One of my most memorable interviews over the past year was with David Malcom, VP of managed services at Computer Services, Inc. (CSI), a $213 million IT solution provider focused exclusively on the financial services market. In 2011, following the acquisition of a 100-employee MSP, CSI was able to quickly adapt its business to this new sales model and impressive revenue gains followed.
When CSI tried to repeat the same formula with cloud services, however; it quickly learned that cloud was a much tougher sell. Despite having a strong rapport consulting with clients about bank audit-related matters, this same rapport didn’t automatically transfer to customers having confidence in CSI’s cloud services.
What CSI soon discovered is that education is a key prerequisite to selling cloud.
Microsoft released the results of a vendor-agnostic study conducted by independent research company comScore Inc., which corroborates CSI’s finding. The study polled businesses in France, Germany, the U.K. and the United States and found that companies not currently using any cloud services shared the following objections:
- 60% cited concerns around data security.
- 45% worried that using the cloud would result in a lack of control over their data.
- 42% doubted the reliability of the cloud.
To get a better handle on its customers’ cloud objections, CSI incorporated cloud-related topics into its compliance discussions. A few questions CSI started asking its customers during these discussions included: “Are you looking at cloud services for your business, and if so which areas are you exploring? What due diligence measures have you performed to ensure you’re handling your data appropriately?” CSI then began educating clients about different kinds of cloud services — such as public, private, and hybrid — and it helped its clients think through the pitfalls of making the wrong cloud choices. “If, for instance, a customer is already using another vendor’s cloud service, we’ll ask them where the data is stored,” says Malcom. “If it turns out to be outside the United States, that’s a data jurisdiction red flag we want to help them resolve right away.”
There are a few key takeaways MSPs can learn from CSI’s experience:
First, consider the fact that this company has focused exclusively on the financial services market since 1965. It knows banking regulations and processes inside and out and is able to generate an immediate rapport with decision makers in this industry. That said, its rapport alone doesn’t sell cloud services — it has to specifically engage clients on the cloud, uncover their objections and misconceptions, and overcome them with factual information.
Second, CSI understands its customers’ security and compliance requirements and has properly researched its cloud provider to ensure it can meet those needs. Some cloud providers have gone to great lengths to build their platform, solution, and services with today’s business requirements in mind. For example, at its website Microsoft lists the top 10 compliance standards that Office 365 was designed to work with, ranging from HIPAA to SSAE 16 (Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 16).
And finally, if business executives and IT decision makers at banks and credit unions need to be educated about the cloud, how much more does a business owner or IT decision maker from an SMB company need to be educated? Just because you may have done your due diligence in selecting a cloud provider, you can’t assume your customers and prospects have done the same.