IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Demystifying the Cloud Master Agent

Selling complex online offerings can be easier when you partner with an experienced master agent. By James E. Gaskin

MASTER AGENT/SUBAGENT PARTNERSHIPS are old hat in the voice services world. With many telco master agents reinventing themselves these days as providers of cloud computing services, however, that same partnership model is now moving into a new market. 

Think of cloud master agents as hardware distributors that carry hosted applications and infrastructure instead of hardware.  

“As a cloud master agent, we built out an expansive portfolio from the very best suppliers in the industry,” says Randy Friedberg, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Converged Network Services Group (CNSG), of Charlotte, N.C. “We work with about 150 of those companies, and give protections our partners rarely get if they go direct, like making sure contracts aren't terminated and commissions don’t stop.” 

Those aren’t the only benefits cloud master agents offer that cloud vendors often don’t, either. “We help our partners gain the competency and comfort needed to sell these solutions,” says Friedberg, who adds that CNSG is more than happy to participate directly in the sales process too. 

“Partners have the most success when we go with them on customer calls,” he states. 

AVANT Communications, a Chicago-based cloud master agent, places similar emphasis on sales skills and services. “The legacy distribution model was based on financing and logistics,” says Ian Kieninger, the firm’s CEO and co-founder. “Sales enablement is now the most important part.”

“Sales enablement is now the most important part" of distribution.

IAN KIENINGER, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, AVANT COMMUNICATIONS

AVANT’s BattleApp is the primary gateway to the company’s sales enablement resources. Customized for each reseller, the solution pulls together the collateral and information that subagents need when making sales calls, and provides direct connections to product experts at AVANT’s engineering desk. 

“Just like a realtor who plugs into all the resources of Coldwell Banker, we have a map laid out and a playbook to follow,” Kieninger says, noting that the company also provides training, engineering, and installation services. 

Those are the kind of resources to look for when evaluating cloud master agents, but Friedberg advises channel pros to pose lots of additional questions as well. 

“How easy is it to do business with them?” Friedberg asks. “How secure are the contracts? Have they invested in the infrastructure to make sure their partners have a good experience with the vendors?”  

Kieninger, for his part, suggests looking at the master agent’s track record. “Have they been in business for months, or years?” he asks. “How many real cloud deals have they completed? (And selling Office 365 licenses doesn’t count.) How experienced are their pre-sales engineers?” 

It’s a lot to consider, but potentially worth the effort for anyone who sees merit in the kind of quick, simplified route into a new market that telco partners have been taking advantage of for decades.

About the Author

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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