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Reseller ROI: Becoming an emerging technologies expert

As discussed in an earlier blog post, the next few years are going to be all about making sure your customers know that spending dollars with you is a wiser investment than spending dollars with another reseller or, more likely, with a manufacturer. I’ve also discussed how to eliminate evaluations and thereby improve your ROI; in this entry let’s discuss becoming an emerging technologies expert.

Why is this an important service to your clients? Won’t they want to make safe bets throughout the next few years? Yes, they will want to, but they might not be able to.

Emerging technology companies typically come about for one of two reasons. Either there is a need to solve a problem that isn’t being solved by traditional suppliers, or there is a need to solve a problem for less money than before. Tighter economic times can drive both.

Customers are being asked to manage more with fewer people and a lower budget. This will lead them to want to look for new solutions that will maximize what they have (think of virtualization, data reduction and power efficiency) and/or find a less expensive solution to accomplish what they are already doing.

The good news is that there are (literally) hundreds of solutions that have come to market or that are coming to market that accomplish one or both of these tasks. The challenge is that customers don’t have the time or resources to properly review and evaluate each of these options. In fairness, you probably don’t either, but you need to make the time.

If you can position your organization as the company that can guide customers through the emerging technologies wilderness, you have demonstrated immense value-add and increased your ROI. For customers, the timesavings alone is indispensable.

Having knowledge of the emerging market is a critical advantage as projects develop. For example, if a project suddenly has the dollars assigned to it cut in half and you are aware of other options, then you are still in the project. Even if switching to another product might not be right for a particular project, being able to guide the customer through the other options keeps you involved and positions you to retain a smaller version of the original proposal.

The key in proposing an emerging technology solution to your customers is to be honest and address the negatives upfront. Emerging technologies are called emerging for a reason: They’re new, and something might happen that changes the appeal of either the technology or the company making the technology. For instance, the company might get bought out — which has about an equal chance of being a positive or a negative — or it might go out of business, which is just not good. And obviously, the company can make it big; remember that companies like Data Domain and Compellent were deemed as emerging at one time.

But even if the company goes out of business, the solution you’ve sold your customers will not suddenly stop working. It will continue to work, and you’ll have time to move customers to another technology.

One important note: Avoid the pitfall of assuring customers that an emerging technology company looks like a safe bet. There are teams of venture capitalists who try to make a living predicting which companies will be successful and which won’t. They get it wrong more often than they get it right. That said, there are some key success factors in determining if one emerging company has a better chance than another. In an upcoming entry, we will look at those key factors and explain how to determine when you should start working with emerging companies.

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators. 

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