2023 NCC Reseller Conference: ISVs Can’t Automate a Healthy VAR Channel

By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA

On the surface, the 2023 NCC Reseller Conference, held March 9-11 at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand in Tucson, AZ, appeared to be your typical partner event. About 90 VAR executives and vendor partners met in a rectangular hotel conference room, sat at round tables, and watched PowerPoint presentations displayed on two screens.

But the interactivity at the NCC Conference – it was anything but typical. Engagement between VARs and their ISV host, as well as among fellow VARs and vendor partners, exemplified what our industry needs in these changing times to ensure our channel remains relevant and healthy.

I won’t do justice to what I witnessed firsthand, but I’ll try my best:

  • The conference kicked off with NCC President Chuck Prince in front of the room with Frank-Anthony Reale, Sr. Growth Partner Manager of online ordering ISV Deliverect. After a brief presentation of Deliverect’s functionality and integration with NCC, Reale and Prince opened the floor for questions and comments.
  • At many conferences, that’s where the awkward silence begins. But at the NCC event, this is where the magic happened.
  • I counted at least 16 VAR executives who weighed in with a clarifying question or comment about the integration and its application to their merchants.
  • When one reseller asked a question, he requested the room answer – not Prince or Reale. He wanted a firsthand account of Deliverect’s and NCC’s support and communication.
  • Many vendors would stifle or shut down this conversation, fearing that a partner frustration or product shortcoming might surface. Instead, Reale and Prince encouraged as many resellers as possible to share their real-world experiences with the software.
  • The VARs didn’t hold back fearing that someone would learn their secret sauce. They talked in detail about best practices that would help their fellow resellers operate more effectively.
  • And when Prince and Reale were put on the spot, they didn’t dodge, duck, equivocate, or reply with PR pablum. They answered in clear, plain language that resellers would understand.
  • NCC co-owner and lead programmer Doug Harris would jump in as well with details and clarifying questions about the software. Co-owner Jody Harris, who leads NCC’s support team, would interject with insights related to her department. And their daughter Mary, NCC’s Marketing Coordinator, ran the microphone to every attendee who wanted to share – and she definitely got in her 10,000 steps that day.
  • One of Jody’s comments was, “We will assist you as long as you want – and we’ll do it gracefully.” A reseller immediately affirmed her statement, and then he offered additional advice for the room.
  • I also picked up that Prince identified every attendee by their name.
  • This organic Q&A session lasted for nearly 45 minutes.

This session and the discussions that followed over the next two days made me think in this day and age of partner portals, 800 numbers, and ChatGBT, ISVs can’t automate a truly healthy VAR channel. Should vendors embrace efficiency tools? For sure. But those tools need to augment their personal connection with resellers, not replace it. Should ISVs plan formal presentations to their VAR partners? Absolutely – but don’t do it in a way that throws a wet blanket on their questions, comments, and even complaints.

During a meeting I had with some RSPA members earlier this year, we discussed how VARs need help identifying potential new vendor partners. Someone in the room added an important clarification to that: “I don’t need the packaged answer. I need the no-BS answer about what the product can do and who’s good to work with.”

The RSPA has added dozens of software providers to our membership over the past 18 months (see the full list here), and my advice to them is to follow the NCC model. Eliminate the BS. Reduce the bureaucracy. Put yourself on the hot seat and create an environment overflowing with candid conversations with your VAR partners.

Don’t miss the retail IT channel’s #1 trade show, education conference, and networking event July 30-Aug. 1 in Orlando! Visit the RetailNOW 2023 website and register today.

Resellers Helping Resellers Panel
I was honored to moderate the featured VAR panel at the NCC event titled “Resellers Helping Resellers: Customer Lifecycle.” VARs Kelli Stewart of POS.com near Chicago, Ron Piwko of All American POS in Detroit, and Marlon Brown of OSS Data in Hollywood, FL, shared how they qualify, find, sell, program, install, train, support, upgrade, and offer new opportunities to their merchants. Nuggets they shared included:

Before prospecting, create an ideal customer profile and then target those merchants. Start by listing and analyzing your top customers, then identify their common attributes. The more detailed you can be, the clearer your ideal customer profile will be, leading to more productive prospecting.

Never reinvent the wheel. Start with a solid base and then modify it. Small VARs especially need to maximize their resources. When you’re building the menu database for a new install, start by copying the categories from a recent similar install and then manage by exception the differences.

Expect the unexpected, not the self-inflicted. Each panelist stressed the importance of thoroughly testing the new install before on-site implementation. This saves time and creates a more positive customer experience.

Train the trainers, then help the trainers train the staff. Training is an undervalued stage of the customer lifecycle. Don’t shortcut this step. Thoroughly train the management team on the new solution, be in the room when the managers are training their team, and then leave behind a quick-reference systems guide. This will save you time by lowering your future support burden.

Final Notes & Quotes from NCC 2023
Prince shared several quotes with his resellers that I thought were appropriate for all RSPA members to read – and heed. My favorites:

  • “Once an organization loses its spirit of pioneering and rests on its early work, its progress stops.” Thomas Watson
  • “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” John Wayne
  • “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

Don’t forget to register for RetailNOW 2023, July 30-Aug. 1 at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando. It’s Where The Industry Meets!

Jim Roddy is the President and CEO of the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the retail IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by The CannaTech Group, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact JRoddy@GoRSPA.org.