How AEC Group Educates Customers and Embraces Technology

Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

In this episode of Channel Insider: Partner POV — your source for untapped opportunities and unfiltered opinions in the IT channel — host Katie Bavoso spoke with Brian Lesniakowski, Chief Technology Officer, and Ken Rindt, Chief Revenue Officer, from AEC Group, a leading systems integrator.

Lesniakowski and Rindt shared their insights on implementing next-gen technology for customers and the importance of strategic vendor partnerships.

Listen to the podcast:

Watch the video:

AEC Group: A systems integrator with a broad reach

AEC Group is a systems integrator that provides a wide portfolio of infrastructure solutions customized for the operations of its customers. While AEC Group’s leaders say they cover every major vertical except the federal government, a high concentration of its customers are in the healthcare, financial services, legal, higher education and manufacturing sectors.

The Pittsburgh-based company provides a broad range of its customers IT needs ranging from IoT and end-user computing, to data center infrastructure and business solutions including unified communications and collaboration capabilities.

AEC Group prides itself on taking a holistic approach to the value-added reseller (VAR) process, ranging from the sale of materials to delivery and lifecycle management, to increasingly providing managed services. A significant part of that VAR process is providing ongoing consulting and advisory services.

Education first, sales second: How AEC build lasting customer relationships

Lesniakowski emphasized AEC Group’s key differentiator is its focus on “education first, sales second,” meaning it strives to serve as strategic advisors to their customers, guiding them towards the right technology solutions that align with their business objectives.

Rather than simply fulfilling orders, AEC Group takes the time to understand their customers’ needs and introduces them to new products and solutions that they may not be familiar with. By keeping customers informed about industry trends and emerging technologies, AEC Group helps them avoid making costly mistakes down the road.

“It’s typically us meeting with the customer over time, identifying their business objectives and then allowing them to ask the questions from a business standpoint and allowing us to align the technology requirements [with] that objective, Lesniakowski said. “Our goal is to make our customers aware of new strategies, new technologies, and transitions happening in the industry, so they don’t make a misstep and have to regress later on.”

That’s why AEC Group places so much emphasis on their architects and subject matter experts (SMEs). With a one-to-one ratio of sales engineers to sales representatives, AEC Group offers a highly consolidated approach to addressing customer needs. Their architects possess deep knowledge and expertise across different verticals, enabling them to provide valuable insights and solutions to their customers.

Aligning with customer priorities — not partner incentives or quotas

AEC Group has technology alliance partnerships with over 60 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Among them are industry giants like Cisco, Citrix, Microsoft, Nutanix, Palo Alto Networks, and Rubrik, as well as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Aruba Networks, and Nimble Storage.

However, Lesniakowski emphasized that AEC Group puts customer requirements ahead of any alliance partners. “We’re not beholden to the OEM,” he said. “We’re beholden to the customer. So we really are trying to provide them with guidance that isn’t just echoing whatever the manufacturer is saying about the product.”

Case in point is its many customers with VMware infrastructure. In the wake of Broadcom’s $69 billion acquisition of VMware, which closed late last year, many products are being deprecated. Consequently, customers need advice on what alternatives to consider. Lesniakowski emphasized that determining what to do varies with each customer’s infrastructure.

“Walking customers through that and getting them to understand that it’s not just as simple as looking at it from a price standpoint,” he said. “There is functionality and there may be some things that you have to change or deviate from the process that you used in the past. But once they’re aware of those, then they can make an educated decision as to whether they make that transition or whether they maintain the status quo.”

Embracing managed services with an ongoing consultative approach

Founded in 1992, AEC Group still considers itself a traditional VAR, but with a modern approach  of business technology consulting and service delivery. Lesniakowski said AEC Group’s advisory services center on understanding customers’ business requirements, while keeping them apprised on how advances in technology can help address them. 

“It’s typically us meeting with the customer over time, identifying their business objectives, and then allowing them to ask the questions from a business standpoint and allowing us to align the technology requirements,” he said.

Involving architects with front-end sales and ongoing consulting meetings

AEC Group involves its architects meeting with customers at the front end of the sales cycle, and they continue to advise them in followup meetings, added CRO Rindt. It has SMEs in different technologies as well as industry sectors.

“They have a breadth of knowledge, but also a depth of knowledge of different vertical stacks,” Rindt said. “We make a significant investment in that team where we have a 1-to-1 sales engineer/architect to sales rep ratio, so that it’s a highly consolidated approach that brings a ton of value to the customers.”

Rindt emphasized AEC Group’s post-implementation cadence with ongoing services to customers. “Our reps will meet with them on a monthly and quarterly basis to make sure that they’re ahead of the game and [that] we’re staying on top of many of their needs. It’s a high touch approach for us, but at the same time it is highly consultative.”

For more information on AEC Group’s consultative services and technical expertise, you can get in touch with them on their website.

Tune in to the video or podcast above for more insights from Katie Bavoso and AEC Group’s CTO Brian Lesniakowski and CRO Ken Rindt — and be sure to like and subscribe for future interviews with solution providers and thought leaders, plus special episodes and opportunities!

Who else made the HSP250? Browse the whole list to find out!

Featured Partners: Managed Service Provider (MSP) Software

You may also like...