Often, the owner of a small, value-added reseller (VAR) has some tough choices when deciding which platforms to invest in and which brands to represent.

Depending on the business model, geographic location, company size, vertical specialization (or lack thereof), and core skill sets, a value-added reseller gravitates toward certain vendors, channel programs, platforms, and products over time.


Like most things in life and in business, IT channel allegiances are rarely as cut-and-dry as the childhood game, “He/she loves me. He/she loves me not.” Often, how a VAR chooses to partner with a particular vendor can be described on a continuum of anywhere from brand loyal to utterly, completely brainwashed, as if belonging to a cult.

Multi-Vendor Options vs. One-Size-Fits-All

This need for a value-added reseller check-up reminded me of a LinkedIn Answers Q&A that I came across earlier this year. Feyzi Bagirov, president of Two Hemispheres Corp in Boston, asked:

Is it OK for a value-added reseller to offer competing software products?

Bagirov elaborated: If a VAR offered Microsoft products, for example, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, could that VAR offer its clients a competing CRM from another vendor? A business intelligence (BI) expert, Bagirov, sought advice on deciding which of the two competing products should be offered to clients.

Reminder: A Value Added Reseller Must Add “Value”

Charles Caro, executive director at Rebounders United in Tampa, chimed in first. Caro first voiced his concerns that value-added resellers actually need to “add value.”

In other words, reselling products and commoditized services isn’t sufficient added value. Of course, “value” is in the eye of the beholder. But then again, there’s pretty universal agreement that companies that are strict “order takers” or “box pushers” do not add much value.

Caro strongly recommended that VARs learn very quickly that one single platform does not fit all clients. On that basis alone, Bagirov must, by definition of serving multiple clients with differing needs, be open to working with multiple competing CRM products.

It’s All About Choices that Meet Each Client’s Unique Needs

Using a shoe store analogy, where a retailer carries several brands and dozens of styles, Caro notes that a value-added reseller must

  • Avoid putting all of its eggs in one basket

  • Be able to select from among multiple vendors to provide its clients with the best value for their unique needs and circumstances

Echoing much of Caro’s sentiment, Jay Kaiser, a marketing team leader in the greater New York City area, added that the “value-added” part of being a VAR should mean “more choices” to cater to clients’ unique needs.

And just as Caro introduced the shoe store retailer analogy, Kaiser’s analogy was based on wireless stores, where you might expect to find upwards of 100 different mobile phone choices that exist to fulfill different customers’ wants, needs, expectations, brand loyalties, and budgets, among other factors.

How Many Different CRM Choices Are Enough?

Now neither Caro nor Kaiser is suggesting that Bagirov’s firm offers dozens of different CRM choices. That would be a logistical, financial, training, support, and operational nightmare. However, both Caro and Kaiser believe that a value-added reseller must offer a choice, which would mean at least two choices.

Should Two Hemispheres Corp resell substantially more than two different CRM platforms?

That all depends on how many employees and contractors Bagirov intends to add to the mix, at what stages, and with which skill sets each team member would bring to the table.

These are all very important strategic issues that Bagirov should consider as he drafts a business and marketing plan. 

Steer Clear of Exclusive Agreements that Block Client Choices

The third and final answer on this LinkedIn Answers virtual Q&A panel came from Prasanna Srinivasan, founder and Director of Skynapse Business Technology in Singapore.

Srinivasan’s primary concern was that Bagirov’s firm adhere to the type of value-added reseller agreement signed with each vendor, whether exclusive or nonexclusive.

From a practical standpoint, most channel programs for CRM platforms like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and its direct competitors do not require exclusivity.

Srinivasan also reminded Bagirov to ensure that available choices take into account clients’ budgets, existing platforms, and required features and functionality.

The Bottom Line

In the end, with this check-up, the level of value-added reseller allegiance can be anywhere from brand loyal to brainwashed. However, my recommendation, and that of the LinkedIn Answers virtual “panel” for this question, is that a VAR keeps its options open to best satisfy its client’s needs.

How loyal is your company to certain brands? Has being too loyal ever cost you clients? And how does a value-added reseller like Two Hemispheres Corp decide if two CRM choices are sufficient? Please share your thoughts in the COMMENTS section below.

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