Most of the IT service providers I talk to aspire to selling multiple, complementary solutions to their customers, often describing themselves as one throat to choke or a one stop shop. That’s why I was initially taken aback when I first spoke with Jim Steinlage, president of Choice Solutions who made a decision to sell off five of his business technology practices so he could focus on becoming a virtualization expert.
I was further intrigued to learn that the service provider’s profitability doubled each year for three consecutive years, and I began to question: “Is this company the exception to the ‘total solutions provider’ rule?” By the end of the interview I had my answer: “No.” And, here’s why: Choice Solutions still provides customers with total solutions, including: VoIP/unified communications solutions, CRM, MPS (managed print services), ECM (enterprise content management), or Web development. The caveat is that if a customer needs these IT solutions or services, Choice Solutions is no longer the company fulfilling every request; it works with one of its strategic partners — which is typically another IT specialist that doesn’t compete with Choice Solutions’ virtualization speciality — and the partner handles it.
So, just to clarify: Being a total solutions provider is absolutely what most of your customer’s want. And, it is the best way to avoid competitor creep (e.g. the copier dealer that’s vying for your customer’s network business; the telecommunications company that wants a piece of the network revenue). But, you don’t have to provide every IT solution yourself. Taking a few cues from Choice Solutions makes a lot of business sense, especially if you find yourself winning fewer than half of your prospective sales engagements and/or if your competitors are cherry picking your best talent — two challenges Choice Solutions was faced with a few years ago — but doesn’t face now.