Our industry finds itself in a massive state of transition. The way companies do business in the channel has started to shift away from the traditional models. What we call a value-added reseller (VAR) is no longer a company that solely acquires and installs infrastructure and software. Today’s hybrid VAR finds success operating and maintaining technology, similar to how a managed services provider (MSP) would. The wireless networking-as-a-service (NaaS) space is a perfect illustration of this.
If you’re a traditional reseller looking to add managed services to your repertoire, rethinking your business model is just the start. Effectively moving from selling hardware at a cost-plus basis to a business that provides a monthly subscription service comes with a certain responsibility. As a hybrid VAR, you must be dedicated to knowing the key business concerns of your customer, how to apply knowledge and experience, and how to leverage vendor relationships in a consultative manner.
Developing a services mentality starts when you can look a customer in the eye and say, "We can do this better than you can do this yourself." You have to be committed and actively engaged in helping customers manage their network. You will deliver an efficient assessment of needs. You will have a stable of trusted vendor solutions to apply to that assessment, and a cost structure that allows you to offer solutions tuned to the financial constraints of your customer set. You will offer installation or DIY services and the infrastructure to do it over a period of time.
Make Predictability a Win-Win for Resellers and Their Customers
Truly understand the value in the services that you sell. For a business owner, NaaS allows the shifting of costs related to buying and managing equipment from a capital expense to an operational expense. Business owners avoid the upfront outlay of cash or financing for the initial equipment purchase. They rest assured that their network will stay up to speed, up to warranty, and up to date with the latest technology. NaaS simplifies their budgeting and provides business owners with peace of mind, knowing they will never be distracted by network issues. You grant them predictability that is well worth a monthly premium paid for equipment and management.
From the perspective of the hybrid VAR, predictability is crucial in a similar sense. Gaining income on the basis of monthly recurring revenue has a smoothing effect for your business. You have clear visibility of revenue per-customer, over a set duration of the service agreement. Having a firm grasp of your income takes a lot of the guesswork out of forecasting growth and scaling your business. When it comes time to scale up, you can place more focus on operations because you have a better idea of your financials will look like six months to a year (or longer) down the road.
Lower Acquisition Costs by Understanding Customer Networks, Needs and Niche
It’s somewhat difficult to speak about SMB networking needs in any meaningful way because the market is too complex for easy generalizations. When considering how to conduct business with an SMB customer, simply counting the number of seats at the company is an inadequate measure for tailoring a meaningful—and profitable—services offering. You will need to dig a little deeper.
Remember that networking boils down to four high-level facets: The physical size of the location, the number of locations, the number of client connections, and the applications used across that variety of connections. The sum total defines the complexity of customer’s network needs. Once that is understood, you can then decide how sophisticated your equipment needs to be to solve for their challenges, with a reasonable amount of future proofing.
The ability to efficiently scale determines whether hybrid VARs are successful or not. New customer acquisition is a major pain point in the industry because it is resource-intensive. You will find that successful resellers cater to a specific industry vertical. This doesn’t happen by accident. Whether that’s law enforcement, K-12 education or retail—targeting a specific vertical reduces the time it takes to learn about customers’ business needs, pitch a proposal, and convince them to sign on the dotted line.
Gain a Competitive Advantage with the Right Vendor Partnerships
When it comes to networking technology, one truth that proves itself time and again is everything you think you can predict is, in fact, unpredictable. The wisest recommendation you can make to your customers is to plan ahead. To help customers plan ahead, the smartest thing you can do as a reseller is build relationships with manufacturers that provide you with tools and technology at a sensible cost.
From a hardware perspective, that means thinking in terms of what networking infrastructure should do three, four, five years from now. Always opt for equipment that gives you the fastest, farthest and most powerful performance to stay ahead of business demands.
From a software perspective, choose a product that provides granular visibility into each of the networks that you manage. When you can monitor the load on a network, and drill down to individual access points and examine each device connected them, you find consistent opportunities for optimization and value-adds on a customer-by-customer basis.
From the perspective of a reseller offering cloud networking solutions, affordable scalability is the real differentiator. Until now, licensing costs have stifled entry into the NaaS space, and have added risk and complexity for providers looking to grow their business. Introducing cloud solutions without licensing overhead stands to open up managed network services to a new set of resellers that serve a cost-conscious, performance-hungry customer set.
Grow Your Offering as Your Customers Scale up Operations
Serving small businesses provides a unique opportunity. They grow--and you are in position to grow with them. Expanding your services with an existing base of customers is the best way to drive additional revenue. They’re the proverbial bird in the hand. There’s no onboarding required, you know their needs, and you have established trust by delivering services that have allowed them to scale up their own business.
A quality cloud networking solution gives you the ability to see network issues in real time, and address them right in the software. That solution might involve shipping out one or several access points pre-loaded and configured to suit their needs, which you can do without making an onsite customer call.
When it’s time for your customers to grow, you will likely know before they do. Having granular visibility into customer networks, setting up notification parameters and knowing which actions to take--that’s how resellers deliver value. As networking management software continues to evolve--think Wi-Fi marketing services and built-in CRM--it means new and exciting developments are on the horizon.
Wayne Newton is the Director of Commercial Markets for Belkin International, which includes the Belkin, Linksys and WeMo brands. He oversees the sales channels for Belkin International's B2B business, including our government and education verticals, direct and indirect resellers, distribution network, OEM partners, and service providers. Newton has lead the integration of the Linksys and Belkin Channel programs, which has led to a more engaged reseller community with training, membership awards and sales support. He re-launched Linksys in the SMB channel and is currently working on cloud services for resellers to better manage and control their clients' networks. Newton is also leading the next generation of SMB offerings with the IoT. Leveraging Linksys and WeMo home automation solutions, his team is working to build office automation solutions that will help resellers provide additional services to grow their businesses. Newton has held numerous positions in networking, storage and services companies, including D-Link, Imation and Digital River. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from St Cloud State University. Stay connected and keep up with news and deals with Linksys for Business on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/linksys-for-business/
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