Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Against a backdrop of the Apollo 11 moon landings, Motorola’s Janet Schijns gave solution providers at the CompTIA Breakaway conference a history lesson about the real purpose behind President John Kennedy’s space challenge.

In the early 1960s, the United States was in a pitch battle with the Soviet Union for political, military and technology domination. The space race was a peaceful proxy for military tensions, and Kennedy wanted to use the Apollo program to demonstrate the U.S. technological superiority. Competition, Schijins said, was the driving force for innovative breakthroughs that put a man on the moon.

“The biggest mistake I see in the VAR channel is that we all want to be everything to everybody. We’re so concerned about appealing to everyone, that we appeal to no one. Being focused; that’s the key this year to being competitive,” said Schijns, vice president of global channels at Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions.

Schijns spent the better part of her 45 minute presentation to more than 200 solution providers not on Motorola products, but rather the business of the channel in a challenging and competitive market. While the recession has ravaged the general economy, Schijns says that the economy is no excuse for doing poorly; because businesses continue to have needs and will buy from someone.

What that means, she says, is solution providers need to get more aggressive in competing, as well as differentiating themselves from their competition and instilling their value proposition in the minds of their customers.

“We need to compete because there is a little less business to win. If we don’t get competitive, we’re going to get harder to win. And we don’t win, more of our businesses will be out of business,” Schijns said. “The biggest mistake I see in the VAR channel is that we all want to be everything to everybody. We’re so concerned about appealing to everyone, that we appeal to no one. Being focused—that’s the key this year to being competitive.”

Identifying unique skills and value proposition and articulating that position to the market is something Schijins says the solution provider community has not done very well. While the level of competition is increasing, she says solution providers have not focused on the differentiators that will help them win business.

Schijns outline four strategic areas that solution providers need to define for themselves to be successful. They are:

  • Financials: Defining a unique business model that has a return on investment and network or ecosystem that provides a unique ability provide a product or service.
  • Processes: Defining what enablement services end users seek from solution providers and core processes, or proprietary services, which customers can only get from you.
  • Offerings: the performance, systems and services that only you can deliver.
  • Delivery Mechanism: Defining the customer connection – brand awareness and affinity; experience – that end users value.

Solution providers, resellers and vendors often get enamored with technology, its performance and potential. Schijns told Breakaway attendees that success will not come from technology, but rather through business innovations. She called on solution providers to make their own innovative breakthroughs that make a difference to their customers’ business.

“When our customers need a breakthrough, a breakthrough for the future—you’re the breakthrough. They count on the VAR to bring them the solutions that matter,” she said. “Your customers count on you to deliver the breakthroughs that are meaningful to their business.”

Schijns, a former channel development consultant and advisor, recounted her experiences prior to joining Motorola. She said that many solution providers she worked or talked with could not assign a value proposition to themselves or differentiate themselves from next nearest competitors.

Likewise, precious few solution providers weren’t investing in training of their sales, technical and support staff in skills that would result in higher productivity or give them a deeper understanding of their customers.

Schijns encouraged solution providers to invest in sales and business skills training, and devote time to understanding the needs and objectives of the customers they’re trying to support. She said that second efforts and repeat sales calls often result in new and expanded business with existing clients.

While Schijns spoke extensively about the shortcomings of solution providers, she did not let vendors escape criticism. She said vendors – including Motorola – have not done well in promoting the value of solution providers. She went as far to say that many vendors have taken the channel for granted, which has led to products and programs that poorly service solution providers.

Motorola is investing in both internal education and end user marketing to raise the level of awareness about the utility, power and necessity of solution providers in delivering technology.

Ultimately, Schijns said, solution providers must accept the challenge to get more competitive, define their value and invest in breakthroughs that make a difference.

“They say that time changes everything. This time, you actually have to change things yourself,” she said.