Meeting Higher Customer Expectations in the Cloud Era

By Pablo Marrone, Senior Consultant, ISSI 

The cloud computing industry has seen enormous changes in the past five years. Virtually all customers across every industry understand the value of moving to the cloud and away from on-prem data centers.  

It would be natural to assume that all partners are benefiting from this huge migration to cloud computing. But that’s not always the case. In ISSI consulting work and workshops, we talk all the time with partners with go-to-market (GTM) efforts that are not resulting in the growth they’ve expected—and sometimes they are even losing ground.  

Why? Because customers have evolved in how they think about the cloud, but a lot of partners are still using outdated GTM strategies. Five or 10 years ago it might have worked to talk about consolidating servers, or setting up XXX number of mailboxes, or telling a customer how many certified engineers are on staff.  

That approach doesn’t work well anymore. Let’s look at what’s happened, and how partners can adjust their selling to meet customer demands today. 

Abundance of Choice: Good for Customers, Maybe Not for Partners

For most customers the advantages of the cloud are obvious. They can reduce or eliminate the high costs, labor, and logistics of maintaining on-prem systems, and they can take advantage of an almost endless selection of cloud products and solutions to fit their business needs, from niche software for particular tasks to enterprise-wide ERP packages.  

Today’s customers are also increasingly sophisticated about what they want from the cloud. Instead of just saying, “We want to migrate our databases,” they might say, “We want to bring our ERP databases to the cloud in a way that keeps our data secure while allowing us to contain or reduce costs and rapidly deliver daily business intelligence reports to executive and sales teams.”  

The rich environment of the cloud is good news for customers, but it can create problems for partners. Customers see a wide range of technology to pick from, but it can be hard to differentiate between them—so cost becomes a dominant evaluation factor, especially during times when budgets are shrinking.  

They also see a huge number of potential technology partners to work with. Unless there is an obvious reason to select one partner over another—say, a recommendation or a recognized brand name—there’s a natural tendency to shop around. It often leads to partners competing against one another in situations that can lead to the downward spiral of low-cost price wars. 

A New Way to Think About Selling

The challenge for partners today is they need to reevaluate their go-to-market strategies and infrastructure. They are learning this not just from customer contacts, but from the major cloud providers as well. Partners must understand that winning new customers in today’s cloud marketplace—and keeping existing customers signed up for the long term—requires a top-to-bottom transformation of their business model.  

This means reorienting their entire company towards a GTM strategy that is about selling business value instead of selling technology. 

At a high level, the key points to making this happen include: 

  • Doing deep dives on the industries and companies within those industries and then aligning the partner’s core expertise with that business/industry knowledge. 
  • Learning how to find and talk with the people in the customer’s organization who make the big purchasing decisions. More and more, these will be business decision makers and not IT people. They will be instrumental in making the decisions—and possibly signing off on the purchase orders—on IT, even though “IT” may not be in their titles.  
  • Learning how to sell value instead of technology. This can be a big hurdle for partners who are more comfortable talking about their technology and expertise, and who think the minutiae of technology solutions is what customers want to hear about. 
  • Learning how to get to the customer’s main concern, quickly and succinctly. For example, instead of presenting a 30-page document on “How we can move all your data out of the on-prem data center and into the cloud,” the main selling tool might be a one- or two-slide PowerPoint that communicates this message in one minute: “We can give you a competitive edge by saving you save $45 million annually in IT costs while giving your executive, sales, and design teams access to business intelligence in minutes instead of days. Decision making will be exponentially faster, which will allow you to get more products to market 3x-5x faster than in the past.”  

Focus on the Value Proposition

Clearly, getting to a value proposition like that will take a lot of work. But it’s entirely feasible with guidance, planning, and buy in from senior management.  

The process of overhauling a GTM approach can vary a lot from partner to partner. Smaller and/or newer partner businesses may be more agile and might have a more intuitive understanding that today’s customers want to hear more about business value and less about speeds and feeds. For larger partners who have been around for a long time, the process may come more gradually, since it requires evangelization and acceptance across the organization, from senior executives to sales to engineering departments.  

If a partner can make the transition, the benefits can be substantial. They can get away from the low-cost wars and enter into true business collaboration, where they are viewed as more than just an IT vendor. This establishes a foundation for a long-term trusted relationship that can result in more sales to more customers, opportunities to branch into new markets, and customer “stickiness” that lets partners build on existing success to generate increasing revenues. 

To learn more about changing a partner’s go-to-market strategies, visit: 

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