Add-Ons Help Offset Shrinking Hardware Margins

Yet, solution providers don't have to be caught in the middle. Through customization and add-on sales, they can leverage the same sales model that automotive dealers have used for years: dealer-installed options.

Some add-ons that should really be no-brainers are any products that promote data protection, including data backup solutions, power protection and physical security.

Backup solutions consist of a range of products including tape drives, removable hard drives, drive arrays and, of course, backup software. The trick is to talk to customers about the cost of losing data.

For notebook systems, solution providers should consider selling small-form factor USB or FireWire drives. Desktop systems, on the other hand, have different needs. If a desktop system is part of a network, solution providers may want to consider foregoing backup hardware and just bundle a software backup product with the system. For stand-alone desktop systems, the choices are many, ranging from tape drives to removable hard drives to portable drives.

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Server sales offer the most potential for backup add-ons. Backup subsystems are an increasingly important element of any network and can lead to additional sales and services ranging from replacement media to disaster planning. Also with desktop systems, never overlook power protection. Solution providers should pursue selling a battery backup system with every desktop system. For server-class systems, advanced power protection ranks as one of the "must haves" for any properly configured network.

Physical security is another area that solution providers can address. Physical security products range from notebook computer locks to sophisticated biometric devices. The key to promoting these products is to identify the physical threats to a system, from theft to unauthorized access.

Other technologies that garner additional revenue include Keyboard, Mouse and Video switches. These devices can help customers save money by not having to purchase additional monitors and input devices when deploying multiple servers. What's more, KVM solutions open up an opportunity for remote management services and other value-adds.

The simplest method to gain added revenue is to equip sales people with configuration lists, come up with the most popular options, put those on a check list, and educate the sales staff on why these options are important to their customers.