Differentiation Begins With a Customer-Focused Agenda

By Gary Schick

When the products and services you offer look pretty much like everyone elses products and services, what can you do to differentiate yourself?

If your only option is to stand out with price, you risk eventually cannibalizing your own business.

Thats not all. By focusing only on price quotes for the immediate transaction, youre leaving other unrecognized opportunities on the table.

So you need to resist the knee-jerk into a price quote and find ways to describe your value-add in terms other than price.

Eyes On the Business Goal Prize

Start by getting your customer to talk about their business goal(s). What are they trying to accomplish? What business capabilities are they seeking?

The deeper this conversation goes, the more youll be able to recognize various ways todays technologies can meet your customers business needs. Each of those ways represents a potential opportunity, some with longer “tails” than others.

For example, you might be able to learn that what first appears to be just a voice-over-IP project can grow into a unified communications project, and its likely that soon enough your customer will be looking for cloud storage/backup/replication and then perhaps disaster recovery-as-a-service.

Of course, the deeper you delve into your customers needs, the sooner youll need a technology partner to help you fulfill them. And since keeping your customers happy is essential to keeping them coming back to you for their cascading technology needs, your choice of technology partner is critical.

3 Partner Must-Haves

So heres the short list of partner must-haves:

  • A customer-focused agenda, not a solution agenda. This kind of partner is both vendor- and solution-agnostic, able to choose and customize the best-of-breed solutions that are most appropriate to each customers requirements.
  • Expertise in both technology and business. Avoid partners who force your customers operations into the constraints of a rigid, inflexible solution. A real customer agenda means your partner knows how to tweak todays technologies to produce the solution your customer needs and this requires knowledge of both technology and your customers business.
  • Trust. You must know your partner sees far more value in a long-term relationship with you than in attempting to steal away your customer, and that youll get a piece of every part of the project you bring your partner into including a portion of any customer cloud subscription fees.

Now is the time to get out of the transaction mentality and gain long-term customers rather than only a deal for the day.

Gary Schick is director of sales


, 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.

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