Don't Sell Short Your Market Specialization
Last month, Business Solutions (BSM) and ScanSource partnered to hold our first Smart VAR Healthcare Summit. The one-day event was designed to give VARs the unique perspective, IT needs, and decisionmaking process of healthcare providers. We pulled this off by involving Ken Congdon, BSM editor alumnus who’s now the editor in chief of Health IT Outcomes, a healthcare-focused website and magazine. Ken speaks with healthcare providers all the time and has great insight into their current needs. We also featured health IT expert and master systems architect Shahid Shah, who acts as an IT consultant to many hospitals. Breakouts by the event sponsors also added to the healthcare education. Finally, we had four IT decision makers participate in a panel discussion. During their time on stage, I asked them as many questions as I could think of that a VAR would want answers to. What’s the best way to contact them? What gets their attention? What are some of the things VARs do that drive them nuts?
The end result of the day’s education was a ton of very specific healthcare knowledge that VARs in attendance could immediate apply to their businesses. Recalling my days as a VAR, I would have paid top dollar for such intel.
At dinner after the event, the BSM and ScanSource teams had a chance to recount the day, and the conversation eventually wandered to the state of today’s VARs. More specifically, how difficult it is to be a VAR.
You guys have a hell of a job. Using healthcare as an example, the speakers at the event were pretty clear. You can start with your sales and marketing aimed at the CIO, but that person probably isn’t very in touch with the pain points of the different departments in the institution. Rather, for a VAR to be successful, you need to approach the right stakeholder (whom you probably don’t know) with a solution that has a tangible and clearly defined ROI. Some prefer email, some like phone calls, and some like social media. Good luck figuring which your prospect prefers. You need to be patient because your pitch might not align with their budget cycle and because there are typically many people within the organization who need to buy into the solution. You might have to wait months.
It sounds daunting; however, the payoff can be huge when you figure it all out. Healthcare, of course, is just one market. While it might be one of the more challenging, every market requires a level of competence and knowledge for a VAR to be really successful.
Because this marketing specialization is so valuable, I wonder why more VARs aren’t willing to broaden their technology portfolio to fully leverage their expertise. If I were a VAR who took the time to uncover the pain points of a market, I’d sell whatever technology I had to relieve those pains. So often, I hear a VAR refer to themselves as a “POS VAR” or “bar-coding VAR.” Those descriptions are too limiting. If that’s your mentality, you’re missing out on a lot of business that you probably can’t afford to lose. Gone are the days of having your vendor line define your company. “Hi, we’re a Micros dealer out of Tampa.” That won’t cut it. Own your market specialization, broaden your product and solution set, and maximize your sales potential. If you go through the trouble of really knowing your market, you deserve the rewards that go along with it.