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7 Tips for Choosing a Value-Added Reseller

Mar 2, 2008
Value-added resellers, or VARs, are independent businesses licensed to sell, implement and support software products. A good VAR can take mediocre software and make it work well for you. On the hand, a bad VAR can take good software and make it virtually unusable in your organization.

This article offers seven tips for getting the most benefit from your VAR experience.

Beware of the One-Stop Value-Added Reseller Shop

If the VAR comes across as a one-stop shop, beware. Your project will likely require expertise in areas such as hardware requirements, networking infrastructure, financial software consulting, customer relationship management (CRM), business process workflow, custom programming, report writing, training and ongoing support. Although there are firms that have the experience to deliver multiple technologies, any VAR that claims to deliver on ALL of these areas is just not being truthful.

Investigate Staffing

Many VARs sell the 'size' of their organization. You need to find out what this means for your project. For instance, of all the consultants they claim to have, how many will be working on your project or available on-demand for other services? If one or two consultants leave their jobs while your project is underway, what will be the impact on your timetable?

Most VARs have staffing superstars that are usually saved for the company's best customers. Even if you have to pay a higher rate, find your VAR's superstar and do what you can to get him on your team. He'll get your job done much faster than anyone else.

Focus on the Relationship

Paying for the VAR's best talent is a good investment. But you'll also want to work with your VAR to create a personal investment in the success of your project. Software sales reps are taught to sell to the highest levels of your organization. Take this advice to heart and use it to build a strong bond with the individual who is most invested in your long term success - the person at the top!

Make it known early on that you're looking to build a long term partnership. Offer to be a reference for services that are well-executed and establish the expectation that you're interested in becoming a showcase customer.

Getting the Most from References

Most VARs are happy to provide you with references. Ask to speak with at least three references that are using the same software that you're considering. Make sure that you speak with both established references and those that are in the first 12-18 months of implementation.

When speaking to references, ask whether projects were completed on time and at the estimated project cost. Find out how the VAR handles changes to project scope. If possible, ask to visit a reference's office or meet them for lunch. Seeing someone's system in operation (without the sales rep around) can provide great insight.

VAR Certifications

Every VAR pushes their certifications during the sales process. Professional certifications, such as CPA for example, provide a level of credibility for the individual consultant. While vendor-provided certifications may not have significant value, certifications from companies like Microsoft that require extensive experience in products and technologies are noteworthy.

Time is a Two-Way Street

Think about time from the VAR's perspective. Selling software is a time consuming process. There is a limit to how much time a value-added reseller can spend learning about your business before you make the decision to buy. If you demonstrate that you're willing and prepared to invest in the appropriate solutions, the tone of the sales process will flow in your favor.

Request a Prototype

Before you make a final product, vendor or technology decision, ask the VAR for a prototype installation using your data so that you can experience the software from an end user perspective. Be prepared to pay for this service, and insist it be done before you contract for the entire implementation and especially before you order and license software.

Taking this approach may seem to increase your total project cost, but look at the prototype as buying cheap insurance. When you add up all the hard and soft costs of buying software, you may find that it's the best business investment you can make!
About the Author
Sheldon Needle is President of CTS, a leading publisher of independent software reviews and ratings. Get your free Software Selection Kit and Smart Shortlist(TM) Consult by visiting

http://www.ctsguides.com
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