If you were in telecom a decade ago, you'll remember when it seemed like every telecom Provider that played in the Channel was talking about their need to have a portal to provide quotes and information to agents. Channel Managers insisted that Marketing needed to provide a portal if they were going to have any chance at attracting and retaining agents. Sales leaders championed portals as the holy grail of lead generation. Agents, well Agents, they just wanted the information they needed without having to call a bunch of people or wait on anyone.
So our industry built portals. Lots of them. Nowadays, when I speak with agents in the Channel it never ceases to amaze me with the number of logins they have to a myriad of portals and yet only a few that regularly get used. Then again, I guess I'm not amazed at all. "Having a Portal," isn't a strategy and it never was - even though it was often treated like one. The simple fact is, whether the sales effort is selling face to face or through automated means, the constant that has unyieldingly remained is the necessity to meet your customers where they are. (In this case I use customers in referring to the agents since the Providers most successful Channel Chiefs will tell you thats exactly how they should be embraced.) A Portal all by itself is like sitting by the phone just waiting for it to ring. Having a portal strategy is a component of an overall distribution strategy, and its an absolute must.
At MasterStream, we automate over 15 Million telecom quotes every month, so it's fair to say we're pretty familiar with portals. When we consult with clients about their portals, uncovering and revisiting the strategy behind what they were trying to accomplish is one of the first steps. Sometimes we replace a portal, other times we empower the existing portal with our QaaS telecom quote automation. The latter is becoming more prevalent with Providers that have adopted and invested in industry-generic CPQ systems that fall short of meeting the needs specific to telecom. Perhaps the most rewarding scenario for me, simply because it usually seems to blow folks minds with the expanse of whats possible, is when they're surprised to discover that their strategy ends up with the realization that more than one portal is the best means to reach their desired end state. Sounds odd, I know. The idea of streamlining is usually associated with pulling everything into one place, one process. If the goal however, is to reach customers where they are, then dictating that they meet you on your terms, at a location of your choosing, in the manner you have selected for them just doesn't work. We see how that has played out in channel programs everyday. It's like asking them to find you through a door in the middle of nowhere.
The great thing about technology is that the streamlining that you were looking for, and yes it's an important part of the scaling of business, can still be created on the back-end while those doorways, the portals, can be placed where the customers are. MasterStream, to use an example admittedly close to home, manages the largest connected eco-system of Agents in the telecom industry. We have two distinct communities into which Agents or Wholesale Providers can be extended in order to gain visibility and connect to those looking to connect to them. It brings your door, to their doorstep. Clients with existing APIs or Portals of their own find that its not an either our portal or their portal choice, but rather how do we get more complete market coverage and serve agents from within the environments they reside, with the tools they need.
The results we see through this approach have proven the importance of keeping the real business goals as the primary goal. Armed with a smart strategy focused on primary objectives, portals serve to help execute the goals, but lets keep them separate from the goal itself.