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What Does a Telecom Agent Bring to the Table?
Working with carriers is very challenging. If telecom does not run in your blood and you don’t speak the language; and if you don’t have years of experience, know the product offerings and have benchmark pricing, you need help. At no cost to you, agents can work on your behalf to match you up with the best technology and service provider. The right agent can save you a significant amount of time and money.
According to Ben Bronston, a telecom lawyer at telecomlawyer.net, “Telecom agents are independent sales representatives who do the critical work of connecting customers with the services they are seeking. Agents may deal directly with a service provider or serve as a sub-agent of a master agent.”
Think of a telecom agent, much like a sports agent. They work on behalf of the client, looking out for his or her best interest, and offering services from any carrier in the marketplace. Agents typically work for themselves and are 100% commission based. They receive compensation after the sale is complete, and the carrier begins billing the customer.
Telecom agents and carrier sales reps work together out of necessity. Keep in mind that it can cause some off-stage friction because the commission is diluted and split between both parties. But as a customer, that’s not our concern. It’s the way the industry is designed and isn’t your concern, but it’s good to be aware of this.
Engaging an agent can be a way to keep your dedicated account manager on their toes. Are you getting the best product for your requirements? Do you need managed service? Does the carrier have the ability to support your enterprise and meet your SLAs? Is the SLA enforceable?
Do I Need a Telecom Agent?
The answer to that question is like many answers I give people - it depends. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and you should run from anyone who tells you otherwise.
It may not make sense to use an agent under some circumstances like those listed below.
- If your enterprise already does business with only one or two carriers
- You have a team of representatives and support staff dedicated to your account, including sales, pre-sales, ordering service
- If pricing is fixed, and you’re happy with current services
If you have the time and inclination to meet with multiple vendors, perhaps work through an entire request for proposal (RFP). If you don’t need pricing benchmarks, have the experience, and want to do all the work yourself, perhaps an agent isn’t a good fit.
Why Consider Using a Telecom Agent?
Agents come in different flavors so it’s important to consider how you might utilize an agent. Agents bring expertise to the table, offering a rich history of experience. They know the trends, the rates, and the capabilities of the carriers. They also have immediate access to valuable contacts with all of the big and smaller telecom providers. An agent can offer an unbiased perspective to weigh a carrier’s capabilities against your company’s requirements and save you time by shopping and executing pricing comparisons for you. They can also negotiate on your behalf and mediate agreements.
Who Can Be a Telecom Agent?
Nearly anyone. This includes independent and telecommunications expense management (TEMS) consultants. Have you worked with an independent consultant or a TEM who has proposed a carrier contract with improved rates? Chances are good that they are receiving an agent’s commission while also being compensated by you for other services rendered.
When to Keep a Watchful Eye
Some agents are strictly into sales. Once they close your deal, they will move on to the next opportunity. You may find this to be ideal when all you want to do is make a vendor selection - maybe to get through an RFP and move on to other things.
Other agents offer support. While contractual consulting services are common, some can be an excellent extension of your department in day-to-day operations. Tactical support can be a great way to augment your department when facing staffing challenges or fluctuations in workloads, such as acquisitions or divestitures.
Still, other agents offer consultative services at a more strategic level. These individuals are often veterans in the industry, steeped in years of experience and resources to call upon as needed.
The telecom industry can be a minefield. In my opinion, if you don’t live and breathe telecom every day, finding the right agent is gold. They can ensure you avoid costly pitfalls. Always remember that one size doesn’t fit all. My advice is, don’t hesitate to shop around for an agent just like you would any other service or product. I recommend seeking those in the consulting and lifecycle management niches as they tend to bring more in-depth experience to the conversation.