SMB Customers Rely On VARs To Enable Their Success
This is Business Solutions’ first official guide focused on strategies for selling to SMB customers, but it doesn’t mean we’re unfamiliar with that segment of business. Each month our editors write channel success articles detailing solutions designed for customers from small convenience stores to large, national insurance companies. Since a majority of companies fit into the SMB category, most of our articles focus on VARs solving the needs of those customers, even if that specific client designation isn’t used.
While the definition of SMB may vary by vendor and industry, there’s no doubt that the importance of technology in the day-to-day operation of these businesses increases each year. At the same time, the role of solution providers continues to grow with smaller customers, and their needs increase every year with the complexity of technology solutions. The increased number of regulatory compliance issues and lack of IT resources to assess solutions highlight the value that solution providers can offer SMB customers. VARs are simply the best IT partners for small businesses that need to meet government regulations and implement solutions that will keep them competitive.
But how do you quantify the value of VARs to their SMB customers? A recent channel benchmark study by CompTIA (a global IT trade association) provides some great information on the VAR and SMB end user relationship and the benefits solution providers provide to this market segment. In this survey of nearly 700 IT decision makers in organizations with less than 1,000 employees, solution providers received an overall customer satisfaction rating of 8.1 (on a 10-point scale). Nearly 70% of the SMB companies gave VARs a rating of 8.0 or higher for service satisfaction as well as overall customer satisfaction.
Small businesses evaluating the purchase of new IT systems ranked customer service and on-site repair as essential needs, which are great places for channel partners to differentiate themselves from direct sales competition. “VARs are capable of providing tremendous value to SMBs, providing them with everything from counseling and implementation services to help desk support for keeping them operational 24/7,” said John Venator, president and CEO of CompTIA. Hiring, training, and retaining qualified technical support employees is not easy for small businesses, and a capable solution provider that can alleviate end users of these headaches is extremely valuable.
Take Advantage Of Trends In SMB IT Spending
The CompTIA survey indicated SMB customers would invest more of their budgets next year in network security and wireless network products, followed by data storage and IT education/training for their employees. That means solution providers can differentiate themselves and grow sales by providing consulting services for security and wireless technologies. Consider adding (and billing for) training for new technologies or existing technologies. If you can help SMB customers get more value out of their existing and future IT systems, you’re sure to increase your value with those clients.
A managed service offering, from remote monitoring and hosted solutions to full-blown applications, is another trend for VARs looking to reach more SMB customers. Developing this delivery model now could give you an advantage over direct sales vendors. “Because of their size, small customers are not always properly serviced by individual vendors, but VARs are uniquely capable of delivering and supporting a variety of manufacturers’ software and hardware offerings,” added Venator. “The ability for solution providers to tailor these applications to meet the needs of each customer provides additional value.”
If current trends continue, VARs are positioned to earn a majority of SMB dollars with the right solutions and support. With an eye on continued high customer satisfaction, the sky is the limit for the well-prepared solution providers.