Michael Amiri, Senior Director of Dealer Services at Continuum, shares his thoughts on what office equipment dealers need to consider when venturing into managed IT services, and why this lucrative market should be approached with careful enthusiasm
The technology needs of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are evolving. The inception of cloud computing, unprecedented access to web-based solutions and software, and an increasing reliance on outsourcing of core services, are all changing the way SMBs conduct business today.
This creates lucrative opportunities for IT services providers, who can leverage their understanding of modern solutions to transcend traditional vendor relationships and act as strategic advisors. Providers today are thriving by not only identifying and deploying the best available solutions for particular business needs, but by also providing proactive support, maintenance and troubleshooting for these offerings – eliminating the need for small businesses to invest in internal IT departments.
Throughout this change, at least some constants remain – the power of relationships, the need for effective sales strategies and the value of one-stop shopping for SMBs. Business owners value mutually-beneficial relationships, solution expertise and quality service. It’s in these areas that one specific vertical is extremely well-suited for entry into the managed IT and network services market – office equipment dealerships.
Dealers are uniquely positioned to step into this booming space, they’re sales experts, they have well-established customer relationships and, they’ve already got a foot in the door. The key to successfully integrating these new services into an existing portfolio lies in forming the right partnerships, getting buy-in from the top down and shifting certain aspects of the business to support a managed IT services model.
Customer service and relationships
Managed IT services are all about providing customers with peace of mind and insurance for critical systems and data, and as system failure and unplanned downtime becomes increasingly intolerable, the importance of trust in these deals cannot be understated.
The channel understands customer service and is adept at forging and building great relationships. Those dealers that already have happy customers purchasing print hardware, software, supplies and other office equipment solutions, are a step ahead of an outside competitor who has no established reputation or rapport with those businesses.
Customers also already understand the value of outsourcing and leveraging outside experts for technical support, maintenance, sales and other services. It’s not cost-effective for the average SMB to hire in-house service engineers for printers and MFPs, and the same is true for IT.
It’s a matter of convenience as well; why pay multiple vendors at the end of every month when one provider can handle it all? Business owners, particularly SMBs, value one-stop-shopping and simplicity, and the ability to purchase office equipment alongside technology hardware and services is an appealing prospect.
Already viewed as trusted advisors
SMBs are more than capable of making direct purchases from vendors, both with office equipment and information technology. They look to service providers or dealers for the added expertise being brought to the table, and for their ability to effectively troubleshoot and support those solutions post-implementation. The same message that resellers have successfully leveraged in the office equipment space can easily carry over into managed IT services – the technology and sales processes may be a bit different, but the underlying concepts are the same.
What’s more, managed IT services present constant opportunities to upsell, cross-sell and upgrade existing deals by bringing new devices under management, taking on project work and upgrading between service tiers or packages. IT providers are also well-positioned to regularly meet with existing customers to discuss business goals and objectives to identify future sales opportunities and continually align technology solutions with the direction the business is headed in.
Dealers are sales experts
The best technology services offering isn’t worth much if you can’t sell it, and laundry lists of features and tech specs are unlikely to convince the average business owner that an IT offering is worth the price of admission.
The good news for dealerships is that they’ve got some of the best sales people in business today and they’ve got the workforce and existing customer base needed to find success in managed IT services. Not all hardware reps need to become IT experts, but with the right kind of sales enablement they can become experts at finding quality IT opportunities within their given sales geographies. To facilitate a successful IT sales process, a few key hires will need to be made; most notably the Virtual Chief Information Officer or vCIO. This key team member will become the IT subject matter expert to assist hardware reps with vetting and closing managed IT services’ opportunities.
With the right training and the ability to identify the top 10 or 20 per cent of current customers who are a good fit for outsourced IT, dealers can jumpstart their transition into this growing market and bring in impressive new revenue streams without having to capture any new prospects or invest heavily in upfront marketing programmes.
Dealerships are looking for opportunities to bring in new revenue streams and set themselves up for continued growth for the foreseeable future. Managed IT services present dealers with an unprecedented opportunity to expand the scope of their services and take greater ownership over their customers’ network and infrastructure and, in doing so, exponentially increase the value they’re bringing to the table and further cement existing account relationships.
Innovative dealers that manage both print and IT relationships for their clients become vastly more relevant to those customers. And when you are really relevant to your customers, you become quite difficult to replace.
The key to successfully integrating these new technology offerings into the business lies in finding a partner who understands the imaging channel and can provide the tools, expertise and technical personnel needed to bridge the gap between office equipment and IT – empowering office equipment dealers to quickly step into this booming market without requiring significant capital investment. Continuum’s IT management platform and dealer focused support team can help dealerships accelerate this transition by providing a robust, scalable outsourced IT model that combines powerful software with human resources which allow dealers to realise 60 per cent margins or greater.