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.

Telecom Agents: Choose Ten Times the Growth–Not Just 10%

 

Can telecom agents really grow by 10x instead of just 10 percent? This may seem barely possible, but it is achievable. The key to achieving this seemingly impervious feat is to love what you do and do it as best and as often as you can by using your natural strengths and managing your weaknesses.

Each person – telecom agents included – has an innate skill, aptitude, flair, knack, gift, ability, or capacity to do something effortlessly. Some people are naturally better than others at music, others at academics, others at sports, others at crafts, others at selling, and so on. We know these as talents, but they may remain hidden and useless if undiscovered and not practiced.

Signs of latent talent

What interests, passions, cravings, and obsessions do you have? People are drawn to activities that interest them. An individual who has a passion for playing the piano will excel at the piano. Others like to read, write, or talk about specific topics almost all the time. Still others think that they don’t have any talents at all. Human talents are often found deep underneath the surface and discovering them requires deliberate effort.

Do you enjoy what you do? After completing an activity in an area that interests you, a person normally feels a deep sense of satisfaction or accomplishment. If you speak in front of an audience and observe that your listeners are all ears to you, you derive some degree of fulfillment for having been able to share your ideas and make a difference in people’s understanding of things.

How fast can you learn related skills? There are certain skills that come with selling. Knowing how to listen, ask the right questions, handle objections, create remedies for dead ends, and close the sale are selling skills that come naturally for people who are gifted with a selling talent. Learning is never an issue with them; they learn fast. People who lack the needed learning skills often struggle at trying new things because they simply are not interested.

Are you motivated to excel? People who use their talents well don’t only succeed; they strive to excel. Mediocre results are not part of their vocabulary because their mindset is directed to the thinking that the best is yet to come. Studies suggest that motivation is intrinsic: It is found within the person being motivated. Inherent talents often start as raw capacity capable of being developed, improved, and mastered through time to achieve excellence. Excellence is contagious and has a rippling effect across the organization. Motivated people inspire others to explore possibilities instead of focusing on excuses and problems.

Is selling a talent? It certainly is.

Not everyone is good at selling. Having solid sales skills enhances the selling process, and the skills are as varied as there are prospects. For instance, empathizing with prospects is an effective way of better understanding their concerns and knowing what solutions to offer. Accepting responsibility is a good gauge that you want to get things done and be answerable for your actions. Optimism is a healthy sign of persistence and resilience in the face of objections and temporary setbacks.

If you’re a telecom agent who wants to grow your businesses tenfold, try looking deeper and rediscovering your talents. Do you want to unleash them not only to succeed but to excel–or do you want them to lay dormant because you are satisfied with your present situation?

Honing Your Telecom Sales Strategy

Are successful salespersons born or made? Whichever it is, most can agree on one thing: selling in the managed services department is tough, and it is toughest when there is no doable sales strategy in place.

Most business owners realize the impact that technology has on their businesses, but they are just too busy to manage all the details. This is an opportune time for telecom agents to reevaluate their roles, especially considering the rapidly shifting technology options that customers have in regards to managed services.

The traditional strategy of generating leads, qualifying prospects, and closing sales is replete with old practices and attitudes that lag behind the modern demands of customers. Customers don’t want to be “sold”; they need an advocate who can offer solutions to their needs.

Telecom agent have an opportunity here to rethink their position and prove their value to customers. Agents will be well-served by thinking through answers to the following points.

What is your value proposition?

Agents are advocates for customers and can best illustrate this to them by highlighting the benefits that they bring to customers. What makes you unique in providing these benefits? You want to be part of the solution to their problems, so you need to know and understand their pain points. You are there not to sell a product; you are there to offer value to their business.

Do you know your sales prospect’s problem?

Instead of squawking a pre-canned sales pitch and flashing presentation slides, telecom agents are better served by asking open-ended questions and doing a lot of listening to start the ball rolling for genuine discussions.

You will discover that a free-wheeling and sincere exchange of ideas can almost automatically make prospects spill their pain points and share their disappointment with current technology systems. In every decision to buy, there is an underlying problem that gives people the reason to try a new product or service.

A word of caution is worth mentioning. Blatantly pointing out a defective equipment or application may hurt your prospect’s ego. A truly wholehearted business discussion is a better way to engage your prospect while naturally teasing out the pain points.

What solution can you offer?

After discovering your prospect’s problem, never immediately force discussion of an outright solution. In practical terms, explain the benefits of your offering and how it can solve your prospect’s problem.

Whether it’s a hardware breakdown or a software crash, discuss how you can work together now and in the future to eliminate the problem. Offer a comprehensive implementation support and after-sales monitoring. Propose to manage other related technology issues and questionable vendor dealings to minimize risks and control costs. This could be the start of repeat sales and increased revenues for you.

Can you sustain a long-term relationship?

Staying in touch with your customers–even when they are not buying–is a great way to be at the forefront of their minds and build solid relationships. Touch base electronically or physically on a regular basis; offer any way to be of help or service. Whether something goes wrong or not, be there for them on multiple levels and treat them not just as a mere number but as a personal and business advocate.

Clearly, a customer-centric sales strategy can make selling easier for telecom agents. The cloud is triggering a shift to the managed services landscape, especially by small and medium businesses. As a telecom agent, why should your prospect care about you and choose you among other comparable options in the industry?

If you have the answer to that question, then you’re on your way to a successful selling career.