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Selling Professional & Managed Network Services

4 Feb, 2011 By: Greg Buschman, VerdeDocs imageSource

Selling Professional & Managed Network Services

Over the past decade, I have had the opportunity to experience or lead
several national sales support and solution sales programs, including for three
top OEMs. We were able to implement good,  innovative strategies that
significantly increased our revenue and profitability, the bottom line goal of
every company, then and now. Although the assignments differed in many ways,
certain commonalities were threaded through each. And since that time, I have
had the opportunity to talk with senior leaders and managers from some of the
most successful software solution and managed services companies in the United
States. In each case, similar commonalities existed within their practices.

Therefore, I want to highlight some reasons why companies choose outsourcing,
including several roles required for a successful managed services program as
well as market entry barriers.

Reasons Companies Outsource Professional / Managed Services to Value Added
Resellers (VAR)

Understanding why companies choose to outsource and what areas of managed
services offer the greatest customer value is imperative. Several common reasons
companies choose to outsource professional and network services are:

  • Information Technology (IT) is not their core business or core
  • The company lacks expertise in the IT discipline and the ability to
    implement and support the project.
  • Prior management has created a mesh of confusion by implementing
    multiple IT standards and non-interoperable systems.
  • A change agent is required to bring order between competing IT divisions
    within a company.
  • The company needs an infusion of cash, to cut costs, or to allocate
    resources more efficiently.
  • A merger has occurred and a change agent is required to merge the
    company’s systems into one cohesive information system.
  • A company is looking for a quid pro quo agreement to increase revenue
    and build partnerships.

Critical Roles Within the Sales Organization

To capitalize on these reasons, several common roles were apparent. Here, the
names for the roles are generic and will vary from company to company, however
the descriptions and roles are consistent:

Solutions Sales Director - The solutions sales executive is the senior
leader responsible for the entire program. The key word here is sales. Some
dealerships would consider this a selling sales manager role. This position is
responsible for the success or failure of the program, and requires an
individual with business acumen, refined personal skills, and a broad
understanding of technology. This position requires an individual whose skill
set is 50% sales management, 25% project management, and 25% technical
knowledge. Their main responsibilities are customer relationship building,
managing project personnel, implementations, and vendor relations. They should
report to the  VP of sales or higher.

Solution Sales Executive – The solution sales executive reports to the
solution sales director and is responsible for drafting the technical overview
of the solution that will fit the customer needs. This position still requires
good people skills but requires a more in-depth understanding of the
technology.  Their skill set is 50% sales & 50% technical. The solution sales
executive assesses customer needs, matches them with appropriate combination of
hardware, solutions, and services, gathers pricing, drafts proposals, and works
with the solution sales director to close sales.

Solutions Sales Architect – This role reports to the solutions sales
director & requires deep technical understanding &  implementation skills. They
gather detailed technical specifications, assure the proposed services and
solutions meet specifications, and complete post sales activities. The skill set
required comprises 25% people skills and 75% technical expertise. Each
dealership must evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, identify matches of
product offerings and the sales architect’s skill set. Then for each product
offering without a match, enter into an agreement with a software vendor,
manufacturer, or third party outsourcing group to fulfill this role. Expecting
internal staff to meet the requirements for every managed service or solutions
opportunity is not practical or cost efficient.

Mitigating Market Entry Risks:

Outsourcing vs. Out-Tasking

A major barrier to entering the managed network services market is the financial
and human capital investment required to provide, sell, and control full-managed
network services. Managing another company’s network infrastructure is a
significant responsibility that places the liability of providing 99.999%
network uptime upon the outsourcing company. This equates to approximately five
minutes of down time a year. For an imaging dealership trying to break into
managed network services, full-managed network outsourcing can be a risky place
to start. It is far more reasonable to approach the market as an out-tasking 

Out-tasking, as opposed to full-managed network outsourcing, offers companies
flexibility in choosing aspects of its operations that are best handled in-house
and those that are better fitted to be outsourced. A good place to start is
selling out-tasked managed services for systems and solutions, which are within
a dealerships core capabilities and network functions that are non-critical.
Once a dealership has established a significant beachhead in these areas, it
should evaluate areas to expand service offerings.

Market Opportunities

Managed network services are not an all or nothing proposition. An
established outsourcing practice is to split support responsibilities between
in-house staff and outsourced VARs. One of the hottest opportunities in the
market is to collaborate with customers’ IT staffing managers to provide
industry specific network support. 

In addition, software vendors and imaging manufacturers typically provide
phone support only to dealership support personnel. This places the burden of
supporting printing and imaging solutions on a prospect’s IT department. This is
one reason many IT managers resist implementing connected solutions from imaging
dealers. By providing professional and out-tasked network services, these
barriers can be lessened or eliminated. Providing these services also creates a
competitive advantage. Managers need to focus in-house services on core business
functions and be willing to out-task non-critical services.

Consider these low risk entry points to the professional & managed services
market space:

  • Customer help desk and remote desktop support for imaging solutions and
    desktop applications.
  • Adding out-tasked managed network services to managed print services
  • Dealer hosted and SaaS solutions, such as content and records
    management, storage and archival with disaster recovery, e-Commerce, and
    e-Business solutions.
  • Remote application support for copy/print centers, data center printing,
    and corporate reprographic department.
  • VoIP;  video;  network services.

Greg Buschman, SVP, Verde Document Solutions, has 10 years experience in
leading edge digital document solutions. A CompTIA Subject Matter Expert and
adjunct instructor at St. Petersburg College, he has developed color, print
production, professional services, and solutions programs at IKON, Danka, Konica

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