7 Things that Drive Masters and Agents Crazy

Angry Businessman

In the spirit and tradition of Festivus, ’tis the season for airing grievances!

Through the day-to-day grind of working in the channel, there are bound to be things that channel chiefs wished partners did differently, and vice versa.

We asked the channel for input on things that drive channel chiefs, as well as partners, crazy. The goal was to provide an entertaining and constructive look at some of the issues that potentially slow the flow of business in the channel.

Tina Gravel, Cyxtera‘s senior vice president of global channels and alliances, and member of the Channel Partners Business Advisory Board; Patrick Oborn, Telarus‘ co-founder and vice president of partner experience; and Rick Beckers, president of CloudTech1 and member of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board, had plenty to say on the topic.

Scroll through our gallery below for a look at some of the issues plaguing master agents and agents.

Profiling subagents
Better Subagent Profiling

Cyxtera's Tina Gravel says it would be great if subagents were more carefully profiled.

"Some masters do it OK and some do not do it all," she said. "If they are indeed going to add value to the sales process that would be my first ask. The second ask would be to provide an opportunity to train the agents for the first time without charging extra marketing fees. We are happy to cover costs of an event, but the actions around 'training and gathering' agents now seem like it is becoming a profit center for many of the masters; my ask is: For a new vendor that has yet to reap the benefits of sales — is that fair?"
Commission shopping
Commission Shopping

Commission shopping is when an agent has a done deal, working directly with a carrier channel manager, and then they call each master agent saying, "The other guys will give me 90 percent; what are you willing to do to get the business?"

"What the agent doesn't know is that this causes them long-term reputation damage and basically tells each master, many of whom are reinvesting heavily into their businesses to create additional resources for agents to draw upon, that they are all about a few pennies, non-strategic and not worth the investments the master is making," said Telarus' Patrick Oborn. "It's another way of telling the masters, 'Other than a payment clearinghouse, you're worthless to me.' It's also important to note that more and more deals are complex, multivendor, and require engineering and/or specialists from the master to close, meaning agents are becoming more dependent upon the masters. Being known as the 'commission shopper' is a quick way to find yourself [at] the bottom of everyone's priority list. Become a somebody with one, maybe two, masters!"
Licking brownies
'Licking Brownies'

"An agent finds out that one of his longtime customers has been working with another agent (or a direct rep) and is just about to place an order for new services," Oborn said. "The original agent inserts themselves into the deal at the 11th hour and expects to get paid on all of the new up-sold services. Agents have to know that 'licking brownies' is not a great business practice."

Stay involved with your customers so that they don't wander off and work with your competition, he said. Don't call in favors to the channel chief or master agent, asking them to keep you whole on a deal where all of the work was done by others. Just because you sold something to a customer years ago, do not assume your brownie is off limits to others, he said.
Tools aren't free
Tools Aren't Free

An agent signs up with a master agent, gains access to its proprietary, web-based, real-time quoting system, and then prices out a new solution for one of their clients, Oborn said.

"During this process they learn that a new, lesser-known carrier is the best fit for this specific location, and request paperwork from the associated channel manager," he said. "Once the deal is signed, the agent then shops the deal for the most commission. Had the research been performed by a human being, most agents would feel some tiny sense of obligation to run that deal through that master agent who assisted with that research. But, for some reason, when software (developed at great cost by human beings who know how to write code) is employed, that sense of implied morality seems to vanish."

How does an agent expect to be able to use software tools that are paid for through the sales of telecom services when they take the deals away from the master whose tools were used in the first place? If you're not going place a deal through the master who built the tools, don't use the tools. Find your answers elsewhere, call around, go old-school, Oborn said.
No meeting prep
Zero Meeting Prep

CloudTech1's Rick Beckers approached the subject from the perspective of an agent who is being driven crazy by the actions or inaction of the OEMs/vendors/master agents. One thing that drives an agent crazy is when they constantly get asked for “15 minutes of your time” and the channel manager or inside sales rep that is calling them has done "zero prep work" for the meeting, he said.

"Those 15 minutes are potentially the most valuable in the industry because they can/will/should be spent collaborating directly with the client that is needing the agent's solution-selling expertise," he said. "That’s where the sale originates! Every time you pull the agent away from customer-facing time, you reduce their effectiveness and their financial payoff. If you are going to call on a MSP/VAR/telecom agent/consultant, at least show them the respect of preparing for the meeting. If you are going to reduce their financial gain, at least have a known financial [prospect] in mind before you waste their time."
Antiquated ordering process
Outdated Ordering Process

You might have a great product, but if your processes are lame, it will drive a partner crazy, Beckers said.

"Don’t make the agent work so hard slogging through your antiquated ordering process once they have an order," he said. "You’re a technology company! The current evolution of our industry is called 'digital transformation'. Hire a few application developers and advance your partner portal to the stage where order processing and provisioning can be done in a couple of clicks."

Today’s young and tech-savvy agents don’t want to work with the "monthly version of your broken-macro ordering spreadsheet," Beckers said. They want sleek mobile apps available at their fingertips so that they can do business anytime and anywhere.
Portal management
Portal Madness

You hear customers "screaming all the time" about how all the passwords and portals in their lives drive them nuts, and "we’re happy to provide them with password-management applications to help solve their pain," Beckers said.

"Then why don’t our vendors and master agents hear the cries of the agent masses when they have to manage sometimes hundreds of sales/technical/marketing portals for as many as 200 or more technology vendors?" he pondered. "This has to change in 2019. The technology is there. I think it’s high time that the vendors and masters get together to collaborate on portal technology [platforms] that will allow an MSP/VAR/telecom agent/consultant to work from a single pane of glass. Envision a single sign-on portal technology with marketing information, quoting engines, order processing, auto-provisioning, product and process tracking, bill-on-behalf and automated commissions. Imagine how efficient and prosperous you could be with such a tool at your disposal?"

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