How many times are you faced with a customer saying they need more servers or hard disks because they have run out of storage capacity? And how many times have you actually gone against this suggestion and offered to implement a different configuration of the existing set-up?
Although the revenue consistency from 'traditional' storage products is attractive, margins tend to be low. In a growing industry such as storage networking, margins tend to be squeezed in direct proportion to the number of competitors entering the market and vying for business.
The most effective way to improve profits is to complement commodity storage sales with unique products and services to solve customers' application problems. Not only are the product margins generally higher, but integration and support revenues increase.
In order to do this, you need to identify the challenges your customer is having at the application layer. You will find that these often can be solved by moving application data to faster storage, from server disks to external storage, and from JBOD to Raid and/or from Raid to solid-state disk.
In addition, could the client benefit from consolidating existing storage for long-term savings and easier management? Is it running applications involving web content and non-linear video editing that can benefit from a shared storage model? Can the client's in-house IT staff manage storage internally, or should it outsource instead?
Today a VAR is no longer just the intermediary between vendor and user. It is a fully fledged technical consultant and partner that customers rely on to help them design the most cost-effective solution for their specific needs.
It is important to gauge the customers' level of understanding of the challenges they face and of the technologies at their disposal.
Also, although some organisations do not deploy certain technologies, architectures or vendors, they might have very strong opinions about any of the three. Be ready to have a number of options to present. This will show that you are flexible and open to their views.
Sometimes it is easy to think that commodity product sales will give the highest returns, but this is not necessarily the case in today's market.
For example, virtualising a customer's existing storage will not allow you to ship as many boxes as you otherwise could, but it will enable you to introduce new services to the customer.
This will undoubtedly strengthen your relationship, because your organisation will be seen as a true partner whose services will be relied upon time and time again in the future, ultimately increasing your bottom line.
Woody Hutsell is executive vice president of Texas Memory Systems
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