IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

How to Sell Servers to Nontechnical Customers

D&H tech show session zeros in on channel sales tactics. By Geoffrey Oldmixon

D&H Distributing Company's 19th annual New England Technology Show in Quincy, Mass., on Aug. 11 featured a number of training and education sessions. A late afternoon session, "How to Sell Servers to Nontechnical Customers," was led by D&H solutions specialist Bill Hersch.

"Servers offer customers, first and foremost, security," Hersch explained to show attendees. "The biggest target for phishing attacks [in SMBs]--70.3 percent in the last 60 days." D&H is well positioned, Hersch says, to address those phishing attack statistics. 

Other considerations that might lead to SMB server sales include:

  • Compliance--Federal regulations, for example
  • Efficiency--As companies enter into recovery after the recession, says Hersch, "they'll want to add network automation before they add personnel." He advises, "Prepare their business to make the most of their nonpersonnel operations."

Who Needs Servers?

Hersch says that any organization that relies on data to run its operation is a prime candidate for server offerings. "When a PC breaks, data goes away," he points out. "Seventy-seven percent of SMBs that suffer a catastrophic breakdown in data go out of business."

Additionally, Hersch adds, "70 percent of SMBs that have multiple PCs have no server." That means, he suggests, there is plenty of legitimacy in pitching servers to SMBs.

Other identifying characteristics of a potential server sales client include:

  • Growth Plans--Hersh believes helping a company look five years down the road is critical to the sales approach.
  • Service Providers--Approaching "anyone in services, especially the health services field," is also recommended.

Sales Tactics

Server hardware shouldn't be that hard to sell, Hersch suggests. "It's never a question of if something will break," he says. "PCs will break, but servers are designed for longer life."

In order to help the client understand the benefits of your technology, Hersch suggests the use of similes. "Backup is like insurance," he says. "Redundant server components are like having a spare key." He says that comparing PC and server-grade components can be like comparing a car to a truck. "Do you want to load 16 sheets of plywood on the top of your Camry?"

Putting your product into terms the customer can understand is one thing. What about your value-added services?

To answer this question, Hersch told session attendees that D&H Distributing sees its own value in "talking to vendors and figuring out ways to do it better." He adds, "You'll have to decide where your value is."

Other key sales strategies, according to Hersch, include highlighting:

  • Attachment Sales-- "When a customer comes to you and is looking for a thing," Hersch says, "they're usually only looking for that thing because that's all they know." It's up to the VAR, he explains, to educate them about the value of other related products.
  • Services--Hersch explains, "About 99 percent of the channel is saying, ‘I think I want to get into providing [ongoing services], but how can I? What do I offer?'" He suggests talking to your vendors, your colleagues in the field, and other organizations to determine what you can provide. Offering services, he says, is a great way to build client relationships.
  • Long-Term Benefits--Another important selling point of servers is their lifespan.


Many potential clients will tell VARs that paying for servers is out of the question, simply too expensive. Hersch urges channel pros to educate themselves about the many available financing options.

"SMBs never have an open checkbook," he says. For that reason, D&H Distributing and other distributors--as well as vendors--offer a way to pay for equipment.

Microsoft, for example, has broadened its credit offerings. "They've been a little bit crazy in the economy," Hersch says, "and we like crazy."

Cisco has a demo purchasing program. Intel has one, too (available to its partners). "If you're not an Intel partner," Hersch suggests, "you should be." He says for just $5,000 annually, a VAR can become a purchasing-level partner.

For its own part, D&H has a number of credit options, including leasing programs. It can also base credits lines on either the financial data of the client or the VAR.

About the Author

Geoffrey Oldmixon is a freelance writer based in Western Massachusetts.

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