Switch From Product Pushing to Problem Solving

CLOUD PARTNERS — The cloud has ushered in a new era in which partners have to evolve from selling hardware and software, to becoming true strategic allies with their customers.

That’s the key takeaway from Thursday’s keynote panel discussion titled, “From Product Pushing to Problem Solving,” at Cloud Partners in Boston. Howard Cohen, HMC Write Now’s senior resultant, served as moderator.

(left to right) Howard Cohen, HMC Write Now; Iain Urquhart, Rackspace; Darrin Swan, Dell Software; Efrain Rovira, HP Cloud Channel“Even the manufacturers of the products we’ve been pushing in the past see that there’s no way you can push product anymore,” Cohen said. “What they’re saying is you have to pull it along with a solution. And the fact is, when you pull product through with solution services, you’re going to sell a whole lot more products. So the revenue is there, the profitability is there, the commission is there, but the longer-term opportunity is also there.”

Darrin Swan, Dell Software’s director of worldwide sales and business development, served as a panelist. He said the key is to help the customer with what’s possible because “you don’t have to worry about technology anymore.”

“A trusted advisor is who you need to be,” Swan said. “You’re the one who understands where the market is going … where they want to go and where they want to be.”

The cloud is complicated and it’s “about how we simplify it for the customer,” said Iain Urquhart, Rackspace’s vice president of technical and partner sales. He also served as a panelist.

A lot of salespeople are used to getting that “big sale” and that “big commission,” and are afraid of large sales being cannibalized by ongoing sales, Cohen said.

However, Urquhart said there’s no reason for compensation to suffer because making the transition adds value to your company.

Continuing to focus on strictly selling hardware and software, and chasing that big deal, means every sale is brand new. “It’s a whole new process that you have to start from the very beginning,” Cohen said.

“That’s a lot of work and I think that building a long-term relationship where there’s new opportunities all of the time because you’re part of the solution, that’s the right way to do it,” he said.

Many in the channel have a lot of transitioning to do to meet the needs of the cloud marketplace, Cohen said. However, many organizations now are more able to make the transition than in previous years, he said.

“Back in 2009, I wrote an article for eWeek magazine and I got to survey a lot of VARs who had made the transition, and many of them reported turning over their entire sales organization because none of the sales people could make the transition,” he said. “Whereas six years later, I think there’s been a lot more information and experience transferred, and today’s salespeople can make that transition, and if they haven’t already, they’re way overdue.”

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