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John Moore  
Resellers Aim at R&D; Role for Customers
By John Moore, Ziff Davis Internet

Resellers have been lectured on the merits of solution selling for years, but some industry executives are pointing in a new direction: demand innovation.


Traditional sales organizations typically enter into alliances with product suppliers and push solutions to customers. A demand innovator, in contrast, researches the market to determine customer needs and then tracks down appropriate solutions.

Demand innovators “become seekers of solutions for their customers instead of seekers of customers for solutions,” said Janet Szilva, president and CEO of JS Group, a Bridgewater, N.J., consulting firm. She said no more than 3 percent to 5 percent of the nation’s VAR population is currently pursuing the demand innovation path.

But demand innovation creates such a powerful connection between buyer and seller that she believes the ability to reform a sales department into an effective demand innovation organization will separate successful VARs from the also-rans within the next few years.

An effective start on that transition is to name a “research and development expert” from the reseller’s staff to shepherd the demand innovation push and research the market, Szilva said.

The R&D; chief “plans the products, solutions and services that the reseller is going to bring to market,” Szilva said. The individual meets with C-level executives among potential customers to discuss future business needs, and crafts the reseller’s solution strategy accordingly.

The R&D; position calls for a mix of business development and technology skills. Depending on the organization, the R&D; expert may be termed a chief technology officer or a technology strategist, she said.

Among the early demand innovation adherents is Cross Telecom Corp., an Avaya solutions provider based in Eden Prairie, Minn. The company doubled its sales last year, but nonetheless has decided to revise its sales philosophy, according to Robert Coughlin, Cross’ president and founder.

Cross’ approach to customers was based mostly on transactions, rather than on building longer-term relationships, Coughlin said.

In response, the company recently went though “some realignment within the organization” that included moving a pre- and post-sales technical services expert into a CTO role.

The CTO is now in the process of launching Cross University, a program designed to educate account teams on the company’s new value proposition, Coughlin said. The CTO will also develop employee training paths and help cultivate the company’s service offerings.

Next Page: ACS nabs HomeBanc BPO pact.

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