By Mike Monocello, Business Solutions magazine.
According to experts, your success in the field service vertical hinges on a few key factors.
According to a 2012 Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) survey of its members, approved budgets for services-based technologies in 2012 and 2013 have increased by double digits. As the TSIA membership provides a solid barometer for companies of all sizes with field service operations, those VARs catering to the field service vertical should find their customers interested in new technology this year. That said, being successful in this market isn’t simply a matter of pitching your customers the latest tech. Indeed, there are a few things that can cause you to minimally struggle and at most fail in this market.
“The field service vertical encompasses so many different submarkets that many folks have started to characterize it more as a horizontal market,” says Dave Crist, senior VP of sales and marketing for Brother Mobile Solutions. “The key mistake we’ve seen made by our channel partners is the tendency to generalize. As an example, the underlying business processes for commercial HVAC field service are very different from consumer/ residential HVAC field service. The former works behind the scenes, works to deliberate schedules, and are driven by SLAs [service level agreements]; the latter is much more customer- interactive, volatile in its scheduling, and transaction-sensitive.” Crist encourages any firm looking at a new field service opportunity to do their homework, align with the prospect’s key business drivers (there are usually only a few, he says), and generate balanced proposals that give the customer the right mix of quick-win and longer-term benefits.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
“One of the most common mistakes made in the channel and software/hardware vendor ecosystem involves large deals increasingly being won based on price,” says Adnon Dow, VP of global mobility solutions, SYNNEX Corp. “VARs and vendors are losing sight of differentiation based on an end-to-end solutions delivery model.” In essence, Dow believes, differentiation is becoming increasingly difficult and has created significant opportunity for those selling field service/sales automation mobile-oriented solutions that complement existing platforms.
He continues by saying that the demand for capabilities such as device, app, and content management is largely driven by continued proliferation and use of app-centric mobile devices such as smartphone and tablets. This is encroaching on the traditional field service and sales automation sectors. “We see vendors [and the channel in general] challenged to differentiate themselves to win business moving forward, as market leaders have begun to offer both on-premise and cloud-based solutions. This mitigates the device and, in some instances, the software itself. Today, we see most VARs and vendors continuing to drive point products, leaving the greater challenge of mobilizing, securing, and managing resources to the enterprise. This leaves a huge amount of IT spend on the table and leads to colossal tasks for the ever-sostretched enterprise IT.” The challenges to reach this sector are similar for many in the mobile ecosystem, and all involve a multifaceted market approach that can overwhelm even the most savvy mobility VAR.
Don’t Overlook Your Own Field Service Team
If the solutions you sell help your customer become more efficient, why not take advantage yourself? “More and more users have smartphones and tablets, and companies don’t take full advantage of those tools,” says Lisa Brink, director of marketing for Tigerpaw Software. “According to studies, organizations that successfully incorporate mobile devices into their strategy experience a double-digit improvement in productivity and utilization on average.” Indeed, time spent and work performed can be entered on a tech’s tablet or phone before leaving the client site — saving them valuable time. The need for the guessing game at the end of each day is also eliminated, she explains, ensuring that you can get paid for every part and minute of billable time. “By leveraging technology already built into phones such as GPS navigation, calendars, and cameras, it is now easier than ever to get to appointments on time and with the information that techs need to get things completed accurately and efficiently — the first time,” she continues. “VARs and MSPs [managed services providers] that don’t embrace mobile technology will find that they aren’t able to stay competitive in the market.”