Gartner predicts that worldwide spending on IT will grow this year. It seems that companies looking to improve efficiency and cut overall costs could spend a total of $3.8tr (£2.5tr) in 2013, which is surely good news for those in the channel ready to meet this demand.
Perhaps a lot of this revenue will go to online retailers, at least for SMB products anyway. While many SMBs still use VARs as their main channel for hardware and software, more use the web as a primary or secondary means of ad hoc procurement.
Face-to-face sales are cannibalised by e-tail across all industries at the moment. The average consumer is staying off the high street. Busy people and businesses are attracted to the ease and simplicity of purchasing online, and this is not likely to change.
Rather than fight this, I recommend that more traditional VARs embrace it. Get to know your online competitor. Spend time researching their offer and what makes them more attractive.
Go beyond Google to check out things such as SpyFu. Keep abreast of breaking competitor news and analysis.
Tune into their social networks on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, and sign up to their newsletter – perhaps with a personal email address.
Ask customers, particularly new ones, why they chose you over a competitor. Ask customers you have just lost why they are moving away.
All of the above can give you a picture of what your rivals are doing, and what changes you could make. Perhaps they offer a lower price or can ensure rapid delivery.
Make sure prospects and existing customers are aware of the financial benefits you offer. SMBs are particularly money conscious, and may benefit from being able to pay for ICT in instalments, rather than up front, which is usually required online.
Research I have read seems to suggest that customers may not understand the benefits of IT financing either. They may be far more receptive to approaches from resellers backed with financing options than one might think.
In times of austerity, strong customer relationships are especially important. When a procurement manager's budget is cut 25 per cent, he or she will want to make savings.
Reminding them of the added value and consultation they can receive from VARs – something that no online retailer can replicate – may tip the balance. Customer service should always be front of mind, and there is no substitute for face-to-face communication.
Alexis Gorton is UK channel manager at Mindjet
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