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Lean on Me: The New Symbiotic Ecosystem

Vic LevinsonBy Vic Levinson

Once upon a time, it was easy to be an agent. You found a provider, you signed a contract  and — boom! — you became an agent.  Learn how to fill out paperwork, do some quick calculations and watch the money roll in month to month.

Not so any more. Now, most providers will only work with master agents. This has been a well-received development — the masters of the cloud are now the major agencies that have evolved into business partners with their agents. I have been blessed to work with some of the finest people I have met in the industry through these relationships. Most importantly, we have become partners.

My team is the feet on the street. We manage the client relationship. We have learned to become advocates for our clients. We have learned to introduce them to new technologies that have shaped their business. We have watched our clients carefully — helping them to weather the Great Recession, some better than others. We are in the trenches and we are the first phone call when there is a problem.

Our master agents have become our resources, our guides and our advocates. Through them we have learned about the latest developments in the field. We turn to them for education opportunities more than anything else. Our master agents have to constantly strive to become our source for getting the best knowledge in the field — which is our competitive advantage.  The master agent manages the relationship with the provider, keeping the commissionable revenue stream coming smoothly and wielding a big stick when there are problems.

Problems are a fact of life. If you are engaged in any activity, mistakes will be made. It is how we are able to resolve these issues that determine our stress level. Our master agents are now able to assist in escalating issues with more gravitas to the providers — and the providers are responding.

Our master agents have also become more of a resource in marketing. We are able to work with them on marketing efforts that previously were out of our budget. By aggregating subagents, our master agents have been able to enhance our marketing presence on line with better results.

My vision for the future is that there will be an even tighter relationship – since our mutual interests are aligned. Master agents will receive trouble tickets from providers and assist us in escalating issues automatically. Master agents will be able to rate providers using the aggregate information that they receive from trouble tickets to determine which provider is reliable, which provider’s SLA is kept and which provider solves problems best.

This delicate ecosystem is becoming more symbiotic. As agents, we rely on the master agents, and the master agents rely on the providers who in turn rely upon us to help advocate their solutions. Together we are able to work in an interdependent fashion to enable our clients to adopt new technologies, new ways of doing business and work more efficiently.

It is a brave new world.

Founder and president of Prime Telecommunications, Vic Levinson has more than 20 years of industry experience as an interconnect and authorized reseller for Avaya and Allworx, hosted IP telephony solutions connectivity and cloud applications. He has been instrumental in setting up the channel marketing program for SNET Communications, a Chicago-based hosted IP telephony provider. He is also a member of the 2013-14 Channel Partners Advisory Board.

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