2015: Selling Has Changed

Mark Whitehead of GCI Channel Solutions looks at the way selling has evolved and how we need to change our approach in order to win business in the future.

For many companies, including GCI, 2015 has been a difficult year to plan for; technology and services are changing at a fast pace and traditional revenue streams are in a flux.

Telecoms companies are struggling to adjust from on premise sales, reducing CPS and call revenues, and cope with the fact is that IT companies are being successful selling data and hosted services in traditional telecom markets. MSPs are racing to switch from capex to opex models by moving their support offerings into the cloud before their competitors move in and VARs are losing out to software as a service providers by 30% when sourcing a cloud supplier.

Although still surprised at how much the buyer has changed over the last few years, we were aware of these trends and therefore knew we needed to review our methods in channel sales to ensure we are positioned to take advantage of opportunities arising in 2015.

So what are the opportunities?  Well the Cloud Industry Forum highlighted at Convergence South that ‘First time adoption of cloud services will increase by 15% by the end of 2015 meaning that 90% of all business in the UK will be using at least one cloud service by that time. Growth will be fuelled by the Windows Server 2003 end of support refresh that concludes July 2015.’

In 2014 GCI has seen more interest in hosted services such as Lync and telephony than at any other time and we can only see this increasing as Ethernet and hosting costs reduce.

Analyst firm Gartner has researched how the buying cycle has changed in IT and telecoms and suggests as sellers we don’t own the buyers journey anymore and that the evaluation and selection of a supplier is now completed by the buyer themselves – excluding the sales individual from this process totally – a factor also identified by our own research conducted at CEO level with our channel partners.

Buyers are researching a suppler on the web and looking to trusted networks like LinkedIn for recommendations. So, by the time the seller is contacted by the buyer they know, who you are, who your customers are, and your reputation.

Think about how you might buy something now? Why do we think that in business buyers purchasing and evaluating new ICT services would behave any differently? It’s only when they are at the buying stage that they contact someone to facilitate them – they know what they want, and often, how much they are willing to pay for it.

Further Gartner research shows us that out of surveys with CIOs the engagement with a sales individual was of the least value whilst that with a technical expert and was valued highest, 81% opposed to 31% for the sales person.  Frightening stuff to me having had a 26 years career in sales!

Where does this leave sales people in the future if we don’t change?

I think it is clear that the buyer’s journey has changed and that as a seller we need to change too, I am making sure that as good as our pre-sales engineers are that the Partner Manager can give at least 40% of the technical expertise required to sell a complex cloud, voice or data solution in line with what Gartner is saying CIOs are asking for.

Furthermore at GCI we train our partner base on how to be ready at the right customer touch points so that they are poised and equipped to offer free trials and references rather than lose the customers interest by forcing them down an out-dated sales model!

My advice to resellers in the channel is, be ready at the salient touch points of an enquiry, ask where they are in the evaluation processes, don’t assume you know best and try take them back to the beginning – sell outcomes not products!

These new buying patterns mean that resellers will experience an increase in inbound enquires if they are active online and for this reason it is vital that our resellers are equipped in the realm of digital marketing.

At GCI we have developed our unique Playbook marketing resource that is available for a wide range of products. This tool kit provides resellers with all the basic online content they need to hook in the end users and makes information freely accessible to those researching online for a new product or service.

The digital marketing space is growing at a rapid pace and we urge our resellers to compete in this space. It is vital time is invested in becoming socially interactive with prospects, much conversation and deliberation happens on social networking sites like LinkedIn so it is critical our partners are able to participate and able to drive their own CTAs. We are launching our own new website in January 2015 to ensure we are too following our own recommendations.

GCI and its Partners have the products to take advantage of 2015 and its opportunities in cloud, hosted voice, mobility and connectivity, and I think we now have the right strategy.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine