Archive for March, 2010

Autotask bought VARStreet…

March 17, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

Now this is interesting…curios to learn more.  Any Autotask users care to chime in?  How important is this to you?  Is an E-Commerce platform the way you want to sell product to your clients?  Curious about your experiences!

Autotask Redefines Conventional Professional Services Automation (PSA) Software through Acquisition of Cloud-Based E-Commerce Platform

VARStreet Acquisition adds Online Stores, Advanced Product Quoting, Real-Time Distributor Pricing & Availability, Product Sourcing, Procurement and more to Autotask

EMBARGOED NEWS – EAST GREENBUSH, NY – March 17, 2010Autotask Corporation, the world leader in hosted IT Business Management software, today announced that it has acquired the cloud-based VARStreet e-commerce platform, redefining all IT Professional Services Automation (PSA) solutions by adding powerful tools to automate and streamline the entire IT product sales and procurement process.

VARStreet is the IT industry’s most powerful hosted e-commerce automation platform for technology resellers, currently supporting almost $1 billion in IT product sales annually.  With the acquisition, Autotask Corporation announced the immediate availability of several new products for Value Added Resellers (VARs), Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and all types of solution providers who need a more affordable way to manage, buy and resell technology products.

There are three VARStreet products which are available immediately:

  • VARStreet Back-Office is a completely integrated IT Product Sales and Procurement platform that includes real-time pricing and availability from distributors, advanced product quoting, sourcing and fulfillment.
  • VARStreet e-Commerce includes VARStreet Back-Office plus a complete VAR-branded and controlled e-storefront.
  • The existing high-end VARStreet XC platform, with more power features and controls, rounds out the product line

An embedded e-commerce module for Autotask is scheduled for release in late April 2010.

“IT engagements and Managed Services naturally carry a product component when VARs consult on the full solution,” said Bob Godgart, CEO of Autotask Corporation.  “However, without the right automation tools in place, they find that the sales and procurement process is too time-consuming to cover the small margins associated with commoditized products. And worse, when their customers choose to buy technology products through other channels, solution providers lose control over the relationship and can miss out on installation, training, maintenance and managed services revenue.”

Godgart added, “We’re going to make the VARStreet advanced e-commerce technology available and affordable to help more solution providers gain a greater share of their customers’ technology purchases, and give them the ability to make decent money in the process.”

The existing VARStreet XC product line is widely regarded as the most powerful and comprehensive suite of hosted e-commerce automation tools on the market, and is currently used by hundreds of the largest VARs in North America, such as Emtec, Inc., Pomeroy IT, and Zebra Technologies. Additionally, Autotask Corporation has expanded the product line to include VARStreet Back-Office and VARStreet e-Commerce, putting the technology within reach of any solution provider.

VARStreet Back-Office: Automating All Aspects of the Product Sale and Procurement Process
The VARStreet Back-Office product includes a full set of integrated e-commerce automation tools, including:

  • e-Price Book / Catalog – Dynamically updated feeds from 18 major distributors, including BlueStar, Ingram Micro Inc., Synnex, Tech Data, and more than a dozen others, allow Solution Providers to create their own custom product catalogs for each of their customers from among hundreds of thousands of IT SKUs.  The catalogs can be customized with unlimited products and services from the VAR. List prices are based on rules established by the VAR, and multiple price levels can be configured to vary by customer or source.
  • Advanced Product Quoting – VARs can quickly and easily browse and search through their aggregated custom catalogs to build professional looking quotes or start from a Quote Template.  The software pulls in rich specifications and images for each quoted product, along with automatic pricing. VARs can electronically review the quotes with their customers, and VARStreet keeps track of the entire sales pipeline and other key metrics.
  • e-Sourcing – Once an order is received from the customer, VARs can use the software to “buy-it-right,” where they determine the best source and the best price based on real-time comparative pricing and availability.
  • E-Marketing – For VARs who want a simple way to quickly generate demand for their products, an integrated marketing engine can send out bulk customized HTML e-mails to existing customers and prospects.  The software includes built-in templates for sending out marketing messages, quotes, order acknowledgements and more… all personalized using data pulled from the contact history. The e-marketing tool also includes real-time reporting on email responses, as well as the ability to create pre- or post-sale surveys and questionnaires.
  • e-ProcurementVARStreet Back Office dramatically streamlines the VAR-to-distributor procurement process by automatically converting sales orders into electronic Purchase Orders to most major distributors –all with no re-entry of data.  VARStreet manages and tracks the full transaction lifecycle, including order status and shipping from multiple distributors.   Orders can also be drop-shipped – lowering inventory overhead and shipping costs even further.

VARStreet e-Commerce: Helping Solution Providers Sell Products On-line
VARStreet e-Commerce includes VARStreet Back-Office plus a world-class hosted e-Storefront to help solution providers take online orders with a minimum of manual work. Each e-Storefront is customized and branded by the solution provider and has a number of automated features, including:

  • Dynamically-Updated Content — e-Store catalogs are automatically created and updated from products or categories that the VARs choose to display from their distributors. Rich product descriptions and images are automatically pulled in, along with sale pricing based on VAR-defined parameters.
  • Automated Selling Tools — Side-by-side product comparisons, automated up-sell, cross-sell, and special offers, stored favorites, most-popular-listings-first are among the many features that drive increased sales.
  • Automated Shopping Cart — The software includes simple check-out, supports multiple payment methods, order confirmations, and shipment tracking for the customer.

VARStreet XC: Still the industry standard for high volume resellers.
The high-end VARStreet XC e-Commerce Platform will continue to be offered as the premier solution for larger VARs and solution providers. VARStreet XC includes VARStreet e-Commerce, and VARStreet Back Office, plus higher levels of customization, customer-side procurement workflow rules, enhanced punch-outs and integrations, and more, to meet the requirements of resellers with the largest and most demanding corporate and government clients.

Making VARStreet Technology Available and Affordable for Any Solution Provider
“This technology is now available for any VAR, MSP or solution provider that wants to make more money selling products – not just the VAR 500,” said Godgart. “That’s why we’ve introduced the VARStreet Back-Office product at just $99 per month and the VARStreet e-Commerce product, which also includes e-Storefront, starting at $299 per month.”

“Every day, the solution provider’s customers are going online to buy IT products, accessories, consumables and supplies, such as printer cartridges, cables, paper and other commoditized items,” added Godgart.  “This is the perfect opportunity for VARs to create new revenue streams for themselves with very little work.   The orders come in through the stores, are drop-shipped directly from the distributor, and the VAR gets paid.  No touch.  All margin.”

Customers Sell More With Autotask
Autotask customer Andrew Harper, Chief Information Officer for Gaeltek of Virginia is looking forward to gaining more efficiency throughout his sales process, “Autotask’s addition of the VARStreet e-Commerce and VARStreet Back-Office products will allow me to sell more for less.  I am going to save a lot of time and money in managing my product procurement, as well as gain more control over my product sales process.  We enjoy the visibility and ease that Autotask brings to our services business, and now this will give us the same ease of doing business on the product side.”

This mirrors the sentiments of existing VARStreet XC customers, who have seen a 50 percent improvement in both purchasing and quoting productivity, a 20 percent increase in revenue and an additional five percent dropping straight to their bottom lines.
“We have partnered with VARStreet for five years to provide us with customizable ecommerce solutions that have allowed us to win many contracts. Over that time, VARStreet has provided flexible solutions to meet our customer specifications,” says Michael Hubbs, director of MIS, Emtec, Inc.

“At last solution providers will be able to tie together the entire product and services lifecycle, whether the order is taken electronically or through a salesperson,” concluded Godgart. “They can track everything from the initial marketing push through the final delivery of the order, and the history and product information flows into one IT business management system – Autotask.”

The VARStreet by Autotask Corporation e-commerce platform is currently available only in North America, but the company has a global roll-out of the technology on the product roadmap.

About VARStreet
VARStreet, Inc. was founded in 1999 with headquarters in Santa Clara, CA and a subsidiary in Pune, India.  Fueled by more than $20 million of capital investments, VARStreet was the first fully-hosted e-commerce solution for VARs.  Today the VARStreet platform is widely regarded as the most powerful and comprehensive suite of hosted e-commerce tools on the market, and is currently used by hundreds of the largest VARs in North America. Terms of the VARStreet acquisition by Autotask Corporation remain private; however Autotask has formed a subsidiary in Pune, India and retained all staff.

Visit www.varstreet.com for more information on VARStreet Back Office, VARStreet e-Commerce and VARStreet XC.

