It’s been 25 years since my basketball coaches challenged me to improve my game, but at times this week at VARTECH 2017, the annual conference hosted by value-added distributor BlueStar, I felt like I was back in the gymnasium.
From the opening general session until everyone made a run for the open bar, speaker after speaker implored the resellers in attendance to pursue emerging opportunities. Let’s dive into some of the specific advice from the event, held Sept. 18-19 at the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel and conference center in Orlando.
“We’re all in this journey together,” was a core message delivered by the BlueStar leadership. “If you’re not thinking ahead and you’re not dreaming, the old models will sink you,” said BlueStar President Steve Cuntz. “If you don’t fail, if you don’t take chances, if you don’t push the envelope, you won’t learn anything.”
The VARTECH keynote speaker was all about taking risks and embracing an attitude that failure isn’t an option. Gene Kranz, most often recognized for serving as the flight director for the Apollo 13 space mission, spoke for an hour about leadership lessons learned through a pressure-packed experience. “Our mistakes were violent and visible, but our nation understood there’s no achievement without risk,” Kranz said.
mPOS/Point of Sale Breakout
The session titled “Future Trends of POS/mPOS” featured six veteran channel executives. Alex Welker (HP), John Levin (Star Micronics), Joe Egan (Touch Dynamic), Brett Van Riper (Epson), Dave Murphy (Elo), and Kent Foster (Zebra) shared their perspectives with moderator Jason Firment (BlueStar) and several dozen VARs and ISVs. The group challenged those solution providers in several areas.
Expanding your merchant’s sales channels: “What are you doing in regards to helping your customers develop their online business?” Epson’s Van Riper
“It’s the smaller shops that make great quality. How do you bring the online ordering technology to them? This is a way to help those smaller merchants act like a bigger merchant.” Elo’s Murphy
EMV providing an opportunity to refresh hardware and move to mPOS: “Resellers should ask their merchants, ‘How fast are your table turns? How accurate are the orders?’ The amount of ROI you can show them on mPOS is phenomenal.” HP’s Welker
“You need to start with the customer experience. What experience do they (the merchant) want to deliver to the shoppers? The technology is the tool to deliver that experience.” Star’s Levin
“EMV is a golden opportunity to look for new sales opportunities. The hardware has to adjust if it doesn’t integrate with EMV. Sales opportunity. And will the restaurant be better suited with mobile devices? Another sales opportunity. They’ve got to have tablets for every server and licenses for every tablet. This is a fantastic opportunity for resellers and ISVs. Get the merchant to look at the entire system comprehensively.” Touch Dynamic’s Egan
“If you use EMV as your way in, that’s great. But you have to close with the rest of the touch points and technologies. It’s an opportunity to be a trusted advisor to your merchants.” Elo’s Murphy
Acting as a trusted advisor: “The market is flooded with the ‘super simple tablet solution you can install yourself!’ It’s important for resellers to go in and not just plug in the point of sale, but be ready to show the ROI of online ordering and other add-ons. You have to stop the merchant from doing it all themselves.”
“To be a trusted advisor, you have to be a well-informed, educated, subject matter expert in that domain. Talk about security – how they can long-term lock down their solution. Talk about mobile and proximity print. Talk about using a printer as a shared device. Futureproof their solution.” HP’s Welker
“I heard a retail consultant say, ‘Stop thinking about stores and start thinking about stories. Stop thinking about products and start thinking of productions.’ Apple is calling their stores ‘town squares.’ It does take our VARs and throw them into a consulting role because not a lot of retailers are doing this right today.” Elo’s Murphy
Canadian Regional Meeting
BlueStar Canada President Michel Sirois issued several challenges to a room filled with nearly 200 reseller executives at the Canadian Regional Meeting:
- “Minimum wage is going up – businesses can’t afford $15 per hour. They’re going to be looking for savings through technology. Great for us. Take your share.”
- “We’re seeing an increase in HaaS (Hardware as a Service). Who has a car payment? Nobody here paid $35,000 for a car. No – you went for $600 a month instead.”
- “Solution selling is out. You have to know more about the customer than he knows about his business.”
- “The sales experience counts for over 50% of the customer’s loyalty. Provide training to your salespeople to make sure they create a positive sales experience.”
- “Challenge the customer. ‘I don’t agree with how you’re running your business.’ Tell customers you don’t agree, then prove it.”
- “Digital signage has shifted. It’s no longer just a sign that shows stuff. It’s interactive. You’ve got to get into digital signage.”
- “Want to have fun? Get into all these things.”
Sirois’ closing words implied the overarching challenge for VARTECH attendees and our entire channel: “If you’re a true businessman or business woman, the status quo is not an option.”