SMBs In Search Of Solutions Face Crush Of Bidders

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As large integrators and vendors move in on the SMB space, smaller solution providers aren't the only ones being pressed.

Several SMB executives said the number of suppliers bidding for their business is rising and that more types of suppliers,including solution providers and vendors,are knocking on their doors.

CCC Information Services, a Chicago-based provider of insurance claims processing services, has seen a big jump in calls, including cold calling, from onshore and offshore telecom consultants and help-desk outsourcing firms, said CTO Jim Beattie.

"We already have a significant set of business partners locally," Beattie said. "But we're getting more calls than in the past. It's hard to say why there are more."

Solution providers and vendors seem more aggressive in targeting accounts these days, said Ron Hubbell, manager of engineering services at Power Industry Consultants, an energy industry consulting firm. The Marietta, Ga., company has been fielding calls from more suppliers than ever before, and bids have been lower than those from its primary solution provider, which historically has offered better pricing on Compaq Computer hardware than Compaq ever offered directly, he said.

"Those suppliers are obviously taking a loss," Hubbell said. "Our primary provider always offers the same price. I don't like it when people come in and lowball the job."

The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, an Albany, N.Y.-based organization that provides financing and construction services to public and private institutions, recently put an ad on its Web site and in the state's Contract Reporter publication to find a subcontractor for a network cabling and installation job. Instead of the normal number of bidders, which has never exceeded 10 suppliers, the $250,000-plus project attracted more than 50 bidders, said Godfrey Smith, assistant director of purchasing for the authority.

"We got bids until the walk-through. On the walk-through, some of the [technology providers said there were not many jobs out there," Smith said. In the end, the choice of subcontractor depended on certification for Nokia firewalls plus Symbol and Alcatel technology, he said, adding that only 10 of the 50 bidders qualified.

Solution provider or vendor size has no bearing on who will win the bid for any job, Smith said. Instead, he gave his recommendations for those wishing to bid for his or any of his customers' business: pay attention to the competition, pay attention to our advertisements, carefully read the project's specifications, make sure you are certified and make sure you can use the work.

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