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Diversify with Security Sales






Ken Mercer, senior vice president of master agency Telecom Brokerage Inc., is slated to speak on security sales at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in March. The topic hits on one of Mercers hot buttons: channel partner diversification. T@G caught up with Mercer in December.

T@G: You are a big advocate of agents diversifying their portfolios. Explain why thats important and how doing that ultimately will save agents paychecks.

Mercer:

Yes, [diversify] not only by product, but by carrier. I hear all these stories of agents that didnt get paid when a carrier filed Chapter 11, or when a carrier purchases another [one], the agent loses commissions. Diversification is important in both product and carrier. We try not to keep all our eggs in one basket.

T@G:

How does TBI help agents diversify and keep up with ever-changing products and services?

Mercer:

TBI has weekly online trainings, as well as vendor-sponsored training, and one-on-one sessions with agents and their clients. We do a lot of mailers and product announcements as well.

T@G:

In an effort to diversify, channel partners may need to begin selling technologies they might not yet understand. How can they best educate themselves?

Ken Mercer:

There are many vendors and groups that offer seminars and trainings. Many of them are free. Look at what other partners are offering. You can get training from many classic carriers that are also trying to diversify their portfolios. My favorite way to learn would have to be reading PHONE+ magazine.

T@G:

Nice plug! What are the hot security products and services agents need to be hawking?

Mercer:

Management load balancing, monitoring and keeping circuits operational by controlling hardware; maintenance logging into a device and getting it fixed, running out to replace it, or repairing it when it breaks, and loading patches and updates to keep the system current; security software firewalls, hardware firewalls, intrusion detection and controlled login in systems. VPN and auditing software on a monthly basis are also hot.

T@G:

Who are some of the best vendors for helping agents sell outsourced security, and for diversifying portfolios overall?

Mercer:

WANTEC, Secure Path, SAVVIS and Verio are all good providers of consulting-type services, such as management, maintenance, security, assessment, etc.

Selling hardware devices, conferencing both audio and video- and Web-based software on a monthly basis auditing, CRM, etc. are other good ways to diversify.

T@G:

What is a realistic support investment agents should expect to make if they sell outsourced security or managed network services?

Mercer:

Support is handled by the vendors. Our back office does a lot of project management with contracts, statements of work and installations, but the agent should have no investment. They may need a little training to recognize opportunities, but I cant see why the agent would need to make an investment.

T@G:

What kind of training is required to do this?

Mercer:

Working with the vendors is the best way to learn this. All the vendors we use offer Web-based trainings that help us to understand the product, and we often put the agent in direct contact with engineers and channel managers to get all the details needed to properly quote these types of solutions.

T@G:

What does it take to capitalize on security sales.

Mercer:

I have been successful finding the pains the customer has. Ask about viruses or worms that might have shut down e-mail. Find out how much pain, in dollars, it caused your client. Ask about disgruntled ex-employees that have hacked into the system. Find out if the client has good documentation on logins and admin rights, and if they change them routinely. Most of the time, a client cant afford an IT staff, or does not have the expertise to fix these kinds of problems. By understanding the pain of your client, you will be able to offer good solutions.

I look at [outsourced security] as enabling an IT staff, if the customer even has one. With outsourced security solutions, a client can enable their IT staff to do more important projects, and the monthly cost of having somebody manage it wont come close to a few full-time employees. Also, we find many clients have a friend that does [network security] for them, or they may have an employee who thinks they can do it but hasnt done a good job. Nothing is more important than getting a solution that is provided by an expert in the field. If they dont provide what they are contracted for, the client can get financial compensation in the form of a service level agreement. The accountability is also much better.

Editors Note: Hear Mercer and other industry experts discuss channel partner opportunities in security sales at The Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. http://www.phoneplusmag.com/channelpartners/vegas2005/


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