About Autotask Corporation
Autotask Corporation is the leading provider of innovative, web-based Business Management Software and Services designed exclusively for IT Service Providers, MSPs, IT Consultants, Systems Integrators and other technology solution providers. Accessible via any PC, at any time without any downloads, Autotask helps IT professionals intuitively manage and automate the key operations for their service business and integrates seamlessly with most Managed Services software applications. For more information on Autotask please visit http://www.autotask.com or call 518-720-3500. Autotask®, Autotask Go!®, Autotask Pro® are registered trademarks Autotask Corporation. All other trademarks mentioned in this document are the property of their respective owners.

United Airlines

March 15, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

One of my most enjoyable visits is to my client in New Hampshire. They are tough and very committed to being a truly great company

The challenge however has been in getting to and from Manchester on United. Without fail there is a delay or cancellation. I have done every permutation of United’s schedule. Nothing mattered.

This morning I decided to take a connecting flight to Manchester through Dulles. Around 7 am the delayed flight texts began resulting in a departure time 1.5 hours late.

Knowing that I was likely going to miss my connection I expected a rebooking text message or email. Instead, nothing. I went to the Red Carpet ticket counter expecting empathy, hustle, and creativity in getting me to my destination. Instead, nothing. I did get the classic, ” sir there’s nothing I can do” however which is always refreshing.

After over 400,000 miles, 1k status, and over $100,000 spent on tickets I think I’m going to give Southwest Airlines a try.

Customer loyalty appears to count for very little when it really matters. When I’m stranded or need to rebook last minute, there is nothing they can do. That’s when I want my loyalty to pay off Just never has happened.

So United I bid you farewell after I burn through my remaining tickets. Southwest, here I come.

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Is tech billable utilization relevant to the managed services provider?

March 11, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

I’ve struggled with this question for the last couple years and it is one that gets thrown at me any time I speak at a workshop or conference.  For me, the answer is still a resounding YES!

Even with the advent of automatic updates and backups and remote monitoring, solutions still need to be implemented.  Of course putting time against a contract reduces its profitability, but what are you going to do? Ignore the issue in order to avoid putting time onto the agreement?  Of course not.

The whole point of measuring utilization has always been to track how many client facing hours engineers put towards clients for billing.  The only difference with managed services is that we’ve been prepaid for those potential hours.  Time will still need to put towards clients networks and we as managers, owners, and sales people must keep the client base large enough for their to be enough networks to work on.  Hopefully each individual network needs less touch but does that mean we want techs sitting around?  Definitely not, it means go out and find MORE networks for them to maintain.  Low utilization STILL means that we are losing production out of our staff.

We also can not forget about projects!  Sales should be out filling the pipeline and queue with new projects that are what? BILLED BY THE HOUR OR FLAT FEE!  That means billable hours that need to be tracked and measured to determine production levels of our engineers.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water folks.  Keep measuring utilization.  Add to that some strong analysis of time on task and efficiencies of implementing solutions.  Now more than ever you need your engineers working smartly and efficiently on solving client issues.  If you’re not hitting 75% utilization look at your sales pipeline, bring in more clients until you can fully utilize your engineering team.

More on this topic later…it’s a big one and there are many more factors such as fudging time sheets, loading time against agreements, etc…all real issues and all incredibly simple to combat!  Let me know what you think?

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Sales Constitution

March 9, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

Bill Stucklen is a founder of Marathon Consulting in Brooklyn, NY. He was a reluctant sales manager but has turned out to be quite amazing at it and is delivering some very strong results. Bill forwarded this Sales Constitution to me this morning and I really like it, all but the part about giving products away for free!

Sales Constitution

• I refuse to sell my services to people who don’t want them or need them.
• I find out how others failed because I won’t make the same mistake they did.
• I never stand in the way of the best solutions or the worst solutions.
• I don’t sell products; I sell service. All products are free with my service.
• I never expect buyers to pay more for the same solution at a higher price.
• I always present solutions that are different and better than competitors.
• I present my solutions only once – to the right people at the right time.
• I will not allow third parties to present my solutions. Only I will do this.
• I provide choices to my buyer, not ultimatums.
• I will never fax or email my proprietary solutions to a customer.
• I am committed to only four possible outcomes of my presentation.
o Yes
o No
o Disqualify Myself – If my solutions are the same as others.
o Set a future date to get my final answer with a return visit.
• I always find out what I did to get or lose the sale.
• I return in person to get the final answer, not make follow up phone calls.
• I always let customers know that I need their help getting more customers.

