Channel Case Study: The Value of Cold Calls

By Jennifer Lawinski  |  Print this article Print

Sure, being the trusted advisor is important. But first you need to get in the door. Here's a look at how a single cold call turned into a giant wireless networking deal at Dean College.

It was the cold call that turned into a half-a-million dollar business deal.

When an inside sales associate at Carousel Industries called Dean College, not only did the solution provider fortuitously reach out at exactly the right time, it managed to put together a compelling deal, kicking off a relationship that has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

"One of our inside sales members was cold calling and got them on a good day, I guess, and they decided to allow us to come in to meet with them to get an introduction to their environment," says Becki Somers, an account executive with Carousel Industries, an Exeter, R.I.-based solution provider that specializes in data networking and converged communications.

Because it wasn't able to keep up with the demands of the college's 1,200 students, not to mention its staff and faculty, as social media and video use skyrocketed, Franklin, Mass.-based Dean College was in the midst of revamping its technology infrastructure. In addition, the college was building a new 28,800 square-foot performance and dining center that would be an additional drain on the network's capabilities.

After initial discussions on the state of the campus' wireless network, Carousel and its partner wireless networking vendor Aruba Networks, came to the college with a proposal. "It was good timing that we ended up being able to bring in Aruba to meet with them and give them information on how [the Aruba solution] would work in their environment. From there we talked through it and did some design work with them," Somers says. "They were really interested in the security applications that came with the Aruba solution, along with its scalability."

The timeline was tight. The college wanted to do the work during the summer months, when fewest students and faculty would be on campus. "They do a lot of summer programs and classes, camps… They also have a very large football program there. So we were really working with Dean College very closely on the timelines they had put in place," Somers says.

Beginning in early summer, 2010, the college's IT team worked with Carousel to deploy Cat 6 Ethernet cabling, and install an Aruba 3x 5400 series router system with HP ProCurve 2910 switches. They also deployed 335 Aruba AP-105 access points, providing the entire campus with wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity. An Aruba 6000 Mobility Controller managed traffic flow and security policies. The project was completed on time in August 2010.

When the college started its infrastructure upgrade, it had several goals in mind including increasing network capacity, reliability and security,  according to Darrell Kulesza, CIO of Dean College. "By working with Carousel, we were able to accomplish each of these objectives within our allocated time frame and budget allowance. Carousel was instrumental in the planning, integration and the overall success of this project."

While the infrastructure upgrade was not primarily driven by cost savings, Kulesza says they have been able to bring the college's IT spending down with its $1.5 million investment, about $350,000 of which was spent on the networking upgrade with Carousel. It's been able to cut hardware replacement costs in half, and cut the cost of its wireless network by 30 percent.

The project's success has allowed Carousel to approach Dean College with other projects and ideas and develop a relationship as the college's trusted technology adviser, says Brian Feshler, sales director at Carousel Industries.

Carousel is now working with Dean on a project to upgrade its storage applications and create a disaster recovery system. Carousel sold Dean an EMC storage application for about $60,000. "We started to talk to them from a worst-case-scenario to "nirvana" – steps to take to cover yourself a little bit and here’s what you can do long-term to cover yourself completely," Feshler says.

"We've had them down to the executive briefing center and our corporate offices, talking about trends in education and from those various meetings stemmed our ability to get into other technologies outside of the initial projects," Feshler says.

In addition to pitching a virtualization and desktop virtualization solution, Carousel is piloting a classroom technology upgrade project with Dean that involves smart boards other classroom technologies. "We're in the process of installing the first two or three classrooms that could ultimately lead into up to 40 different classrooms. Based on their current budget and over the next 12 to 19 months the intention is for us to deploy this technology through each of these classrooms."

Each classroom costs between $10,000 and $15,000 to upgrade.

But that project wasn't necessarily a shoo-in for Carousel. The solution provider has had to bid and compete against other solution providers – including CDW, which also works with Dean College – for every project it's won.

"They keep us honest. We've competed in every scenario. Just because they view us as a partner and a trusted advisor, they still bid us out," Feshler says.

Another solution provider worked with Carousel on its phone system upgrade as Dean had an NEC solution and Carousel doesn't work with that vendor. "Some other projects that they've gone with CDW on – but we've got our fair share," he says. "I think they've gotten two or three different partners that they view as their strategic partners. I think they do that by design so that they're not reliant on one VAR."

The biggest factor in Carousel's ongoing success with Dean College is the way the two have developed a partnership, Feshler says, including discussions on bringing Dean students in as interns at Carousel.

"I think our ability to be a technology advisor to them across multiple solutions is a big key to it. We've got very strong relationships with key manufacturers in the industry across multiple technologies. We also have subject matter experts in each of these areas that we can go in and speak to Dean's organizations. I think they trust us.

"For them, a bit thing for Dean College is utilizing technology to stay competitive in the marketplace for themselves. Utilizing technology, plus what we've talked about, has allowed them to be more competitive and offer a better educational product," he says. "We hope that the relationship lasts for several years to come."