CSG Advocates Pushing Services To Smaller VARs

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Coast Solutions Group plans to roll out a series of training and certification programs to help smaller solution providers make services a bigger part of their businesses.

Irvine, Calif.-based CSG provides packaged services, management, consulting and negotiation, and billing services to smaller VARs. This month the company will introduce Service Accelerator, a yearlong, month-by-month program to help solution providers learn how to sell and provide a variety of services to their small and midsize business customers.

The ASCII Group and Ingram Micro’s VentureTech Network have similar programs designed to train members on services, but CSG’s program is aimed at helping solution providers not just learn the service, but also how to execute it, said Paul Freeman, president and managing partner of the company.

“We take the solution providers from opportunity to identification of the right service, assign a solutions architect, help with customer questions and pricing, and help all the way through closing and delivery,” he said.

Freeman compared Service Accelerator to managed programs like Weight Watchers offers in terms of how it helps push participants to succeed. “With Weight Watchers, members go in [regularly] and get weighed,” he said.

“There is no other similar program to help VARs get these services. Most programs will provide a service and say, ‘Go do it.’ You might get information on how to offer security services, but not how to execute. We give the presentation, then stick with partners to the end.”

For example, Freeman said a solution provider that wants to add security services to its line card can work with CSG to do business planning, marketing planning, and sales training and marketing with a goal of making them self-sufficient within 12 months.

“On day 31 of the program, they can go to market with security assessments, HIPAA assessments and a full package of offerings,” he said. “For the first three to six months, they are heavily supported by us. By the second half of the year, they should be able to execute independently.”

CSG currently plans to offer about 20 services tracks through its Service Accelerator program, with the first four scheduled to be introduced this year.
Starting this month, the company will introduce security services, including assessment and firewall implementation.

Also on the slate for this month is system life-cycle services, which focuses on PC and server asset rollout and disposal. “This is a very easy transition for VARs that already sell hardware,” Freeman said.

This month also will see the rollout of packaged services for SMB customers with 50 to 250 employees. These include a five-day assessment of SMB needs for security, systems, storage, backups and network infrastructure, as well as marketing collateral and statement of work templates, all at a fixed fee, he said.

John Ford, vice president of service management at Denali Advanced Integrated, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider and three-year member of CSG’s program, said the 12 months of handholding the organization provides will be very helpful for solution providers looking to get into the services business.

Furthermore, Ford said, with CSG’s program of helping solution providers partner with their peers on projects that expand beyond one company’s typical geographic presence or area of expertise, gaining experience in the services business will make such partnerships easier to develop.

“The way we operate in our business, sometimes clients have needs for a particular technology solution we may not have experience with, so we may rely on a partner,” Ford said. “Coast’s new focus on services might enhance our relationships and make it easier to help each other.”

Solution providers pay $250 per month to be a member of CSG’s partner programs. The new Service Accelerator program is available to those members at no additional charge, Freeman said.

“For companies that join the Service Accelerator program, we guarantee that if they follow the process, they’ll get a 10 times return on investment,” he said. “At $250 per month, or $3,000 a year, we guarantee them an extra $30,000 in revenue for the year.”

Later this year, CSG also will introduce a services program for converged technologies, including IP telephony, video conferencing, and voice/data, he said.

These services initially will be vendor-neutral, Freeman said. However, CSG will be able to custom-tailor the training to a specific manufacturer who might want to roll them out to their channel partners. In such cases, CSG will work with the solution providers to help them take advantage of any available market development funds, he said.

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