Article contributed by Jim Tyer - EMEA channel director at AppRiver
Cloud has seen the traditional sales model implode. But that doesn’t mean it’s game over – just time to learn new rules...
The way we consume technology has changed so the way we sell technology needs to change too.
Customers want innovative ways to use technology and revolutionise their businesses - to respond to demands from employees sporting the latest laptop, tablet or smartphone; allowing safe connection to the corporate network; while facilitating collaboration between colleagues, third parties and clients.
Thankfully, cloud technology can rise to these challenges. The problem isn’t what cloud can or can’t do, but the impact it has on traditional business models.
How can you stay relevant in a world where customers have easy access to cloud-based solutions ? You need to make yourself invaluable. The key element to staying relevant is ‘value added’ – ultimately your biggest USP, guaranteeing new business and establishing recurrent revenue streams:
Trusted Advisor - hard to earn yet easy to erode
Building trust is simple, yet far too many get this wrong – not just resellers but vendors too!
If a customer calls, call them back. If you offer support via email, have a real person write back confirming receipt of the enquiry and how it will be handled. Similarly, if you say you’re going to do something then do it - or let the customer know you’re trying to.
In tandem, if a customer seeks advice give it freely and without motive, even if it means dissuading them from spending money. You’ll find they’re far more likely to believe, and trust, you next time when they need to invest.
Similarly, don’t cut corners to keep costs down, or worse try to conceal the full expense. No-one likes unpleasant surprises. You might lose a sale initially but, guaranteed, the customer will appreciate your honesty.
Don’t take it personally if a customer buys one product from you, but adds it to something from somewhere else – for example, let’s say a customer wants to use you for spam filtering but decides to go with another web filtering vendor. Though it might hurt financially in the short term, the relationship is what’s important here. Where you make the difference, and win loyalty, is by managing the complete package.
Partners who take this role seriously and are willing to be honest with customers (even if it means a short term loss to build long term trust) will retain a stronger, happier customer base and stay viable for years to come.
Backoffice support – go over and above
This is an area where the ‘organised’ reseller can make a real difference for many organisations – particularly smaller businesses where IT isn’t a specific job function. Subscriptions and licence renewals are easy for a busy manager to overlook, so providing this as a service not only adds value to your offering, but also ensures you guarantee this key revenue stream.
This doesn’t just have to be for the products you’ve sold, and you may not be financially rewarded. Take website domain renewals – even Disney has problems tracking its renewals, almost losing its ‘Club Penguin’ sites in 2011, oops!
Migrations – hand holding as standard
Having made the sale, far too many resellers walk away and leave the customer and vendor to implement the change unaided. This can lead to frustration and even reputational damage – for all involved. Your role is to work seamlessly with vendors so your customer experiences a painless transition.
Supply vendor(s) with an in-depth plan of any existing infrastructure to incorporate into the new design. Identify incompatibilities before implementation so they’re resolved before becoming problematic.
Support your customer by devising a detailed migration plan – including key targets. Use previous intelligence of similar installations to offer advice and support your customer will need, or overlook, to make the move. Share additional literature in good time that other customers found useful.
Support – somewhere in the world its normal business hours
In an age where business never sleeps – neither can your customer service. Resellers of the future will invest in excellent 24/7 assistance, or partner providers where top-notch technical support is a way of life. Skimp on this and it could greatly damage your reputation, limit renewal rates and ultimately infringe on customer retention.
Training – education is king
It’s a lucrative revenue stream, yet few resellers offer training. Consider investing in your own training department, offering courses to customers teaching them how-to manage the solutions they’ve got, demonstrating how to get the best out of the investment. Who knows, you may even find there’s an opportunity to upsell a complimentary product from your portfolio that makes another product function, or integrate better.
Of course, if you don’t already offer this service it’s not something that can be introduced overnight so for now consider bundling vendor supplied training into the equation.
Adapt or die trying
As resellers, you’re no longer selling boxes and cables – you’re translating the ideals of your customers into reality. Or at least you should be. The reseller of the future will happily rise to the challenge set by customers, anticipating their needs before even they do.