Polishing your sales skills

Jamie Hughes, sales director for the UK, Evolve IP, outlines how buyer behaviour is reshaping the channel sales cycle.

Transformational change continues to reshape the channel, with end users now demanding much more from their supply partners. End user knowledge has grown massively, and this is pushing resellers to need to become more than just trusted advisors. Resellers now need technical skills to enable them to conduct consultative sales.

Gone are the days of just selling product A above product B. Today an organisation might be using a Teams or Webex-based platform and, after a short period, they begin at ask, what more can it do? They want to know if it can integrate into other technologies, or if the platform can create more business efficiencies.

They are starting to question their providers directly to assess if they know what they are talking about. As a result, sales professionals are having to become more technical. It comes down to not just understanding your customer but the wider market too.

Increased end user knowledge is undoubtedly driving demand back though the channel. Years ago, it would be down to resellers to educate and advise their clients about the best solutions. That’s not always the case anymore. Buyer behaviour is changing.

Expert guidance

Resellers are also having to become technical consultants due to the onset of GDPR and evolving compliance and network security requirements. Demand for meaningful data from various areas of an organisation is crucial too as this can have a real impact on day-to-day business performance.

Customers want to know if their suppliers have a sustainability plan. Even something as simple as providing pencils instead of pens in marketing collateral – which can be composted rather than end up on landfill – can be important.

This year is a pivotal moment for lots of reasons. Three years ago, everyone rushed to get a mobility solution. Now with contracts coming to an end many businesses are wondering if some of these technologies are still fit for purpose. Some trends have changed, some have gone back to before and others will never go back.

What we are seeing is a true hybrid approach. This doesn’t mean working from the office or working from home. A true hybrid approach involves some people preferring a physical handset alongside greater multi-platform integration.

There’s a big opportunity for resellers to revisit the technology choices their customers made a few years ago, as working behaviours are beginning to plateau and become more stable.

Value over cost

Organisations across many sectors are putting longer term strategies in place. Take education for example. More schools are moving into academies and this is giving them larger buying power based on volume, as well as helping them consolidate services.

This has enabled academies to consider the technologies within the estate and one of the biggest changes is removing siloed PBXs from a school in favour of moving to a hosted service.

In an increasingly saturated market, how can you stand out from the crowd, continue to win new business and nullify the threat of a commoditised channel? There is a real danger of a race to the bottom, where the cheapest tender always wins purely on price alone.

With channel margins constantly being squeezed, other than price what can resellers do to differentiate themselves? One of the best ways forward is to focus on value rather than the cheapest option. Resellers can help drive business efficiencies and maximise return on investment over a longer period of time.

Everyone can make a phone ring, but it’s about applying different layers of service and tools that can streamline business operations to make them more productive and successful.

Taking a future-proof, flexible and agnostic approach is one of the best ways forward. Give the customer the freedom and opportunity to build a solution that they and their customer needs for the short and longer term. You could perhaps allow a customer to combine legacy and cloud technology or give the choice of a more feature rich solution.

Channel companies should also be having conversations around the copper switch-off. There’s still lots of work to be done and many opportunities for the channel to explore and implement.

Overall, I think it’s easier today to open sales doors, as end users understand the benefits of technology more. That means opportunities can happen more quickly.

The channel is constantly evolving, and we all need to be ready for new challenges that need to be overcome.

This opinion piece appeared in our September 2023 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.