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7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Expanding Your Portfolio

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ScanSource's Rhonda Trainor

Rhonda Trainor

By Rhonda Trainor, Director of Merchandising, ScanSource Inc.

Channel Partners Insights logoHave you ever been meeting with one of your customers who mentions a new product or new technology and find that you are unfamiliar with it?  Yes, we have all been there!

This is not an uncommon problem for many value-add resellers who specialize in one service or product set and don’t have the time to invest in becoming an expert on the latest and greatest trends. Time away from your business and customers can often lead to lost revenue.  So how do you bridge that gap and put yourself in a better position to offer more to your customers and be a consultant and expert to them?

Real success will come from being truly engaged in the entire industry or vertical to which you are familiar. Just simply following the trends or being up to date on what is out there will not be enough. You need to sell the products that are the cutting edge in your market.

So how to get started?  There’s so much information out there to get you going.  Try staying current with and follow as many industry news sites, magazines, publications and events as you can.  New additions to your portfolio will more often than not come from requests from your customers. Most solution providers typically stick with their bread and butter core offerings.

But how many times have you brought a new product to you customer vs having them mention it first?  You don’t have to do it all at once, but slowly start to integrate new offerings into your portfolio. Yes, it can be risky and time-consuming to expand your portfolio and to go through the vetting processes. If it doesn’t perform to your standards and expectations, then you have lost time and potentially money as well. There is nothing more consistent in the IT industry expect change!

Rather than trying to have any and everything the minute it hits the market, look to your customers’ needs and how to best serve them first.  What else are they interested in and how can you be that consultative expert on their behalf?  Then, by choosing to expand your portfolio, you are more likely to expand your client base as well if you are marketing correctly.  The challenge is finding the balance.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you begin your assessment of new technology offerings:

  • How long will it take me to learn this product?
  • Is it profitable?
  • What are the margins?
  • Will it be worth the time it will take to get trained (sometimes two weeks)?
  • Will my existing customer base be interested?
  • Do my customers have complementary products that this new offer will enhance?
  • Is this a product that is here to stay or simply a fad that will be obsolete in a year?

You may not be able to answer all of these questions immediately, but they can certainly help you to make a determination.

When looking for true expansion opportunities, consider selling deeper into a specific vertical to which you are already an expert. You will be viewed by your customers as an expert and resource for deep insight. You will be a better choice than someone who just offers one primary product. Make your customers come to you for all their needs: hardware needs software; how about cloud or services? Think about how you can offer it all.

Rhonda Trainor is director of merchandising at ScanSource Inc. She is a member of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board.


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