Intel Campaigns For Small-Biz Sales

The effort, dubbed Intel's Small Business Solution Campaign, is timed to coincide with the semiconductor behemoth's semiannual channel conference, which kicks off this month in 37 cities, where it will reach a total of more than 10,000 resellers.

"We're going to school VARs in how to approach small-business customers, to be able to scope them out and determine what they need," says Steve Dallman, Intel's director of North American distribution and channel marketing.

The computer assistance, which is the centerpiece of the campaign, comes in the form of a browser-based program -- called the Intel small business technology assessment and resolution tool -- that resellers can use to walk customers through their IT configurations and assess potential needs. The program charts potential customers' setups on the systems, storage and networking fronts, and then comes back with specific recommendations for add-ons that VARs can immediately pitch.

"This program walks you through the process of explaining the benefits of technology -- not the nuts and bolts," says Mike Mahanay, director of marketing at Computer Technology Link, a systems builder in Portland, Ore. "When our salespeople talk to small businesses, they talk to people at all different levels of technology. Sometimes they're talking to a CFO or a controller who doesn't have the expertise of a CIO. This program helps our sales people connect with them."

Sponsored post

The software also serves as an authoritative hand-holder of sorts for customers lacking on-site expertise. "Medium businesses have an IT manager," Dallman says. "Small businesses don't, so they need help figuring out what IT solutions to bring in."

Intel hopes the program will inspire resellers to propose solutions that stretch beyond simply selling more PCs, to encompass storage networking and software additions that a customer might not be aware he or she could use.

"You only make so many percentage points on hardware," Dallman explains. "But if we can help [our resellers] bundle additional software and give them something that has been optimized [and] qualified, then they can go in and sell a solution, which increases the value of the product they provide and the amount of dollars they can make on an opportunity."

Only time will tell if Intel can turn the campaign into a serious turbocharger for sales into small businesses with from one to 100 employees, but that's the objective. "I'd like to see our small-business channel grow at least twice the market average," Dallman says, eyeing a rise of about 6 percent.

Intel has a ready answer for those who wonder whether that can be done with what at first glace appears to be yet another marketing checklist. "Everybody in the world has done a sales template," Dallman says. "We're trying to go a little bit beyond that. It's a Web-based tool that helps VARs put together a technical response to a company's needs. Once they can show the small business a distinct need, that translates into sales."

Adds Mahanay: "We see this as an opportunity that's not tapped much. This is something we can just give to our salespeople and they can immediately start using."

Intel emphasizes that the tool won't be the end of its small-business efforts. "This is just the first of a tsunami of events we plan over the next year to go after this business," Dallman says.