While it’s true that the cloud has gained a rock-solid foothold in the business arena – more than 90% of organizations around the globe use some form of cloud computing, according to a 2017 report from McAfee – there’s still plenty of selling to be done.
Those still clinging to on-premises infrastructures – the so-called laggards – may be in the minority, but they do exist. Whether it’s security concerns or a perceived lack of control over IT assets that’s holding them back from full-on cloud adoption, the on-prem advocates need some coaxing to wrap their arms completely around the cloud and all it has to offer.
Meanwhile, the cloud converts need some help as well. They might be sold on the agility, cost savings and speed to market the cloud affords them, but only solution providers can sell them the soup-to-nuts strategy-development guidance they need to effectively deploy and leverage their cloud assets.
Winning and retaining cloud customers is part art, part science. To master both aspects, solution providers need to look at a host of factors – among them, the size and efficiency of their cloud sales teams, whether customer needs are being thoroughly assessed, their ability to clearly communicate the cloud’s value proposition and their long-term commitment to customers.
Be Strategic About Your Cloud Sales Team
Research by The 2112 Group reveals that solution providers aren’t fully leveraging sales resources when it comes to capturing a share of the $216 billion global cloud market. Today’s average solution provider has only two full-time salespeople dedicated to selling cloud products and services. Nearly 30% have just one cloud-dedicated salesperson and only 13% have six or more.
While more isn’t always better when it comes to cloud sales head count, there does appear to be a direct correlation between sales capacity and sales productivity: The more cloud salespeople, the greater the number of active cloud customers. 2112 research shows that just 4% of solution providers with fewer than two cloud salespeople ever manage to capture more than 75 cloud accounts.
Of course, more is better only if every salesperson is an active and efficient contributor to the partner’s bottom line, so it’s important to be strategic about staffing your team. Having more salespeople than you need can actually put a strain on much-needed resources.
Identify the Target Customer
In the age of the cloud, closing a contract is just the beginning of the sale – and the relationship. Want to keep that predictable, recurring revenue stream flowing? Make sure the customer is consistently satisfied. Salespeople need to be smart about prospecting for cloud customers.
The goal is to assess customer needs and pain points, and target businesses that will truly benefit from what you have to offer – month after month, year after year. Selling with a transactional mentality to customers who are unlikely to renew their cloud contracts is counterproductive at best.
Tell Customers What They’re Buying – in Layman’s Terms
Many solution providers don’t do an especially good job of explaining to end users what the cloud is and what they stand to gain from using it. Showing prospects convoluted diagrams and throwing out big buzzwords like “multitenancy” and “hyperconvergence” probably isn’t the best way to close a cloud deal, especially if the decision maker isn’t on the IT team.
The goal is to give customers an aha moment, not confuse them. Ultimately, businesses care more about business outcomes than they do about bells and whistles. Tell them how the cloud is going to improve their businesses. That’s all they want – or need – to know.
Be Fluent in Cloud – and Familiar with Related Technology Sets
Selling the cloud means knowing not just your own products, but also your competitors’ offerings and the full gamut of technologies that integrate with and complement the cloud. This includes hardware, security, mobility, and yes, emerging third-platform technologies such as analytics, Big Data and the internet of things (IoT).
Nobody expects cloud salespeople to be engineering-grade experts or IoT specialists, but their knowledge should be broad and deep enough to help customers figure out how the cloud ties into their technology systems and improves their operational efficiency. Know-how also goes a long way toward helping salespeople address prospects’ objections to cloud adoption.
Be in It for the Long Term
Selling legacy products and services is one thing; selling the cloud is another. The key for cloud salespeople is to fine-tune their communication skills and become adept at relationship-building. Nowhere is filling the role of “trusted advisor” more important than it is in the cloud space.
The cloud sales process should look something like this: 1) Instill confidence in customers by showing them you understand the business outcomes they seek and how the cloud can deliver; 2) Stay in close contact with customers, regularly re-assessing their needs and goals; 3) Tweak cloud solutions with these end goals in mind; 4) Repeat steps one through three.
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