Knowing how to sell

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

The paths to growth may vary, but growth is a must for solution providers with any hope of success.

This approach is evident in the company’s long-term client relationships, Poddar said. "Even companies that have very niche offerings must sell, and sell quickly before the market changes and competition catches up.

A company with profound IT skills and no sales capabilities will not flourish." Dadian agrees. "Some people have the ability to do it all and lead a company to substantial growth and prominence," he said. "I am a self-taught technologist. I understand the technology we deploy; you just don’t want me deploying it. My background is asset management and logistics. I understand business and processes, and I use this to understand the client’s needs and then design the appropriate technology solution to apply."

Dadian added that it’s important to understand one’s role within the company. If you are a technologist or salesperson, you should hire an experienced CEO, and sales management and project management people, he said.

Touchbase’s Maynard said a company should be led by market-focused people, as opposed to technologists.

"The company needs a very strong technical backbone, but the front of the organization needs to be highly attuned to client and market needs, which means that too much of a technical approach will limit the company’s success. Clients are interested in what the technology will do for them, not what the technology is."

As these solution providers demonstrate, building successful practices requires a focus on serving customer needs, regardless of the technology employed. For the most part, solving a business problem or building a solution needs to be presented as a process, and the technology is only part of the mechanism to make it happen. That is in stark contrast to many smaller solution providers that believe they are, foremost, purveyors of technology solutions.

Trust and talent
One common thread among successful channel companies is the recognition that success largely hinges on employees and how they are nurtured.

"The focus on human beings is one of the most important tenets of building a successful business," said Neudesic’s Marshall. "Talent is always in demand and talent works like gravity, attracting even more talent. Simply put, the best want to work with the best, and that culture offers a reward beyond compensation. Talent does deserve monetary rewards, and that can be accomplished using equity sharing."

In addition to gathering talent, it also helps to build trust among employees by knowing what responsibilities to give them, said Poddar.

"While it is hard to determine whom to trust, apportioning responsibility by degree is a good litmus test," she said. "During the span of any given year, you can tell which employees go beyond what is expected from them. There are key indicators beside the hours they work, such as their willingness to accept additional responsibilities.

Some employees, she said, are driven by emotions and show great care in their duties. "Some naturally develop instincts for making strategic decisions, while others develop it through hard work and/or continuing education."

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com