The phrase stuck out: "Saving Microsoft one Axapta implementation at a time."That was part of the information submitted by one of the accounting software value-added resellers being considered for selection for this year's Pacesetters list that will be published by Accounting Technology, Accounting Today, and Practical Accountant.

It was a phrase from a company that prides itself on helping software orphans: users that buy a software package, in this case the product now known as Dynamics AX, and find themselves unable to use it or find no support from the original reseller.

It stood out because so few of the nominations did. Many talked about their integrity, their commitment to the customer, and the fine products, and after a while it all blended together.

Not everybody has a flair for words. But in the accounting software business one thing is clear --everybody that sells a Sage or Microsoft package is selling the same thing as every other reseller that sells a Sage or Microsoft package. Taylor Macdonald, the former reseller and Sage Software EVP who is his company's champion for the channel, often tells resellers that what they are selling is themselves, not the software.

Surprisingly, this is one area in which accounting firms understand the basic premise. Whatever can be said about accountants and their lack of marketing astuteness, they understand what they are selling --themselves -- and that is knowledge that translates well for any professional services firm making good use of an Internet site.

Go to a CPA firm site and you often find a section labeled "Our People" or "Partners." There are often pictures, telephone numbers, and email links for the partners, principals, and managers, along with a description of their expertise. Sometimes, they go far down the line to list nonprofessional employees.

Go to a reselling firm's site and the section labeled "Partners" lists the vendors whose products the VAR handles, and often their logos. You can often look in vain for the name of a person, let alone any contact information. Few say, "Jim is a network whiz who could connect an air conditioner to your LAN," or that, "Sally runs our Dynamics practice like a skilled surgeon" or give any background on the staff.

Selling services is about earning trust, and it's easier to earn trust if you have a name and a face to associate with the service. There are excellent resellers whose Web sites sport press releases dated no more recent than 2004 or have old product names, or who provide no information other than product and seminar descriptions.

They do well. But with a personal touch, I think many could do better.

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