Why You Should Consider Adding Wireless Carrier Services
If your clients are using mobile devices to connect to a wide area network, your distributor may be able to help you increase profits by adding wireless carrier services.
Who isn't selling mobile solutions these days? And what comprises a "solution?" Is a handheld computer that uses a batch connection considered a mobile solution?
No matter what your definition of a mobile solution, it is likely you don't want to miss any opportunity to sell clients everything they need to start using their mobile hardware. However, that's not as easy as it sounds. Some VARs don't have the software design expertise or middleware know-how to make mobile computing hardware actually work. Sometimes that means partnering with another VAR, which can complicate a sale and make you nervous about losing that customer in the future.
In the past few years, distributors have become a form of silent partner for the channel, providing all sorts of value-added services that help VARs live up to that total solution provider moniker. One of those new services is to provide wireless airtime (for both voice and data) plans from carriers such as Sprint, T-Mobile, Cingular, and AT&T.
Earn Commissions From Airtime Plans
The first - and most important - thing to understand about wireless carrier services is how you can make money. "Most carriers provide a commission for each new subscriber attached to their network," explains Joe Serra, VP of product marketing at Tech Data Corp. (Clearwater, FL). "When applied to a specific mobile deal, those commission dollars can significantly enhance the overall profit margin for a VAR. Carrier services also enable VARs to increase the quantity of services they provide to customers."
According to Sally Stanton, VP category management for Ingram Micro (Santa Ana, CA), carrier services' margins are good, averaging in the low to middle double digits. "VARs can also capitalize on the total sale of mobility products [e.g. notebooks, personal digital assistants, tablet PCs, cell phones]," she adds. "If they can prove productivity increases, they should be able to sell it."
Use Distributors To Simplify Carrier Services
Why would a VAR want to contract with a distributor for reselling airtime plans instead of just directly contacting a carrier? Simply put - because it's a hassle to do it yourself. Think about all of the different coverage plans, terms, options, and accompanying paperwork associated with your own cell phone account. Now, multiply that by the number of airtime accounts an enterprise customer will need to mobilize its field force. Do you really want to take on that headache?
Serra says even with a distributor, VARs still need to understand monthly service rate plans, the technical capabilities of the mobile solutions that use the wireless service, and the service activation process. However, distributors can provide VARs with additional services such as credit, technical support, and product configuration that are not provided by airtime carriers. "The channel is quickly realizing distributors can offer a one-stop shopping experience for these services," states Serra. "The smoother the initial start-up is for the end user, the more likely they will stick with it and increase their usage."
Stanton agrees that the wireless carrier market has a complex business model. "By taking the complexity out of the sale and acting as the voice of the VAR to the carrier, we are opening a new revenue stream for VARs and a more efficient means of doing business with their customers," she says. "In many cases, working directly with the carrier is not an option for VARs."
Offer Increased Productivity Via Wireless Access
The carrier plans sold by VARs are almost exclusively used for transmitting data (e.g. e-mail and corporate databases) rather than voice. As such, enterprise companies in verticals such as healthcare, insurance, and legal are seeking airtime plans to increase the productivity of their mobile workers. After all, if an employee is sitting in an airport, accessing e-mail is more productive than reading a newspaper.
If you want your mobile solution to truly be a solution, you should consider adding wireless carrier services. Check with your distributor. You may be able to increase your profits sooner than you think.