By David Sebestyen
If your agency is like most, you have already ventured into selling cloud services to your clients and prospects. You may have started with hosted services or colocation — or you might be going much farther already and getting up to speed on infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). And why not? Most predictions show that the IaaS market will match the SaaS market in dollars spent by 2016. So if we are to take advantage of this opportunity to take our clients from the closet to the cloud — moving their legacy IT environment to a flexible, virtual, pay-as-you-go infrastructure, it has to be done right the first time. Why? Because if it is not, you may never get the opportunity again, or you may jeopardize the other services you are providing to that client and perhaps lose the entire relationship. Get it right, and you will likely have a client for life.
But how do you make sure you get it right? As with anything technical, the devil is in the details. The initial assessment and needs analysis must be performed thoroughly and expertly with the proper engineering skills, hybrid technical solution development skills and in-the-trenches solution (as opposed to product) selling skills. In the process, expertly identifying inefficiencies and solving both technical and business problems encountered could make the difference between a signed contract and a proposal that goes nowhere fast.
An obvious challenge for channel partners is how to handle this initial process, since most agencies do not possess this expertise in-house. Many have turned to the cloud service providers (CSPs) themselves looking for that perfect partner who can properly evaluate clients' needs and then magically have all of the right solutions under one roof. This can be a costly mistake, and field experience shows that in the vast majority of cases, it is a recipe for disaster.
As a channel partner, you have built an entire business model around objectivity and the ability to serve as the client's advocate. You have done the assessments, the RFPs; you have consulted, priced and presented multiple options to prospects. That model has worked very well for you. So why would you now turn around and do the exact opposite in the cloud?
A cloud assessment, when done properly, examines the entire IT ecosystem. It reviews hardware, software, licensing, security, disaster recovery, continuity of operations, governance, growth planning, work flow, capacity and other fine points in order to determine if, why and how a company could move part or all of its technology assets to the cloud. It identifies potential business problems and technical issues that need to be addressed before, during and/or after a move to the cloud. This process requires a significant time investment from the prospect to be done properly — many hours and sometimes days that involve a great deal of built-in consulting, hand holding and consensus building. You simply cannot ask the prospect to go through this process with multiple vendors. No one has the time or the attention span for such a grueling sales cycle. The assessment must be done only once — and done right.
Most cloud service providers are simply not set up to go this deep when evaluating a client's environment and requirements. By design, it is not part of their business model. Most are light on sales engineering staff. Their job is to help their clients define what they then need and then find the products to meet those needs.