Sourcing new IT, telecom, and cloud solutions is a task every business leader must face as their organization grows. Market analysts expect small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to spend $1.45 trillion on IT in 2023,1 so there’s more pressure than ever to keep up with evolving technology. Unfortunately, navigating the crowded business technology marketplace can be challenging, especially for those lacking in-depth knowledge of providers and services. 

A survey conducted by CompTIA found that the average SMB spends between $10,000 and $49,000 per year on technology.2 With such a significant investment, it’s essential to make sure you’re finding the best IT, telecom, and cloud solutions to support your business growth.

Luckily, you don’t have to make technology decisions alone. In this blog, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of the two primary options for buying new business technology – going directly to a provider or working with a technology advisor – so you can better understand which choice is right for your next purchase.

Technology Advisors vs. Direct Sales Representatives: What’s the Difference?

Determining whether to work with an independent technology advisor or direct sales representative will ultimately come down to your business goals. But before we dive into their benefits, let’s define each term.

Direct sales representatives, sometimes called account executives or W2 sales reps, work exclusively for the provider, so they’re only trained to sell packages and services that their company offers. While they may claim to offer the best value, price, and promotions, they can’t provide impartial advice on which provider is best for your business.

In many cases, they make a sale and move on to the next account, so they don’t provide any ongoing account management or long-term support. For example, a direct sales rep employed by AT&T won’t help you shop around and compare service plans from other providers. They’ll sell you an expensive AT&T plan, often as part of a package deal to seem more appealing, then pass your account along to a customer support team who is unfamiliar with your company’s needs for the lifetime of your service.

Technology advisors, also known as indirect sales reps, channel sales reps, or authorized sales agents, act as intermediaries between your business and the provider. They are typically independent companies that work with several service providers – often hundreds – as authorized sales agents, so they can offer vendor-agnostic advice and create solutions customized to your unique needs. As industry experts, they stay on top of market trends and know the ins and outs of technology providers, so they can help you make informed decisions on which service is best for your business.

How is each of these positions compensated? That’s a great question. Direct sales representatives are W2 employees that work on traditional sales commission plans, which typically include a base salary and some kind of incentive to meet sales goals.

Like direct sales reps, technology advisors also get paid on commission – but not by you. They’re paid a commission by the providers they connect your business with, so they’re incentivized to offer best-fit solutions and keep you satisfied in the long term so they can continue earning your business. Since all providers pay similar commission rates, technology advisors can do the right thing for you as a customer and sit on your side of the table. 

In most cases, direct sales reps and technology advisors both have access to the same pricing and promotions – so neither has an advantage there. While it can be easy to assume cutting out the go-between and working directly with a provider is better, direct sales reps often don’t prioritize their clients’ best interests. They’re under extreme sales quota pressure and often don’t stick around for more than 12 to 24 months at a company. That’s why many business leaders turn to experienced technology advisors for guidance when searching for new technology solutions.

Pros and Cons of Buying Directly From a Provider

If you’re satisfied with your current provider’s service, have an experienced and attentive account manager, and absolutely don’t want to consider alternatives, working with a direct sales rep might be the best path. You’re likely already familiar with the provider and its team members, so you can go straight to the source without having to shop around.

However, if you’re curious or not 100% happy with your current situation, you should consider exploring your options. In a case where you’re looking for a one-off or short-term purchase, or you have the time and resources to research and compare offers from various providers, working directly with a sales representative could still be a viable option.

Direct Sales Rep: Pros

  • May know their company’s services, capabilities, and pricing really well
  • Can move the sales process along quickly if you’re ready
  • Avoid the thorough requirements definition process that a technology advisor may recommend
  • Good for short-term needs or continuing an existing provider relationship

Direct Sales Rep: Cons

  • Limited view of competitive services and capabilities in the marketplace
  • Once a sale is made, the rep often moves on quickly and is not attentive to your needs
  • Limited account advocacy and escalation efforts
  • High turnover rate, so sales reps are often new and lack extensive training

Pros and Cons of Working With a Technology Advisor

Technology advisors are independent consultants who help with every step of the technology purchase process. They’ll assess your needs, find providers that meet them, negotiate the best prices on your behalf, and help you manage implementation once you’ve made a decision. By leveraging their industry knowledge and longstanding relationships with providers, technology advisors often deliver better results than you might be able to achieve on your own.

Technology advisors also offer their services at no cost to your business. They work for you, not the providers, so they’re not incentivized to upsell you additional services or unnecessary features. Their ultimate goal is to help you save time and money while finding the best solutions to meet your long-term business goals. 

Technology Advisor: Pros

  • Offers vendor-agnostic advice and technology guidance
  • Access to more competitive pricing options and promotions
  • Can leverage provider relationships to deliver customized solutions
  • Saves time on obtaining quotes, demos, and offers
  • Can help you avoid contractual “gotchas” with their industry expertise
  • Stays up-to-date on industry trends to help you plan for the long-term
  • Continues to support you post-sales with ongoing advocacy and escalations

Technology Advisor: Cons

  • Some technology advisors lack experience, extensive provider relationships, and industry knowledge
  • Paid based on commission from providers, so less ethical agents may be biased

Make the Best Technology Decisions for Your Business With OnDemand

In most cases, working with a reputable technology advisor to source and implement new technology solutions provides more benefits to business leaders. As independent consultants, they can help you save time, get lower prices, and plan for the future – all at no cost to you.

OnDemand helps businesses find the best providers and services needed to meet the demands of today’s hybrid workforces. With over 600 customers and 1000+ transactions under our belt, we have proven experience matching customers with best-fit IT, telecom, and cloud solutions. You can trust our knowledgeable experts to sit on your side of the table and do what’s right for your business. 

Interested in learning how OnDemand can help you find the right solutions to meet your unique needs? Reach out today for a consultation.