Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients



  • I had a conversation with @scottalanmiller a few days about about this topic, and I figure it'd be worth discussing on ML.

    Between a vendor / reseller / etc., and the end customer (SMB client), where does the IT consultant/ IT service provider fit in? In particular, I'm thinking about the process of creating Microsoft volume license agreements.

    Consider this scenario. You've been hired by a SMB as their IT consultant / service provider, and after discussing the business's needs, etc., it has been determined that some Windows servers need to be deployed. To do this deployment, the client needs to acquire a Windows Server standard license and the appropriate number of user CALs. At this point, a Microsoft reseller needs to be engaged. The question becomes who interfaces directly with the reseller?

    After some thought what makes the most sense to me is you, the consultant, reach out to a reseller and tell the reseller you're requesting quotes on behalf of the client. You'd get the quotes for probably Open and Open Value agreements and discuss with the client which one makes the most sense for the business. Client decides which quote to choose, the vendor and client communicated and take care of billing and payment, and the client now has the agreement for the licenses for the business.

    I suppose an alternative method would be telling the client you need exactly X (where X is number of cores to license for Windows server and the number of user CALs). The client contacts the reseller, you look over the quote to make sure it's correct, and the client completes the transaction. This method seems like it would be more error prone and time consuming, since this puts the client into the middle position of trying to articulate your advice to a reseller.



  • @EddieJennings It depends on the client. I have clients where we are their IT staff. We do everything through an email provided by the client. Typically something like <clientacronym>[email protected].
    If Bob's Auto Group hired me it would be [email protected] or something similar.

    I have clients where I make recommendations and engage the VAR using some one's name/email from the client.

    I have clients where I email the exact things and they then send it to the VAR.

    In all of the above cases, I recommend the VAR based on experience and customer needs.

    Finally, I do have places that just want an analysis and walk away to let them handle it all.



  • Whatever the client wants. Same thing when it comes to hardware BTW.



  • @EddieJennings said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    The question becomes who interfaces directly with the reseller?

    In a smart business start, the IT person. Whoever that is. The company's IT, which can be an internal resource at the customer or a consultant / MSP is the "buyer's agent." That is the role that needs to interface with any vendor.

    None of this is IT related. This is fundamental "business interaction stack" with a customer, a vendor, a customer representative and a buyer representative. Real estate codifies this for legal protection reasons, but it is a universal model and unique to no field.



  • @EddieJennings said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    This method seems like it would be more error prone and time consuming, since this puts the client into the middle position of trying to articulate your advice to a reseller.

    Yes, and more foolish. Because it exposes the buyer and seller directly which is a predatory situation that any one thinking it through would be trying to avoid. It is hard to play on FUD or emotions to the IT team, but easy to do so to the buyer.

    Removing the buyer's agent is like turning off the firewall on your LAN. You keep the firewall to set up the initial connection to the foreign service, but then once set up, you take the firewall away and expose the network to attack. From a technical view, that's insane. From a business view, it's worse!



  • @scottalanmiller said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    @EddieJennings said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    This method seems like it would be more error prone and time consuming, since this puts the client into the middle position of trying to articulate your advice to a reseller.

    Yes, and more foolish. Because it exposes the buyer and seller directly which is a predatory situation that any one thinking it through would be trying to avoid. It is hard to play on FUD or emotions to the IT team, but easy to do so to the buyer.

    Removing the buyer's agent is like turning off the firewall on your LAN. You keep the firewall to set up the initial connection to the foreign service, but then once set up, you take the firewall away and expose the network to attack. From a technical view, that's insane. From a business view, it's worse!

    Depends on the size of the business. If the client has their own purchasing department they will most likely be in a better position to negotiate than the IT consultant. So the consultant provides the technical know-how and expertise to specify what the client needs, but the client will deal with the resellers and make sure they get the best deal.



  • @Pete-S said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    If the client has their own purchasing department they will most likely be in a better position to negotiate than the IT consultant.

    Yes, very much so. But that's still a separate non-operations / non-business consulting group mimicking the IT department and one that needs IT involved, without IT purchasing groups are easy pickings for social engineering, too. That's how part swaps happen (oh this other part is just as good as the one you requested.)



  • @Pete-S said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    So the consultant provides the technical know-how and expertise to specify what the client needs, but the client will deal with the resellers and make sure they get the best deal.

    It's not consultant vs non-consultant. That was a mistake in the way Eddie asked it. But it is buyer's agent group vs. non-agent group. Could be internal or external, IT or purchasing. And as a consulting firm, we have a purchasing group, too. So the option for purchasing doesn't require that it be part of the client. I've had that a lot and the risk is high, because purchasing groups often don't know when they can fight for better deals or not.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    @Pete-S said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    So the consultant provides the technical know-how and expertise to specify what the client needs, but the client will deal with the resellers and make sure they get the best deal.

