Posted by: peterhact | April 2, 2010

The world of the reseller – changing, shifting, like a desert…

I come from a reseller background. I have worked for many different companies and have learnt much from the different managers, co-workers, company philosophies and the end users that i have looked after. I have worked for small companies, medium companies and multi nationals and global companies.

The reseller community is like a desert. It is. the desert is an inhospitable place, where, without water, you just don’t survive. So is the ICT industry. If you cannot eke out an existence by retaining old clients and attracting new ones, your company funds dry up, and you go out of business. Granted, the period of time is often longer than it takes for someone to die in a desert, but they are both inhospitable places if you don’t look after the most important commodity in each environment.

How do you survive in the ICT Industry today? There are some key ways to survive, fundamentals that no-one thinks of, or takes for granted.

The Survival guide

Survival Strategy #1: Innovation and Rapport – you are a new business, competing with many other resellers. what is the reason the client will buy from you? what makes you attractive to them? You are innovative. you ask the client what they are looking for, you explain the proposal to them, you take the time to learn about the company goals, the company owners, the staff and each person’s take on what is the real need for the company. And, because you are genuine, and care about the information, you become “their” ICT person. One of the staff, one of the family.

Survival Strategy #2: The Golden Rule – it isn’t “he who makes the gold, makes the rules” It is, however, a fundamental of most belief systems, “Do unto others as you want done unto you.” If you go to a company to buy a product, you want to be served quickly, honestly, and get the best value for money. You don’t want to feel that you have been lied to for the sale, and the product or service you buy isn’t actually what your needs are met by. You want to be happy about the decision, see the benefits, and know that it will be an asset for your company or home. Why should your client be any different? I can remember trying to buy a TV, many years ago. my needs were pretty simple, I wanted one with a remote, didn’t care about teletext, stereo or any extras, but the salesperson really didn’t pay attention. I was being steered past small screens to a whopper of a screen, the price was around $2000. I wasn’t convinced and asked to see a smaller, cheaper model, at which point he decided I was a “problem client” and passed me onto another junior salesman, who actually listened. He got my business for the 51cm Sony TV, he got my business for the new stereo I was shopping for at the same time, the games console, several games and, after I got his card, he got all of my mates’ business too.

End users are just the same as us, in some cases, they are us. Treat them as you expect to be treated. They will recognize good service when they see it, and you may end up with a loyal client for the rest of your time at that company.

Survival strategy #3: The Good Old Days are Gone – The world of the reseller has seen some massive changes. In the early days, when technology was bright and shiny and new, we could expect to make a profit on the equipment we sold. We were all cutting edge, innovative and the technology was wondrous and highly complex. We were all skilled in the products we sold, and that wasn’t hard, there was only a few vendors in the market, and they needed us, not the other way around. Those days are gone. Buried. Products are no longer the way to win, they are a key to the puzzle, but they won’t make you rich. The new ICT Environment is based on Solutions. There are two components that stand out for solution sales, everyone knows them, but what else should you consider?

Solutions are made up of the following:

a) Products – well, you need them to be a part of the solution, just not in the highest regard we had for them in the past.

b) Services – Services aren’t the repair / break/fix that they once were. now they are complex components that need specialist practitioners to implement them for a reseller. The services portfolio of a reseller can include Project Management, Consulting, Advisory services, Fulfillment, Warehousing, Asseting, Configuration, Web development, User Experience mapping and implementation, COTS software adaptation, Specialist Software design, Social media implementation, Product evaluation and Infrastructure supply. And there are certainly other services, but I don’t hear about them, so I don’t list them.

c) Planning – a part of Project management, but also a method to ensure that the client’s employees aren’t disadvantaged by unnecessary down-times, if the server needs an upgrade, can you do it after hours?

d) Consultation with the client for needs analysis – If you don’t know what the client wants, how can you develop a solution in the first place?

Survival Strategy #4: Your best friend is the Vendor, they aren’t your worst enemy… – The vendor was, in those good old days, either an ally or a competitor. Nowadays, most vendors are channel focused. So who do they need to be their best friend? The reseller. And not just one, but as many as they can get. So how do you get a big slice of their business? you could just sell their product, and do your own thing, or, and this is revolutionary, I know, you could engage with them. bringing a vendor in to help you out with the solution, adds weight in the client’s eyes, the vendor appears to be behind you 100%, and the client will note this. You can also contact the vendor on a regular basis – not every day, that becomes very annoying, but at least once a month or fortnight or a week. up to you and the vendor to work out the frequency.

Survival Strategy #5: Diversify!! – Many resellers decide to focus on a core product, one vendor, and they won’t deviate from that brand, even when they have to walk away from the client as the product cannot fit their needs…. Core focus is a good thing, but walking away from business is just dumb. If you have the resources to devote to many brands without losing your focus on the business, do it. Solutions are never based on one brand, they are built using many. Diversification in brands and products also leads to the most important weapon in your arsenal against other resellers, Innovation.

The sands of change are blowing in from the desert of the ICT Industry, be rigid, you will be swallowed up, and never seen again. Be flexible, and you can withstand whatever is thrown at you. There is on thing I did not mention at all – it is not a strategy – it is a detractor from all of your hard work establishing yourself in the market. It is a trap that many resellers fall into, and they never seem to get out of. What do you avoid at all “costs”??

Buying Business – Buying business is dropping your price to win, sacrificing your technical staff for the sale, setting expectations that are unreasonable, not considering that once you sell low, you will never, ever be able to sell high. Ever. Many resellers that i have worked for never focused on the price. The price was what the client would pay for the wonderful solution that they and you have created, through consultation, and a lot of time spent together. Price is there so you can be in business. It is not there for you to drop and make nothing on all of the hard work you have done. Forget price. Sell the solution, and if it is good enough, price will be accepted with little trouble.

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Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Peter Holland. Peter Holland said: ahhh. finished latest blog post. need coffee. http://bit.ly/doyrVT […]


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