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Setting the right sales call expectation for your shiny fresh new sales person!

March 8, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

You’ve hired the right person, you’ve put them through their orientation, you’ve even found someone who will prospect and get their own appointments! Congratulations. Now what? Here are four things to get that newbie thinking about:
1. Ask questions about technology; how do they use it? what role does it play in their business? what is frustrating? what’s working or not working?

2. Once you’ve uncovered a “pain”, relax, slow down, don’t get over excited and start trying to throw solutions at the prospect. Instead, start asking probing questions. Find out what solutions they’ve attempted. Ask if any other companies have offered solutions.

3. If there is an opportunity, start talking about time frames and budgets. Here’s a hint, the prospect never has a budget or doesn’t want to tell you the budget. This is where selling comes in…help them understand why you need that number, how it speeds the delivery time to getting their pain solved, how it helps you craft the right solution that they can actually afford. If you’ve begun to build a trusting relationship, you can get this number.

4. Insist that your newbie never leave that prospect without the next meeting and an objective for that next meeting. This is crucial! Too many sales calls end with a “call me next week.” Everyone is excited and motivated until next week comes and you can’t reach your new buddy. The calls are unreturned, the emails ignored, and suddenly that hot new opportunity is reduced to nothing. Get the follow up appointment on the spot.

These are simple topics for your weekly sales meeting.  Be patient, even your seasoned vets can fall out of these habits.  Coach and counsel your newbies consistently to train the behavior.  They’ll get there.

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SMB Nation Article

March 6, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

Over the last 6 months I’ve learned a lot about the SMB Nation community and Harry Brelsford. I’m incredibly impressed by both! Here is a link to an article that I wrote for the magazine. It was a pleasure working with Harry on this and I appreciated the opportunity to contribute to his periodical.

Testing WordPress iPhone

March 5, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

Just went for a run and came home to a message from a client who’s considering buying iPhones for his staff to replace their old Palms. He mentioned that one reason was for easiers social media access. That got me thinking about how WordPress apps and here we are. It’s been challenging for me to figure out all these apps so let’s see if I can get this one right on my own!

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Hiring sales people – ABI – Always be Interviewing

March 5, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

The thing I notice most frequently with the VARS and MSP’s (managed services providers) that I meet is that they have a hard time (if not impossible time) breaking through that $2,000,000 annual revenue mark.  After noticing this for several years I have  determined that the difference between those who do break the $2M mark and those who don’t  is simple; the existence of a sales force.  Through brute force, many owners can get their companies up to that $2M mark.  Once they commit to being a sales driven organization that $2M mark is seen only through the rear view mirror.

Once we start talking about hiring sales folks the conversation quickly turns to the horror stories of sales people from the past.  Here’s a short list of the most common mistakes my clients say they made:

1. Hiring their unemployed sales expert friend, neighbor, or relative;
2. Paying a very high base salary;
3. Not tracking sales activity;
4. Commission program too rich;
5. Getting “sold” in the interview and hiring the wrong person;
6. Not meeting regularly with their sales person.

Most of these issues can be resolved and not repeated by creating the habit of Always be Interviewing. Sifting through sales resumes and meeting with potential sales people is the only way to gain the confidence you need to say no to mediocre sales candidates. It is easy to get “sold” in an interview if you’re only interviewing a couple of times a year in order to fill an immediate vacancy.

Keep a rolling ad out in the community through all the standards channels, let the world know you need sales candidates, every person who you encounter is a potential sales person for you.

I would challenge you to interview at least 2 individuals every week. Make at least one of them a sales candidate.

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Hiring Sales People

March 4, 2010 by   •  Leave a comment

Spending day with a client. Set up a couple sales interviews. First was a no show. They have been using a nice mix of sources for candidates. This particular candidate was a craigslist.com candidate. Looked interesting on paper. Did some research on the candidate and came across his Facebook page. Appears that most of his day is spent playing Farmville on Facebook. Now I understand why he was a no show! In this economy it is amazing to me that someone would blow off an interview. Perhaps our 10% unemployment rate has as much to do with the labor pool as it does with the availability of jobs?

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