I Didn’t Ask You to Build a Watch — I Asked You What Time It Is

by Gregg Mader, Printer Essentials

I have conversations on a regular basis with resellers and VARs across the country who are attempting to deliver on the MPS value proposition, as well as distributors who are offering a managed services program to their resellers or VARs, and there is a fairly consistent message. The reseller/VAR community is struggling with gaining traction and consistently earning the opportunity to provide managed services expertise to their current or prospective client base. 

While there are several reseller organizations that are highly successful, it is on a broad scale and in many cases based exclusively on their definition of success. However, the reality is that the majority are struggling at best, and failing completely at worst.

One theme that I find consistently present with respect to those organizations that have effective and successful consultant practices in our business is the audience with which they hold the MPS conversation and, equally important, the conversation’s content and manner in which the message is delivered to the client. The reality is, the complex series of events from assessment and solution development to fiscal management and measurement is an absolute requirement to achieving the maximum value for the client. That said, if MPS is not positioned to the client at a high level on the front end or focused on a discussion centered around potential outcomes for the client, as opposed to actions or processes required for the reseller to accomplish the goal, the client may come to his or her own conclusions as to the value of MPS, level of intrusiveness and true understanding of why you are there — potentially resulting in the client simply deciding MPS is not going to provide true value to his or her company.

The discussion with a CXO to introduce drivers behind an MPS implementation should always be a business discussion that is based around financial impact, process improvement, regulatory compliance and/or business continuity. Getting into too much minutiae detailing what the reseller has to do, the amount of time it will take, the deliverables required from the client or other topics beyond the business reasons to move forward can result in more questions than answers for the client. It may, in fact, ultimately prevent further discussion to move forward in many cases.

By way of example, I was asked to attend a meeting several months ago with a reseller and an executive at a Fortune 1000 firm that this reseller was trying to earn as a client. The reseller was fairly new at the whole managed services business but had gone through lots of training with various companies and felt “very comfortable” with his talk track. He also had an existing relationship with the executive, which is always a plus. It was a great opportunity, and the meeting was set at the appropriate level within the organization, so I was happy to accept the invitation to attend. The reseller invited me to come along — not to deliver the value proposition on behalf of the reseller but rather to listen to the reseller’s delivery of the message and provide some constructive criticism post-meeting so he could potentially improve.

Getting into too much minutiae detailing what the reseller has to do, the amount of time it will take, the deliverables required from the client or other topics beyond the business reasons to move forward can result in more questions than answers for the client. It may, in fact, ultimately prevent further discussion to move forward in many cases.

The conversation was an interesting study as to the delivery approach, and, more importantly, how it was received by the executive. It solidified why I will always camp on my soapbox with respect to what the conversation should be about, and more importantly, it confirmed what I believe is the mindset of most CXOs a reseller or VAR might come across. The reseller had put together a presentation for this meeting that was supposed to be high-level and pique interest in process enhancement, potential expense avoidance and cash flow improvement opportunities so the reseller could map steps to move forward — which it did when I originally received it to review prior to the meeting.

However, the slide deck that got presented didn’t look at all like what was originally reviewed, but instead ended up being loaded with multiple slides packed with substantial details regarding what the reseller was going to do, what was required from the customer, how the reseller was going to develop the solution, potential required actions the client was going to have to perform in order to facilitate the implementation of an MPS program, and loads of technical detail surrounding software.

When the presentation was over, the executive, who was a very bright individual, looked at the reseller and said, “Let me see if I can sum up what you are trying to say. Your strategy, by doing all this stuff you just ran through, is to come into my organization, identify if you can manage our document flow in a more efficient manner, and if so, you will define the financial impact, develop and implement a plan and then manage our document strategy processes. … Your core competency is to allow us to focus on ours, and as a byproduct of your actions, we will certainly be more productive and potentially save money by doing so?”

To this, the reseller said, “Exactly!” The reseller was really quite proud … for a very brief period of time, because the executive immediately followed up by looking at him and saying, “Then why didn’t you just say so instead of wasting my time with all this other detail that I can’t make heads or tails of?”

He was very serious about his final comment. That conversation took place more than six months ago. Given the size of the organization, the vertical market it is in, and the fact that the company has never gone through this process, it is certain that if the reseller does his job properly, this client will see very positive financial impacts. And yet, to date, the CXO has shown no interest in moving forward. He claims it is due to other pressing issues, but I am certain it has more to do with the fact that the reseller did not concisely define the potential results and value to the organization in a manner that the CXO is used to.

I have reviewed numerous programs across the country and have been involved in building a few myself. There are many programs available today that hold varying degrees of value for the end user and, if acquired from a distributor, varying degrees of training for the reseller. That said, looking at the resellers and VARs out there trying to cultivate this consultative approach, there are also great divides in understanding the audience and creating go-to-market strategies and materials that are tailored to be received easily, possessing the proper verbiage and level of detail for each stage in the process, depending upon who within the client organization is involved. Once this approach is mastered, it is amazing to see the difference in how successful a reseller can be.