From left: Doug Tutus, Newlease | Peter Stein, Express Data | Courtenay Snell, Jasco Consulting | Nadia Cameron, ARN | Craig van Zeyl, Dataract | Tim Sone, Ensyst | David Hanrahan, Dimension Data | Paul Voges, Microsoft | Jason Arnold-Auland, The Missing Link | Lee Welch, Ingram Micro | Nick Stranks, Ethan Group | Tanya Lord, Dell | Gianpaolo Carraro, Microsoft | Katarzyna Czubak, IDC
Selling technology for technology’s sake simply doesn’t cut it anymore. ARN recently brought together a panel of industry representatives to look at why selling business productivity, ROI and innovation are critical to the channel’s success and how these elements will be the force behind cloud computing take-up.
Nadia Cameron, ARN (NC): Why is it so important to sell business efficiencies to customers?
Tim Sone, Ensyst (TS): When we look at the landscape and what’s happening today, the old way of approaching customers doesn’t work anymore. If you’re not going up the chain and talking about business efficiencies and how you’re improving your customer’s environment, it’s a dead-end conversation. For us, it’s a mechanism to open up conversations with customers, make sales stickier and make them more profitable.
Craig van Zeyl, Dataract (CVZ): We always sell to business based on ROI messages. What we noticed in the market downturn is that people still had money, but they would only spend if there was a good, sensible ROI. Not just ‘you folks will be better’, which doesn’t work. It had to come down to cost of processing, customer service and quality of service. We have been hammering in on that and selling business efficiency as a package, at the right price. As a result, business still happens – if we didn’t do that, it wouldn’t happen at all.
Jason Arnold-Auland, The Missing Link (JAA): We have always tried to steer customers towards having an ROI-type conversation. The willingness for business heads to want to go down a technology path when they have budget allocated, or who just want to get the project in and going, meant we could gloss over that before. But the last 18 months really brought it [ROI] back to the fore. Our customers are very much in the mid-market space, and when you’re talking to a business principal – because that’s usually who you’re engaged with in that space – it’s really a matter of getting in and making it happen. If you don’t deliver, you have hard questions to face.
Nick Stranks, Ethan Group (NS): We’re involved not just at a systems administration level, but right up to CEOs of most of the companies we deal with. We’re not a supplier, we’re a partner to those businesses and I think that’s why we’ve succeeded over the last few years and grown dramatically. They are still spending with us, and we know why they defer certain projects and what they’ve got to do to get projects over the line, as well as what they need to from us to actually spend the money. Recently, we’ve seen some big instances where those who have simply waited for the HP order at 3 per cent have gone. You can’t survive on that as a business anymore.
NC: Did that position change because of the downturn, or is it just maturity of the market?
Tanya Lord, Dell (TL): I do think the GFC contributed.
TS: I think people over exaggerated the downturn to some degree. A lot of companies stopped spending simply because it was seen as the right thing to do, rather than because it was necessary. The companies you could demonstrate a real ROI to were still interested in spending the money where appropriate. What they did is stop spending dollars on frivolous things such as the million-dollar lobby upgrade. Instead, they spent it on things that would generate ‘this and this’ for their business lines. I hope it carries on, because it means the market is tougher and you won’t have as many people trying to do a drive-by with your customers.
Gianpaolo Carraro, Microsoft (GP): Being involved in quite a few early adoption programs, we have good connections with the venture capital market. A similar thing happens there: Good companies get the money, regardless of the economy. What stops happening is the business models on the back of the napkin, and young kids trying to do something. It some respects, it’s a healthy element of high-level scrutiny in the purchases. So a really good company can extract itself from the masses and the clutter where everyone can be someone.
Peter Stein, Express Data (PS): One of the things we saw over the last 12 months was a lot more competition in the channel, because of restricted access to revenue. From a distributor’s point of view, we were finding the same deal was going to a lot more partners for a request for quote. Whether that’s the end customer being more active in seeing what’s out there competitively, or the reseller being more competitive because they had a number to match, I’m not sure. But there were definitely instances where business who usually stuck to one area, tried to scale into either side of it.