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How to Shop for a Wireless Supplier


DONE RIGHT, THE ADDITION OF

wireless products to your business-to-business sales portfolio can pay off. Most business clients appreciate dealing with a professional sales organization for all of their telecom needs, and are grateful not to stand in customer service lines at a retail wireless store.

As you evaluate the wireless opportunity for your business, a key consideration is your supplier or suppliers. Take heed: All mobile channel programs are not created equal. When shopping for wireless suppliers, look for those that match your model for sales volume, technology road map, network, support and target market.

Your choice of carriers will be driven largely by your sales territory. First, check out the prominent carrier in your region since it likely will have the greatest coverage. Network access is critical to keeping satisfied customers, especially business users. If the service doesnt work when and where they need it, they will not be happy. Similarly, be sure to understand your carriers next-generation network deployment plans. If you are going to sell data-related fare, high-speed digital networks are a must.

The decision to contract directly with the operator or work through a master agent is predicated on your expected sales volume as well as your ability and/or willingness to manage inventory or operate a retail location.

If your sales will be more than 50 activations per month, you can consider a direct contract.

Wireless carriers focus on quarterly activation numbers. They will offer you a ramp-up period, but will pull support if your numbers do not add up quickly. Your business needs to produce 50-plus units per month, and some carriers will look to 150-plus activations as a sales goal.

Depending upon the plan you are selling, you should earn $50 to $300 per activation; the average compensation is $175 per activation. When it comes to commissions, selling data (i.e. Internet access) means even more money.

A few carriers offer agents a direct interface to the warehouse for equipment fulfillment. This eases sales by enabling order and activation through a Web portal and having the equipment shipped directly to you or the customer. However, the carrier may not have this option available for later equipment upgrades, which is an important service to offer business customers if you want them to look to you for their sales and support needs. If the carrier doesnt offer you support for upgrades, it is worth it to hold some inventory to manage yourself.

A possible drawback to becoming a wireless dealer could be that some carriers require dealers even business-oriented ones to operate storefronts. You must be willing to pony up some capital for a store or kiosk at the mall. Operating a storefront is not an endeavor for everyone, however, and you may need to hire someone experienced to do it for you.

If you can meet the performance requirements, interfacing directly with a carrier is recommended because you likely will make more money and retain more customer control. Should you choose to represent multiple carriers, however, managing multiple sales quotas and separate carrier interfaces can be quite cumbersome.

In this case, master agents offer an alternative. Carriers look to master agents to supply subagents with phones, accessories, account management, and sales and marketing materials. Be aware that many master agents are consumer-oriented even if they offer business services. In such cases, it may require some initiative on your part to navigate through carrier paperwork and procedures.

Typically, master agents can offer approximately the same commissions as a wireless carrier would offer. And, they may not impose sales quotas. However, they may have to seek the approval of their underlying carriers before bringing you on as a subagent and assigning a territory for a retail store.

Some master agents may require that you keep an inventory; others may require you only use equipment purchased through them. They may or may not ship equipment directly to the customer for you.

There are a few companies that serve as master agents for the big four national carriers. Each usually has an agreement that outlines a specific sales territory, and few have agreements with multiple carriers within the same sales territory, so you may end up managing multiple master agency relationships just as you would by going direct.

If you are planning to grow the wireless side of your business to any size, it is important to have a solid administrative system in place to make sure that you manage your vendor and customer relationships in a timely manner. This is especially true when you are one step away from the source.

With well-oiled customer and back-office support in place, adding commercial wireless products into your mix can add significantly to your bottom line and help you maintain account control.

Tim Koxlien is president and founder of Koxlien Communications Inc., which offers local, long-distance, data and Internet, and wireless services to businesses and consumers.

Links
Koxlien Communications Inc. www.koxlien.com

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