One influential group is calling on the channel to come together to rename master agents.
The Xposure Inclusion and Diversity Council is drafting an open letter addressed specifically to the brokerage and sourcing firms we have come to know as master agents. The letter will call upon these companies to refer to themselves as “technology services distributors” immediately.
The channel has been buzzing about nomenclature for months now. Internal conversations at some of the industry’s largest vendors and service distributors (more on that later) bubbled over into a public discussion on the Channel Futures website. Does the term “master agent” carry racially insensitive undertones? Does it inadequately describe the relationships between direct selling agents and the intermediary organizations that hold their supplier contracts and offer sales enablement? Does it fail to represent our industry well to the outside world?
Not everyone marks “yes” on all three questions, but consensus has emerged that many members of the channel no longer feel comfortable with the term. Agents, suppliers and especially the “master agents” themselves have expressed reservations.
“It’s an old, antiquated terminology that doesn’t fit anymore,” said Kelli McMillan, Five9 national partner manager and Xposure founder and CEO.
“The time to end the master/sub titles was 20 years ago,” Eclipse Telecom CEO Dave Dyson wrote. “Each day that goes by where we still use these terms is one too many.”
“I’m never going to use the term,” Intelisys president John DeLozier said last month.
Fast forward to September, and nothing has changed. The conversation has gone silent. Brandon Knight, who co-founded Xposure and also leads Telarus‘ contact center practice, said he thought the article series that ran in June would have put the final nail in the coffin.
“We got to this point of, ‘What would we call ourselves?’ and it’s almost like that was too hard of a decision. It was so difficult to end up with a consensus on the name that everyone just dropped it. No one’s even talking about it anymore,” Knight told Channel Futures.
Telarus’ Brandon Knight
One can also attribute the delay to the question of responsibility. The services distributors may point to the suppliers while the suppliers point to the service distributors as the group that needs to lead the renaming effort. But Knight said many channel partners are coming to the conclusion that the services distributors (“master agents”) need to be the ones leading the charge. For example, he said one supplier recently reached out to Telarus saying it would support whatever descriptor Telarus chose.
“I think we want a collaborative effort,” Knight said. “But the suppliers and the agents are saying, ‘But you guys are the ones that are called master agents. So we shouldn’t change your name; you should change your name.’”
Fortunately, Xposure’s board and committee members run the gamut of various channel backgrounds.
“We’re not all master agents. We’re not all agents. And we’re not all suppliers. We actually have people in leadership positions throughout the whole ecosystem. And I almost think it made it easier for us,” he said.
Knight said he and many peers spent years in the channel without seeing much of problem with “master agent.” Perhaps they felt slight discomfort, but they didn’t see a need to publicly push for a change. But his mind changed earlier this year after a striking conversation.
Knight sat next to an elderly Black woman on a flight. They engaged in a friendly conversation in which he mentioned …
Lot of fuss over this but what’s wrong with BROKER? It is mainly what they do. There is a significant difference between what a master agency does and what a VAD does. A distributor holds product! A distro handles logistics and bills the Partner. The partner bills the customer. No one stands in the middle of the money. In a broker situation, as in real estate or insurance, one entity holds the contracts and pays out the commission. That entity is the BROKER. The sales agent or real estate agent or insurance agent do the selling of services to the end user and the vendor bills the customer, then pays the BROKER, who then pays the commission split. That is the accurate depiction of what happens. You can add bells and whistles and tech widgets but ultimately partners leverage contracts and commission collection from the companies formerly called master agencies, now looking to be called something fancy that will likely be inaccurate marketing buzz-speak. https://channelplaybook.com/telecom/whats-the-distro-difference/
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