Master Agent TBI: Finding More Value, And Opportunity, In Your Suppliers

'The Future Is Now'

Master agent Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI) is kicking off its BIG event this week in its hometown of Chicago. The two-day educational event for partners will focus on opportunities around SD-WAN, cloud, and international solutions. The master agent also wants to show partners that considering a supplier beyond what they may be known for will open the door for more selling opportunities down the road.

Jeff Newton, vice president of enterprise sales and engineering for TBI sat down with CRN to talk about the suppliers that will be in attendance, industry trends that are shaping the telecom space, and the solutions that partners should be betting on today.

Here's a glimpse of what solution providers can expect from the BIG Event.

What is the theme of this year's Big Event?

We're trying to push some different thoughts out there to our agents and their approach to selling, and we're really trying to not fit these companies into the category that some of our partners lump them into. We are looking to open doors and plant seeds for some of our selling partners to consider companies that they might not have considered.

For example, at the event, we'll say; "Here is carrier X and you've seen them as a UCaaS provider in the past, but here is how they are relevant beyond just the UCaaS category. You can look to them for CRM, and here is how they are breaking down walls and being successful with their customer implementations." We are looking for different types of selling options [for our partners] and helping them to look at vendors in a new way.

How will looking at suppliers in a new way open up new selling opportunities for partners?

At the event, we will promote carriers that our agents know of, but we are giving them different ways to consider them as opposed to just wheeling out a UCaaS panel and giving agents five companies that are doing the same thing. We want to really drill into our agent partners' mindset: "Bring in the carriers that are supposed to meet one need, but who can also help solve problems for the customers from several fronts down the line." This way, it's not a new selling cycle, it's not another introduction, and it's not a whole new discovery process the next time your customer is looking to upgrade their technology or make a change.

What are the big trends that solution providers should be paying attention to right now?

We are going to have a few panels on the big areas of focus right now, one on cloud, SD-WAN, and international.

For SD-WAN, we are looking to highlight not just four over-the-top SD-WAN providers. We are looking at a mixture of SD-WAN-agnostic providers or bundled network and SD-WAN providers so our agents can see what is relevant to them, and what the other considerations are they might have to make. [For example,] if a customer has a hybrid network, the agent can partner them with an SD-WAN [provider] that can help them with their global network needs and with their WAN needs domestically. On the panel will be Expereo , MetTel , Aryaka [and] CloudGenix, so we have a very good mixture there that gives our agents a good breadth of options in the SD-WAN space. We are purposely leaving out the big carriers – we are keeping that for our channel chief panel – because we are looking to highlight very dynamic companies that all have distinct differences from one another.

What is TBI doing to educate agents who want to learn more about SD-WAN?

We have a very big focus within TBI University on SD-WAN, and from the selling side, we have a very carrier-agnostic approach. We go into what SD-WAN is and what the difference is between and Layer 3 and Layer 7 SD-WAN, so whether you are looking for network failover or true application awareness routing, we dive in pretty deep. So, we have everything from the "101" level to much more granular info.

We start off carrier-agnostic on the teaching side, but then we get into the subtle differences between the providers, the differences in how you position carrier X and carrier Y, and why they both are different from carrier Z. We have spent a lot of time on our SD-WAN toolkit that is a pretty comprehensive guide to who's who in the ecosystem, and how you engage partners in the SD-WAN conversation. We give partners the tools they need to be able to get down into the nitty-gritty and dissect who would be good for their customers.

How will the cloud panel expose partners to new business opportunities?

On the cloud panel, we have Evolve IP, Rackspace, CallTower, and Level 3. We are looking to hit a lot of needs with this panel. When we look at CallTower, for example, they can service giant platforms. Rackspace has a tremendous offering for managed AWS, so we have the big guys covered. Then, Evolve IP has managed helpdesk and managed IT services, so the goal here is to showcase how you can address your customer's cloud needs though some of the providers.

You might look at Rackspace and think of them for public cloud, but they have one of the largest AWS practices. With a white glove approach, they can take your customer and migrate them into the cloud, or move workloads – they can handle everything for the most elite customers. With Evolve IP, some partners don’t even know they have a UCaaS and call center platform. It's not a leading product for them, but as customers evolve and look to partners that can handle meet their needs, a provider like Evolve can really cover a lot of ground, and they are very channel-friendly and nimble.

Who are the international vendors you've chosen for the panel and why should partners consider them?

We have representations from the giant providers on the panel [like] NTT, an international giant with a strong hold on large markets in the global space. Then we have one-offs, like 8x8, which is a UCaaS provider but has one of the largest international reaches of all the pure-play UCaaS players out there [the three other panelists include MegaPort, TATA Communications, and Telstra.]

These providers can speak to our agent base in a way that will open up doors for international network conversations that might not have otherwise been there. Like how you can use 8x8 to turn your business into a global business at a fraction of the cost of a big provider. I think it's important to showcase smaller providers that have a powerful international reach.

Can you describe TBI's relationship with the large, incumbent carriers that are going big with channel partners today?

For our keynote, we have a channel chief panel featuring the four largest carriers in the business space – AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and CenturyLink. Even through change, transition and consolidation in this industry, we are confident that these carriers are still going to [remain] the thought leaders.

TBI has organically grown through direct agreements with these top carriers. We didn’t have to acquire any companies to get a direct agreement. We have the back office, the infrastructure and the support to partner with these carriers direct. We are using this panel to … bring the top thought leaders in the channel to our agent community. [TBI] has been working with the [carriers] from the inception of all their channels and stuck with them through the highs and lows, like when the channel has been defocused. We pride ourselves on the relationships we established with the big four.