Consultancy skills can clinch a sale

Resellers offering a complete service will be better placed to win sales in recession and beyond in today's economic climate, most companies will tell you that customers are hesitant to commit themselves. This natural reaction inevitably manifests itself in longer sales cycles.

Resellers offering a complete service will be better placed to win sales in recession and beyond

In today’s economic climate, most companies will tell you thatcustomers are hesitant to commit themselves. This natural reactioninevitably manifests itself in longer sales cycles. The onus istherefore on distributors and resellers to find engaging ways to guidea hesitant customer into making the decision to purchase.

We all know that expenditure can be controlled by foregoing that newserver or holding back on a new software roll-out until conditions haveimproved. Indeed, the mantra passed down from the boardroom to thecorridors of the IT department is to “make the most of what you’ve got”and “do more with less”.
The reality is that most IT departments today are already lean andmean, so simply presenting an investment case based on a reasonablereturn on investment (ROI) may not be enough in these testing times. Wehave to be cleverer.

Promise extra value

Take virtualisation for example. The ability to reduce 40 servers tofour is an attractive proposition. Any salesman worth his salt willpoint out the savings in power and hardware, reductions in propertycosts, savings in administration, and the ease and efficiency inrolling out applications.  Yet even these persuasive arguments can fallon stony ground. Simply look at lead conversion rates pre- andpost-recession.

What helps to clinch a sale is the promise of “extra value”. Look at itas two sides of a coin. One is the ROI. The other is demonstrating howthe customer can use that new infrastructure to extract competitiveadvantage.

Positioning in the downturn is one thing, positioning for the upturn isanother. But it is a combination of the two that is more likely toconvince the customer to get out their chequebook.

This means some resellers would need to change their behaviour and actin a “consultative” fashion. Taking the example of virtualisation,resellers need to discover why a customer wants to virtualise. Find outtheir business drivers. What you hear may unearth a world of additionalopportunity. Virtualisation may be the tip of the iceberg of a muchwider implementation; one that could lead to sales of servers,optimisation and provisioning tools, even business process managementservices.

Develop consultancy skills

Asking questions and acting in a consultative way may sound like common sense, but business is often left on the table.

Such an approach may cause some resellers to reappraise their ownbusiness models. For example, a reseller that can only talk partnumbers is light years away from making a consultative sale. To developthis side of their business they will need support, training and anall-important services capability. The key is to work with adistributor that can hand-hold them while they develop these skills.

One of our partners had a growing business in selling VMware licences.It knocked on our door in response to its customers asking forintegrated VMware solutions. It appreciated that if it just continuedselling licenses it might win the next sale, but the one after thatwould go to a competitor that had the capability to deliver a completesolution.

Our partner’s dilemma was to build a solution capability, even thoughit lacked the technical know-how and professional skills to do so.Hence the need to partner with a distributor that had the capabilitiesto assist it to make what was a significant cultural gear change.

A supportive relationship

Distributors and resellers both have roles to play. This is becomingmore important as more and more customers demand solutions, thecomplexity of which, even at an SME level, can be daunting.

For instance, a large project may offer multiple ROI opportunities. Therole for the reseller is to pull these together and present them in ameaningful way and then demonstrate how the customer’s IT investmentcan be leveraged to better support its business goals.

Distributors can help by proactively supporting their partners.

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