Coast Solutions Promises To Turn VARs Into Services Experts

The Irvine, Calif.-based Coast -- a provider of packaged services, management, consulting and negotiation, and billing services to smaller VARs -- this month is introducing Service Accelerator, a year-long, 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.

While programs such as those from Bethesda, Md.-based ASCII Group and Ingram Micro's VentureTech Network are designed to train members on services, Coast's program is aimed at helping solution providers not just learn the service, but learn how to execute it, said Paul Freeman, president of the organization.

"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," Freeman said.

Freeman compared Service Accelerator to managed programs like those Weight Watchers offers in terms of how it helps push participants to succeed. "We give the presentation, then stick with partners to the end," he said.

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For example, Freeman said that a solution provider who wants to add security services to its line card can work with Coast to do business planning, marketing planning, 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 in the second half of the year, they should be able to execute independently."

Coast currently plans to offer about 20 services tracks through its Service Accelerator, 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 lifecycle 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 will also see the roll-out of packaged services for small and midsize business 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.

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

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

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

Furthermore, said Ford, with Coast'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," he 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 Coast's partner programs. The new Service Accelerator program is available to those members at no additional charge, said Freeman.

"For companies that join the Service Accelerator program, we guarantee that if they follow the process, they'll get a ten-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."