Get With the Program

If youve been selling in the channel for five or more years, you are likely to be an indirect sales partner who has focused historically on selling landline networks. You might have a few of your own direct carrier contracts and a few through a master agent or two. Most likely, you rely on the master agents to price, service and support your landline services such as IP, MPLS, VoIP and voice. But where do you put your wireless business?

The wireless channel still is relatively young in comparison to the landline channel, and the carrier selection is limited to a few. However, in the past two years, there has been quite a bit of change in this area, including moves by mobile operators that first liberalized and expanded the channel only to contract and regulate it once again.

As a channel partner navigating the wireless space and finding a good home for your customers and your business, it is important to understand the level of support the master agent or master dealer offers over and above the carrier.

So, lets find out a little more about the programs for the big three wireless carriers Sprint Nextel, AT&T (formerly Cingular) and Verizon Wireless.

Sprint Nextel

Lets start with Sprint Nextel, which is widely regarded as having the most liberal and lucrative channel among the big three. Sprint has two channels for indirect sales. One is considered the consumer-oriented, big-box retailer and is most likely to include the brick-and-mortar type of businesses called authorized resellers. This group includes both legacy Sprint and Nextel, partners and is managed geographically by a few area vice presidents.

The other Sprint channel is business-to-business focused and consists of business solutions providers (BSPs). Only a few strong national master agents with high revenues from the landline world belong to this group; the rest are regionally based wireless-focused solutions providers. This channel was 300-plus strong until a recent change in direction led by Mark Krantz, vice president of distribution, and Steve Rowley, director of indirect BSP channel. As reported in the June issue of PHONE+, the executives began handpicking a smaller group of BSPs identified as having more strategic value other than purely acting in a sales or fulfillment role. Krantz took a number of BSPs and put them under the authorized reseller business segment within Sprint. The remainder are a group of less than 50, including the traditional landline-focused master agents that are now managed by Brian Wesolowskis national indirect sales team. Sprint also has dedicated indirect regional managers who run geographically based indirect sales managers and indirect support managers who handle sales and administrative functions for the BSPs.

From a support perspective, direct salespeople and subagents receive direct technical and engineering support for Sprint Nextel wireless services analogous to what most partners are familiar with on the landline side. Sprint Solutions Consultants 56 strong with three geographically based regional managers are field-based and nationally dispersed to support both the authorized reseller and BSP channels. Channel partners have direct access to SCs via any master agent or regional BSP.

According to Krantz, the future of the select group of BSPs is bright. He believes the channel is a long-term play as these organizations have deep intrinsic value to the enterprise customer and augment the carrier in delivering services that are important to the customer but not strategically important for the carrier to provide in house.

From a commission perspective, Sprint pays more lucratively than the other carriers and incents the channel to sell mostly mobile broadband cards and high-dollar volume monthly recurring plans. The best-case scenario for phones would be a high number of voice minutes tagged to a data plan (for Internet access) and perhaps even an application such as GPS. This, typically, will raise the ARPU and increase the stickiness of the customer, thus reducing churn rates and deactivation chargebacks to the partner.

Verizon Wireless

Next, lets take a look at Verizon Wireless. In 2006, Verizon Wireless had four value-added distributors (VADs) Mobile DataComm Inc., Global Wireless Data Inc., Trio Teknologies Inc. and Ingram Micro. Its strategy was to roll all other organizations under these VADs, which also are known as Verizon Wireless master dealers, and require them to support the rest of the indirect channel. However, in 2007, the Verizon Wireless channel contracted again, with Mobile DataComm and GWD becoming subdealers under Ingram Micro. And, with the acquisition of Trio Teknologies by Brightpoint Inc., the Verizon Wireless channel today consists of only two VADs, Ingram Micro and Brightpoint.

Ingram Micro aggressively is pursuing a channel play although it is better known for its global distribution of high-tech equipment through VARs. Vernon Galvin is the mobility vendor business manager with responsibility for overseeing carrier business relationships for Ingram Micro. He cites more than 250 Verizon Wireless partners under the Ingram umbrella today. In terms of support, Ingram internally has two field-based channel managers covering the West and the East, a few inside sales support staff and one strategic account manager who handles the top 10 percent of the VARs as well as the managed service providers (MSPs) that typically wrap managed services around equipment, devices and activations.

Verizon Wireless, unlike Sprint, does not readily provide field-based technical support directly to channel and the downstream subagent, channel partner or VAR population without deep engagement with a master dealer first and thereafter a justification for direct access to carrier support.

Direct Verizon Wireless support for both sales and technical requirements typically is limited to the accounts that are approved for teaming or co-selling, meaning both the direct and the indirect salespersons receive compensation on the same account. This typically is required of all accounts greater than 1,000 lines of service.

Verizon Wireless has a few indirect support managers available to master dealers. Regional account managers (RAMs) are geographically based and cover the West, Midwest, South and Northeast portions of the United States.

From a commission standpoint, Verizon Wireless does not pay out as much as Sprint or AT&T. It also has fewer options for single-billed GPS vendors that it will compensate the channel partner on directly in addition to the activation component.


Finally, lets discuss the mobility channel at AT&T Inc., which previously was Cingular. AT&T Inc. has a few more master dealers than Verizon Wireless, but it is still a stringently selected handful. Global Wireless Data is one of the best known master dealers supporting the AT&T business in the channel.

GWD has been a master dealer with AT&T Mobility for the past seven years and offers two different programs within its business alliance channel (BAC). One is called non-co-sell and the other is co-sell. Non-co-sell in the AT&T world is typically for those agents that target SMBs. It has a higher payout per activation because only one sales channel is commissioned. A co-sell model requires partners to commit to a higher number of lines and typically targets enterprise customers who likely will end up on a highly regulated AT&T named account list that the direct teams own. In this scenario, the commissions to sales partners are lower because they are shared with the direct sales team. In general, however, the AT&T commissions are a close second to Sprints where Verizon Wireless are a distant third.

The solution partners (or subdealers) that a master dealer like GWD finds the most success with are those that commit to a higher number of activations and have strategic value and, thus, are a good match for the co-sell program. GWD has identified the following six areas that add strategic value: integrated laptops, rugged handhelds, wireless WAN, applications, telemetry/fleet/POS and AT&T-stocked products. Another is that the solutions provider can offer a service to the end customer that the carrier cannot.

As the master dealer, GWD acts as the conduit to the AT&T Mobility sales team and will evaluate and manage the sales opportunities as well as broker the relationship between the solutions partner and the AT&T Mobility team. According to Doug Erbig, GWDs national manager for strategic sales, This allows the selling teams to provide a unified front to the customer, so the best possible solution is being presented and supported by all parties. GWD works behind the scenes to provide the coordination and heavy lifting that allows our partners and AT&T Mobility to focus on their core business strategies.

The wireless channel is different from the landline channel model; and it is important to understand the different roles and responsibilities both the masters and wireless carriers play so you can properly support your customer and, at the same time, grow your business.

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

Looking for More?

To find out more about becoming a wireless dealer, attend the Channel Partners Conference & Expo. Operators and master agents will be on the expo hall floor. And, there are wireless education sessions, including one led by PHONE+ columnist Natasha Royer Coons.

AT&T Inc.
Brightpoint Inc.
Ingram Micro Inc.
Sprint Nextel
TeraNova Consulting Group

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