For channel managers, the balance is always about keeping up with your customers’ needs in a way that best meets their return on investment. Any marketing can be broken down into units moved and profits made. But the proof of great salesmanship is in return business, not in “one and done” sales. For those of us in channel management for the technology industry, cultivating ongoing client relationships is an important skill. Technology changes constantly. Whether your field is software or hardware, systems become outdated and programs are overtaken by better, faster, more efficient software. If you leave your customer feeling like they didn’t get the best deal on their system, they will actively look for another vendor on their next purchase. Keep in mind that their need for future hardware is inevitable.
It’s imperative to help your customers find the most cost effective products to make their work life more efficient. For the channel manager, optimal continuation of the customer relationship means going above and beyond to help them meet their needs, not just today but in the long-term. One way you can do this is by offering some expertise in their company’s hardware asset management protocol.
The Positive Impact of Hardware Asset Management on Your Channel
For an IT department, hardware asset management allows for more cost effective use of not only the hardware needed in any corporate setting, but the software as well. With a good hardware asset management system in place, managers and executives limit the possibility of being caught off guard with the need for expensive new equipment. They also have a firm grasp on the entire cycle life of their hardware to make the best purchasing decisions on future acquisitions. Ideally, a company’s hardware asset management system will encompass every portion of the process, from decision making prior to purchase to the end of the lifecycle.
Helping your clients institute better hardware asset management protocol means offering them more avenues to control their technology assets. It also leverages a great deal of trust in your ability to best look out for their needs, rather than maximizing opportunities for further sales. But it’s not only about better serving the customer, though that’s a huge portion. The ability to help clients with their hardware asset management needs also give channel managers greater insight into their clients’ future purchases, including time frames to contact them and types of services they may need to compliment what they already have.
Hardware Asset Management Lifecycle
When developing a good hardware asset management protocol, all of the stops on the journey should be accounted for so nothing is left to chance. This better affords the ability to anticipate new expenses and helps them to better manage everything from software upgrades to security.
- Pre-Purchase. The first step in the cycle occurs prior to purchase. This includes researching equipment, gaining documentation, making sure new hardware is compatible with the systems in current use, and gaining approval on the purchase.
- Purchase. The purchase phase will often be (or should be) fairly straight-forward. If the hardware asset management professional has done his/her homework during the pre-purchase phase, the hardware will already be chosen and approval of pricing will be complete. This is just a matter of finalizing the purchase and scheduling delivery/installation.
- Installation. This phase can be time consuming. This includes setting up the new hardware, installing software and upgrades, and otherwise preparing the system for daily use. There may be need for employee training with the system and that time should be accounted for prior to moving forward.
- Maintenance. All hardware and software will require regular maintenance and the occasional troubleshooting. It’s expected that there will be technical difficulties at some point which may need to be repaired. Channel managers can help their clients by better informing them of possible issues, instructing them on best practices for maintenance, and giving them a reasonable lifespan estimate on the hardware at the time of purchase.
- Retiring Hardware. The end of the lifecycle of hardware should be planned for, as well. Depending on the type of business using the machine, there may be questions of data security. It’s generally advisable to wipe machines clean prior to storing or recycling them. This may mean a process of storing files on an external hard drive or, if data is already stored elsewhere, may just be a matter of deleting existing information.
- Disposing/Recycling. The final step in the lifecycle of your hardware is the decision to dispose of the machine or recycle it. Channel managers can offer clients good options that are in keeping with laws and regulations.
Completing the Cycle
For channel managers, helping clients better navigate the hardware asset management cycle opens up great possibilities in up-selling and that’s never a bad thing. But more than that, it improves the ongoing relationship with customers in a way that hard sales alone will never do. Putting the customer’s needs first may be a more time consuming way to do business, but it’s still the most effective.