Vendors Offer Insight

Top execs tout niche solutions, say they need help in SMB market

The economy is improving, but solution providers shouldn't expect dramatic sales increases anytime soon, said top vendor executives last week.

"Everything we see in the marketplace points to slow growth," said Mark Hanny, vice president of partner marketing and software at IBM, at CMP Media's Solution Provider XChange conference here. "Our partners are selling to fewer customers, but they're bringing in bigger deals."

Other executives echoed Hanny's comments during "The View From Above," hosted by Robert Faletra, president of CMP Media's Technology Solutions Group. Some of those big deals include server, storage, security, wireless, CRM, supply chain management and business-process integration solutions, they said.

>> Financial, education, health care and government vertical markets are key, vendor executives say.


"The solutions must present a cost savings to the customer," said Jerry Ungerman, president of security vendor Check Point Software Technologies. "Even coming out of the downturn, people are still going to be cost-conscious."

The best-positioned solution providers will be those that develop niche solutions in vertical markets such as financial, education, health care and government, executives said.

Other vendors represented at the panel,Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Symantec, Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems,are looking for solution providers to help them further penetrate the SMB market, the executives said.

"You're the experts; you know the market," said Dan Vertrees, vice president of North American partner sales and marketing at Compaq.

Solution providers, however, questioned vendors' commitment to the SMB channel. The crowd cheered when one solution provider asked what vendors are doing to support that market.

"That's an area we haven't historically served," said Gary Grimes, vice president of sales operations and partner management at Sun, adding there are about 7.5 million SMBs in the United States. "There's no reason solution providers can't play in that space for us."