In IT today, anything even loosely characterized as software-defined is bound to generate attention, buzz and interest. Hype aside, there are very real reasons why there is such strong interest in the software-defined model, particularly as IT infrastructures accelerate down the path of virtualization and cloud computing.
Although customer interest in the software-defined data center is booming, the current challenge that VARs are facing, and one that I see from partners every day, is that sales teams that are used to being hardware infrastructure resellers are hesitant or have no idea how to begin talking about solutions and software. For some, it’s like switching to an entirely different mentality.
As the channel changes, a lot of people are beginning to understand that they’re going to miss the boat if they don’t adapt and convert their teams to where the channel and IT is moving--toward the software-defined data center. But where do they begin? Many organizations don’t have the ability to just drop current revenue by swapping out their entire sales organization, or have the capital to hire additional sales people to focus on the software aspect of the software-defined data center, so they feel stuck. But they don’t have to.
Here are three tips to get your sales team to the solution state of mind:
- Push the statistics. There are still a significant number of VARs that have older ownership, and they are trying to decide whether they’re up for another transformation of their organization. They’ve been doing transformations every five years since they began their company and might not be ready for another, but this is becoming a problem as some don’t want to make the jump to the software-defined data center. First, for these people within the organization, it’s important to keep pushing the statistics on them. Let them know that, according to IDC, the industry’s dramatic and disruptive shift to its Third Platform for innovation and growth will accelerate in 2015: Spending on these technologies and solutions--growing at 13%--will account for one-third of all industry revenue and 100% of growth. The Second Platform world will tip into recession by mid-20151. If they continue to be resistant about selling solutions, they may not be in business in three years.
- Identify digital natives It’s impossible to train every sales rep, nor can you take the time to pull them out of field, so I encourage organizations to pick two or three who are closest to being software and solution knowledgeable and spend some focus time with them. These people are often called “digital natives,” and they’re in pretty much every organization. They’re the kind of people who have grown up with a tablet in their hand, surrounded by technology. They have a passion for it, and they want to do more. Create a program just for them, and, if you can show success by helping them sell a cloud or data analytics solution, the rest of the sales team will take notice because software margins are significantly better than hardware margins. News of a few successes will spread quickly throughout the sales organization. Some people will stay in their lane and do what they’ve always done. But some will raise their heads up and think, "Huh--maybe I need to learn a little bit more about cloud, or software, and then be motivated to learn more."
- Ask, "Why are you buying this?" Many sales reps are used to selling hardware and not caring about the software, but they can no longer lead the sale with just hardware--customers expect them to solve for the entire business problem. Let them know that if they ask customers nothing else, ask them “Why you are buying this hardware?” and encourage them to ask early in the cycle. Customers don’t buy hardware because it looks pretty on the data center floor. They’re buying it to solve a business problem. If the sales reps can uncover what that is, there might be a software opportunity. If the customer is trying to move to private cloud, don’t just sell them the server component--sell them the whole converged infrastructure with cloud software to solve their entire business problem. If they’re trying to build a mobile app, don’t just sell them the hardware--set them up with PaaS to help them build the solution. Almost every hardware opportunity has a hidden software or business opportunity, “Why are you buying this?” isn’t asked regularly enough.
A lot of the sales reps who are selling infrastructure today have been in the business--and selling hardware specifically--for a long time. It’s important to address the challenge that partners are seeing in transforming their sales organizations from being infrastructure sellers to solution sellers.
It’s important that VARs work with their teams to prepare them to change their state of mind, or they may not be in business in the next five years. If you feel like you don’t know enough to get to the next part of the conversation, or you need help in knowing where to start, Avnet offers education and expertise. Through our SolutionsPath program, we can help our partners become more familiar with selling solutions in common verticals such as retail, healthcare and finance. Avnet can accelerate your business success. Contact us to enhance your offerings and reduce costs.
1 IDC Predictions 2015: Accelerating Innovation – and Growth – on the 3rd Platform, doc #252700, December 2014.
Alex Ryals is Director, Technology Solutions, Avnet Technology Solutions. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of The VAR Guy's annual platinum sponsorship.