Archives For unified communication

Visiting Cisco in Mumbai

In a recent sales opportunity we (the seller and myself acting as a sales coach) were charged with providing a competitive quote on unified communications (UC) products.  The company already uses UC, so the quote is simply an upgrade.  The seller assembled the quote, listing all of the necessary hardware, software, and services to move their client to the latest version.  The problem here is, the proposal has no differentiation!  It’s commodity product, necessary services, and a price.  You might say your uniqueness is in your people or your certifications, or perhaps you are the go-to provider for that brand of UC.  But in this case, you don’t have a platform to demonstrate value, so no one is going to see it.  What do you do?

The answer is in the discovery process.  Most of these deals are assigned to a presales technical person.  The sales rep has simply become a relationship manager, adding no value to the deal.  The technical person is generally too technical to effectively interact with the decision maker.  So the sales person and decision maker wait on opposite sides of the deal, the sales person hoping for a “yes”, and the decision maker checking against budget and competitive quotes.  Instead of sitting on the side lines, my client and I put some business level questions together to help us uncover the business needs surrounding this upgrade.

  • How does this prospect use their current unified communications platform?
  • What applications are they using with their phones
  • How do they use collaboration technology – how could they be more efficient if they knew more about it?
  • What are they not using, that would really add to their current business process?

This list goes on, but the point is, IT can’t answers these questions.  They may have an opinion, but it won’t be accurate.  These questions are asset owner questions.  Behind them is the understanding that someone is running a department that would benefit if they knew more about the power of UC.  With this in hand, the seller now has the opportunity to compare their findings with the technical findings their engineer will come up with.  With both in hand, the seller can now advise the client on how to change the way they do business.  Chances are, if the seller spends enough time with the top producers in this company, they will discover some of the secrets behind high performing employees, tie some of this success back to technology, and find ways to improve the current process with the latest upgrades, features, and add-ons available on a UC platform.  This is what it means to provide value – an effective value proposition.

Stay tuned for next month’s Free webinar – mark you calendar for June 8, Leveraging the Discovery Process to Justify New Business.

© 2011, David Stelzl

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The Hyatt Pool

Just leaving Orange County, CA – I had the honor of presenting to Ingram Micro’s Unified Communications and Mobility resellers this morning at their annual Technology Solutions Conference.  My topic:  How do you demonstrate strong value with commoditizing technology?  Starting out with the question, “What do you do and what does your company do?”  demonstrates that most companies use the same lines – “Technology solution provider”, or “We design, install, and maintain…”, or some more esoteric like, “We help you improve your business.”  All but one attendee claimed to have good people, certifications, and other standard, non-differentiating features, so where do you go from here?  I gave 7 essential things companies should be doing or saying if they want to stand our and command strong margins…

(Note: I almost bought the pizza at John Wayne Airport – in which case we would have had a great pizza picture here, but the John-Wayne-Airport Pizza is not very good…Today I learned that the deli sandwich also falls into that category).

Here are a couple of points made:

1. Using my signature Lawn Care story, I illustrated the difference between selling grass seed & week control, vs. green lawns.  Companies must deliver value and we noted several ways UC and mobility can be positioned to do just that.  One important point is to use operational efficiency for applications such as UC and Mobility; then apply risk mitigation as a differentiator.

2. I talked about fee setting and how to double, or if your not careful, cut in half your realized margin on any given deal.  Everyone should be heading down the value-pricing road at this point.

3.  Using the same discovery process almost all resellers use in the UC roll-out process, I showed how to move up the ladder and establish justification for budget.   We also talked about the number one reason companies cancel or place on hold, seemingly approved projects.   The simple answer, “Likelihood of results or risk” has not been adequately established.

© 2011, David Stelzl

If you sell, you should be reading Wall Street…that is, if you want to call on decision makers.  This morning’s article on Cisco is important information if you resell Cisco, especially when your clients start asking, “Should we stay with Cisco?”  Statements like:

  • …shares languishing at 1998 levels
  • …the company’s problems run much deeper than a few disappointing quarters
  • …a byzantine management structure
  • Mr. Chambers…seems to be repeating mistakes.

These are tough accusations.  In Rolfe Winkler’s article he notes that most of Cisco’s revenue comes from core networking, and Juniper is taking market share.  Is the product bad?  I don’t think so – core networking is a commodity business and Cisco has been the long standing champion and has delivered strong networking technology – still does.  I can’t comment on the reasons why market share is slipping – perhaps Wall Street has a good handle on this.  However, my video recorded just about one hear ago – The History of the Channel stands out in all of this.  The reseller must have a value proposition that does more than point to a vendor’s product.  Recent Cisco acquisitions and their move away from security over the past decade (which I see is starting to rekindle) have put resellers in competition with their other vendors (like HP), but have not given them discontinuous innovation to take to market (such as Unified Communications eleven years ago).  This has placed the Cisco resellers in the middle of Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Life-Cycle, where margins are at their nadir, and competition – it’s zenith.  What is the solution?

Your value proposition must proceed the product sale.  Helping clients solve business problems is a business level sale.  Technology is used to help solve the problem, but only after the theory has been sold.  None of this depends on a vendor brand…their brand “stamps” stability on the solution once that phase of the project comes into play.  So what should resellers be selling?  Risk mitigation, ROI, Efficiency, competitive advantage…the same 4 things I’ve been writing about for years.  It’s your brand that matters at the start of the sale, and your position as an adviser will largely determine which product gets the budget.

I’d love to hear your comments on this article!

© 2011, David Stelzl