Leading The Way: One VAR's Twist on Lead Generation 101


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If you're looking for solid leads, don't rely on your vendor partners.

That's the lesson Don Richie, president of Sequel Data Systems, learned after paying Hewlett-Packard between $30,000 and $40,000 for lists of leads, which it turns out, might yield only one legitimate prospect. Instead, Richie decided to launch his own in-house telemarketing center staffed by former Dell employees.

Richie modeled his call center after one created by fellow HP enterprise solution provider Bobby Thomas, division manager of Carotek Information Technologies Division, Matthews, N.C., which was acquired by Logicalis earlier this month. With a little help from HP, he appropriated talent and telemarketing expertise from Dell. "HP had hired a couple Dell guys in my region, and they gave me some advice on the type of people to go after—and I did," he said.

THE VAR:
DON RICHIE,
PRESIDENT OF SEQUEL DATA SYSTEMS, AUSTIN, TEXAS

THE PROJECT:
AFTER BEING BURNED BY VENDORS' FRUITLESS LEADS, SEQUEL INTITUTES ITS OWN CALL CENTER--REPLETE WITH DELL TELEMARKETERS--AND THE PROFIT POTENTIAL IS SKYROCKETING.

The Austin, Texas, HP enterprise solution provider said his new call center is already paying off. "We landed three deals worth about $2.5 million in the first six weeks," he said. "The success of the call center has been phenomenal. We are getting two to three good, quality leads every single day."

Richie points out that IBM, HP and other vendors rely on telemarketers to generate their leads, which they then pass on to solution providers. But, he said, the telemarketers often lack the understanding of both the technology and the business of selling solutions.

Because of this, Richie decided to generate his own leads using his own telemarketers. To build his call center, he hired six telemarketers from Dell. He then had those telesales people work closely with his sales and engineer teams to become more adept on the products and services Sequel offers.

"These guys are making a minimum of 20 calls per day per person," he said. "Whether we see the business short term or long term, the point is that their whole job is doing nothing but keeping our name in front of customers. The Dell people understand the phone business. I don't understand it, and I don't come from that background. My background is that you go out and sell, then you service, then you go find more customers. Dell's business is just constantly calling out and generating new business."

Richie notes that while he focuses primarily on HP enterprise business, including high-end storage and Alpha and Integrity servers, he's segmented his call center into three areas in order to generate new demand. One group focuses on selling HP services, another on high-end HP storage and servers, and a third on industry-standard servers, desktop and mobile products.

Richie said that in addition to telemarketing expertise, the new hires from Dell also get him into lower-end desktop and server deals. "The idea wasn't to get sales from the low-end business. The idea was to get established into a customer," he said. "Once we are established into a customer, then we can grow that business doing what we do best."

Prior to building his own call center and hiring telesales talent away from Dell, Richie said Sequel Data had little interest or experience in selling PCs. But he's quickly learning how the low-end lead can jump-start his enterprise business. He points out that HP has some geographic and other restrictions that limit which enterprise accounts solution providers can go after. But those restrictions, for all practical purposes, don't exist for low-end products.

"Before we didn't have a story to tell because we weren't knowledgeable on the low-end stuff," he said. "Sometimes that's the door opener to get into the accounts, and once you're in, you can prove yourself."

With the new in-house call center, Richie believes Sequel Data is poised for a huge growth spurt. Last year, Richie said the company grew close to 17 percent. But this year, he has even more ambitious growth plans. "I'm convinced this is the right model. It allows me to do nationwide coverage, which I could never do before. Going into more of the lower-level desktop business, in which I hadn't participated in the past, wasn't my forte," he said. "Now, all of a sudden, I'm able to go after that business. And because it doesn't come under the same requirements as the high-end enterprise business, I'm able to expand my reach."

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