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People and product Featured

1:25pm EDT September 27, 2005
Technology is continually evolving.

Phil Lanctot Jr., CEO of Morrisville-based NRI Data, has adapted his company to suit the times. Over the last five years, revenue at NRI, which provides equipment and services to the data centers of Fortune 1000 companies, grew from $18.7 million to $35 million through the acquisition of small companies that added new technologies and capabilities.

“It allowed us to sell products that, in the past, we were reluctant to bring to market,” Lanctot says.

Smart Business spoke with Lanctot about how NRI Data’s sales techniques have evolved and how he expands his company through innovation.

How do you grow NRI Data?

It’s hiring and acquiring the right people, more technical people. We picked up most of them via acquisition.

We also took our sales team from your traditional relationship-type guys, and they’ve become a lot more technically savvy over the last five years. They’re required to attain various certifications and product training, something that really wasn’t that common 10 years ago.

We wanted to have a situation where our sales rep could just walk into a room, and in five minutes, do what it would take an IT guy a couple weeks and a lot of trial and error to do.

I have an ad in CareerBuilder right now which says, ‘If you’re an IT guy with very good people skills or you’re a salesperson with technical scope, give us a call.’ Our technical people have to be comfortable giving a presentation in front of customers.

You’ve got to know your product, and you’ve got to have sales skills. Our technical people are pretty good salespeople, and our salespeople are pretty good technical people.

How do you expand your company through innovation?

We’ve positioned ourselves kind of like an incubator for new technology. An example would be a Bluesocket; that’s the center of our wireless security solutions. We just finished a five-day site survey over at Rider University. (Bluesocket) can’t go to a CompUSA, a CDW or a Dell and say, ‘Pick up our line.’ They’ll say, ‘How many millions are you doing right now?’ And (Bluesocket will say), ‘No we’re just getting started.’ They’ll say, ‘Come back when you’re moving some product.’

Even the big distributors, if you buy a computer product, whether it’s from CompUSA or Best Buy, a lot of those are coming from the same people that I would get; there’s a handful of major wholesalers that feed these different outlets. But if you’re new, you’re not going to get any shelf space. They’re not going to move your product.

They don’t want to carry a product that has no existing revenue stream. They’re going to put a product in their bag, and they’re going to want $5 million or $10 million right off the bat. So a lot of times, companies like that will go to an NRI.

This is something that’s kind of developed because new products usually aren’t developed by the big names. New products are developed by the start-up companies, and the big names buy them. We look for these companies, and these companies look for us, and we’ll take their product to market because we’ve been around for 30 years. We do have access to a lot of Fortune 1000 companies, so we can take an unknown product and introduce it and create some revenue streams in their target market.

They’d have a hard time getting into a UBS, GMAC, Comcast, Bank One. They kind of work their way into that. That’s usually a good revenue stream for us, too, because we’re walking into large companies and hitting them with cutting-edge products they haven’t seen.

How does consulting play a role in NRI Data’s growth?

I call it a solution with consulting packed into that.

Having everyone involved in the solution — aware of what the big picture is, who the customer is, why they decided to go with the solution and what they’re hoping to accomplish — is really important. If you’re in the middle of a big install, and you’re using a subcontractor who (says), ‘Hey, I don’t know anything about what this is. I just have my job here,’ that usually creates problems.

If someone has a bad experience or two with (larger technology companies), their relationship sometimes is so big, or they’ve got some kind of contract and are so committed to them, where (the technology company) can afford to screw up every now and then. We really don’t get that luxury. People do hire consultants to do what we do but usually the results aren’t as good. Someone might actually pay a consultant hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up with the same thing that basically we offer right out of the box.

HOW TO REACH: NRI Data, (800) 828-3333 or http://www.nridata.com