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100,000 Rooms Can't Be Wrong

How one savvy VAR has a small business solution smash.

The next time you stay at a certain major hotel chain and find you can order lunch directly from your 37-inch high-definition TV, you can thank LaSalle Solutions. The Rosemont, Ill.-based solution provider has started rolling out an in-room entertainment and e-commerce solution for a hotel chain, which the VAR asked not be named for competitive reasons, as part of a project that could eventually include more than 100,000 rooms nationwide.

LaSalle said it won the deal because of its expertise and dogged pursuit of the client, but also through some creative thinking and support from distributor Tech Data Corp.--things that the solution provider said other VARs should look to do to win deals.

All along, LaSalle planned to fly the hotel executives down to Tech Data's solutions center in Clearwater, Fla., to explain how the solution would work. On a preliminary trip, the VAR joked with Tech Data executives that it would be funny to set up the solutions center like a hotel room. Three weeks later, with the hotel executives in tow, LaSalle found that Tech Data had turned that joke into reality--the distributor had built a temporary hotel room to showcase to the end user's executives. In addition to the technology, the room was complete with mattress, bedding, nightstands, lampshades and even paintings on the walls, to show the hotel executives exactly how it would appear in their rooms.

"The comments [from the hotel executives] were like, 'We get it. The deal's good,' " said Steve Robb, vice president and general manager of LaSalle Solutions.

Tech Data's mock hotel room impressed not only the hoteliers, but also the solution provider itself. "To bring in a thing like a bed was something. You typically think of a distributor for how do you move a box, or can they cut me an extra point off to do the deal, or do you have it in stock today?" said Robb.

By working closely with Tech Data, the VAR was able to cover all aspects of its sales pitch, including convincing the hotel execs that LaSalle Solutions had the partners to deliver 100,000 displays.

Tech Data brought in Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif.; Logitech Inc., Fremont, Calif.; software company Innovative Network Technologies Inc., Las Vegas, and other vendors to further convince the hotel executives that a 100,000-room rollout was even possible.

"This is type of project that needs more than what you have in stock today," Robb said. "To say, let's coordinate a large implementation with 100,000 flat-panel displays would be a challenge in and of itself, let alone if we didn't have partners like Tech Data."

All parties assured the hotel that the project was doable. "We had to work to configure the solution and say, 'Here's a potential production plan,' so that all these flat panels would be there," Robb said. "We looked at Tech Data as not just a distribution partner, but as someone that could help plan with us."

Tech Data's solution center has hosted many end users and helped close many deals, but this was the first time a deal was literally "put to bed," said Joe Quaglia, senior vice president of marketing for the distributor, who added, "We always try to answer the age-old question whether the distributor adds value."

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