Don't Let Laptops Be A Commodity Sale
An MSP (managed services provider) touts the value-added services it can provide and lands a $350,000 laptop deployment for a manufacturer.If you’re like most VARs, you have a small number of marquee customers you’ve had for years that provide the ongoing capital you use to grow on a yearly basis — customers you fight to retain. Dave Cunningham, president and CEO of Dempsey Bluevar, has a story about fighting to keep a good customer. The MSP recently had one of its marquee customers, an electronics manufacturer that spends more than $1 million a year with Dempsey Bluevar, being aggressively pursued by some of the MSP’s competition.
Business Solutions, October 2009
Business Solutions, October 2009
Written by: Mike Monocello
The manufacturer, who has a field service and sales team that works across the United States, was in need of new laptops. Five years prior, Dempsey Bluevar sold the manufacturer IBM ThinkPad laptops. According to Cunningham, the customer had a new management team tasked with making the organization leaner. Therefore, the management team was reexamining all vendor relationships to ensure the company was getting all the value they could from its IT expenses. Unfortunately for the MSP, the choice of laptops was no exception.
In fact, the management team had their own opinions on what the best choice of laptops was, and it wasn’t what Dempsey Bluevar was pitching — the Lenovo ThinkPad.
While the management team was looking at all laptop alternatives, Cunningham says the customer couldn’t ignore the fact that the original ThinkPads lasted as long as they did. However, the question was posed: The originals were IBM (who sold its PC division to Lenovo in 2005); will the Lenovo ThinkPad have the same type of resiliency?
To address the immediate concerns of the customer, Cunningham reached out to a combination of sources to gather proof of the quality of the Lenovo ThinkPad. First, the MSP gathered failure rate data from Lenovo. Cunningham also collected third-party studies and evaluations on the Lenovo ThinkPad. Presenting the failure rate data was enough to assure the customer that the Lenovo product would perform as well as its previous IBM version. However, the MSP still stood to lose its customer.
Beat The Competition With Your Value-Added Services
“This is a very important customer relationship for me,” says Cunningham. “I was afraid that if they switched laptop manufacturers, they wouldn’t do as much business with me in the future. Therefore, we invested a lot more in the sale process than you’d typically invest in a 200-unit rollout.” As part of its sales process, the MSP began detailing for the customer all the points of differentiation between the MSP’s product and services and those of its competition (mostly laptop manufacturers selling direct). “We began by listing the services we could offer the customer that a manufacturer would have a difficult time doing,” he says.
For instance, the MSP was willing to personalize and individually drop-ship the laptops to each end user. More than 1 GB of unique data, along with the correct network configurations, had to be loaded onto each laptop.
Additionally, the MSP created recovery discs for each end user. Lenovo has a technology called Rescue and Recovery. Once a laptop is configured and personalized with a user’s mail configuration, network settings, and other customizations, the MSP can back up all the information to DVD. So, if an end user has to recover from a failure, they don’t just recover to a barely functional laptop, they recover to a laptop built for them. The end result is about 30 minutes of downtime as opposed to sending the unit back to corporate for reimaging.
Cunningham goes on to explain that one of the biggest reasons his company ultimately wound up winning the business was his ability to lower the cost of the solution. Don’t misunderstand, the MSP’s solution was more expensive, but Cunningham worked with IBM Global Finance to secure a lease for the customer that lowered the cost and leveled the field.
Another important factor in the win was leveraging the ThinkPad name. As earlier stated, the customer was unsure of the Lenovo name. “One thing we stress in all our literature is the ThinkPad brand,” says Cunningham. “There is a lot of brand equity for ThinkPad. Now our competition isn’t up against an unknown name; now they’re competing with a ThinkPad.”
In the end, after 24 bid revisions over two months where Cunningham repeatedly countered the competition, Dempsey Bluevar won the business and retained its customer. The total cost of the solution was $350,000. As every VAR knows, there’s always some rate of failures that comes with a deployment. Because the MSP prepped each laptop and created recovery discs, the units were fully vetted. “We had zero DOAs and no problems requiring the Lenovo warranty. In fact, more than six months later, no laptops have failed and none have required the recovery discs.”