IT solution providers who’ve been around since the 1990s remember how speeds and feeds were such a key part of pitching technology to customers. Things have changed since then, and pushing technology for its own sake doesn’t cut it anymore.
The “shiny objects” approach to pitching and selling technology has slowly given way to a consultative model that rewards listening, learning and outcomes. You have to understand the customer’s business, learn its requirements and goals, and deliver solutions that support the business in its growth plans.
Here are five best practices all solution providers should consider:
Know the Market
You cannot understand the customer’s pressures, challenges and aspiration if you don’t understand the customer’s market. A vertical approach to building a client roster is an effective way to address this requirement, but even generalist providers have to be conversant on their customers’ markets in order to deliver the right solutions for them. Learn how to ramp up on market knowledge.
Focus on Customer Needs
You can’t dazzle the customers with speed and feeds anymore. Today, the conversation has to focus on the business. What are the customer’s pain points and what technology solutions and services can address those pain points? To effectively serve customers, providers not only have to “keep the lights on” but also strategise with customers, identifying the technologies and services that provide a good fit with the customer’s business strategy. Start asking the right questions to connect with your customers.
Winning business on price alone is a recipe for commoditisation. If you give in to customer pressures for basement pricing, you’re limiting your growth potential. Avoid this trap by focusing on value. Explain the services you deliver can help reduce operational expenses, improve efficiencies and employee productivity, and ultimately boost profit potential. Talk to the customer about the hidden costs of poor network performance and lost productivity so they understand your value proposition as opposed to obsessing about price. Learn how to lead pricing conversations with value.
Know When to Walk
Walking away from customers is never easy, but sticking with unprofitable clients is pointless. When you sell a solution with a healthy built-in margin or provide a recurring-fee service, if the customer keeps making demands above and beyond what you agreed to provide, you’ll have to find a way to stop it. If you can’t successfully reset customer expectations, you should walk away. A strong, well-crafted SLA (service level agreement) should prevent these types of outcomes, but if that fails, don’t hang on to a customer that drags down your business. Learn when it is time to fire your customer.
Don’t Forget Marketing
It’s no secret solution providers, who tend to be technologists with an entrepreneurial bent, have trouble marketing their businesses. But neglecting this aspect of the business translates to ignoring new opportunities. Be sure to have a marketing plan that identifies target customers and maps out how to approach them, be it through business networking events, attending trade shows, calling prospects, knocking at their door, or a combination of approaches. Without marketing, it’s hard to get noticed. Take a fresh look at your marketing plan.
Follow these best practices, and you’ll improve your chances of running a profitable business with real long-term potential. For more on solution provider best business practices and marketing strategies, check out the resources on our Channel Partner Program.