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In an age of cloud IT sales professionals must adapt or fail

Mon 4 Feb 2019 | Fiona Challis

It’s not just business operations that have been disrupted by digital transformation. Thanks to the advent of cloud and the “as a service” paradigm, the business of selling IT has completely turned on its head, writes award-winning sales veteran Fiona Challis

The only constant in the IT market today is change. As technology continues to evolve so does the business model of our partners and how our customers prefer to buy.

Customers want more ways to do business with their IT partners and partners want a business model that shows more predictable and profitable growth, through increasing the percentage of recurring revenue into their business. All of this means that IT resellers need to transform how we sell and how we do business today.

Making that shift from the traditional reseller/value-added reseller model to more of a managed service/solution provider, and moving from transactional selling to selling “as a service” and annuity-based revenue all requires change – and for many partners this can be a challenge, which is why I am actively providing support to sales teams to successfully adapt and evolve.

Make the change

If longstanding IT salespeople fail to adapt, professionals who were once performers will find themselves struggling to hit targets. Quite simply, what worked yesterday is not going to work today. Those who are fairly new to the industry will also need to adapt to the preferred modern-day buyer’s journey. Failure to adapt will mean that you are not providing customers with what they want: you will not have a competitive edge or the ability to differentiate.

There are many areas that partner’s sales teams need to evolve in order to transport their sales skills into the modern day era. First, it is imperative that sales teams understand modern day market dynamics and how annuity-based revenue sales will change the sales motion, with the biggest change being that the initial handshake is just the beginning of a long relationship.

Teams must also fully understand the buyer’s journey, as over 57 percent of the buyer’s journey is now completed online. The decision-making process has also changed dramatically. This means if you are still only selling to IT departments you will be missing out.

Apart from making the shift from transactional or product based selling to selling “as a service”, teams must learn to take the lead in the sales process not the order! This is particularly important for those selling cloud services.

The reality is that we have moved away from “get the deal”, culture towards a relationship-focused approach and keeping customers for life.

“Buyers want something they can’t get online. They want sales to provide insights and advice around how technology can help them to drive change”

This means the days of selling “speeds and feeds” are well and truly over! It’s time to ditch the product pitch and instead implement a business outcome based sales methodology where we are selling change, not products.

Lagging behind disruption

Unfortunately, partners are not really taking this challenge in their stride. In fact, many are concerned that the people they have in their businesses are no longer the right people to take their business forward.

This had led to many partners letting previously successful salespeople go, as they are either not willing or able to change, or are finding it too difficult. In response, partners have reverted to hiring in new next-gen salespeople with more of a “serve and sell” approach.

The problem with this approach is that new next-gen salespeople know their worth and they are expensive to hire. Often it is simply a matter of retraining existing salespeople to the new ways of selling which is what we do within Next-Gen Sales Academy. This approach is working better for partners as it is cheaper to retrain than to rehire and the time to revenue happens quicker once salespeople have been retrained.

Oil the wheels

The secret to recurring sales is to remember that the initial handshake is just the start of the relationship and like a relationship, recurring revenue grows over time. It’s a slow burner initially and takes time to build however it is so worth it in the end as you will get to a stage where you can see a high percentage of your costs or targets already covered by the recurring revenue you know you have coming in. This model provides partners with a predictable and profitable model which competitors will envy and investors will love.

All of this means the role of sales teams is changing dramatically. This is primarily been driven by the buyer’s journey as over 67 percent of the journey is now done digitally so by the time the modern day buyer contacts sales they already know so much.

A product pitch is not what they want which is why we advise sales people today to “ditch the product pitch”. Instead, buyers want something they can’t get online. They want sales to provide insights and advice around how technology can help them to drive change.

They also need to learn how to achieve the desired business outcomes at all levels in an organisation. As a result, sales teams today really need to take on the role of a true trusted adviser. Those who lead with a specialism or niche will be more successful in this role as customer demand for vertical and industry specialism continues to grow.

Join me at Cloud Expo Europe.

Fiona is presenting at Cloud Expo Europe, taking place at the ExCeL London March 12-13th. Cloud Expo Europe and its colocated events attract over 20,000 IT industry professionals.

Experts featured:

Fiona Challis

Multi-Award Winning Speaker, Author, and Channel Enablement Expert


Cloud digital transformation reselling
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