When it comes to telecommunications and data networking there are many, many options for who you can work with to purchase Internet, phone service, data networking circuits etc. My clients are approached almost daily by multiple reps from the same carrier claiming to be "the guy". They are now approached by ISPs, competitive local exchange carriers, cable companies and the list goes on and on. Let me tell you how to get the most bang for your buck and at the same a trusted partner who will be there for long haul.
At first glance it might seem safer to work with a direct rep from your local carrier or ISP especially if your already buying their products. The reality however is those direct reps change with the tide. Every year or two you end up breaking in some new greenie on how your network works, why you have what you have etc. Direct reps are usually never around long enough to earn your trust, and are not incented to see that your company succeeds. Your value to them is only as good as the next product you buy. Direct reps are also steered by their management to sell certain products. Typically those products are the most profitable for the carrier and aren't necessarily what's best for your business. I've had clients that were steered by a direct rep to fork lift upgrade their well-functioning metro ethernet network for a more expensive MPLS network just so the direct rep can claim it as new revenue and make his numbers. The client ends up paying more for a very similar network because they were sold on the idea that it was somehow going to be more strategic when it really offered them nothing more than they already had. I've seen clients get sold on new technologies just because their new without proving the concept, insuring the product is ready for full production. That being said there are still some good direct reps that care about their customers and want what's best for them, it’s the system and how they are paid that drives the problem. It's all transactionaly incented and short term focused. Carriers cycle through reps because quotas are too high, territories to limited and the competition too great. And for the guys that are really good they typically move into management or to something more lucrative.
Dealing with an Agent/Consultant
Most providers have a direct channel and an agent channel. The agent channel is compensated differently but has all the same resources (sales engineer, channel manager, VP etc.) and offers all the same products and pricing. Working with an agent/consultant however brings several advantages over dealing direct. First of all, many top performing reps move on to become agents themselves for the very carriers they used to work for. What that means to you is your getting a seasoned professional with years of experience to consult with you.
Secondly consultants are compensated with a monthly residual from the carrier as long as they maintain their clients and the services. Due to the way agent compensation works you become a much more important part of a consultants business. They are incentivized to work with you long term and therefore only want to sell you what's best for your business strategy so they can maintain that business long term. The best part is a consultant's services cost you nothing. To the carrier an agent is less expensive than a direct rep because there is no insurance or office space to provide, no benefits, no costs, just commissions so they can afford to give aggressive pricing.
Lastly consultants are not only incentivized to work with you long term, they also are not beholden to any one providers solutions. Most consultants have relationships with many different carriers. What that means to you is that you get a one stop shop with a trusted partner. A consultant has the unique ability to sell you Centurylink at 2 locations and Comcast in another. A direct rep has to try to make one size fit all but a consultant can stitch several carrier solutions together to make sure you get the best solution for your business and at the best price.
Using a consultant is better than dealing direct for telecom and data networking services because you get more bang for your buck. You get a trusted, seasoned professional who is incentivized to make you successful and to do business long term not just one valuable transaction at a time. Your business gets the benefit of working with a trusted partner to procure services and solutions from multiple providers and always puts client's needs first.
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