The world of IT is changing, and that not only impacts products and services, it also changes the way we market and sell. With the consumerization and commoditization of IT, it’s critical that you market and sell the technology you represent in a way that reaches customers on a personal, unique level. This means adopting new methods, particularly in the social media arena. It means cultivating a more casual tone when communicating with customers. It means talking about your customers’ IT needs more than talking about your own solution. Then, when it comes time to choose a solution, they’ll already consider you a trusted advisor.
Becoming a true trusted advisor means that you change the way you interact with customers not only during the sales process, but also after the contract has been signed. It means that incredible customer service begins before the first point of contact and continues not just throughout the sales cycle but through the entire duration of the relationship.
At EVault, we’ve learned an incredible amount about how we can change our communication, our sales and marketing, and the way we tell our story. Here’s a taste of strategies and tips we’ve discovered that have helped us and our partners communicate more effectively with customers.
Engage in a Personal WayMuch of the face-to-face interaction that used to take place at the beginning of a sale is now conducted online. You may not know when your target customer begins to engage in a buying decision until they’re midway through their decision making process. That means that marketing tools that fall into the social and local categories are the ones that will truly help you win customers. If you’re not present there, you may be losing customers and not knowing it.
Key marketing vehicles include social media, video, social networking, direct marketing and highly targeted ads. It’s amazing how you can target your marketing towards the exact buyer you wish to reach. When you use these tools, you will want to adopt a tone that’s a little lighter than your average marketing, product-oriented copy. This is a social engagement in addition to being a professional one. Just because you’re selling IT solutions doesn’t mean you can’t be engaging and entertaining. Figure out what’s interesting to buyers and start sharing and engaging on those topics, establishing your credibility and your company persona at the same time.
Show You Know the Customer StoryToday, when customers visit your website or hear from you via direct marketing, they want to see their own story reflected back at them - in other words, tell them about their pain points before you tell them about your solution. This shows customers that you’re listening to them, and are familiar with their business and their needs.
Start by watching and listening to your customers and potential customers. If you’ve got clients in the healthcare industry, follow and share health care news in your social media campaigns. Show your ability to participate in their conversations rather than starting your own. Then, when the time comes to sell, they’ll know you are engaged in the topic and be more receptive to your pitch.
Make Outsourcing Feel Like an Inside JobEvery vendor has the responsibility to make customers feel valued, but when you’re handling a company’s data and infrastructure, the stakes are much higher. Each customer needs to feel like they are your only customer. The most effective way to do that is to offer products with remarkable customer service built in. Your job is to form relationships with customers and communicate that customer service is a priority. But that will be all talk and no action unless you actually give them products that deliver on your promises. So how do you find these products? Choose vendors who share your belief that customer service should be the number one priority and prove it byoffering top-of-the line Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and 24/7 customer service to back up your commitments to your customers.
Conclusion: Relationship Building is an Ongoing ProjectWhile IT channel sales might have once been a somewhat dry, simple transaction, today, success means building an ongoing relationship. It might seem like more work, but in reality, it’s just a different kind of work. Plus, at the end of the day, it’s a more rewarding experience for everyone. Not only that, but you can use what you learn to make your own partnering decisions. Choose vendors that prioritize your needs, interests and their ongoing relationship with you. After all, it’s all about relationships.
Terry Cunningham, President and General Manager of EVault, is an experienced, hands-on senior leader with a track record of success in building organizations to both realize their full potential and work well with the channel to maximize sales and opportunity. Cunningham was honored as a CRN Channel Chief in both 2011 and 2012, and the EVault Cloud-Connected Service Provider Program was named a “5-Star Program” in the 2011 CRN Partner Guide.