While selling solutions is not about pushing one vendor’s range of products, having a well-recognised brand to backup your offering is an important part of the equation, Avnet’s Gavin Lawless said.
“I think we downplay the vendors and say it’s the solution, but the truth is it is both. It is harder to go to a customer with UIT, which is a very big storage vendor in China, versus coming in with a known brand. So the vendor is very important, but the solution and how it ties together is also important,” he argued. “You can’t go and set-up a storage practice with great vendors and great technology, but no names.”
But does this mean customer always want best-of-breed? Attendees at the roundtable were divided on whether brand or best-of-breed was important in a solutions sale.
“Best-of-breed is something we have used in the technology industry for a long time and we all know what it means and what it does, but I don’t think it’s important – where was VMware five years ago?” IBM’s Joe Arcuri said. “It goes back to innovation.”
But Fredon’s Gerald Lipman said customers were astute, followed brands and wanted best-of-breed product.
“They understand the value of IBM or Juniper – it’s ridiculous to assume it’s anything different,” he said.
Attendees also had different definitions for what best-of-breed represented: For some, it stood for well-known vendors and proven technologies. Avaya’s Andy Hurt said brand name wasn’t best-of-breed; instead it was how granular you needed to get to solve a specific business problem.
For Lawless, best-of-breed wasn’t always what has been done before, nor was it a single vendor in a particular category.
“Six years ago, when VMware was talking to end-user organisations, they didn’t know what virtualisation was. When organisations were talking about de-duplication two years ago, they didn’t know how to spell it,” he said. “Best-of-breed will vary from customer to customer, because it depends on all the levers – there’s brand recognition, technology, price point, and a whole heap of stuff. If price point is more important than brand, that’s the lever and it becomes best-of-breed; it’s what you can provide that’s best for that customer.”
CommVault’s Joe McPhillips said customers wanted a low-risk solution and controlled risk. But did that mean best-of-breed? For Juniper’s Mark Ablett, it did. Lawless agreed part of a successful solution was 99.999 uptime – something a proven brand would provide.
But IBM’s Arcuri argued selling best-of-breed defeated the purpose of selling a solution because it focused on the specifications, or “speeds and feeds”.
“For me, when my business partner sells a solution and puts my product in there, they don’t care about the hardware price or best-of-breed,” he said. “Customers don’t want to know what server it is – and if my phone works at home, it works.”
McPhillips emphasised selling solutions had to move away from touting a brand and look at the broader picture.
“Because a customer has bought brand for the last 30 years, it doesn’t mean he will for the next 10,” he said. “We need to understand how we become more in tune with our customers and finding the problems they don’t know about, and then creating the solution.
“When you get down to the nitty gritty, brand is part of it: Are they supported? Do they have the infrastructure? And so on. But it’s all about the solution. You don’t lead with the brand.”