Trying on Hats: Telecom Agents Become Managed Service Providers

The services and technologies telecom agents once specialized in have transformed. Phone services are a great example of this shift. With the popularity of VoIP and connected services, finding inefficiencies in phone bills is no longer an effective business model for agents.

So what is?

For agents, evolving into managed service providers is becoming more and more attractive. However, this move can take time and training. While adding offerings means increasing revenue streams, it also means adapting to reflect the shifted — and still shifting — tech landscape.

The Difficulty of Adding Managed Services

From the outside, the roles of telecom agent and managed IT services provider appear similar enough that the transition from one to the other seems easy. However, the sales cycle and required knowledge differ significantly. Telecom agents must commit to new educational efforts and explore their provider relationships to create value in a new relationship with clients.

In the more complex market of managed services, telecom agents must adjust to a longer sales cycle and different infrastructures. The result looks much more like an IT VAR, albeit a new role entirely.

The new relationship between telecom agent and client involves more preparation and decision-making:

  • Telecom agents must understand an organization’s needs on a deeper level than simply lowering monthly bills.
  • Agents must also understand Cloud and other technologies from the IT perspective as well as the client’s.
  • A broader range of expenses must be considered, from quantifying server downtime to various maintenance expenses related to IT.
  • Special concerns like security, compliance, and disaster recovery needs must be addressed.

Master Agents Bring Everything Together

Telecom master agents can help their partners enter the managed services game successfully with Cloud services and products like managed security and managed disaster recovery. For the agent, the transition feels new, but not unrelated —particularly with VoIP services replacing many traditional phone lines.

If a telecom agent only handles a client’s phone bill, the client can easily drop the agent at the end of the current contract. With VoIP offerings available for SMBs and enterprise alike, many organizations would take the contract’s end as a signal to find voice solutions from an IT service provider.

By empowering agents with the skills to manage more services, telecom master agents stay relevant and profitable. For the client, the value comes from finding agents with fruitful partnerships in both the telecom and IT sectors.

Partnerships Between Telecom Agents and IT Providers

Clients want seamless service that adds value. Ultimately, they do not need to concern themselves with whether a telecom agent or IT service provider delivers the products and services. While telecom agents have work cut out for themselves, IT providers can also use help in managing the customer relationship.[MM1]  This creates a unique, new opportunity for partnerships between IT and telecom agents.

On the telecom side, agents can work with clients to discover the services needed and then turn to carrier connections and IT providers to supply the means. For the IT provider, business increases because telecom agents do plenty of legwork and assist with sales.

With the inevitability of change in the market, telecom agents need these methods of diversification and product updates to continue providing meaningful value for clients.

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Mastering Vendor Management in the Cloud

The cloud continues to grow and increase the shadow it spreads across the globe. The cloud is one of the fastest growing technologies, and it is making it possible to manage everything from clients to employees regardless of their location. While this can save considerable time and resources, the cloud doesn’t relieve companies or IT managers of the responsibilities they had before shifting to cloud-based solutions.

Within the cloud, the CIO and the IT team still are responsible for tracking cloud vendor performance and ensuring that they have the necessary leverage to mitigate shortfalls and improve their usage of the technology. Because cloud technology and solutions are in their infancy, there is a steep learning curve that IT professionals and executives still are learning to navigate.

The Swiftly Moving Cloud

Ultimately, cloud vendor management and people skills are paramount. While an IT department may have decades of experience under its belt, the speed at which information moves and flows through the cloud means that the IT team needs to stay on top of things before they spin out of control. In fact, effective vendor management requires solid communication and professional management skills that IT departments haven’t needed to use until recently.

Cloud vendor management and IT departments should be cognizant of the following points:

  1. Contract negotiations and the proof of concept. Your IT team should have a front-row seat for this, because it will make it easier to address issues before they occur. Service level agreements, division of labor, proof-of-concept, and point people should be clearly identified and spelled out before anything is signed.
  2. SLA monitoring and coordination of day-to-day projects. Meetings should be held regularly—at least every quarter at. The more meetings that are scheduled, the better. During these meetings, performance and SLAs should be carefully reviewed and adjusted as needed.
  3. Communication to users. Coordinated communications with end users allow for more efficient management and adjustments in a timely manner. This benefits everyone and makes it possible to avoid many problems that can arise when communications breakdown or when they are are delayed.
  4. Security and process integration. It often is necessary to detail the process and integration of cloud solutions into a business’s existing infrastructure. As such, it’s imperative that businesses and their employees understand their roles in keeping information secure.
  5. Enhancements. Specialized applications and expertise require your business to work closely with internal users to ensure that everything is not only functional, but also that it is operating at a streamlined and efficient level. This filters down the chain and makes it easier for vendors and those who are relying on the systems to complete their tasks in the best way possible.

These five elements are essential to bringing everything together. The skills and practices not only facilitate strong business relationships; they also ensure that your business is meeting the needs of your clients on a daily basis.

