3Com and Telstra are preparing to recruit a veritable army of resellers to sell a unique Internet access solution into small and medium businesses, ARN has learnt.
The bundle combines Telstra Big Pond Internet services with 3Com networking equipment, such as a router, which is needed to connect a small network to the Internet.
"It's a one-step process," said 3Com's local managing director Gerhard Rumpff in an exclusive interview with ARN.
"We want resellers, even if they may not have serviced this part of the market before.
"The resellers have the relationship. The customer wants to get all this from the dealer that they are familiar with."
Starting in March, 3Com and Telstra will begin a massive Australia-wide roadshow, from which it will recruit resellers. Hitting regional areas as well as capital cities, resellers who attend the roadshow will be certified and receive the training they need to order, sell and deploy the offering.
Research from both Telstra and 3Com indicates that small and medium businesses see the Internet, and particularly e-mail, as being essential to the future of their business. This was backed up by the experience of a number of Australian resellers that spoke to ARN last week, like Chris Osborn, software manager of Citisoft.
"Small businesses understand that the Internet is hugely important but a big percentage still don't have it," he said. Joe Raich, account man-ager for Hay Computer, agreed: "Small businesses are seeing the Internet as more and more important to their business."
3Com's Rumpff believes that this offering is a good way for both resellers and small and medium customers to ease their way into networking. The sentiment was echoed by Raich.
"Once small businesses have the Internet they start thinking about how to share the information. They might hook up a couple of PCs and then eventually become curious about serious networking," he said.
According to former 3Com marketing director Andy Hurt, who will now head up the company's drive into the small and medium market, 3Com and Telstra will back up resellers with aggressive marketing which will include direct mail, telesales and advertising.
He said that in the past resellers have not been rewarded for recommending Internet service providers and so had ignored the market. Through this program they will be rewarded.
3Com and Telstra will establish a single support line to take care of all enquiries.
Warren Short of Internet North was enthusiastic about the offering.
"It will mean that small businesses are not dealing with too many players, they won't need to go to an Internet service provider then later on build up a network with someone different," he said.
However, Raich was concerned about price. "When my customers see Telstra they automatically think it's overpriced," he said.