When was the last time you went to a customer meeting without the subject of return on investment (ROI) making an appearance?
The past couple of years have been hard for the technology industry, and the channel has not been spared restructuring, budget-slashing and increased competition.
Margins have been hard to maintain, and resellers have had to find new ways to make themselves more appealing to their target audiences.
It now seems that we are finally seeing the back of the economic downturn, and companies' investments in IT are rising again. But we are not going back to 1999 or 2000.
Customers today are more knowledgeable. They know what they need and what they want from their IT infrastructure. You will have to meet their demands to win the contract.
It is not just about products any more; you have to offer value-added solutions. Higher margins come from add-on services, but to get to this stage you must win the business first.
The channel is marketing itself harder than ever before, looking for new ways of attracting customers. So how do you stay ahead of the competition?
One solution is to invest in vendors' accreditation schemes. Being able to show that you are closely working with market leaders will have a positive impact on your organisation.
It will show you are committed to providing best-in-class service and will give you an advantage over other resellers that might not have or be able to showcase such connections. It will also give you access to marketing support and sales leads.
At a time when many end-users are specifying which vendors they want in their system, it is key that the channel demonstrates close links with the equipment manufacturers.
So how do you choose from the array of accreditation schemes? I suggest you adopt the selection criteria that end-users apply to the channel.
Ask your vendors what ROI you get from their scheme, check how it fits in with your company strategy, look at where the vendor is going and see whether you are both heading in the same direction.
These programmes can be costly in terms of financial and human resources, so do your research and sign up for a scheme only after having examined its value.
You will soon realise that accreditation schemes can bring many benefits, such as sales leads, joint marketing and PR opportunities, and increased visibility.
These programmes are useful for vendors, too, because they elevate their status in the industry, so use this to your advantage when negotiating your deal.
We always hear about users demanding higher ROI. The time has come for the channel to demand the same from vendors.
Rashied Akrum is general manager for EMEA at Softricity.
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