Solution providers have traditionally sold to other techies, but the buyer is increasingly not a techie --they are business people with different needs and objectives. Success is often a result of changing the conversation and the language you speak.
By Jennifer Anaya
The channel’s traditional customer is the IT guy, that lovable lug in the data center who sets technology policies, administers systems and oversees purchases. And the sale was relatively straight forward as solution providers and the IT guy both spoke the same language: geek.
Guess what? That’s changing. Geek is no longer the lingua franca of technology, mostly because the IT guy is no longer the only/final decision-maker in IT purchases.
We’ve seen this steady shift for a few years, thanks in large part to cloud computing and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.
As applications and hosted resources became easily obtainable through the cloud, a line of business managers has bypassed the data center and gone direct to suppliers for their needs. Likewise, end users are marginalizing the IT guy by bringing their own mobile and endpoint devices, complete with productivity applications, to the workplace.
Many solution providers have struggled with this transition, as the needs and expectations of the new buyers and influencers are vastly different than those of the IT guy. Business managers are more concerned with sales performance, hitting revenue targets and opening markets than the speeds and feeds of their servers and switches. They’re not concerned with IT standards; they just want the network and applications to work when called on so they can do their jobs.
Of course, anything that makes their jobs easier or makes them look better in the eyes of their companies and stakeholders is not just a bonus -- it’s an operational imperative. Again, the technology that makes this happen isn’t important to them; the value that technology produces is.
For solution providers, this means changing the conversation. No longer can you talk about the technical attributes of the products and services you resell and support. You need to get inside the head of your customer, understand their business needs and objectives, and align solutions that provide them with better outcomes.
When it comes to selling technologies to the business, you have to create a “want” more than a “need.” People have all kinds of basic needs and they’re relatively easy to fulfill, which is why we have so many commodity products. “Wants,” on the other hand, are special and highly profitable because customers pay higher prices for things they want.
Creating the want depends on understanding a decision-maker’s desires. They want to accelerate sales, be more competitive and agile, reach a new customer or market segment, and exceed their revenue targets by more than 120 percent. Whatever the “want” is, they will pay handsomely if you understand it, relate to it and fulfill against it.
Can you create a “want” through traditional sales and marketing approaches? Likely not. Few technology companies have tapped into the “want” in a meaningful way through advertising, webinar and lunch-and-learns. You need to change the people with whom you speak and the types of conversations you have with them. It requires actively listening, distilling raw intelligence, and devising solutions that have business value and personal appeal to those who use the products.
It’s definitely a different kind of engagement and conversation than solution providers have had with the IT guy. It’s more than just changing the conversation with the customer; it’s changing the language you speak. It’s not an easy transition, for sure, but it’s one that will pay more and larger dividends for solution providers who can speak in many tongues.
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Jennifer Anaya serves as vice president of marketing for Ingram Micro North America. She’s responsible for directing the activities of Ingram Micro’s marketing organizations across the U.S. and Canada. She is regarded as one of the “Most Powerful Women in the IT Channel” by CRN Magazine.