By Curt Allen
“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."
— Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition
There is overwhelming consensus that our business is well into a major transitional period. The explosion of cloud services has fundamentally changed the way our customers purchase services. Technology has become the driver for a sales process that is more often than ever driven by the need for a specific application or a specific problem to be resolved. In our world, where the lion’s share of revenue is derived from selling network, we now must discuss applications, in many cases before we can sell network. The overriding questions for the carriers from the sales partners have been “How do I get from here to there? How do I gain a level of expertise which allows me to add value as a trusted adviser around cloud service?" I believe we have done a poor job of bridging this gap to date.
The legacy carriers that have come to market with portfolios of cloud services and new entries have brought stand-alone service offerings. These providers have for the most part taken similar approaches to expanding the knowledge base of the sales partner community. Invite as many as will attend to a live event or webinar, hit them with lengthy PowerPoint presentations on myriad services, maybe throw in a case study and encourage them to engage sales resources at the deal level to help close business. This has been effective for some sales partners that have a level of expertise already (the already-almost-there crowd), and has been far less effective for most traditional partners who need more. This general product suite knowledge is most certainly part of the solution. So what is missing?
In my daily interaction with sales partners regarding emerging cloud solutions, the same simple suggestion comes up over and over. They want to know the answer to two questions: What can I sell? Who should I sell it to? In my opinion, we need to do a far better job of using practical real customer scenarios to answer those two questions. The providers and master agencies need to focus on training that deals with actual customer experiences. Tell me about a real customer they have today, and explain how they went from suspect to prospect to proposal to order to install to bill to commission. Then let’s look at a couple of my customers today that might be a fit and walk me through how we could take them through the entire customer life cycle.
Let’s start having these real conversations about real customers so I, as a sales partner can offer both insight to a solution for my customer, as well as describe intelligently, what that process and result will look and feel like. I believe an across the board approach that emphasizes practical training around real customers is the missing piece in most of our cloud solutions strategies today.
If we bridge the gap between understanding the application and understanding how to sell it through practical training that references real customers we will create the bridge between the knowledge base and the base of customers.