overage?
    11. Is your organization optimizing its rate plans through sharing minutes across all users? Does you carrier recognize volume discounts?
    12. How many users are there?
    13. Do you have smartphones?
    14. Does your company utilize electronic reporting to help you easily manage these costs across multiple divisions and departments?

    Source: Author

    Sprint Nextel Corp.
    TeraNova Consulting Group

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