Ask The Expert – Gain Interest From Colos

Dear Expert Eye,

I recently established an LLC to represent a colocation facilites group. I have contacted many CIOs in the Midwest market and have found it difficult to gain their interest even though they have or need colocation. Should I be contacting a different title/position? Also, in an effort to establish sales agents for this colocation facility, what approach might I take? I have a 20-year history in enterprise sales and find it is often helpful to ask for any advice one can find!


Dear Anonymous:

The question you ask is two-fold. First, lets look at the marketing plan. Success in business is the strategic marriage of a product to its market. Ideally, a market is identified and a product is developed to meet that need. In most cases, the product often comes first, resulting in a struggle to find the market.

Based upon your letter, it appears that you have a product, the colocation facility, and are now looking to reach new clients. It is difficult to make recommendations without a clear understanding of the dynamics of the situation, but I would suggest stepping back to the basics of marketing. Get away from your day-to-day business demands with a clear mind (or minds, if possible) and develop answers to the following four questions.

  1. What do we have to offer? What are the attributes of our product? Look at your service from all angles and identify any and all features that would interest clients. Understand what you bring or can bring to a customer.
  2. Who needs these services? Brainstorm on potential clients. From enterprise accounts to the government market to carrier accounts, from domestic to international clients, from small to large, look at all segments of business. Using this list, identify the top five prospect categories.
  3. How does your service meet the clients needs versus alternative services? Be honest and play the devils advocate. List your advantages and drawbacks from the prospects view. This will help you focus your marketing attack. (If you find that you hold a negative position in the first five prospect categories, go back and get five more.)
  4. Finally, when you find a target market, break down the decision process within the target prospect. Understand the customers needs from their perspective. What are the companys real objectives and what results are they looking for? Who within the company will manage the project and be responsible for the results? This is the line you will need to follow to identify contacts within the prospect who would be interested in your service. Ideally, you should target the highest position within the organization that will be focused on the results that you can impact. However, understand that the higher you target, the wider the scope of concerns the individual will have. The benefits of your service will be measured against other projects competing for a limited mind space in the individual you target.

The process of finding your market with a developed product is very iterative and takes a great understanding of what you have to offer, and it takes imagination. There is an old business phrase to describe the process: You muddle about until you find something that works and then replicate it.

The second question is more sales-oriented. Once you understand your product and who would need your services, what is the best way to reach that market? As in most cases, many of your clients will be directly handled by your internal sales force. Agents offer an extremely efficient method to extend your sales reach and surface new clients. Agents often bring a quick understanding of your services and their benefits, and more importantly, they bring established relationships with clients. However, it will take time to identify and select the right agents to represent your company. I suggest three steps for that process.

  1. Consider relationships with master agents, both in and outside of your region. They often manage numerous agent relationships and have contacts with a large client base. More importantly, with their experience, they will be able to offer guidance to you on how and where to best market your services.
  2. Second, attend a national agent conference show. Immerse yourself in the sales channel to best understand what is impacting agents business. This will enable you to establish contacts with many of the key master agents and learn about and from competitive services.
  3. Finally, research companies offering similar services in other areas of the country that are not directly competitive. Contact them to better understand their business and identify successful agents that they have used. These agents will most likely be looking for similar services in your geographic region to market.

Remember, identify what makes your service unique and then develop a clear plan to exploit this difference. Companies will want your product and agents will want to represent you.

Michael P. MacManus

senior consultant, Peregrine Consulting Inc.

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