Telecoms and tech channel resellers in the US and other markets around the world are playing an increasingly important role.

Having started off as a combination of creators of bespoke solutions at the top end of the enterprise space, and as ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ for smaller business customers, the range of products and services they offer has expanded exponentially alongside the evolution of networks from point-to-point connectivity and bulk fixed and mobile minutes, into the incredibly complex and often bewildering range of tech-enabled services and applications in use today at the heart of all businesses.

US resellers

In terms of market influence, there are an estimated 1,800 resellers of significance in the US market, and they are thought to account for as much of 20% of the B2B market – although it is impossible to assess with certainty due to double-counting of revenues and complex supply chains, for example with master agents themselves targeting smaller resellers.

What has made the third-party channel so successful? Essentially, it is customer-centricity. This can be based on finding the most suitable product/service, the best price, assembling the best solution, providing the best customer service, or working as a virtual part of the customer’s tech team.

At the heart of it all, from complex multinationals and nationwide enterprises – such as using systems integrators and master agents, to the one-woman business in plumbing or professional services, is addressing and solving a customer’s business needs. This can be opening up new markets, making employees and the supply chain more productive, or cutting costs – whatever the company’s commercial goal may be.

Intimate sales strategies

Effectively, resellers’ intimate sales strategies are far better at using behavioural segmentation – even if they are not themselves aware that this is what they are doing. They have often by accident managed to create the dream ‘segment of one’ simply through their sales-led focus.

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There is a lesson here for all network service providers including the likes of AT&T, Charter/Spectrum, Comcast, Cox, Lumen, Verizon, and the rest (and also others around the world). To date, they have used third-party channels to market largely to address the ‘long tail’ of hard-to-reach customers, and those enterprises that refuse to do business with a telco ‘because they focus on their network, not my needs.’

Earlier channel conflicts between direct and indirect sales have been managed successfully , and should no longer be a substantial issue.

The strategic market shift is more significant. At a time when direct sales are coming under the cost efficiency microscope, indirect channels to market become more attractive, but this means ceding ‘customer ownership’ to a third party.

Evolve or bow to the resellers

To move the needle back in their favour, network service providers need to get smart. Using data and research to create behavioural clusters they can refine their direct go-to-market strategies by identifying groups of customers with the same needs, moving beyond simple employee numbers and zip codes, to understand the reasons customers might use their services.

Marketing can then provide better tools to sales to make the customer proposition more relevant. Even better, over time they can use AI (Artificial Intelligence) tools to analyse the huge amounts of customer data they have to identify customer clusters.

The choice is clear. Continue to cede control of the customer relationship to the growing reseller channel or get smart and refine your direct go-to-market strategies to retain customers for longer-term lifetime value and the chance to cross- and up-sell new services as they come along.