By Gary Schick
As you expand the value you bring to your customers by bringing aboard an ability to deliver cloud services, you’ll face two issues — one internal, the other external.
Issue #1: Why you need a cloud partner who shares.
Internally, you need to decide how you’ll deliver cloud when a customer expresses a need: build it from scratch, buy an existing cloud provider or find a reliable cloud services partner?
It’s likely that the size and nature of your current business will drive your choice. Building from scratch means hiring the right people, which takes time, money and skill — and will delay your market entry. Buying an existing provider is faster, of course, but requires deep pockets, management time and a commitment to integrate someone else’s business into your own.
Which leaves partnering. For most telecom agents, this entrée into cloud services offers the best deal — that is, it delivers the quickest and greatest potential for relatively less financial risk. But you have to do it right.
Doing cloud partnering right means finding a partner who, above all, shares.
Many cloud providers who are willing to partner are actually rather stingy when it comes to sharing, so you have to tread carefully when you make a partnering arrangement. These stingy partners offer a one-time commission for bringing them your customer. But the next time your customer signs up with them for a cloud service or a managed service or anything else that partner provides, you see nothing. In effect, your customer has become their customer, and you are out of the loop for good.
Other cloud partners understand, respect and thrive on your relationships with your customers. These sorts of cloud partners offer you both recurring commissions (a piece of your customer’s monthly cloud subscription fee) and commissions on any business the partner does with your customer after that. Which is to say: Your customer remains your customer even after your cloud partner has engaged with them.
Issue #2: How do your customers perceive you?
Assuming your survival instinct is strong and you’ve opted for the kind of cloud partner who shares and isn’t bent on stealing your customers, you’re in a position to address that external issue of how your customers perceive you.
It does you little good to have found a cloud partner who shares if your customers call somebody else when it comes to their non-telecom needs. So how do you get your customers to understand that your reach and capabilities have broadened? How do you get your customers to think of you first and to call you first?
The short answer is, simply, that you have to tell them what you’re able to do for them. Over and over again. At every opportunity. Using all means at your disposal. You can do this without spending big bucks.
Start by answering these six questions:
- Do your salespeople understand how your cloud partner broadens your reach into new capabilities? Until your sales folks get it, your customers never will.
- Do your salespeople find an opportunity to tell your customers about these new capabilities? Often this involves getting your salespeople to ask your customers leading questions, which the right cloud partner can help you craft. In the beginning, this will take your salespeople out of their comfort zones, so remind them that they need not have the answers. In fact, customers will trust them more when they say “Let me find out what kinds of solutions our tech experts suggest."
- Does your marketing material (which your salespeople can hand out or send to customers) describe your expanded capabilities?
- What’s on your website?
- Do you take advantage of your cloud partner’s resources, especially marketing collateral and access to experts?
- Can you cite a reference account that shows your expanded capabilities? If not, perhaps your cloud partner can help you with a reference account that will do this for you.
Every time your customer sees or thinks of your business, you want them to recall all that you’re capable of right now. Because each time a customer does not understand what you can provide them, you’ve missed an opportunity. And none of us can afford that.
Gary Schick is director of sales Quest , with direct responsibility for partner sales, growth and customer satisfaction. He brings more than 30 years technology sales, management and channel leadership experience to this role. Prior to joining Quest, Schick worked in sales and management positions at Netigy, Amerivox, Epson and Toshiba. He holds a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and is a member of the 2012-13 Channel Partners Advisory Board.