    It's not consultant vs non-consultant. That was a mistake in the way Eddie asked it. But it is buyer's agent group vs. non-agent group. Could be internal or external, IT or purchasing. And as a consulting firm, we have a purchasing group, too. So the option for purchasing doesn't require that it be part of the client. I've had that a lot and the risk is high, because purchasing groups often don't know when they can fight for better deals or not.

    I don't recall saying consultant vs non-consultant, but the responses in the thread have addressed the question of who should interface with a vendor.



  • @EddieJennings said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    @scottalanmiller said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    @Pete-S said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    So the consultant provides the technical know-how and expertise to specify what the client needs, but the client will deal with the resellers and make sure they get the best deal.

    It's not consultant vs non-consultant. That was a mistake in the way Eddie asked it. But it is buyer's agent group vs. non-agent group. Could be internal or external, IT or purchasing. And as a consulting firm, we have a purchasing group, too. So the option for purchasing doesn't require that it be part of the client. I've had that a lot and the risk is high, because purchasing groups often don't know when they can fight for better deals or not.

    I don't recall saying consultant vs non-consultant, but the responses in the thread have addressed the question of who should interface with a vendor.

    Your thread was worded about consultant, but the answer isn't based on it being a consultant, but it's about what position in the agent space the person is. Consultants fall on both sides, so the question cannot be answered the way it is worded.


  • Vendor

    @EddieJennings said in Where IT Consultants fit between Vendors and Clients:

    I don't recall saying consultant vs non-consultant, but the responses in the thread have addressed the question of who should interface with a vendor.

    I feel like I should provide some context for how some vendors operate to get a better idea for the level of vendor involvement and who the vendor wants to work with.

    Few things....

    1. It depends on the vendor, and who the customer is. For instance, some vendors are 100% channel sales (Datto I think fell in here) and a customer outright can't buy them directly.

    2. Most larger vendors DO NOT WANT to talk/sell to smaller customers directly (It's too expensive, as they pay too good of benefits, and too high of compensation to their salespeople to scale down to small accounts that because they only sell their products can't form a meaningful relationship). There typically are 4 "buckets" for products.

    a. Retail sales for VERY low-value non-complicated sale items that a website can sell. These products don't require sizing assistance or are pretty simple. Think an ethernet patch cable.

    b. More complicated items on smaller deals that intend to be 100% channeled in sales (You don't want this stuff sold by Amazon as the customer will likely buy the wrong SKU, or screw upsizing). Note, the vendor may offer a direct model but will often have "cannon fodder" class salespeople in this space, and generally will even charge more for going direct. A VAR is your best bet here. Think someone buying 3 servers, or 20 laptops, or a single palo alto firewall for a SMB. all services are going to be VAR partner led when possible beyond post-sales support escalations. Also in these smaller accounts it's expected that the VAR/MSP is more than likely going to know the needs potentially better than the customer does.

    c. larger enterprise deals where the VAR is still involved but the vendor takes some leadership because the account is big enough to matter, or the vendor wants a strategic presence in this account. The paper may shift to being run by the vendor at the higher end of this, with a small revenue share back to the VAR who brought this deal to them for the life of this deal. Think ELA's, 100 site MLPS circuit deals etc. services might be delivered by either the partner or the vendor at this stage.

    d. Direct only deals. These are sometimes called "named accounts" and the vendor will 100% run paper directly. A partner of record might get 3% of the deal if they are lucky, or be subcontracted if they are a marque support partner with tons of certifications.

    Others can comment but sales teams tend to be organized around these different groups Example:

    1. Commercial-1 Smallest accounts and people who haven't bought anything in 5 years from you. These are called "Whitespace accounts" and you basically have people trying to get a meeting with hundreds of these in a territory or verticle and seeing if they can find some gold and get people with a low priced entry solution. ALL sales will be inside teams at this scale with VAR's or MSPs type shops doing any in person meetings.

    2. Commercial-2 Slightly larger accounts. Might have spent a few thousand, but there isn't a strategic or lucrative relationship. You might have a field team at this point but they will likely cover hundreds of accounts still.

    Midsized Accounts - Still larger. They will likely have some clue who their account team is, but still rely on a VAR for most day to day stuff.

    Large Enterprise - Big names you recognize. These accounts will have teams who might have only 5-10 customers. Alignment on this is going to be tied to geograhpy still more than likely.

    Globals - Account teams will be in some cases 1:1, or if there is a specific industry (Say automakers, or oil gas) you might have a team in a city (like Houston) whose job is to wrangle these guys. The Cxx levels of the vendor likely have strong relationships with these accounts and for a software vendor these accounts could be spending 9 figures at a time, or for hardware companies 10.