AT&T employs technicians under its own brand for common installation and troubleshooting tasks. However, AT&T also maintains a list of approved vendors (also called suppliers) to sell AT&T products and provide a range of services to AT&T and its customers. Becoming an approved AT&T supplier or contractor can improve your revenue by increasing the number of calls you handle.
However, winning an AT&T contract can take a lot of time — years, in fact — and companies that align with AT&T's values and standards are more likely to be selected when opportunities open. Therefore, it's best to apply to the AT&T supply chain early and with a strategy in mind. Even if you have room for improvement, you can get AT&T PLE training and education, especially if you can add to AT&T's diversity. The AT&T PLE website offers a "personalized learning environment" for you to access resources at your convenience.
What Kind of Contractors or Suppliers?
AT&T is interested in working with local suppliers for over-the-counter products, wholesale suppliers for bulk orders and general contractors for installation projects. The kind of products and services that AT&T seeks runs the gamut, and if you think you have a product or skill that could be useful to a telecommunications company, it doesn't hurt to register your company as a supplier.
While AT&T does not heavily advertise the kind of services or suppliers they do seek, there is some information available about those with whom they don't typically work. AT&T aims to only work with independent contractors when there is no other efficient way to hire people with those skills. For example, AT&T prefers to work with agencies or brokers when seeking technical services such as programming, engineering and any temporary engagements.
In addition, AT&T recommends that companies or individuals who normally work as subcontractors should contact general contractors in order to seek telecommunications jobs. AT&T prefers to work directly with general contractors because they can handle the entire project and manage any subcontractors, ultimately streamlining processes and providing a single point of contact.
Although as a contractor you will not receive the same benefits that are offered to AT&T employees, like health insurance or retirement planning, your business can benefit from this partnership in other ways. Of course, being an AT&T supplier or contractor exposes you to more opportunities for earning income, which in itself is a major benefit. The training that you'll receive from AT&T will be useful for your business even if your AT&T contract eventually expires without renewal.
For example, AT&T wants its contractors to be as efficient as possible in terms of cost reduction, meeting delivery schedules and making other internal improvements. You do need to demonstrate a willingness to strive for this on your own, but AT&T will devote training tools and resources to help boost your efforts, especially if your business is minority-, woman-, veteran- or LGBTQIA-owned. This is the kind of game-changing helping hand that would otherwise come at a great cost, so it can really pay to partner with AT&T.
Because AT&T is one of the largest telecommunication companies in the world, not to mention one with particularly high standards of ethics and integrity, many businesses would consider it a point of pride or a badge of honor to have passed AT&T's contractor-approval process in order to represent the company. This can help increase your reputation and encourage other potential clients to contact you. After all, reaching AT&T's standards is no easy feat.
What Are the Qualifications/Requirements?
AT&T outlines its minimum requirements for prospective suppliers and contractors but notes that the exact qualifications vary depending on the type of service or product being procured. Among the minimum requirements or qualifications are financial stability determined through a credit check, full insurance coverage as appropriate for the industry or business, a federal taxpayer ID number, possessing a legal and marketable title for products sold by the company and being in business for at least one year with positive references from other customers.
Other minimum qualifications include meeting AT&T's high standards and expectations for providing quality products and services, adhering to delivery schedules and maintaining competitive prices.
Once a company has been contracted with AT&T, its performance is evaluated to determine if AT&T will continue to partner with it. Some of the factors considered before awarding ongoing work include AT&T's evaluation and rating according to the TL 9000 measurement scale, quality control practices, use of electronic data interchange, evidence of continual improvement and cost reduction.
How to Apply to Become an AT&T Contractor
Start by filling out a registration form online. This simply provides your business details to AT&T and expresses your interest in becoming an AT&T contractor or supplier. Filling out the registration form does not guarantee that AT&T will contact you, but it is a necessary first step.
AT&T's contracts can last for several years, so you might not be contacted until an opportunity opens in your area because a contract ended without being renewed. Go ahead and register online if you're interested in being considered as an AT&T contractor, but be patient. The next step is to simply wait for AT&T to reach out to you about the status of your application.
