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Solution selling has long been touted as the way to greater reseller profitability.

Sell an integrated product and service bundle that targets a specific customer “pain point,” the theory goes, and upwardly mobile margins will follow. Product vendors and distributors have been nudging resellers in this direction for years, but they have not necessarily provided them with the tools to pursue such deals.

Westcon Group Inc., a networking distributor, aims to address this situation. The company’s Westcon Canada Systems Inc. subsidiary recently kicked off a VOIP (voice over IP) training program. The two-day sessions focus on Nortel Networks Ltd.’s Business Communications Manager converged voice and data products.

Resellers get the low-down on the Nortel gear, of course. But in addition to the traditional product education, the seminars also offer sales training. Participants practice sales presentations and overcoming customer objections, for example. The seminars are intended to prepare resellers for a more sophisticated, solution-oriented environment.

Indeed, the VOIP sales scenario differs from the typical reseller deal, noted Lynn Smurthwaite-Murphy, general manager of Westcon Canada. “VARs have to break down convergence and VOIP and what it means for their customers,” she said.

Resellers, she added, also need to have a thorough understanding of the customers’ business objectives and knowledge of existing infrastructure. “You can’t propose anything until you gain this knowledge,” she said. “It’s a true solution sale.”

Each seminar is limited to between 18 and 25 participants, since a larger crowd would tend to be intimidating for those rehearsing a sales pitch. Smurthwaite-Murphy believes the combined product/sales training approach can also be applied elsewhere. In fact, a Westcon training program for Avaya Inc.’s IP Office served as the inspiration for her Nortel-focused offering.

Westcon Canada’s Business Communications Manager seminars were initially offered in Montreal and Toronto. The company plans to bring the seminars south of the border later this year.

Nortel may prove a good bet for resellers wishing to get into VOIP. A recent report from Insight Research found that as of last year, incumbent PBX vendors such as Nortel are actually getting more IP PBX phones into customers’ hands than network-centric VOIP companies such as Cisco Systems Inc. and 3Com Corp. Nortel demonstrated a service at the recent VON Europe show that is designed to generate $200 to $300 annual average revenue per user for service providers.

In other Westcon news, Duncan Potter was named vice president of worldwide marketing. Potter, previously a vice president with Extreme Networks, will manage marketing strategy for Westcon Group and its three divisions: Comstor, Westcon, and Voda One.