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Agents vs. Direct: Solving Carrier Channel Conflict

Jessica Mayo-Pike By Jessica Mayo-Pike

As major telecommunications companies are rapidly building out cloud solutions and turning their focus from circuits and bandwidth to hosted and managed services, they are overlooking one major elephant in the room: There is a great divide between their two sales forces the direct and the indirect.

Most carriers’ Rules of Engagement” tend to not vary much from the concept of whoever gets ink first wins. However, there are many problems with this school of thought, and that will ultimately put carriers at a major disadvantage as they strive to grow their cloud cfferings and their legacy offerings become more obsolete.

In fact, carriers should take a page out of the book of most manufacturers who are 100 percent channel-only and start to give serious consideration to turning their direct” sales and technical staff into field resources who can help partners close deals. Here are the reasons why:

  • If carriers hope to become entrenched in the VAR community, they have to change this model. VAR sales reps are accustomed to working hand in hand with and leveraging their Cisco, NetApp, EMC or VMWare account managers as valuable resources. The concept of competing with them in customer opportunities is just silly.
  • The fact that direct reps and carriers can compete against each other for the same client ultimately confuses the client, and as an adverse effect makes the carrier look bad to potential customers.
  • Carriers arent just slinging” PRIs anymore. Cloud solution selling requires a sophisticated sales approach and an investment of time in a client. Why not have both of your channels work hand in hand to accomplish this, as opposed to each dedicating separate efforts to the same client? Ultimately, the losing channel will inevitably waste a lot of effort and time, which means hours of non-productivity for the carrier in either a paid resource or an agent who could be better off spending their time elsewhere.
  • Finally, channel conflict costs carriers a LOT of executive-level hourly personnel burden. Every time there is a channel conflict, it needs to get escalated to a senior level manager, who then needs to get on a call with the partner to understand the opportunity and then reach out to their management counterpart on the other channel to discuss the business case, then those two managers need to take it up with their collective managers, then there are emails flying around, then they need to go back to the partner … you get the point. Its a big waste of time. Senior management at carriers can surely be spending their time in a much more productive manner then this.

Carriers need to carefully examine and consider the hard truth that this model is not equipped to take them to the next stage of their business transformation. Sure, its not as simple as it sounds, and there are financial implications, such as double comping partners and direct folks. However, those financial considerations pale in comparison to the money wasted and business not realized due to the current state of inefficiencies by not being 100 percent channel.  

Jessica Mayo-Pike is a managing partner at Communication Management Service (CMS), an independent telecommunications and consulting company. She previously served as the business leader for Advanced Services at IPLogic Inc., a Cisco Gold VAR based in upstate New York. Before moving to the VAR side of the house, she spent seven years in the carrier space in both direct sales and channel management capacities. She also is a member of the

2013-14 Channel Partners Advisory Board.

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