Nowhere do partners shine brighter than in technical prowess. Whether generalist gurus or vertical wizards, they make it their business to know the technical ins and outs of their products and solutions. Sales acumen, though, is quite another story. If there’s a weak link in the collective solution-provider chain, it’s sales.
Focus on the right stuff
Solution providers should understand the differences between legacy sales and cloud sales. In the brave new world of cloud, successful partners are those who woo the right customers, all while touting business outcomes and showcasing their ability to deliver a top-notch customer experience (CX). Take a look at a few ways you can drive your cloud sales.
Identify complementary customers: Given the importance of customer experience and retention, solution providers should be anything but random in recruiting their clients. Scouting for cloud prospects means assessing customer needs, goals and pain points right out of the gate to ensure there’s a good fit between what customers are looking for and what the solution provider can give them. Profitable partners will be those who can develop long-term synergy—a mutually beneficial relationship over time—with their clients.
Emphasize outcomes: Again, most solution providers are masters when it comes to the technical side of their business. But whiz-bang solution specs aren’t necessarily going to impress today’s business cloud consumers. They want to know they can expect concrete results in the form of cost savings, return on investment (ROI), increased efficiency and outstanding agility. The more plainly a partner can spell out business outcomes resulting from cloud deployments, the more likely customers are to invest in the cloud.
Prioritize CX: In the cloud realm, closing a deal isn’t the destination; it’s the beginning of a journey. Salespeople need to keep this in mind, laying out a roadmap for prospects that keeps them focused on the path in front of them. Since retention is the ultimate goal, customer experience will take center stage once the prospect becomes a customer. Solution providers should be selling not just their cloud offerings but also their ability to earn high marks in everything CX-related—onboarding, communication, ease of doing business, cross-selling, problem resolution, tech support and more.
Build a crackerjack sales team
In today’s hypercompetitive market, solution providers can’t afford to sideline their sales efforts. Skimping on sales staff won’t pave the way to new accounts; recruiting dedicated salespeople is key.
Data from the 2018 U.S. State of the Cloud study—joint research from The 2112 Group, Ingram Micro Cloud and Microsoft—shows that partners have a long way to go in this regard. While the average sales headcount was five, that number was skewed by a small cluster of high-performing partners. The more telling figures were these: The median number of salespeople was two, the same number it was in 2017, while the mode (the number that occurred most frequently) was one.
As you may suspect, there’s a direct correlation between sales capacity and productivity. Generally speaking, the more cloud sales team members, the more active cloud customers there will be on a partner’s roster, and the greater the overall recurring revenue. One caveat: More’s only better if everybody’s pulling their weight. If not, having a bigger team of salespeople can actually put a strain on precious resources.
According to the cloud study, organizations with average sales capacity (i.e., two to four cloud salespeople) outperform their sales-deficient peers (those with just one cloud sales rep or none at all) by 2 to 1. Meanwhile, solution providers in the group with five-plus cloud sales reps enjoy 30% more recurring revenue from their cloud customers compared to the channel at large, and 13% more than organizations categorized as average in the sales domain.
So, exactly what should partners be shooting for in the way of cloud sales staff? Based on nearly a decade of research and analysis of the channel’s highest-performing solution and service providers, The 2112 Group has concluded that full-time, cloud-dedicated salespeople should account for more than 10% of a partner’s workforce. When making do with a sales staff of between 5% and 10%, solution providers run the risk of thinning out their client portfolios. And trying to get by with less than 5% is a recipe for sagging sales.
Pulling it all together
When it comes to the cloud, solution providers need to shed their reputation for a lopsided skill set that’s skewed toward technology and align with sales and customer relationship management (CRM). To do that, they can do three things:
- Retrain existing team members in sales.
- Hire new people who are cloud-savvy.
- Realign staff priorities to give equal weight to sales and CRM.
By placing an emphasis on building a cloud portfolio, creating long-term customer satisfaction, and assembling a sales team of the right size and caliber, solution providers can excel at customer retention and pave the way to greater profitability.
As a first step, discover how your business compares to others in the cloud. Try the 2112 Cloud Altimeter—a cloud assessment tool exclusively for Ingram Micro partners.