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SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Potential Office 365 customers crying out for channel help

Antony Savvas (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Office 365 Cloud Email

Two thirds want a VAR or service provider to help them shows Barracuda research

Research from Barracuda Networks highlights the opportunity for the UK channel to help businesses adopt Microsoft Office 365.

While the proportion of businesses surveyed planning to migrate to Office 365 is “promising”, said Barracuda, some potential end users cite issues such as security as major inhibitors to adoption.

“Education and value-add services will therefore play a key role in the success of channel programmes around Office 365,” said the security and data management vendor.

Microsoft OfficeThe survey found that just under half of the respondents plan to migrate to Office 365, and a quarter of those will do so in the next 12 months.

And two thirds plan to consult a VAR or service provider to help manage adoption, migration and on-going operation. One third of those not planning to migrate cited security worries as the main reason for this.

Commenting on the research, Henry Doyle, director at Altinet, the IT security and storage VAR, said: “As the popularity of Office 365 grows, it is really encouraging to see that companies recognise the value-add that service providers can deliver in the planning, roll-out and ongoing implementation of these services.


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Building Your Reputation as a Trusted Advisor

By: Pete Engler

The reasons a customer chooses to do business with a value added reseller (VAR) often extend beyond the menu of available product and service offerings. The decision can also be influenced by the brands (or vendors) that the VAR represents, and the geographic region served. Reputation of the VAR also comes into play – and can be one of the most influential deciding factors, especially when there are competing VARs vying for a customer’s business. As a VAR, your position in the marketplace and the reputation you’ve earned could make the most significant difference in closing a sale with a new customer.

As a VAR in the technology space, it’s not uncommon to offer a multitude of different products in order to better position yourself to help solve a customer’s business need. Although, an expanded selection can cloud the customer’s decision or leave him confused and unsure of the best route to take. Helping your customer make the best decision and helping ensure your revenue continues growing really depends on your ability as a VAR to position your business and service expertise over the product(s).

What exactly does it mean to position your VAR business and services over products? First, a VAR needs to be an industry and business expert. That means having the capability to properly evaluate a business and its needs efficiently and determine the best solution path to implement. This seems obvious but it can be tricky due to the changes in the buying process. Consider that prospective buyers in business-to-business settings have typically completed 57 percent of their due diligence work before they engage a sales representative, according to a Harvard Business Review survey. Today’s buyers are more prepared and further down the sales funnel before engaging sales support due in large part to the infinite resources and peer reviews available online. This means customers are also further down the decision path before seeking out a VAR’s service and experience during the sales, installation and support process. If a prospect has already set his mind on a particular solution, but it’s really not the best fit, it makes your position as an advisor more challenging. Your expertise can certainly help prevent the customer from making a costly decision, but you first have to convince him that there’s a better alternative.

Being a trusted advisor for your prospects and current customers does require industry and solutions knowledge, but it’s more than rattling off product specs. The customer probably already has that information as part of the early funnel due-diligence. As mentioned previously, your role is to conduct a careful evaluation of the business's needs, so any problems can be identified and addressed, all within budget constraints.

Business owners are masters of their core business functions, but when it comes to choosing the right technology, they can overlook key solution integration details, pricing and feature gotchas, and other lesser-known deployment and maintenance considerations. That’s why they depend on you. Your expertise as a trusted VAR is critical to recommend and implement the technologies that keep their business running on a daily basis, and help the business avoid having to go through a trial-and-error selection process.

Once the sale is complete, your role as trusted advisor moves to the installation, maintenance and troubleshooting phases. This is where you and your team’s capabilities are tested most and where the greatest opportunity exists for damage to your reputation. If the install does not go smoothly, confidence is weakened. After the solution is installed and should an issue arise, you must move to resolve them quickly. Training of your customer support teams on the products and solutions installed is also imperative. Nothing erodes confidence more than an uninformed support staff that is unable to adequately resolve issues.

In the end, it’s your ability to manage any unexpected system hiccups and minimize headaches in the long-term that will solidify your reputation as an expert that can be depended upon by your customers. Building a reputation as a trusted advisor isn’t a tough thing to accomplish; but it is dependent upon your ability to consistently match the right solutions with each prospective customer, deliver expertise through competent and trained employees to install and maintain the solution, and provide top-notch customer service. The benefits of having a solid reputation as a trusted advisor are many; and it’s conceivable that you could grow your VAR organization exclusively on referral business.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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How Resellers (and Their Customers) Benefit from Training Programs

 By Pete Engler, channel marketing manager, Digium

The end of summer means most schools are heading back into session, which also signals the perfect time to think about the value of continuing education and training programs within your business. It’s not uncommon to hear kids complaining about having to go back to school, or questioning the real-world applications of what’s being taught in the classroom. As adults, we also tend to overlook or forget the benefits of a structured learning program, long after those school doors have shut behind us for the last time. Yet, continuing education should reach far into the workplace for the lifetime of our careers, particularly in our quickly evolving, technology-filled world. Ongoing training programs are especially beneficial to a value-added reseller (VAR). digium

For VARs in the technology sector, the importance of continually educating and training employees can make a significant difference in selling, installing and supporting your customers’ solutions. This customer-centric approach also plays a tremendous role in managing and improving your margin and profit. Investing in and completing technical certifications to become experts in the vendors’ solutions you sell may require an upfront cost, but it is well worth it – you should see a significant return on investment when it comes to training.

