Just when you think you've got all the right systems in place with a vendor partner, another company notices what a great company it is and scoops it up. That can leave IT solution providers feeling rudderless. Here, the owner of IT solution provider Clear North discusses how to get through the challenges that arise when a trusted vendor partner is taken over by a Goliath. — Jennifer Bosavage, editor
When Dell acquired our trusted vendor partner Compellent, it expanded our ability as an IT solution provider to deliver Dell solutions. When another company buys your supplier, the road ahead can be bumpy, but at Clear North, we learned it doesn’t have to be a painful experience. We’ve learned several valuable lessons that may help you benefit from the same success we have had in a merger, or acquisition product portfolio integration.
It’s all about relationships
The first step we take when integrating new products in the portfolio is to meet the product representatives and learn how we can integrate and use the technology to differentiate our offering. It’s extremely important to forge strong, positive relationships with those representatives at the outset. Many vendors have great local and national sales resources you can leverage, and relationships with sales reps, business development managers and technical personnel can easily complement sales efforts.
Pay special attention to how the company will work with you to implement the new solutions you offer. In addition, determine how you and the company will support your customers after the solutions have been installed.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the product and support personnel and determined how to work together, you can then spend some time learning more about the new products. It is best to have product representatives and management come to your office to not only review the product, its technical details and specifications, and support options, but also to discuss the sales cycle and structure of the channel program. Formal training classes for certification and scheduling continuing education classes for your salespeople and technicians are vital to sales success, as well.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
The first step to positioning new products in your portfolio is to determine if they complement or compete with your existing offerings. The reality is that there might be some overlap. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer multiple technologies for different needs. For instance, we strive to offer a limited portfolio of best-of-breed products and when we do have products that overlap, we identify primary and secondary products and offer them to our customers as their needs dictate.
When evaluating the new products in your portfolio, it’s important to take three things into consideration:
1. Marketing: What are the materials you can use to go to market? How much MDF is available to promote the products in the marketplace?
2. Sales: What sales resources are in place to help start conversations and close deals?
3. Delivery/perception: How are the products perceived in the marketplace? Will they be profitable for your organization on the transaction side and services side? Is there future upgrade potential?
Once you’ve considered all those questions, you’ll have a better idea of the impact they will have on your bottom line. But it’s important to remain flexible throughout the process. If the new products are good offerings, then charge ahead with integrating them into your portfolio. If you’re unsure, ask questions about the offering to determine if it will provide your customers with a good value proposition. Get feedback from a core group of existing clients that you trust.
Start selling, and adjust your marketing as needed
Now that you understand the products, how they’ll fit into your product portfolio and how they’ll benefit both your customers and your bottom line, the next step is to get out and sell. If you’ve taken all the steps outlined here, you’ll be able to reliably demonstrate why these offerings make sense for your customers, like you’ve always done for them.
As you start adding products to your portfolio, you will want to adjust your marketing efforts to ensure you are communicating the appropriate messaging to your customers and prospects, and doing so in the appropriate ways.
Never Stop Learning
Throughout the entire acquisition of Compellent by Dell, we recognized the importance of always learning and improving the way we do things. We absorbed as much information as we could about the products, processes and people with whom we worked to ensure we were in the optimal position for continued success. The result of these efforts is that we have an expanded portfolio from which to sell and we are leveraging our solid relationships with Compellent and expanding them to Dell. Our customers are also benefitting, and have confidence in knowing that we’ll be working with them for many years to come.