The coronavirus pandemic has been an unpredictable and unforeseeable force that has temporarily caused value added resellers (VARs) to put the brakes on their businesses. Going from 60 to zero overnight can dizzy even the most successful and well positioned of companies. However, we’ve seen time and time again, whether it be a natural disaster or other geographical crisis, that our VAR partners are resourceful and resilient—as are their customers. And while the COVID-19 pandemic may be uncharted territory, successful partners are gaining momentum as they climb uphill towards a hopeful tomorrow.
In talking with high-initiative VARs, there are common attributes among those who will reach the summit of this uncertain business climate well-positioned for the future. Agility and foresight are at the top of the list. IT VARs who asked at the onset, “Is my business positioned to mitigate crisis over 30, 60, 90 days or more?” have been more prepared to pivot to protect their business and the businesses of their customers. Here is how they are maintaining momentum:
1.) They are Staying Engaged with Customers
Now more than ever, your customers need you. One of the best ways to remain engaged while maintaining the humanity of the situation is to educate yourself about government-led mandates related to business closures and re-opening procedures within the industries of your customers. Do your homework and then reach out to your retail customers as a source of guidance on the issue. It’s one thing for a retailer to approach local government or health departments with questions or more information. It’s another to have an expert within the industry like you, talk with them on how to comply with mandates while also implementing the best business practices that can mitigate profit loss.
Strategize with your customers on what operations might look like throughout each stage of government mandates. Retailers are overwhelmed right now, and while solutions such as curbside pick-up, drive-through, and delivery services are not new ideas, they seem unattainable to the retailer that has never needed to implement them. With business closures, there is a need, and retailers are looking for guidance.
For example, a manager of a small independent grocery or natural health store may be consumed with figuring out how to best mitigate the loss of perishable produce sales given the loss of in-store traffic. As a VAR, you need to be connected with them to show them how they could easily leverage an online ordering integration to offer meal-kit bundles that help move products with expiration dates without breaking the bank.
2.) They are Vertically Diverse
VARs and ISVs that have diversified their verticals are better positioned than those who remained in business silos. For example, VARs who solely worked in the restaurant retail space have been hit harder than those who also had a mix of essential businesses like grocery and health food customers. Beyond diversifying your industry verticals, VARs should be looking at recurring revenue diversification as well if you haven’t already. Implementing Software as a Service (SaaS) or Hardware as a Service (HaaS) models that allow you to offer your customers a way to implement new technology without the high capital expense is vital to success in the modern world.
3.) They Are a Total Solution Provider
VARs need to help their customers not only think through the first wave of shutdowns related to COVID-19 but also think through the best strategy to put in place to survive future shutdowns. It’s already been demonstrated by Hong Kong that one lockdown is insufficient to suppress the spread of the disease. VARs should prepare customers for a series of future systematic lockdowns related to COVID or other natural disaster or pandemics.
With the boom in ecommerce and demand from consumers for contactless transactions such as online ordering, mobile delivery, and curbside pickup, VARs need to help position their retailers with a total solution that can scale and add integrations as business dictates. With the right tools and systems in place, VARs can help merchants create customer confidence and put them at ease as the methodology to process sales and transactions migrates to include as little interaction as possible.
4.) They Continue to Creatively Adapt their Sales Approach
Jim Roddy, VP of Sales and Marketing for the RSPA relayed in one of his articles a statement from software development executives that, “About 75% of our customers are shut down. We are helping them think outside the box.”
This means that VARs will need to creatively adapt their role and approach. Your retail clients know that the way they do business is changing, but are not exactly sure what they need to do to change. Your customers need an industry expert to help them understand how mobility will be critical to future operations and demonstrate to them tangible ways to expand their mobility via ecommerce platforms and integrations that provide more options for customers to place and receive their orders as well as have more flexibility to bend to accommodate stay-at-home mandates.
In addition to helping retailers re-align their business, be prepared to pivot your operations. Adjust your product or service offerings to align with the needs you are seeing from your retail clients. Do not be afraid to offer a product or service bundle you have not in the past.
The pandemic has taught our industry, collectively, that we need to be more agile and resourceful than ever before. As a VAR, take responsibility for educating your clients, think aggressively, make new partnerships and offer new products that help protect your customers’ operations no matter what mountain rises in front of their path to success.