Strong volumes, high margins, long-term customer relationships and a receptive market are just some of the reasons why data VARs are making inroads into the previously closed world of voice communications.
But for some the barriers are high and too many have yet to take advantage of this lucrative opportunity. A key reason for this is the need to engage effectively with the customer.
Although the decision-maker for buying real-time communication solutions is usually the IT manager, there is still a need to understand legacy systems and protocols.
Resellers need to be able to put together applications that straddle the historical voice/data technology boundary, which is a skill that only a few possess.
Strategies to acquire these skills are varied. Some VARs are forming loose partnerships with voice resellers, arrangements where reciprocal business is referred to each company, and some are following a strategy of up-skilling.
Partnership may seem like an obvious way to bridge the gap but could ultimately result in a competitive disadvantage.
Those that rely on partnerships are creating problems further downstream, because they could experience a skills gap in comparison with their rivals.
Achieving organic growth and up-skilling internal staff is the most appropriate approach. And working with firms that deploy convergence solutions has proved successful. Some firms have built on this and are recruiting staff with voice experience.
To get the most out of recruitment, firms need to apply policy to technical and sales staff.
Technical additions will help VARs derive revenue from new applications, and sales recruits who understand real-time communications sales cycles will help win business.
The nature of the reseller/vendor relationship is another factor in how VARs deliver converged solutions.
Many have seen the opportunity represented by convergence and partnered with data vendors. This has led to a false start for many because data VARs and data vendors have the same skill sets.
VARs are better off partnering with vendors with strong voice communications pedigrees. That way they can truly open the door to convergence and real-time communications.
Neil Moulton is general manager of the Siemens Reseller Channel.
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