**Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of profiles featuring Channel Partners advisory board members. Meet Frazier and the rest of the board by attending the Cloud Partners, a Channel Partners event. Register here.**
Aaron Frazier and his colleagues knew they were going against the grain when they launched their procurement-as-a-service company in 2009.
Conventional wisdom would have steered IT consultants or VARs away from approaching ProcureIT for outsourcing, the company’s vice president of marketing and sales said.
“They’re all told, ‘The only way to get hardware is through distribution. You can only get it through Ingram, you can only get it through Synnex, you can only get it through Tech Data,’” Frazier said. “You have to go out and spend thousands of dollars on all this certification and training in order to get certain products.”
But Frazier emphasizes that procurement-as-a-service organizations like his Tempe, Arizona-based company are giving partners a second choice.
“Procurement as a service is allowing these guys to focus on the service aspect of IT consulting and get out of the low-margin, low-return hardware part of this business,” he said.
He says his company and other procurement-as-a-service organizations constantly update certification levels to offer the most extensive list of products possible. They aim to “take the fear out of” clients’ hardware choices by shouldering the full brunt of those decisions.
The biggest barrier to entry tends to be a smaller margin due to the service cost, but Frazier says it’s a matter of perspective.
“The ultimate goal is to show them that their consulting hours, their closing of managed service contracts and any of the services they do around the hardware that they’re selling is where they’re going to realize their profits,” he said.
And plenty of prospective clients have come to that conclusion, as Frazier counts nearly 100 partners and about 5 million in spend.
“We think it’s been taking off,” he said.
Neither the channel nor sales were in Frazier’s plans when he graduated from Arizona State University in 1998. The Tempe native studied justice with the intent of going to law school.
“Matlock was who I wanted to be when I was in high school, going into college,” he said. “Out there – prosecuting and uncovering …
… mysteries and doing all that kind of cool stuff.”
But as he waited for his chance to take the LSAT, a friend called to talk about the work he was doing at the copier company, Konica.
“He said, ‘I’m over here selling these copiers, and I’m making good money, and I think you’d be great at it,’” Frazier said.
So he launched into a 16-year sales career that has taken him to the executive level. He formed much of his philosophy for his profession in the first year, under the mentorship of his boss, Dave Walker, whom he called “the ultimate sales guy.”
“This guy had every quality of the best sales guy. He was hardworking, smart, witty, knowledgeable, knew his product inside and out.”
And Walker was an innovator; Frazier says he was “solution selling” before it became a popular talking point.
“He was truly on the forefront of all that,” Frazier said. “He really understood assessing a client, assessing their problem and then solution selling – not just providing them a copier.”
And perhaps more importantly, Frazier says Walker always prioritized problem-solving over money – a mentality that keeps Frazier going in sales.
“When I met Dave and started working with him, he was showing me how to change people’s live in a positive [way],” Frazier said.
After helping Konica establish an account with PetSmart, he took a position as a sales and marketing consultant at Q Matrix Inc., a service contractor for office equipment.
He saw the value of printer toner cartridges and formed his own company, Global Toner Solutions. The construction-focused MIS Group acquired it three years later but collapsed during the recession and filed bankruptcy in 2009.
It was at MIS where Frazier met Jeff McDermott, who directed the company’s Southwest IT services, and Wayne Shipman, who worked in procurement, and the three later joined forces to form ProcureIT.
McDermott oversees the general development as president, Shipman directs the actual procurement process, and Frazier calls his sales and marketing role a matter of “educating the market.” He doesn’t consider himself a tech guy, but he has been able to harness technology for the sake of his clients.
“I have a technical education, but I’m still a sales guy at heart,” he said. “I’m still someone [who] wants to help people learn how to grow their business and make more money. That’s what makes me happy at the end of the day.”
Frazier forecasts a rising force in the channel: an influx of …
… copier companies adding IT services. He points to Konica’s acquiring of All Covered and Xerox’s purchase of Allied Computer Services. The growth opportunity for the channel is “huge.”
“You have all this new blood coming in, so to speak, into the channel … I think the channel’s kind of topped out as far as new people to go after,” he said. “There [are] already too many IT consultants as it is. This market is prime for consolidation, so that’s what you’re going to start seeing.”
Companies like ProcureIT can’t wait to work with these new players, who may rely on procurement specialists to put the deal together.
“The biggest concern for a copier company to get into managed services is, they don’t know how to price it,” he said. “They’re not used to selling servers or workstations or routers, switches and all those kinds of things. When it comes to network configuration, they’re kind of lost.”
He says he’s looking forward to it, especially because of his knowledge of copier companies. It’s a throwback to his past at Konica.
“It wasn’t until a few months ago until that kind of hit me: ‘That’s kind of cool that I’m actually going full circle in my career,’” he said. “I went from copiers to printers to computers and servers, to now heading back toward copiers again.”
Frazier lives with his wife and four kids in Tempe. He enjoys planes, travel, scuba diving and, most recently, breweries.
And the thought of a career in law still lingers.
“It’s still there. I think after I get [ProcureIT] off and running, I think I’m going to go back and apply for law school.”
He says he would pursue law solely out of passion rather than for a paycheck – although that’s not to say his current career hasn’t been enjoyable. His affinity for law intertwines with his affinity for sales, just as Dave Walker demonstrated some 16 years ago. Both are about solving the client’s problem.
“It’s what drives me every day, knowing that there’s a problem out there, knowing that there’s a company out there that can utilize a service of ProcureIT,” he said. “And when I do get that to the person, that connection’s going to change their lives. That connection’s going to change their business.”