Warren Playford – Agilitas Enterprise Account Director
The ever increasing amount of information and ecommerce options has meant that purchasing IT is no longer as reliant on channel resellers. As a result, it has been argued that the sales landscape in the channel is seeing some big changes. In today’s environment, often by the time the IT sales person arrives to meet the client, a decision has already been made, and the conversation then just turns to price.
The way we do business has evidently become much more fast paced so buyers have less time to spend meeting different suppliers before making purchase decisions. This has made it more difficult for salespeople to put themselves in front of potential prospects. Purchasers will look to avoid several meetings prior to a buying decision and hence the seller has less time and opportunity to establish a working relationship.
Relationships have always been important in sales, however, despite a changing environment, people do still buy from people. In the channel the challenge is how resellers and service providers can differentiate themselves and get into those fewer meetings. We find quality of service a really strong influencer, but demonstrating people’s skills is becoming more difficult, particularly when we see products becoming more siloed. Sellers in IT should be viewed as one of the most important part of product differentiations. The quality of these individuals can be the difference between winning and losing a deal.
At the moment, most vendors publish information about products and implementations online. As a result, resellers need to differentiate themselves to demonstrate their value in order to retain customers and further relationships. Investment in people at the front end is a good first step. Knowledge is power, so make sure your account managers know their stuff. Customers are looking for trusted advisors that can challenge them and help solve their business problems, so send your teams on training courses if necessary. Order takers will have little impact. Whilst someone who is good at transacting orders might win a few customers, they won’t be able to build those critical relationships and will inevitably miss out on sales as they won’t be seen to add value.
Ultimately the channel needs to focus on personal sales processes, as these will inevitably maximise any profit through happier customers. A business with long term relationships built on win-win solutions with a trusted partner will save money and ultimately have a bigger chance of solving challenges faster and more efficiently. Through collaboration the customer’s account team should develop a deep understanding of a business, their future strategy and challenges they face. This style of open collaboration and a relationship built on trust is where true value is gained. Any transaction should result in mutual benefits for both parties. Channel partners should look for potential customers that can help to develop their teams through regular personal contact, only then will they be able to diversify and improve services.
The claim that the traditional IT salesperson is no longer relevant is simply untrue. Information overload and businesses employing professional buyers have all been tipped as reasons for the demise of these margin focused individuals, but I can’t agree. Buyers are looking to purchase solutions because they either can’t build them by themselves or they want to bring in expertise. If we break it down, the channel provides an outsourced service, and customers want experts and consultants. The future of the channel salesperson is changing and there might be a lack of personalisation in some areas, but as IT continues to grow in complexity this will become evermore unusual.
Now and in the future, the quality and professionalism of the sales person deployed will be key and those channel partners that invest in business focused expert salespeople will continue to succeed. It is getting harder to differentiate yourself and add value to your client, so now and in the future, the quality of your people needs to be your key differentiator.