Master Agents’ Changing Role Part 4

Editor’s Note:

This is Part 4 of a five-part article, Master Agents Revisited. Other parts of the article are:

Part 4 – Traditional Functions Remain Relevant

The traditional functions of master agencies are unlikely to become irrelevant with their distribution of either managed or cloud services. With few exceptions, the respondents agreed on this point. The traditional functions Channel Partners identified, included:

  • aggregating sales volume for providers
  • managing subagent support for providers
  • managing provider contracts for subagents
  • aggregating supplier quoting for subagents
  • disbursing commissions to subagents

Respondents suggested some additions to this list, including:

  • automating back-office functions
  • shoring up subagent skills gaps
  • coordinating resources between suppliers and subagents
  • arbitrating disputes between supplier and subagent
  • advocating for customer/subagent
  • marketing support
  • advising subagent business planning
  • training subagents on technologies/sales
  • financing growth, e.g., through commission advances
  • aligning subagent skill sets to products/providers

“I think the master agents’ roles as an extension of the marketing arm for core telecom will continue and be replicated in the managed and cloud space,” said Todd Thomas, area vice president of sales for master agency X4 Solutions Inc.

Indeed, several MSPs and cloud providers said that master agencies were a primary distribution channel for their services. “We believe master agents are the best way to build our channel.” said Randy Jeter, CEO of RapidScale, a provider of desktop-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service and disaster recovery-as-a-service. The company has six master agents, with plans to add seven more in 2012.

Managed and cloud service provider Quest said it uses master agencies to sell its services “because it’s the best way to reach sales agents who have relationships with customers in need of help.” Presently, the company has contracts with 10 and plans to add eight in 2012.

The subagents Channel Partners consulted for this report were the most skeptical of the interviewees about the continued relevancy of traditional roles. While most felt that aggregating contracts and disbursing commissions would still be important, they were divided on whether master agencies would need to provide support or quotes on behalf of managed and cloud providers.

Some mentioned that master agencies would serve a significant role in assessing the provider marketplace and aligning with the best providers. “With new cloud services, they will be the first line of evaluation in determining what makes sense for the channel, bringing these services to our attention and educating us on why and when they are most applicable,” said Ross Hurst, co-founder, USA Voice & Data, a subagency for four master agencies.

Similarly, Brian Miller, president of subagency Mach4, said master agencies would need to become “knowledge providers.”

Part 5 – New Capabilities Required

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