How to Sell Cloud Services to New and Existing Customers
According to a recent Forrester Research report, about half of all midsize companies are either actively exploring cloud-based services or are already implementing them. Why? These companies can clearly see the benefits: reduced infrastructure costs, pay-as-you-go services, enhanced flexibility, greater agility, and significantly reduced IT costs and time.
Value-Added Resellers (VARs) and service providers should be seeing something, too: the opportunity to meet the demand for cloud-based services in the small and medium business (SMB) market. Here’s a real opportunity to upgrade your organization’s offerings and bring new solutions to your existing customers, as well as reach customers you couldn’t before.
To deliver cloud services, you may need to make a few business changes. This may be an entirely new business model for you. And, because the decision to move to cloud computing is typically made at the executive level, some of your sales teams may need to invest in executive-specific selling skills.
Also, as the hype surrounding cloud services continues to grow, it’s important to focus on what’s important. For example, most customers won’t care about a lot of the technical details. They just want to know how to access their information and make sure it stays secure. So selling cloud services doesn’t require you to keep a cloud technology “guru” on staff; that’s a function cloud technology and services vendors can fulfill. You can focus on what you do best – solving your customers’ business problems.
The best way for VARs and solution providers to sell cloud services to SMB customers is to discuss the technology’s business advantages as they relate to customer needs and pain points throughout the sales cycle. Describe how the technology can improve their business, drive down costs, and increase productivity and network performance. It’s a value proposition sure to interest them.
Though you don’t need to be steeped in the technology, its not enough to talk about only the cloud’s business advantages. You must also reassure your customers that your cloud services are secure and supported by a reliable, enterprise-level infrastructure technology and services provider. Your technology and service provider should be able to arm you with information to help you answer these common questions from customers. If not, you might need to reconsider if you have the right partner to help you grow your business.
Do you meet security standards for compliance?
Customers will be looking for cloud service providers that meet their industry’s security compliance standards. Hospitals, for example, have strict guidelines for protecting patient records, just as banks need to ensure client records are encrypted and protected. Consider your target customers and organize your offerings to meet their industry-specific security standards.
Do you offer service-level agreements (SLAs)?
Customers want to know about your service guarantees, planned services outages for their operations, and more. Your service-level agreements (SLAs) with your customer is an important part of your offering.
Do you offer solution deployment flexibility?
The cloud may not solve all your customers’ needs. A cloud-connected approach, on the other hand, will include cloud, on-premise, and hybrid deployment options. For example, your customer may wish to store backup data onsite for fast access, but also automatically replicate the backup data to the cloud for greater disaster protection. Customers can pay only for what they need as they grow or shrink, while minimizing IT budgets or freeing an IT department to focus on other initiatives.
How will my organization’s data be protected?
Failproof recovery is critical; an organization that loses its data is out of business. Be prepared to talk about how your service is backing up its own servers—preferably by replicating backup data offsite to a separate location via secure data transfer that’s optimized for wide area networks (WANs).
What happens in the event of a disaster?
Customers will be looking for your foolproof data backup and disaster recovery plan. They want to know their service provider can get their data—and their business—back up and running quickly in case of disaster.
In summary: When choosing which cloud services to offer to your SMB customers, ask yourself the following questions.
- Does the technology support your ability to get your customers’ data back quickly, mitigate their risk, and decrease their exposure during a disaster?
- Is it reliable, secure and efficient?
- Does it hurt day-to-day performance or, instead, increase network performance and leave mission-critical programs free to do their job?
- Is the technology available in various deployment options—enabling you to tailor a solution to your customers’ needs (and, not coincidentally, giving you more ways you to make money)?
Perhaps most important, does the technology services vendor have your back when something goes wrong? Their service to you should be every bit as good—if not better—than the service you want to offer your customers.
Felix Santos, CISA, CISM, ISSM, is responsible for Compliance and Information Security for EVault, the online backup company. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s annual platinum sponsorship. Read all EVault guest blogs here.