Last year, a Nortel reseller significantly increased its revenue, becoming one of our best performers and achieving Gold Partner status. So what made the difference? The answer is solutions-based selling.
In 2005 the channel started to see a shift towards a solutions-based approach to selling, and this is gaining momentum in 2006. Customers are facing more complex challenges in areas such as convergence, security, compliance, regulation and legislation. They are looking to VARs for a broader range of expertise and skills to address these challenges.
This is an opportunity for the channel to offer customers more value and secure more margins for themselves by delivering business applications that make a difference to customers’ businesses.
Today’s resellers should look to knit together different technologies and put together a coherent solution. For example, a customer who wishes to build a contact centre needs to source and integrate many products to deliver voice recording, voice recognition, call routing, CRM and IP telephony. The complex system can be brought together only through the knowledge of how to source the right products and skills to integrate them.
Many would assume that this has been happening for years, but there has been no big driver to alter the way VARs sell. But things are changing.
If you needed a telephony system 10 years ago, you would go to the reseller and you would specify the requirements of a telephony system. The VAR would design the system and give you a price. However, when telephony becomes an application on a converged network, new considerations come into play.
To develop the right solution, VARs need an understanding of the business drivers that motivate customers, as well as the technical factors. Consultancy is an integral part of a solutions-based sale.
The vendor’s role should not be under-estimated when adopting a solutions focus. Given that the approach to selling to end-users has changed, VARs should expect vendors to provide a different kind of training and support to partners. Training should no longer focus on the features and benefits of the product. Instead it should help VARs understand the customer challenge, and how to use the products to address the business need.
It is clear that the channel is starting to adopt this approach. Indeed, now that technology such as voice over IP is mainstream, there is little choice. In 2006, VARs need to skill-up and exploit the genuine opportunity that is now out there.
Tony Bailey is vice-president of UK and Ireland channel enterprise networks at Nortel.
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