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How SMME partners can offer vendor services

By Traci Maynard, Executive: Edge Consumer Software and Hardware and HPE Business Unit Manager at Axiz

Johannesburg, 06 Dec 2021
Read time 5min 20sec

Hardware remains a key part of what resellers provide to the market. Whether it's a server, a network switch or an end-user device, hardware is how we access digital technology's power. Yet hardware procurement is not about box-dropping. They offer resellers the opportunity to create long-term engagement with customers and establish ongoing income streams through services. 

At Axiz, we support these opportunities through two avenues: Vendor services and in-house services. This press release will unpack the first – accessing vendor services if you are an SMME channel partner.

Vendor services make up a crucial part of procurement sales in the channel. Customers expect such services to extend the lifespan of their technology investments. Examples include warranties and software upgrades, often categorised under support services. Creative resellers can add additional services, such as security, monitoring or disaster recovery, creating recurring revenue.

Larger resellers can often include vendor services as a matter of course. But for SMME channel partners, it's not as simple. Several requirements make it challenging for SMMEs to offer vendor-backed services:

Vendors need a sign of investment. Vendors want partners that will engage in long-term relationships with their brands and the customers that use those brands. That requires elements such as financial resources and commitments through business plans.

Certification is expensive. Providing vendor systems – particularly hardware – is underpinned by certifications. But these are expensive to acquire and maintain, especially for SMMEs with limited budgets and small head counts.

Customer environments need scoping. Every customer has different requirements, and they need adequate scoping to select the best vendor support services for their needs. This requires time and resources.

Support needs active support. It might be self-explanatory that support services must be supported – sometimes 24/7, depending on the customer. But that again demands time and resources, especially a robust headcount of technical experts or facilities such as operation centres.

Channel SMMEs are reluctant to do more. Some SMME providers purely want to deliver something and cash the cheque. As such, they lean heavily on vendors and distributors to help with the delivery stages of a project, but then try to extract themselves. These are not the type of partners the channel desires.

More lucrative customer deals often include SMME providers. And yet, this is the SMME's time to shine. Vendors know that SMMEs are more likely to find new business and develop intimate relationships with a wider breadth of sectors and customers. In a world where digital technology is a major business enabler, the SMME provider is the gatekeeper.

Likewise, channel customers want more than just buying technology. They ultimately seek different services included in their investment, and they will work with SMMEs that can include those services.

Distributors have long been the mediators between these different spheres. At Axiz, we've grown our involvement through several areas. I'll demonstrate by addressing the requirements laid out above:

Develop SMMEs to meet vendor requirements. At Axiz, we focus on understanding vendor requirements and helping SMME partners align with those. Our help includes dedicated business developers and vendor brand managers, as well as financial support and simplified access to vendor services. We help SMMEs understand and create the service package that best fits their customer deals.

Adequate certification. If SMMEs could incorporate every single certification they need, they'd no longer be SMMEs due to the required financial and human resources. Axiz invests in vendor certifications that we then offer to our SMME partners as part of their delivery. But Axiz doesn't take over. Instead, we collaborate with the SMME, providing access to vendor certifications at a reduced cost. Partners can then bill these with margin to the customer, and Axiz uses vendor rebates to recoup our investment. We also encourage skills transfers to SMMEs where feasible.

Accurate scoping. Our SMME partners can work with Axiz's engineers and system architects to scope a customer's environment and develop the best solution. It's entirely a support role – the SMME remains on point and manages the project for their customer, while Axiz provides the guidance and product knowledge as a service to the SMME.

Active support. As I mentioned earlier, if SMME partners had the headcount to provide complete support such as software updates and 24/7 availability, they wouldn't be the agile small companies that the channel appreciates. Axiz represents over 55 vendors, and we know how to support their solutions. We have significant support capabilities that we provide to our partners as part of their solutions. Our partners can add additional services via the Axiz Technology Services Catalogue, using facilities such as our dedicated security operations centre and active monitoring of on-premises and cloud environments.

SMME development. Axiz views the support of SMMEs as both a moral and commercial requirement. Moral because SMMEs are fundamental to economic growth, and commercial because SMMEs can provide unique market access. But then SMMEs must be business-savvy, open to collaborative partnerships, and reflect the type of financial and business planning support vendors want to see. Axiz's commitment to developing SMME partners in these ways is evident through our dedicated business unit and development managers, the Ledibogo SMME development programme, the Axiz Technology Services Catalogue and the Axiz Business Platform.

Closing the gap between vendor services and SMME partners is crucial for the prosperity of the technology market, customer companies and national economies. Axiz invests in closing that gap. This article provides a few examples of how we are achieving our goal. If you are an SMME looking to match the market's new expectations or a vendor eager to bring SMMEs into the fold, speak to us at Axiz and let's help each other grow together.

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