ScanSource Focuses On Multiple VAR Education Opportunities
(San Diego) — It's difficult to attract a channel audience to attend an industry event that requires long-distance travel. Taking three or four days out of your schedule has to be rewarded with significant information on a new technology or market opportunity, or provide networking opportunities that will increase your business. With this understanding, distributors must vigilantly review the value provided at each of their reseller events, offering a high level of technical and business content to VARs who attend. According to ScanSource executives, the partner demand for more business and technical education was behind the reformatting of its regional reseller events (i.e. Solution City, now known as IMPACT NOW).
I had the opportunity to attend the first IMPACT NOW event in San Diego (the next will be Nov. 13, 2007 in Orlando), including several sessions on business and marketing development for solutions providers. The new format includes the addition of more education tracks, access to high-level vendor channel executives, and vendor booths, as well as a vertical market solutions pavilion. "Research with VARs, vendors, and analysts showed that adding outside business consultants to the events would provide the largest benefit to resellers' business planning and operations," said Bobby McLain, VP of marketing for ScanSource.
The Solution City concept will continue, including a Web site (www.SolutionCity.com) dedicated to increase vertical market sales opportunities for VARs, including business plan development tools, technology demonstration videos, and case studies.
Increase Your Business Acumen
One of the biggest challenges for VARs is recruiting/retaining employees. According to the solutions providers I talked with at IMPACT NOW, sessions that addressed those challenges helped justify their travel to the event. For example, author and behavioral scientist Russ Riendeau discussed the downside of hiring sales professionals with an extensive track record in the industry. An experienced technology sales representative will typically require a higher salary and may not add as much incremental revenue as anticipated. VARs were surprised to hear Riendeau say that only about 10% of a sales representative's book of sales actually translates to the new employer.
Another challenge for solutions providers is maintaining a high level of customer service, which typically ensures a higher level of recurring and new sales (from referrals). In her breakout session, Jeanne Bliss, the former GM of worldwide customer and partner loyalty for Microsoft, provided tips on improving customer relationships and leveraging resources, such as distributors, to provide the most value to your clients. Bliss advised VARs to ensure that clients don't have to spend too much time getting a real person on the phone and make it as simple as possible to place orders (or submit complaints). Making customer service a top priority for every employee, from the support desk to the janitor, helps builds a culture that improves your chances of success.
Plan Your Business' Future
While increasing sales is the primary goal for most VARs, each business owner gets to the point where they wish to retire or move on to other projects. Michael Healey, president of TenCorp (a solutions provider that was acquired by another VAR, GreenPages), hosted a session at Impact Now on mergers and acquisitions. With hardware and software margins getting lower and business expenses continuing to rise, it can be to a reseller's advantage to investigate mergers that complement their own business. For example, if a POS (point of sale) VAR has a strong customer base but lacks the capital to expand solutions, combining businesses with a solutions provider that offers data collection or network technologies may help meet your objectives.