Having product experts on your technical staff acting as subject matter experts allows you to have a much more efficient and effective process when it comes to supporting customers. Additionally, once you have a set of employees certified on a vendor’s solutions, those employees can then use the training resources provided by that solution vendor to set up an internal training process for the rest of your organization, helping ensure that all of your employees are knowledgeable and able to support your customers. A well-trained staff goes a long way in supporting and protecting the lifetime value of a customer. After all, customers can lose confidence in their VAR if they do not see them as true experts in the solutions they offer.

As part of establishing an internal training process for your organization, you need to start by training the entire sales team. This includes educating your sales and sales support staff, the sales engineers, and the internal and/or external account managers. A sales team must have the ability to articulate the benefits of a product or solution, and how it can solve problems or improve processes for a customer’s specific needs. Not only does the sales process need to match the margin goals of the organization, but the training of the sales team (and training that may be available to the end users) also needs to be aligned with the sales process as it could be the key to closing deals and improving margin.

Once a deal is won, installation of the solution will begin and training will once again have a distinct impact on the process. Successful training of the installation technicians and the administrators that are installing and supporting the solution will factor heavily into your margin and cost reduction, mainly in terms of employee hours required to complete the install. Well-trained techs can cut the installation time significantly and allow more customers to be serviced by your organization. More customers, installs and monthly recurring support revenue will assist in providing the growth path for any successful VAR.

During and after the installation of the solution, the end customer can be trained in order to shift part of the support burden to that customer. This is particularly applicable when it comes to enabling the customer (and their employees) to handle basic tasks and management functions of a vendor’s solution. Sometimes, that may come down to training the customer’s organization on something as simple as knowing how to access solution help features, or training the end customers to use a database or knowledge base to assist in correcting issues on their own. Training the end customer can also provide additional revenue to any sale. Whether the sale of training is vendor provided or consists of training courses built by you as the VAR, there is the possibility of additional revenue by selling that end-user training.

Training is often an overlooked topic or is prioritized much lower compared to other business projects and goals. However, taking the time to ensure your team is well trained to sell and support the customer will bring more profit and margin per signed customer. It also allows you to free up time to increase the number of customers you are able to service, and to offer improved service and support that helps retain those customers for the long term.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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D&H Distributing Expands Disaster Recovery Initiative for Resellers

dandhjpgEarlier this week, D&H Distributing announced that has added new resources for its backup and disaster recovery resellers. These new resources include an interactive Solutions Lab webcast, to be broadcast this week, as well as a new marketing template for resellers to use with their end-users.

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Belkin Announces New Partner Program for SMB Resellers

Belkin Linksys PPYesterday, Belkin International announced the debut of its new PartnerAdvantage Program, a reseller program designed to support the growth of SMB IT Professionals. As many of you remember, Belkin acquired Linksys in March of 2013, and the organization has been able to offer both power management solutions, as well as infrastructure solutions ever since.

I was able to speak with Belkin’s VP of Product Management, Mike Chen, a week ago, and he went into the finer points of this partner program with me, as well as some new product announcements (to be covered in a later blog). To begin, Mr. Chen explained that this new partner program combines the best of both Belkin’s and Linksys’ existing partner programs, and that it is open to all current partners.

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Parallels Summit Day Two: Changing Reseller Roles, Cloud Battleground

Birger KeynoteGood day again, and welcome to today’s coverage of the goings-on at the Parallels Summit 2014! I was up bright and early again to attend today’s keynotes, which spoke directly to the Service Provider (IT Pro) role in the changing cloud industry.

I have already discussed the growing presence of the Cloud, not only on the tech side, but also for Main Street SMBs, like florists, plumbers, manufacturers, etc., so let’s dig into the good stuff! I attended three keynote presentations this morning, the first of which was another check-in from Parallels CEO, Birger Steen (pictured), with new software version announcements, as well as the announcement of the company’s top partners (I’ll cover this news in a separate article).

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Datto Receives “Best Channel Vendor Award”

dattoDatto, Inc. recently announced that they have received the “2013 Best Channel Vendor Award” from Business Solutions Magazine. For these awards, the votes of over 4600 VAR subscribers were collected, and Datto was ranked alongside fellow providers on a scale of 0 to 5.Only the top 5% of each category received a “Best Vendor Award.” Datto reported that it earned a ranking of 4.39 out of 5, with high marks in the Channel Friendly and Product Reliability categories.

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ThreatTrack Security Announces Updates to ThreatAnalyzer Solution, Plans for Partner Program

Earlier this week, ThreatTrack Security released news that it is recruiting specialized security partners to add the company’s ThreatAnalyzer solution to their offering portfolio. The company explained that the new program is available starting Q1 2014 to VARs and MSPs, and will include sales, marketing and technical support.

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Channel Partners and CompTIA Release Third Annual IT/Telecom Study Findings

Study cover Photo credit: Channel Partners OnlineYesterday, CompTIA and Channel Partners Online announced the results of the third annual Partnering Trends between Telecom and IT Channels study. The main finding of the study was that partnerships between IT and Telecom companies are not only growing in number, but in importance and formality.

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