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Convincing customers to part with dollars to fund new IT projects is never
easy, but every now and again there is a confluence of real world events that
makes it a whole lot easier.

Right now, two technologies that are coming as close as possible to selling
themselves are unified communications and online file transfer services. And
the rising interest in both technologies stems from the same issue: the rising
cost of fuel.

Anybody who has bought an airline ticket lately can tell you that the cost
of business travel is spiraling out of control. This means that companies more
than ever are interested in alternative modes of conducting business that don’t
involve expensive seats on airplanes.

Of course, the biggest problem associated with selling unified communications
technology is that most customers don’t really understand how to use it, never
mind implement it. A recent survey from Forester Research found that 55 percent
of the 2,187 companies queried were confused about the value of unified communications.

Of course, where there is mystery there is profit for solution providers,
assuming they are willing to make the investment necessary to become skilled
providers of unified communications solutions. The good news is that vendor
options in this space are plentiful, which means that solution providers in
this space can expect to leverage the competitive environment to get the
maximum amount of support possible from the vendor partners. In effect, that
should help offset the cost of developing expertise in a space that should
provide opportunities for high-margin services for years to come as unified
communications evolves into the next great IT-driven productivity enhancement
tool for business of all sizes.

On a more tactical level, customers are also noticing that the cost of
shipping documents via services such as FedEx and UPS
is also going up thanks to costs associated with putting fuel in the planes
that these companies rely on to deliver their services. One thing more
customers should now be increasingly willing to consider as an alternative are
file transfer services that can be used to deliver digital versions of the
paper documents that people routinely ship via FedEx and UPS.

While reselling services from companies such as VeriSign, Tumbleweed
Communications and Accellion or merely making customers aware of free services
such as YouSendIt.com may not do much for a solution provider’s bottom line, it
will go a long way toward enhancing the trusted relationship between the
solution provider and the end customer by helping them save money on shipping
costs.

Furthermore, a paid service provides the ability to integrate that
capability alongside Microsoft Exchange and LDAP directories, which in turn
creates a critical audit trail for the business. That also has benefits to the
business in terms of reduced storage costs. So when you add up the whole opportunity,
it creates a lucrative consulting opportunity for a solution provider.

No matter how a solution provider goes about helping a
customer save money in these trying economic times, the secret to success with
any of these initiatives is to gently nudge customers toward altering a routine
business process to save big dollars. In the meantime, solution providers would
be well-advised to think about how to make greater use of these technologies to
save money by altering their own business processes.