Adding Microsoft Office 365 to your portfolio is a great way to get land customers. Yes, margins may appear narrow at first, but look at the big picture — O365 provides an excellent opportunity to “land and expand” in new accounts. It’s also a great follow up to a “cloud first” discussion and can help retain existing customers.
Your peers are going that direction: Microsoft’s Cloud Service Provider program is gaining traction with distributors, master agents and traditional telecom suppliers alike. It’s rapidly replacing SPLA licensing as the way Microsoft communications and collaboration solutions are consumed.
However, there are a few keys to Office 365 success:
Have an automation plan: If you want to be successful with Office 365, you need to step up the volume. To do that, it’s a good strategy to sell low-hanging opportunities, including email migration, to new customers. You can always attach additional projects after you have successfully shifted their email from on-premises to the cloud. Follow-on projects include file migration, single-sign-on capability, and building and hosting cloud applications.
If you want to scale your business, though, you can’t get stuck at step one — migrating email. It’s all too easy to get bogged down, so automation is critical. Without an automated migration tool, such as SkyKick, selling Office 365 will increase your investments in time and people. What’s more, you won’t get to the lucrative projects that follow.
In addition, assess your ability to enable self-service Office 365 provisioning, configuration and management. You and your clients should be able to add a mailbox or allocate space through a self-service, streamlined process. If you have O365 order processing automated and integrated with your website, even better. Micro-transactions add up and will chew into your margins if the process isn’t easy.
Take a look at customer mail stores: Start by analyzing data requirements to determine licensing needs. Through this process, you can identify unused and over-capacity mailboxes from ex-employees, old messages that need to be archived and more. This will save your clients on licenses and save you headaches and time during migration.
When you are finally ready to migrate, make sure your toolkit includes data throttling to ensure uninterrupted migrations. That way you will also avoid unexpected network bottlenecks that could occur during the O365 migration process.
Teach them well: Have a plan to train your customers to take advantage of the new features of Office 365. When clients understand the variations in user interface, features and capabilities of O365 over the desktop suite, they will be more productive. In addition, educated customers log fewer support requests. All this adds up to easy deployments and higher margins for your business.
Account for support costs: When you sell Office 365, you may find yourself responsible for billing and 24/7 support of clients, a time-consuming proposition that can eat into margins fast. This may not be a deal breaker for partners that already have a support infrastructure in place, but still, be sure to factor those costs into your ROI model. If you don’t have this competency, consider working with a supplier, master agent or distributor that provides 24/7 support.
Even better, find a partner that offers “white label” support that you can bundle with the solution. This may increase both your margins and overall customer satisfaction.
Also, be prepared to manage monthly recurring billing for Office 365 subscriptions. Again, your supplier, master agent or distributor may provide a billing service. When you compare pricing models from various sources, be sure to consider these billing and support costs.
Get to be an Office 365 marketing expert: You will need to rethink how you fill your pipeline when you decide to sell Office 365. According to CompTIA, investing in Web, search, mobile and social media marketing is instrumental to your success in selling cloud services. These marketing vehicles drive a higher volume of sales opportunities.
Keep in mind that the buyer journey has changed. Information on features, benefits and pricing is just a Google search away. Cloud buyers will have researched all the options by the time they get to you. In addition, line-of-business owners are more than likely driving this IT spend. That makes content that connects with the business owner key to your Web, search, mobile and social-media programs.
Microsoft has invested in through-partner marketing assets to help you with this transition. Take advantage of these assets, and be prepared to update your website and marketing materials with a “Cloud First” message.
Using this content, you can go well beyond who buys from you today. Targeting beyond your geography and industry focus by casting a wide net will create a larger funnel.
Address cloud security concerns upfront: Don’t risk having your prospects bring this up at the end of the sales cycle. By confronting the issues before the sales conversation starts, you establish yourself as a trusted adviser. In fact, your biggest value in the sales cycle is helping prospects through the process of securely migrating their businesses to the cloud, so customers can take advantage of all the efficiencies and capabilities.
Moving to the high-touch, higher-volume business of selling Office 365 will open new doors and revenue streams for your business. Understanding the service-delivery model to migrate, manage and bill your clients ensures healthy margins. Embracing modern marketing techniques allows you to educate early on in the buyer journey and reach a broader audience.
You don’t need to go it alone. Take advantage of your suppliers’ programs, and seek advice from experts where needed, to build a successful practice around selling Office 365.
Dan Shapero, founder of ClikCloud, is a highly skilled, results-driven, top technology marketing and business development executive. He has a track record of driving revenue growth and positioning companies for public offerings or acquisition. Dan is a member of the CompTIA Board of Directors and held executive positions at Ingram Micro Cloud, Kaseya, Avamar (EMC), Vicinity (Microsoft), State of the Art (Sage) and Platinum Software Corporation (Epicor). Dan is a frequent speaker on topics including digital marketing, business transformation, managed services, cloud computing, cybersecurity and mobile computing.