By Larry Walsh
One big reason why SMB customers work with solution providers is that they’re not technology experts. They rely on you to provide them with insights, guidance and support in determining their technology needs.
Put that statement to any solution provider, and you’ll probably get affirmation of its truism.
The problem is that most SMB solution providers aren’t taking advantage of their “trusted advisor” status when it comes to their sales and growth strategies.
The 2112 Group and Ingram Micro have partnered to understand SMB operational issues and facilitate growth among SMB resellers. One of the first things we’ve found with our initial group of participants is that less than one-half are actively reviewing customer accounts and purchasing histories to uncover new sales opportunities.
SMB customers need more than just a point of sale. They can get product anywhere, and often do. Their ill-advised purchases are fodder for solution provider services and support opportunities. What they need is expert support—or what many call “a virtual CIO”—that guides IT purchases with real strategy that results in operational improvements.
Solution providers can approach account reviews in two ways.
- Review past purchases to determine renewal, refresh and expansion opportunities.
- Partner with customers to understand their plans and develop ongoing IT optimization and improvement frameworks.
First, let’s talk about account reviews.
Sales data can tell you a lot about a customer—brand preferences, infrastructure composition, capacity needs, applications utilization and services consumption, to name a few. Again, customers can source product however they choose, but there’s a lot to be learned by looking at their choices. By examining what SMB customers have already bought, you can get some ideas about new products to sell, and you can ask questions about what they need to fill technology gaps and forecast future needs.
The most obvious and often overlooked piece of sales history data is renewals. License and service-contract renewals should be noted in calendars and CRMs so salespeople can start making contact and preventing lapses. Sales data also can reveal the age of hardware to determine when it’s time for a refresh or upgrade. Most significantly, though, renewal times present an opportunity to talk with customers about their current needs, exploring IT strategies and, ultimately, new product and services opportunities.
Enter the second part: partnering with customers on IT planning.
SMBs are notoriously short-handed when it comes to IT knowledge and management capabilities. By partnering with SMB customers to determine needs and assist with planning, you can have a front-row seat for purchases of products, services and support. This type of partnership involves more than just providing advice about products and recommending them; it’s about inserting yourself into the strategic planning process. A successful outcome is measured by improved operational outcomes and cost reduction.
The difference between the two approaches is that account reviews are more reactionary, while IT planning is proactive and participatory. In either case, the result is uncovering technology needs that lead to product, services and support sales.
The obvious benefit of account reviews is the opening up of sales opportunities, but they offer another reward as well: uncovering competition. This is a relatively simple exercise. Inventory your customers’ IT products and services. Then compare the results of those inventories to your sales data. If you find products that you didn’t sell, it’s a clear indicator that your customers are sourcing from alternative suppliers. With that intelligence, you can determine what you can do better to keep and expand your share of the customers’ wallets.
SMB solution providers can’t afford to overlook the potential rewards of proper account management and customer sales reviews. Sometimes the next sales opportunity is right there in front of you—the customer to which you’ve already sold something.
Larry Walsh is the CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. The 2112 Group is partnered with Ingram Micro on the development and maturation of its SMB and MTV partners through a unique Incubator program designed to provide strategic growth, sales and operational guidance for performance improvement. To learn more, contact us or your Ingram Micro representative.