Recent trends in IT have generated a lot of chatter throughout the data center industry. In many cases, these buzzwords are creating more confusion than they’re solving. To clarify these terms and connect them to real world business challenges that our customers face, we’ve turned to some of our channel partners to share how they address some key customer objections regarding these technologies and then successfully position our solutions. We recently spoke with Tom Orcutt, Manager of Technical Support at Ingram Micro. Tom identified 3 considerations for resellers to help adapt to recent trends he’s seeing in the sales channel.
#1 – Consider the bigger picture and engage the available resources to assist with complex configurations
The data center is rapidly evolving to a dynamic environment where tight integration between networking, storage, and servers is critical. With the emergence of DCIM software, gone are the days of the IT team managing the IT gear exclusively while the facilities folks assume responsibility for the infrastructure. The data center is quickly becoming a heterogeneous environment requiring complex solutions and tight integration.
Addressing the needs of both IT and facilities creates complexity for the reseller. Suddenly customers aren’t just looking for a single piece of equipment, they need a total solution. According to Tom Orcutt, the perception of increased complexity creates tremendous opportunity for partners. At Ingram Micro, Orcutt manages a team of pre-sales engineers that help partners configure solutions for their customers. He encourages partners to take advantage of the sales team at Schneider Electric to assist with customer requirements. “If the solution isn’t validated before the sale, problems arise down the road. Successful resellers spend time upfront using pre-sales engineers to properly configure customer solutions.”
Each region of the US has a dedicated team of inside sales representatives to assist partners in providing the correct customer configurations. Additionally, there are large Elite partners throughout the country that resellers are encouraged to use as agents. In most cases, bringing in a Schneider Electric representative or an Elite Partner expands the opportunity and creates a bigger sale for you, the partner.
#2 – Understand the underlying business need and offer a solution to solve it
Frequently, a customer will call with a seemingly simple requirement. They ask for a single UPS or service. While these opportunities appear to be easy sales, they also present the opportunity to uncover additional requirements. It’s important to ask a few key questions to understand your customer’s underlying business need. What are they trying to do? What’s their pain point? What’s their budget? The timeline? According to Tom Orcutt, “These are the questions that differentiate the resellers that close a lot of business and those who just quote a lot of stuff. It’s important to gather the business intelligence. It’s also critical to ask the single word question of ‘Why?’ When you ask the why, that opens to door to the real story.”
According to Orcutt, with data center solutions becoming more heterogeneous, there is often times opportunity to solution-sell when a customer calls with a single small requirement. Going back to the UPS example, your customer may call asking for a specific Smart-UPS, but do they need a network card also? What about a PDU? Does their current rack have enough space to accommodate the new UPS or is an additional rack required? What about run time, do they need an additional battery frame? You may also suggest they include an extended warranty with an upgraded response time.
We use a UPS purchase as a simple example, but in all likelihood, your customer’s underlying requirement is more complex than that. As suggested above, engage the Schneider Electric Inside Sales team to help identify the full scope of the opportunity and assist with the configuration. And remember, opportunities worth $15,000 or more should be registered through the Opportunity Registration Program (ORP). Using ORP offers discounts for you and pricing protection if the project goes out to bid.
#3 – Create entanglement with the customer to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace
Customers sending projects out to bid is the reality of today’s competitive marketplace. More than ever companies and public organizations are under pressure to conserve budgeted funds and many are required to gather multiple bids. But did you know that most public entities and private enterprises are not required to accept the lowest bid? Many times, if a bidder can demonstrate additional value or expertise, those intangibles can factor into the purchase decision – even with government projects.
Orcutt suggests that these competitive bidding situations require good upfront discovery to lead to a successful sale. As he put it, “Create end-user loyalty to the point where you become an extension of their business. Using the consultative sales approach results in customer entanglement. And to create true entanglement, there has to be an element of, ‘What’s next?’”
You build loyalty by understanding the underlying business need and then knowing the solution you are proposing well enough to explain the true benefits to the customer, not just the product features or specifications. Orcutt continues, “In my experience, customers are two times more likely to buy from resellers that explain the real benefits. How effective resellers are at connecting the product benefits to solving the customer’s underlying business need directly correlates to how successful they are in competitive situations.” Because the reseller understands the business need and what’s next, they naturally become the first phone call when the next project comes up.
Recent changes in the data center environment have created new considerations for the reseller and it makes the consultative sale even more important. Be sure to utilize the Schneider Electric resources that are available to assist you. Call your CAM, or engage the local Schneider Electric agent. Take advantage of the configuration tools available on the Schneider Electric website. With effective pre-sales engineering, you gain confidence that you’re proposing the correct solution while building customer loyalty at the same time.