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VARs have about 12 months to position themselves to sell to the small and midsize business space before awareness and competition make the sector a free for all.

That’s the message to VARs from Andre Peiro, founder and chief executive officer of the Small Business Technology Institute, a nonprofit organization educating small business (fewer than 300 employees) about technology adoption.

“You have about 12 months to capture the low-hanging fruit of small business opportunity, than the fight begins,” he told a group of SMB solution providers gathered for the World of Difference Learning and Development Conference on Jan. 26 in New York.

“Small businesses are still fairly unsophisticated users of technology,” he told The Channel Insider between presentations. “But globalization, commoditization, lower prices, are all driving awareness right now.”

“There are signs of wakefulness in every form of adoption to what technology means for business,” he said. “These guys basically have 12 months. Small business users are moving from a lack of knowledge about technology to knowledgeable, and if VARs don’t make themselves a part of that process now, someone else will. This is their opportunity to present yourself as a knowledgeable resource.”

Click here to read more about four solutions that are ripe for the SMB, according to Andrea Peiro, CEO of the Small Business Technology Institute.

By presenting themselves as a source for education about business solutions, VARs position themselves for later sales, said Steve Dallman, director of North American Distribution and Channel Marketing at Intel, which sponsored the World of Difference program.

“Resellers are really in the perfect position to do this, better than any vendor,” Dallman said. “Resellers are small businesses. More than anyone, they know their pain. They’re compassionate about their needs.”

Resellers must become savvy marketers, driving their message to small businesses, Dallman and Peiro said.

Intel will aid SMB VARs with advertising this year, designed along the lines of the successful Intel Inside campaign that has driven consumers to ask for the company’s chip sets, Dallman said.

Peiro recommends a non-threatening approach, such as events, seminars and organizations.

“Create opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge without imposing it on them,” he told a group of resellers. “Teach a seminar, give them some food, publish a blog, do a newsletter, offer your consultative services to the community through the SBA [Small Business Administration] or Chamber of Commerce. Give them a free IT assessment, and not a 10-minute audit. If you spend an hour on each one and get one in 10 to sign on, think of your ROI.”

The key, Peiro said, is balancing the technology talk.

“If you think you are in the business of selling products, you’re in the wrong business,” he said. “They’re not interested in how many megahertz the newest box is. They want to know how they can send their kids to a better school. How can they get home one hour earlier everyday? How can they afford a sleeker car.”

But neglecting the technology all together can be dangerous, he said. “They don’t want to understand it, but they want to know you do.”