Channel Marker

May 6 2009   9:32PM GMT

Can you claim the title of trusted partner?

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

One moniker that gets bandied about plenty in the channel, especially in times like these when everyone is trying to define their “value,” is the idea that an IT solution provider should be considered a “trusted adviser” or “trusted partner.”

Loosely explained, this really suggests the notion that a business owner needs to place as much trust in their IT solution provider (or VAR or systems integrator) as they would in their company’s banker, lawyer or accountant.

Charles Nault, the founder of network integrator Atrion Networking, expounds on the topic in his book Risk-Free Technology, which I recommend as a must-read for any channel business leader who is trying to rethink his or her company’s value proposition. Nault’s book synthesizes pretty much every discussion you’ve ever heard about this topic. While I won’t provide a complete book review, according to Nault, there are certain key attributes that an IT solution provider must possess in order to earn the title of trusted adviser.

He provides a summary of what would-be customers should look for in an article adapted from his book. Those attributes are:

  1. A size that will complement the customer’s business. If the IT services company is a lot bigger than the customer, it won’t pay enough attention to its problems. Too small, and it might not be able to scale.
  2. Solid references. Can you provide them from both your customers AND product suppliers?
  3. Certifications. These will demonstrate a commitment to the technology that you represent.
  4. Collaborative partnerships. Let’s be real, no matter how good, your company can’t handle EVERY problem. Your ability to make it work seamlessly for the customer is imperative.
  5. A sales approach that focuses on understanding the needs of the customer, not on selling products. Nuff said.
  6. Rock-solid project management skills. The customer needs to be able to trust that milestones will be completed. On time.
  7. Knowledge transfer discipline. Your customers shouldn’t feel like they’re being held hostage. It’s your job to introduce new technologies and solutions, and then make sure your client can make it all work in the context of their day-to-day business.
  8. On-going support. Especially the ability to monitor infrastructure proactively and act on problems before they happen OR, at the least, according to extremely high service levels.

How many of these attributes describe your IT services business?

2  Comments on this Post

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  • BobOlwig
    Heather, thanks for highlighting these attributes from the book...I agree with them all but very much agree with the "collaborative partnerships" and project management skills. "Trusted Advisor" may be a bit overused but I believe it's a worthy goal to strive for as a systems integrator/reseller.
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  • AndyBryantArrowECS
    Great post, Heather. I would point out that resellers can use similar criteria to determine whether their distributor is being a “trusted advisor” as well. I believe that distributors have a critical role in helping resellers support their customers and grow their business. Evolving to a channel management model is key to becoming a trusted partner to resellers for distributors. Channel management comprises three aspects of reseller support: channel development (supporting the business needs of resellers); market development (demand and lead generation programs, as well as industry-specific support); and services (such as managed, maintenance and professional services). Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions has been evolving to a channel management model by increasing our depth in innovative programs, end-to-end solutions and industry-leading resources. Our goal is to be the highest value provider in the channel. Arrow ECS’ attributes based on Nault’s criteria include: - Size: Arrow ECS brings the strength of a $16.8 billion Fortune 200 company to provide flexible financing programs, combined with dedicated sales and marketing teams for each reseller we support. We pride ourselves on the personalized service we provide to our resellers, and we offer both enterprise and midmarket programs to support resellers with whichever size customers they serve. - References: Of the companies recognized for the 2008 VARBusiness 500, nearly half (242) are Arrow ECS resellers. Of the companies recognized for the 2008 CRN Fast Growth 100, exactly half (50) work with Arrow ECS. - Certifications: Arrow ECS provides a wide range of educational and certification programs to help resellers sell and configure the technology their customers need. More than 4,200 sales and technical certifications have been passed through our annual May Days conference alone, and thousands more are passed year-round and through other programs. - Collaborative partnerships: We represent more than 75 of the world’s leading technology suppliers. We are focused on building a portfolio that supports the full spectrum of the enterprise environment, including hardware, software and storage. We are the No. 1 distributor of enterprise storage and security and virtualization software. - Solutions-selling approach: Arrow ECS offers a wide range of educational programs, business intelligence, support services and industry expertise to help resellers sell end-to-end solutions. - Project management: We offer a variety of innovative programs and services to assist resellers with completing projects on time. For instance, we provide demonstration support at solutions labs, as well as integration services and onsite engineering support. - Knowledge sharing: Our educational resources and seminars are industry leading. Many of our enablement offerings, such as product information and sales workshops, are available online. - Ongoing support: We support resellers with identifying target markets, pursuing prospects, pursuing special pricing discounts, closing sales, financing projects, strengthening relationships with suppliers and expanding their business. Andy Bryant President Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions
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