VTN co-presidents plan technology bake-off

Bracey and Veraldi

VTN Council co-presidents Rob Bracey (left) and Jim Veraldi (right)

CHICAGO – VentureTech Network presidents Rob Bracey and Jim Veraldi are planning a great technology bake-off as part of their push to drive the reseller community further into member organizations and sponsor vendors alike.

Bracey, president of the Canadian VTN group, channeled the popular 70s Canadian high-school quiz show “Reach for the Top” in the design of the program, which will pit chapter against chapter in designing and “selling” solutions based on the offerings of the vendor sponsoring each specific region.

Here’s how it all works:

At the June “super-regional” VTN meetings, along with the usual meetings of VTN business executives, of the regional chapters will bring forth teams of pre-sales technical specialists. Each “super-region” will have a sponsoring vendor (with two in the U.S. East because of the high number of chapters there), who will present a case study with a need for one of the vendor’s highest-priority product areas or categories.

Teams from each region will be presented the case studies, and then sequestered in the room to develop their pitch – the solution they’re offering around the customer need, complete with the value proposition for the solution.

The regional sponsors will choose the winners of that round, who will head to the finals of the bake-off at the fall VTN Invitational in Las Vegas, where all of the winning solutions will be displayed and the winners will be paired off.

Each chapter’s bake-off team will be decided within the chapter. Veraldi said they’re hoping to foster a first level of competition just to make the team that gets to the regional, extending the competition to a broader tournament within the community.

Getting pre-sales engineers and strategists involved in the VentureTech community is part of the co-presidents’ efforts to make the community relevant within member organizations beyond the senior executives who are typically most engaged.

And just like they’re hoping the bake-off and other strategies will drive the VTN deeper through member organizations, they’re also seeing it as a way to get vendors more involved on more levels. While it’s clear that a major vendor like Cisco is on board at the highest levels with VTN (senior channel exec Ralph Nimergood keynoted at the conference here), Veraldi said it was not immediately so evident whether “the local Cisco rep in Oshkosh, Wisc.” is engaged. By doing the bake-offs locally, that should change.

To help support VTN vendors within the local chapters that make up the community, each chapter has now named a “champion” for each vendor, helping to make sure that vendor is as engaged as possible with the community, and that the community is reciprocating that engagement. The premise is simple – a message from a trusted colleague within the community carries more weight than does yet another pitch from yet another vendor, no matter how well connected to the VTN community it may be.

The efforts to expand the reach of the community are part of a bid to “polarize” the community, as Veraldi puts it – to develop communities within the community that address both specific geographic needs and the roles of certain functions. To date, the group has started to reach out to technical staff by offering training events at the VTN Invitational, and has eyed specialized subgroups for finance teams, purchasers and other groups within the organization. And such functional groups may be further subdivided by region, acknowledging the differences between doing business in Canada and the United States.

That kind of expansion is clearly key to host distributor Ingram Micro. John Fago, senior director of channel programs at Ingram Micro discussed the desire and indeed need to extend the reach of VentureTech from the 350 in the room to the 3,500 or more staff at member organizations.

As an added bonus for the community, Veraldi said all the proposals tabled within the competition will be posted to the VTN Web site, complete with contacts for the engineers involved. That way, the proposals can serve as an inspiration or guidance for members who are looking to move into new opportunities, or interested members can reach out to those who developed the pitch to partner on developing real-world solutions.