CompTIA’s IT Industry Outlook 2016 cites intensifying competitive pressures from within and outside of the channel as driving vendors and solution providers to strive to reach “escape velocity” – what the organization deems as breaking free from legacy practices. Of particular interest is the fact that customers are better equipped to procure their own technology, yet many times their needs go beyond basic uses, requiring greater levels of expertise, specialization and alignment to business objectives. In order for solution providers to stay relevant, they’ll need to get closer to the customer and think outside the box when it comes to the way they recommend, supply and support technology across the board.
We’ve outlined five fresh strategies VARs can tap to boost sales, stay visible and gain market share with current and future customers.
1) Create Simple Solutions That Make Buying And Deploying Easy
It goes without saying that you should make your solutions and buying processes as easy as possible. Given the fact that many tech savvy customers are looking for simple out-of-the-box solutions, you risk losing business if you’re not as easy to deal with as the next guy. Just as important, your solutions should be easy to bundle and deploy. For example, in-a-box solutions by distributors have been popular for some time now. We’re seeing more ISVs create their own in-a-box solutions, and you should, too. Think about the components you generally sell together in a typical deal. Why not work with those vendors to package up and brand an in-a-box solution that bears your company’s name? Or even tap into the bundles that are already created by your key partners? They’re easy to deploy, easy to set up and ready right out of the box. You can keep those customers who may not need complex installation and support happy by offering them a simple, all-in-one alternative. And keep them loyal to you in the process.
2) Tap Into ISVs To Grow Your Funnel Exponentially
It’s a unique time in the industry, as more ISVs pop up seemingly overnight – with innovative solutions and smarts behind sexy technologies that drive sales. But they need VARs to make sales happen. While they have the solutions, VARs have the relationships. And that is a valuable commodity in today’s channel ecosystem. Many ISVs are smaller and scrappier, but while they don’t have the bandwidth, sales teams or channel relationships to fuel growth, many come to the table with a list of end-user customers ready to go. By utilizing various vendor network channels, you can tap into ISVs and utilize them as a customer sales engine in a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.
3) Become A Go-To Resource
Social media has been hyped to the point of overhyped. But when we recently met with a group of VARs we found a new angle on the subject. Rather than posting constantly to various social outlets about your company, what you should do is become a go-to source for access to information. Your social outlets become a place to network, since you’re creating a place to promote partner and vendor solutions. Those feeds will likely be seen and shared by the companies you post, boosting your visibility. By setting up an easy, free account like Feedly or Google Alerts to monitor industry news and information, you’ll have a constant flow of relevant news to post into your social feeds (without creating original posts). It’s useful information, rather than promotional, and your company becomes a trusted go-to resource for up-to-the-minute news rather than a self-promotional tool that customers find annoying and without substance.
4) Show, Don’t Tell
Videos are becoming a desirable and popular way for VARs to tell stories, without actually telling them. Showing a 90-second video of what a solution can do – especially as solutions are becoming more complex – allows customers to grasp the technology before you pick up the phone to make that sales call. Many of your vendors already have video content or will fund it for you if the idea is there. One VAR recently told us they sent their customer a link and called the customer to watch together. After watching the video, the customer was much more understanding and welcoming of the technology solution – because it was visual, and easy to understand by video demonstration. Our VARs are telling us to give them videos – and we’re listening. To flip the script, use your smart phone to take short testimonial videos or to showcase your next installation. These can be shared via social channels, and the various vendors can be tagged to help spread the word on an interesting or complex installation – or just a happy customer.
5) Get Out There
Industry organizations and channel events are great for face-to-face connections with vendors, ISVs and distributors, allowing you to grow your network and deepen your relationships. For example, Business Solutions’ Retail IT VAR Of The Future event in May, RSPA’s RetailNOW in July, CompTIA events and the various distributor conferences that bring the industry together. Vendors also have valuable conferences. Look for events that bring into focus what you’re trying to do with your business and the connections you’re looking to make, renew or strengthen.