The theme of the 2019 RSPA Inspire Conference was “Take Action and Achieve,” so it seems only appropriate that I share with you actions recommended by the experts who took the stage Feb. 3-6 at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa near Fort Myers, Fla.
Much of this guidance is a result of panel discussions featuring VARs and ISVs Mark Bianchi of F&B Management, Jim Freed of North Country Business Products, Matt Kramer of DCRS Solutions, Brady Nash of BNG Holdings, Jeremy Julian of CBS NorthStar, Gene Harrison of Omnivore, Murray Bartholome of Midwest POS, and editor Matt Pillar of Channel Executive Magazine.
- Track what percent of your annual revenue is recurring. Brady Nash of BNG, who has intentionally focused on building recurring revenue for 10 years, reported his 2018 recurring revenue was an astonishing 89.6%. You won’t stumble into significant recurring revenue; you need to pursue it relentlessly.
- A related number to track is your monthly recurring revenue vs. your monthly expenses. When that ratio gets close to 1:1, your gray hair won’t go away but your business-related headaches will decrease.
- Compiling reports is time consuming and, quite frankly, an activity your customers are not willing to pay for. Utilize automation tools to generate dashboards and spreadsheets with as little overhead as possible.
- Measure how quickly your merchants’ service calls are answered. Mark Bianchi of F&B said he has organized his staff and streamlined his processes to make sure merchants connect with a team member within 30 seconds. The speed at which you reply is directly related to the merchant’s overall satisfaction.
- When should you not move fast? During the proposal phase. If you don’t devote appropriate thinking time to creating a solution that fits your customer and creates significant profits, you’ll end up super busy … and poor.
- Conclude service calls asking, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Each member of your service team should have a goal of uncovering and resolving all your merchants’ issues, not just the pressing problem presented at the outset of the call.
- Take customer failures and customer churn personally. Sincerely caring about your merchants is at the heart of stellar customer service.
- Michel Sirois of BlueStar Canada stressed the importance of ongoing sales and customer service training. He said, “The world is changing, the buyers are changing, the technology is changing, yet we’re not training our teams … and we expect success. That makes no sense.”
- Trust and support are the two most important traits to look for in a new vendor said Murray Bartholome of Midwest POS. “In today’s world, you sell a product and collect the revenue over time. What happens if we get terminated as a reseller from that vendor? You need to be able the trust the vendor will be fair with you, and you need good contracts to make sure that happens. I didn’t use to look at contracts as closely before. Also, how much support can that vendor provide to us? Can they help us sell the first couple systems? Will they provide the first two systems for free so we can build testimonials? They need to make it easy for us to sell the product.”
- Bartholome added that the shift from break/fix to the as-a-Service business model is causing him and other resellers to add new vendors more frequently. “We’re trying to transition from a POS company to a technology company,” he said, “so you need to partner with new vendors to provide new products to your customers.”
- When adding a new product, focus on sales team compensation and training. Offer spiffs for the first 3-5 products/systems sold, and make sure your reps are paying attention when the vendor rep is pitching the new product.
- A Day 2 partnership workshop revealed some potential best practices for VARs. (1) Vendors want resellers with a growth potential in specific verticals (not a generalist), so VARs should clearly define their target customers and articulate that to their vendors. (2) Vendors want resellers who are high-initiative and growth-oriented, so VARs should clearly define their go-forward strategy including a marketing plan to execute on that vision.
- That workshop uncovered lessons for vendors, too. (1) VARs want innovative, reliable, well-designed products, so vendors should initiate quarterly business reviews to gain up-to-date feedback on the features VARs and merchants need most. Ask the VARs what they feel is most important products and features on the roadmap. (2) VARs want highly-responsive support and staff training, so vendors should make VARs aware of their current training and support capabilities to understand where gaps exist. If the VAR can be trained to handle all Level 1 support, they could receive higher margins for taking on that burden.
- Security was a significant focus of Inspire, and among the most helpful advice was this list of prevention tactics for VARs and ISVs: devalue data by deploying P2PE, utilize secure multi-factor remote access, defend against Spear Phishing through staff training, and QIR certification. Most breaches are caused through remote access, and the remote access is pried open through Spear Phishing.
- Inspire 2020 will be held at an all-inclusive Hilton property outside Montego Bay in Jamaica Jan. 26-29.