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Putting the V in value

01 Jan 11

When it comes to securing your clients’ networks,
or  installation and support for  that matter, a wide variety of skills are required. Some of these skills can be taught. Almost all of the major networking and security vendors provide training opportunities including online tutorials and classroom learning with various certifications awarded at the conclusion. Other skills must be learned independently.
These skills entail understanding the business drivers behind the network, being able to classify the types of data and making decisions on where to store databases and rules for access, archiving and eventual deletion (the so-called data lifecycle) and, of course, the project management skills to be able to bring even basic tasks to closure on time and to budget.
Simply put, unless the reseller, channel partner or systems integrator has a large staff with highly skilled people in all of the various stages of system specification, installation and maintenance, and unless they have the time and money to keep their staff fully trained on all of the new technologies that come into the market (how many of your staff really understand metadata, deduplication or the latest hacks for Android phones?), then you may not necessarily be doing your customers any favours when you provide solutions outside of your bread and butter products and services.
Four choices
Channel partners have four choices when the customer wants something over and above the usual.
1. Read the instruction manual and follow the steps;
2. Invest heavily in staff training;
3. Pass on the opportunity;
4. Or outsource the work to the value-added distributor so that the installation is done optimally (an increasingly popular option).
Hoping for the best is simply not an option, especially if mission-critical systems are involved. If your client’s network goes down due to incorrect settings or faulty installation, you’ll lose that customer forever. Training is always the better option, but what if you have high  turnover or if the customer wants a solution that you don’t provide very often? Then training is an expensive luxury.
All too often you train your staff in an up-and-coming technology and then they get poached by another firm. Sometimes passing on a job makes the most economic sense, especially for smaller resellers, but why give your competition an entry pass into your client’s site?
The benefits of a value-added distributor
This leads us to involving the value-added distributor. There are any number of advantages to this option. First and foremost is the fact that the distributor has the expertise in their solutions. Most value-added distributors support a set of complementary solutions from a fixed set of vendors. They have very close relationships with the vendor’s support staff, typically on a first name basis and direct-dial, so that they can get any answers fast. The value-added distributor’s staff have all of the required certifications and hands-on experience in installation, configuring and maintenance, including repairs. Not only can they do the job right the first time, but they can usually do it very quickly.
Secondly, the value-added distributor has no desire whatsoever to steal your clients. They make money selling hardware and software. The professional services they provide are strictly a backup  to fill the gaps in the reseller’s offerings. In fact, most value-added distributors actively encourage the resellers to watch the installation very closely so that they can handle more of the job the next time. Sure, the distributor’s engineers are billable, but they are much more valuable when they are providing pre-sales consulting and backup advice to all of the resellers rather than going on-site for a couple of days. Smart distributors will never compete with their channel partners – that is a quick recipe for professional suicide.
And finally, these services carry a margin. Resellers can retain their revenue stream without having to make any major outlays of people, time or resources. In addition, they have the opportunity to sell advanced hardware and software that is more complex and potentially higher value, which further increases the sale value. Plus, because the installation is handled by experts, the client is quite satisfied with the level of service and enhanced capabilities.
Today’s networks and security requirements are much more complex than they were just a few years ago. There are new techniques, new protocols, more users and much more information. Some resellers are adopting a hybrid solution delivery model that encompasses selling commodities that are fast and easy to install. They sell solutions that they can specify, install and support with in-house resources, and they sell solutions and the professional services provided by the value-added distributor that extend their value to their customers. This hybrid model delivers service to the client and revenue for the reseller. And that’s a combination for success.

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