Once AT&T reviews and verifies your information and approves your initial application, you can expect detailed contractor training and onboarding. AT&T wants its customers to have a satisfactory experience across the board regardless of whether an AT&T employee or contractor performs the service or sells the product. Therefore, AT&T provides training and tools to not only help you improve your processes but to also reduce costs, improve diversity and more.
AT&T's Values, Ethics, Standards and Policies
For example, you'll need to understand and agree to AT&T's code of business conduct plus the suppliers' principles of conduct and AT&T's human rights in communications policy. In particular, AT&T places great importance on ethics and integrity and expects anyone who represents AT&T in any capacity to adhere to its standards. In addition, AT&T expects its suppliers to have strong sustainable business practices with emphasis on environment, health and safety policies. AT&T has such policies in place to ensure that it is not inadvertently supporting abusive, inhumane or unethical practices at any point in the supply chain.
Some of the particular issues or positions that AT&T wants its suppliers to understand, value and uphold include diversity (employing or working with women, minorities, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQIA+ community), human rights (no abuse or threats of violence, for example) and legal labor practices (not hiring underage employees or using involuntary labor and following all laws regarding wages, overtime, breaks, etc.).
AT&T also expects its representatives, suppliers and contractors to recognize all employees' freedom of association, to avoid the use of minerals obtained in conflict zones or that benefit armed groups and to follow a circular economy in terms of resource management and recycling.
AT&T Assists in Meeting Standards
If your company already upholds and actively demonstrates the values that AT&T champions, it may be more likely to fast track your application and reach out to you about opportunities. However, AT&T knows that sometimes companies don't meet these standards simply due to a lack of resources. Therefore, AT&T will also provide training and tools to help boost any areas that may be lacking. You simply need to be receptive to these changes and be willing to implement the training.
For example, AT&T will assist in improving your company's diversity to meet its own minimum standards, such as through its diversity "matchmaking" website for suppliers. Called the prime supplier program and now headquartered at the AT&T supplier diversity matchmaking portal, the program and website make it easier for suppliers and providers to connect with diverse businesses. Suppliers and providers looking to increase their diversity can connect with women-, minority-, veteran- and LGBTQIA-owned suppliers or providers. AT&T encourages prospective suppliers to register for the supplier diversity matchmaking portal at the same time that they register with the main supplier application portal.
In addition, AT&T has a three-tiered business development program to assist diverse businesses at different stages of growth with education and scholarships. For example, AT&T's business growth acceleration program is designed to mentor businesses in AT&T's supply chain that have diversity but need a little guidance in other areas of their business. The program actively nurtures and educates business leaders in improving their business practices, increasing efficiency, reducing costs and winning more corporate contracts. In short, if you're not confident that your company meets all of AT&T's standards yet but you're willing to put in the work to get there whether independently or as part of a training program, then you're actively encouraged to apply.
Other Recommendations for AT&T Supplier Applicants
AT&T has a few other recommendations for prospective supplier applicants. Because your application may be in the system for years before you're contacted about a possible AT&T contract, it's smart to update your application each year. This is especially important to do if you have made strides in aligning with AT&T's standards and values because the electronic applicant system likely highlights the best-matched companies for review. Don't just write for an electronic robot; make sure your value proposition is compelling for the human eyes that will also review your application.
In terms of diversity, if you qualify for a diversity certification in your state or region, AT&T encourages its suppliers to go ahead and get certified. Already having this certification could make your application stand out among hundreds of others. AT&T also recommends an old-fashioned meet and greet at any of their outreach events. Make a great first impression, practice your elevator pitch and don't forget your business cards in order to take full advantage of this opportunity.
Need a few more ideas about what AT&T looks for in its suppliers? Check out the winners of the AT&T Supplier Award to learn from companies that have already successfully partnered with AT&T.
Contacting AT&T With New Ideas
Finally, if you have an idea about how your company and AT&T can partner in a new way, whether you're developing a new technology in which AT&T might be interested, want to offer training services or have another concept you'd like to discuss, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the AT&T Foundry.
All other supplier, vendor or service inquiries should be handled by registering as a prospective supplier. Note that AT&T does not maintain a request for proposal list for bids.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.