After managing cloud partnerships for almost a decade - long before Microsoft and Amazon began using the term ‘cloud' - I've learned some tricks about how our partners succeed. The strategies aren't rocket science, but in fact time-tested and proven. However, when dealing with cutting edge technology, they are easy to forget. Above all other rules related to offering cloud-based services and solutions to your clients, there is one approach that can change the way you think about selling cloud and transform your success rate. And it's something so simple that nearly any veteran of the software industry should already know, though could easily have forgotten amid the cloud hype of the last few years.
First, understand what your customers DON'T buy
Most customers do not buy the "est's" alone. The ‘fastest', ‘greatest', ‘cleanest', ‘shiniest', etc. They may get some of those, but they're not buying the feature. VERY few people buy a JUST a blue car. If they did, a Ferrari and a jalopy would be on the same playing field. As sales professionals, it's easy for us to get caught up in telling a customer about all the features of a product and how it trounces the competition. Truth-be-told, most customers don't care.
The same applies with cloud. When you try to quantify ‘cloud' as a noun with inherent value, it's as-if you're selling one big feature -and that's hard to do. Imagine telling a customer that they should buy your "cloud" as a stand-alone product, just because it's the newest and best. You would likely have no-more success than attempting to sell a "blue" car without telling them anything else other than the color.
What your customers DO buy
When it comes to vehicles, customers are buying a mode of transportation with (likely) a very specific use. Perhaps they are commuting, hauling mulch, or transporting 5 kids to school every day. Each need requires a different, or at least versatile, tool. The type of vehicle is what matters, not the color (at least not with inherent value). Sure, if a particular make, model & year of a vehicle fits the need of the customer, you'll likely have a happier customer if you can secure their preference in color. But you wouldn't start there.
Same goes with cloud technology: your customer is seeking to meet a need. Likely with a fixed budget and some type of mandate from higher-up leadership. Perhaps they are concerned about hurricane season, viruses, employee turn-over, up-time, or managing the security of their data. At the end of the day, they are buying their own job security and business continuity (a fancy way of saying ‘keeping their business in business".)
The trick of the trade
So here it is: be a business consultant, and find out what it is that your customer needs. What is it that keeps them up at night, and what gets them out of bed and into the office each morning. Solve that need, the best way that you can, and you'll have a customer for life. When you begin to think about cloud as a "adjective" not a "noun", your results will go up. Once you find the problem, you may find that recommending a cloud platform, a cloud application, cloud backup, or virtual private cloud may indeed help make your customer's business better. All clouds are not created equal. You likely take the same tact with any other product you sell, so don't overlook the base requirements when selling cloud.
Great Questions to Ask Your Customer:
Here are some great questions to ask your prospect that will ensure that you're enabling them to embrace the right cloud solution at the right time:
Ransomware. What are you doing to protect the next employee that plugs in to your network and locks up all their files? Do you have a rock-solid backup system in place? Are you willing to gamble the $50k+ ‘ransom' that you might have to pay?
Employee turn-over. Are your IT staff cross-trained? Do all of your business-critical systems have two or more people trained? If your IT manager walked out tomorrow for any reason, could your business keep operating?
Compliance. What are the necessary compliance and related data-security requirements? This is a big one. 80%+ of businesses are now subject to some type of compliance requirements, be it HIPPAA, SOX, PCI, CJIS, etc. Many are scrambling to continuously meet those requirements. This is a great way to find out what their plans are and identify a solution.
Any of the above areas will likely uncover more opportunity that you can imagine as well as start a genuine conversation with your customer. Better still, all of the above can be solved with the right type of cloud solution. For a quick guide on walking the decision steps to find the right cloud type, be sure to view this infographic.
And remember....nobody buys JUST a blue car....