The Partnering of VARs and Independent Telecom Agents

If you’re in the business of technology, or weren’t born yesterday, you know that one biggest trends over the last handful of years is the partnerships being formed between independent telecom agents and VARs. This concept, popularly coined by some of the nation’s leading master agents, specifically Petaluma, Calif.-based Intelisys, has gained a lot of traction in the partner community.

For those who are unfamiliar, the concept is this: ABC “traditional hardware” VAR wants to start to grow their network services business, but doesn’t know how to get it off the ground and navigate the nuances of hiring resources, financial shift, and having the expertise. XYZ telco agent already gets it — they have the expertise to handle all aspects of the sales process, and they understand reoccurring revenue. XYZ telco agent now has access to a new book of business and means to grow their empire. The VAR also gains from this partnership; their advantage is that they can ease into this business with top-notch expertise at a lower cost.

Although this seems to be a mutually beneficial relationship on paper, the value the telco agent brings in this arrangement always seems to be the one that comes out on top. Plain and simple, they have something to offer that the VARS don’t have. The benefit for the telco agent is the ability to extend their reach, and the benefit for the VAR is to gain knowledge that they don’t have today. If the telco agent doesn’t come riding in on a white horse to save the day, the VAR’s business model is doomed to fail. Basically, the VARs need the telco agents more than the telco agents need the VARs, or so the story goes.

The curious thing about this dynamic that seems to get overlooked is what the VAR can offer to the telco agent in the way of knowledge and expertise. The telco agent may have the network services aspect down to a science (they know MPLS, broadband, voice, etc.), but until recently, when have they ever needed to understand data center offerings such as storage and virtualization? Fittingly enough, the average VAR rep not only understands concepts such as these, but many of them happen to be experts at these offerings, albeit the on premises version.

So isn’t it safe to say that the average VAR holds knowledge that could benefit the average telco agent who is striving to become a cloud expert? The biggest hurdle for a VAR rep in making the transition to cloud is shifting their mindset from “the call manager sits on the client premises” to “the call manager sits in a data center” Nonetheless, they still understand the applications of a call manager. The average telco agent, on the other hand, hasn’t been blessed with that deep-down granular understanding because for many years, they didn’t have to know it to be successful. Master agents and carriers are swiftly trying to hire and offer dedicated cloud expertise to the telco agents, and many are struggling to do so effectively. The anomaly is that many telco partners have that conceptual expertise right in front of them with their VAR partner’s sales and technical personnel!

Perhaps the most successful VAR/agent partnerships of the future will encompass a model where not only do the VARs benefit from the telco agents’ knowledge base, but the telco agents benefit from the VARs’ knowledge base of all the solutions sets that inherently possess the same exact components as traditional VAR offerings, with the only difference being how they are consumed by the end user.