YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE a large firm to play with the big boys. Simply find a niche, be the best at it, and offer your customers great service. For Spencomp Solutions, that niche is security.
Before I bought the company from my employers, we were generalists. After they sent me to Comdex in 2000, though, I returned convinced that we needed to specialize in order to grow and differentiate ourselves.
We started with managing and supporting firewalls, and grew our specialty from there, which naturally includes business continuity and backup. And we partner with firms that do penetration testing and remediation. We also offer remote IT, virtualization, and cloud services.
Security used to be a harder sell. Currently, though, it’s no longer a “cold” conversation, but a warm one. Customers understand they need security because they hear about it constantly in the media, and they know it’s not just about avoiding high-profile breaches. Ransomware, unfortunately, has been good for business. New customers are now coming to us after their data has been encrypted.
Today our customers include government agencies, large enterprises, point-of-sale software companies, engineering firms, and SMBs. While they range from large to small and all have unique needs and face different compliance issues, security is security. It’s all about protecting the data with a layered approach. A good analogy is that everyone should have a lock on their front door, but not everyone requires a full-blown home security system with surveillance cameras. As our customers’ trusted security adviser, we make it our business to understand their business and what they need.
Steps to Security Success
So as a three-person firm, how do we earn our clients’ trust? It starts with being the best at what we do. That means choosing the right vendors and products, sticking with those choices, and learning those products inside and out.
It is well worth the time, effort, and expense to achieve gold-level status and top certifications with your vendors. For example, Spencomp is a gold partner of both SonicWall and Arcserve, and has silver certification for the data center with Lenovo. This distinguishes us from being just another authorized reseller.
Achieving this level of expertise provides us with deeper product knowledge, discounts and rebates on the front or back ends, and visibility with vendors. This visibility enables us to get support and attention when necessary. We can get a VP or an engineer on the line for our customers. A good vendor relationship can also lead to referrals or help close deals. Any reference from a vendor comes with a lot of weight behind it.
For example, back when CA owned the Arcserve backup product, a large national reseller had sold it into a 911 call center in Tennessee but didn’t know how to install it. There was a national 911 test occurring that week, so there was a sense of urgency. CA recommended us because of our expertise, and that large national reseller flew my tech down for five days to work with its techs to get the job done.
While expertise helps you establish trust with customers, so does providing excellent service. We bring vendors in to do proofs of concept. We hold our clients’ hands from the initial contact, to the PO, to after-sales service and support. We don’t sell SKUs, we sell solutions.
You can even deepen that trusted relationship by delivering what you promise, and sometimes going the unexpected extra mile. Our senior tech, for instance, took a call at 5 o’clock one evening from one of our customers who discovered that their data center rack had been set up and configured—not by us—right under the sprinkler system. My technician spent the entire night there helping the customer move the rack and resetting all the systems.
Sometimes just as important as going the extra mile, though, is being firm about not letting the customer call the shots when it comes to security. Under your watch you need to establish the specifications and best practices. If a customer wants to acquire a product that you don’t think is right for them simply for budgetary reasons, don’t be afraid to say no. You need to make sure you can sleep at night knowing that you’re doing what is best for your customers.
Finally, we’ve fired some customers because the relationship just wasn’t working. We’ve also had customers leave us because of price, and some have come back after realizing it’s not always about price. We bring value to the table, and we’re not afraid to charge for that knowledge. That’s what the big boys (and girls) do.
Photography by Jean Blais