A Reality Check About Agency Life

JR CookBy
J.R. Cook, Vice President Agent Channel, EarthLink Business

I have been approached a few times by starry-eyed direct reps, especially after they lose a large deal to a partner, asking if they should leave the direct sales force and become an agent. They imagine what they would be getting paid today if they had only sold all the business they had as a partner. They imagine themselves sitting on a boat, sipping a margarita and counting their money.

That is when I get to be “Mr. Reality.” Make no mistake, some of the most successful partners I have worked with are ex-direct reps that took the jump. You want a reality check, talk to them. Think about it. If the average sales cycle on a sizeable account is six months, you normally get the first site installed in 45-90 days, and then it takes another 30 days to bill, and another month to hit your commissions. The first time you see any money could be nine months to a year. Now, imagine that without the comfort of salary and benefits. Oh, and when you take a customer out for lunch, there is no reimbursement. Oh, and lets not forget that cell phone and auto expense allowances are gone, too.

Most partners that came from direct sales have told me that the first year is the most painful, but they spend the second year trying to pay back everyone they borrowed money from to get through year one. By the third year their spouse and kids are talking to them again.

I guess what I am saying is that becoming a partner is a career move, not a “get rich quick” scheme. Like any smart business venture, you have to have a plan and assemble the resources to get you to your end goal. I can say honestly, that I too am jealous of the partner who takes my call from his boat, and says he is not worried about end-of-month quota, but will do me a favor and try to throw me a deal. I am more than jealous, I respect what it took to get there, and the risk they accept every day to live that life.

J.R. Cook is the vice president of alternate channels for

EarthLink Business.

Cook joined EarthLink Business in 2009, when it was known as New Edge Networks, as the first vice president with sole responsibility for the companys agent channel. With more than 13 years of experience managing channel partner relationships, Cook leads the formation of a dedicated agent channel by fostering powerful relationships and placing importance on growth from agent partnerships. Prior to joining New Edge Networks, Cook was vice president of premier accounts for TelePacific Communications after working as a director in its Telepartner channel. He was also key in building the agent channel for Mpower Communications, which was acquired by TelePacific in 2006.  He also is a member of the

2011-12 Channel Partners Conference & Expo Advisory Board.

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