Selling Cloud Services: How Much Do You Really Need to Know?

By Kelly Teal Comments
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As cloud services hype continues to mount, it’s important to separate myth from reality – especially if you’re a telecom agent. That’s true for two reasons. First, there’s a lot about “the cloud" you don’t actually need to know – at least, not yet. That’s a function cloud vendors are willing to fulfill, so you as a salesperson can focus on solving customers’ business problems. Second, there’s a lot of technical talk most potential users don’t care about – they just want to know how to access their information, no matter what, and make sure it stays secure.

Of course, the more you learn about the technical aspects of cloud computing, the better you’ll understand what you’re selling, but it’s not a gating factor to selling cloud services now. The key is letting go of the buzzwords and instead pinpointing the services that will cure a customer’s business headaches. Because, whatever you think of “the cloud" the fact remains that it’s a promising revenue stream for the indirect channel. According to a September 2010 report, “Cloud Computing: Pulling Back the Curtain," published by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), more than half of business respondents indicated they would source cloud services from a channel partner.

But what is the best way to make that happen? Start by identifying the ideal cloud-services customer. In fact, that’s the most crucial part. “Just recognize the opportunity. That’s it," said Clark Atwood, vice president of master agency Concierge Communications and a founding member of the Cloud Services Coalition.

Some promising prospects:

  • Startup firms with strong financial backing, but without much of a capex budget
  • Companies that want to upgrade their communications systems but that don’t want to buy new PBXs, servers and other premises-based equipment
  • Contact centers handling high call volumes and Web chats
  • Businesses needing disaster recovery backup
  • Companies unwilling to give up certain processes or systems but that also need new applications.

Next, find out what the client is trying to accomplish. Put aside all talk of the cloud and nail down what needs to change within the business to make it function more smoothly. “Be a trusted adviser," said Michael Murphy, president and CEO of master agency NEF, which has orchestrated several cloud deployments. Then, once the pain points are identified, bring cloud back into the conversation — not from a technical point of view, but from a problem-solving perspective.

Here are some examples:

  • If a customer wants IP telephony but doesn’t want bulky, expensive PBXs, then talk up hosted VoIP.
  • If a client wants to log on to company software from anywhere, no longer beholden to premise-based servers, then suggest software-as-a-service (Saas).
  • If a client, such as a financial trading firm, needs to archive electronic correspondence, the recommend secure, off-site storage of read-only data. 
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