Channel Partners News – From Agent to Advocate: Redefine the Sales Role in a Changing Industry

The role of the telecom agent is evolving from a purely sales-driven position to that of a consultant. It is the case now that consumers have easy access to information and often make buying decisions without an intermediarys help. What is an agent to do? The solution is to become the buyers advocate. Agents have to make a case for themselves to clients by being knowledgeable and discerning what customers really need. Speakers Charlie Gillette and J. Scott Levy will help reps do this during the session, Becoming the Buyers Advocate: The Agent Value Proposition.

Gillette is the president and CEO of Knowledge Anywhere Inc., which works with corporations to educate sales teams with online training tools. Gillette started the Bellevue, Wash.-based company six years ago after holding sales and marketing positions in world-class businesses that still didnt know quite how to train channel partners.

Levy, meanwhile, is the director of channel sales for Telecom Solution Center, a company that helps the end user and works with telecom management professionals. TSC is divided into three departments: TeleManage Training; Teledge Group; and the Association of Telecom Management Professionals.

Both speakers emphasize the importance of listening. The biggest issue is understanding what the customers needs are and whos going to make the buying decision and what pains theyre having, Gillette says. Before you can become an advocate you really need to be able to walk in their shoes and understand them.

Clients want customer service, Levy adds. When rates are 2 cents to 1 cent, its no longer about price its about service. And I can assure you that clients are no longer scared about moving their networks. They will jump from one to another quickly.

Levy ought to know. He worked on the infrastructure side of telecom for much of his career, before crossing over to work with end users. He tells agents that if they approach potential clients as consultants, not salespeople, they will get better business. Sit down with the client for a change and go through a bill with them, he advises. Help them understand the environment, help them understand what youre bringing to them. Youll develop customers for life.

Gillette agrees. He also sees training as the foundation of successful consultative selling. The whole relationship is important. Understanding the customer and being able to bring value to them is of top importance, he says. So with that, you need to make sure your people are going through the appropriate level of trainingto make sure they bring value to their customer. One of Knowledge Anywheres online programs speaks to solution selling, which Gillette likely will discuss.

For Levy, it will be important to talk about how agents should actively work for the end user. He says if agents evaluate a customers environment and take the time to understand their pain, it will help them be more effective, sell more product and, in turn, create a more long-term client. He adds, Customers want attention. They want somebody to hold their hand, they want somebody to make them feel good about the purchase theyve made, and [to have someone] follow up after the fact. If you will just take a moment to make that customer feel good about the purchase theyve made, and work with them and make them feel confident, they will call.

Gillette also will stress that agents must shift from telling customers which products and services they need, to asking and understanding their needs. Agents spend a tremendous amount of time telling, and to be an advocate for that customer you need to be able to listen and understand whats going on, he says.

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