ICT vendor providers and master distributors are responsive to their “channel sales partners” AKA telecom agents or trusted technology advisors because they believe the ICT opportunity end-user & decision maker is loyal to the telecom agent and will only award the ICT managed services signed agreement to a provider represented by their telecom agent/channel sales partner.

That notion of end-user/telecom agent exclusivity was much more true in the past when there were fewer ICT solutions to choose from and when most any solution could be easily provided by a single provider. Today however, ICT solutions are much more complicated and almost always involve an integration of multiple different ICT vendor providers who rarely “play nice” with one another. Invariably any ICT solution where multiple vendor providers are involved will invite competition from multiple channel parther agents who will all want to appear as the single partner that the customer is loyal to for a deal signature.

Importance & Benefits of Self-Referral
In order to achieve an orderly outcome, business end-users, the CxO or IT director who will ultimately sign the ICT managed service agreement for any deal must assume the position of “customer partner” and self-refer their own ICT solution opportunity to the master agency of their choice who will bring in the vendor neutral solution engineers and architects to begin the project of solving the the customer’s ICT problem.

The self-referring CxO or IT director “customer partner” solves a multitude of sticky problems for all parties because the end-user customer is really the only entity that can validate for the distributor and provider that a real opportunity actually exists – and that at some time in the not too distrant future, the customer will sign a new service agreement that will generate new revenue for the provider, distributor and whichever channel sales partner (or partners) is identified as the customer’s “agent of record”.

What Defines a Self-Referral
As you can well imagine, having multiple different sales partners all trying to register a customer referral deal creates a multitude of headaches for all involved. The “customer partner” solves all the problems by clarifying – 1) Yes, my business is interested in contracting for new ICT managed services, 2) we want ______ master agency to bring their solution engineers into the project, and, 3) we designate _______ as the agent of record for the prospective deal.

When a “customer partner” controls how any deal starts by self-referring the opportunity, the customer partner guarantees they will A) be educated about all facets of the prospective deal, B) have the opportunity to request transparency about who’s getting paid for participating in the deal, and finally C) expect accountability from all parties receiving compensation as a result of the customer’s signature on a new ICT agreement.

The Two Ways to Initiate a Self-Referral
The first way is for the CxO or IT director to send an email to their intended telecom agent of record as well as the telecom agent’s “sales manager” at the master agency. The email should clearly state 1) the business is interested in acquiring new ICT managed services, 2) a summary of the opportunity, and 3) an affirmation that the business intends to place the business through one or two competing agents or master agencies. When the CxO or IT director puts their ICT new solution review & acquisition intention in writing through such a self-referral, they ensure that the master agency will bring all the appropriate resources to bear to address the CxO or IT director’s ICT problem or opportunity.

The second way to initiate the self-referral is to sign a professional services agreement or PSA with both the agent of record as well as the master agency. The PSA will spell out exactly what the client is expecting in the way of ongoing consulting or other services from the master agency or agent of record for each of the 36-months of a normal ICT managed services solution term.

Author Dan Baldwin

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