By making sure that your IT services are top-notch and being led by a strong, communicative, responsive team, you will be setting your services apart from the competition and making your services ever more appealing to your clients. In fact, your communication skills and responses to customer requests are the cornerstones that will help your business grow its own shadow in the ever-expanding world of digital communications.

Why You Need a Telecom Agent

In an age defined by a rapidly changing telecommunications landscape, choosing the right commercial services can be difficult for business owners and managers. Yet, it’s more important than ever to have telecom solutions that boost business and drive results while providing team members with the tools they need to collaborate, communicate and perform.

Hiring a consultant can help. Telecom agents work as go-betweens, liaising contracts and services between companies and one or more service providers. The advantages of working with telecom consultants are too valuable to be overlooked, and here are five reasons why businesses should strongly consider bringing one on board.

Five Reasons to Hire a Telecom Consultant

  • Telecom consultants work for their clients, not the service providers. A telecom consultant’s job is to secure the best range of services at the best possible rates for their end clients. They don’t work for specific service providers, and they aren’t compensated on upselling products and services. Agents leverage relationships with multiple carriers and service providers to deliver flexible, affordable and high-performance packages to their end clients — that’s all they do.
  • Consultants provide invaluable technical support. Many small and mid-sized businesses lack the in-house resources to properly implement telecom technologies, and service providers don’t always provide the kind of support companies need. Telecom consultants oversee installation procedures, providing expert guidance and proven know-how to ensure there’s no downtime and businesses get the high-performing service packages promised.
  • Consultants assist in contract negotiations. Most service providers are notorious for saturating their contracts with complicated jargon, fine print and indecipherable verbiage. What’s more, businesses are often surprised to learn about contract limitations, restrictions and technicalities after the fact. Telecom consultants take care of contract negotiations on behalf of their clients, ensuring their clients’ interests are fully protected from the start. With intimate industry knowledge, agents can also negotiate better terms for their clients.
  • Telecom consultants help businesses leverage Cloud technologies. The Cloud is changing the way companies use telecom technologies, but many businesses don’t know how to take full advantage of it. Telecom consultants match Cloud solutions to their client’s specific needs and help them make seamless migrations to Cloud-based platforms.
  • Telecom consultants don’t require upfront investments. Telecom consultants are not paid by their client. Instead, agents earn commissions from the service provider when they refer a client. The relationship works well because providers are under immense competitive pressure, and agents provide them with new avenues to secure long-term business. This is also a win-win for businesses. Telecom consultants are paid monthly based on the length of a client’s contract. In other words, they are incentivized to maintain a positive experience and relationship for their client.

The best part? Working with a telecom agent is available at no cost to businesses. There’s no reason why a company shouldn’t meet with a consultant to learn how their business might benefit.

Customer Advocates As Sales Catalysts

The selling continuum can be long and tricky. You have done your homework and made a persuasive sales presentation. Your customer seems convinced of the value of your proposition and the urgency of implementing it. You’ve been seeing positive buying signals, but something seems to be getting in the way. Follow-up after follow-up is not yielding any development, and the prospective buyer has been out of reach lately.

There can be various reasons why the deal is getting cold. The obstacle may be internal to the customer. For instance, the team responsible for buying could be having difficulty getting approval. The company may be shifting priorities and realigning budgets. A decision-maker may be having second thoughts and want more information about the solution being offered.

It can be difficult for busy salespeople to get at the root of the cause alone.  This is where a trusted and credible customer advocate can be helpful. Unlike the customer service representatives who take care of the day-to-day needs and queries of customers, customer advocates help overcome obstacles in the closing a sale.

A hidden reserve of potential customer advocates

Customer advocates can be sourced internally or externally. Some companies formally hire advocates to focus on specific customers. Others engage the services of professionals like reporters, journalists, and researchers who have influence in respected sectors of society. Another popular strategy is approaching entertainment personalities, well-known business executives, and recognized experts to endorse products and services.

A company’s own customer base also contains a wealth of potential promoters who can influence the buying behavior of other customers. For example, Amazon and eBay encourage their customers to post either positive or negative reviews on products they buy and sell online.

How to develop true customer advocates

  • Know your customers’ challenges and needs and offer solutions.

This is a key ingredient for business development and sustainable growth. There are many technology solutions that help track customer preferences, including the ability and willingness to promote your business. A customer inventory can be utilized by program managers to identify and contact trusted and loyal customers to become advocates.

  • Recognize loyal customers.

Discounts and coupons on multiple purchases are popular promotional offers, but sometimes recognition works even better. Featuring their achievements in case studies, white papers, or news releases can be rewarding and enticing for advocates. The more dynamic references are eager for professional development in the form of speaking engagements, interviews in media, and other live events. High-level prospects, like respected thought leaders, can also be invited to the company’s executive forums on product feedback in an advisory capacity.

  • Create opportunities for growth.

This is an attractive incentive for prospects that own small or start-up businesses. It offers small businesses opportunities for growth through a connection with an established brand.

More than just a cost-effective way to promote a brand, engaging customer advocates allows business owners to strengthen customer relationships beyond purchases. Once customers embrace a trusting relationship, they are far less likely to switch to a competitor.