The world is changing fast for the seller community. I am using the word sellers in an all-encompassing way to mean all sales people who sell to an external audience(clients/partners etc.) in IT organizations. At the cost of making some people from my own community(sales) howl in disapproval, I would say that sellers are a species most prone to extinction in the cloud era. Of course that statement needs some deeper debate and understanding so let’s look at the profile of a typical seller in IT sales organization.
In my years of working in IT sales, I have seen one general tag tossed about when it comes to discussing the role of a sales person; “Relationship manager”. To be honest, this is not far from truth. The era of sales people is long gone and we in sales have become little more than “mail forwarders” and “meeting organizers” between client and our internal organization. I have seen people taking pride in the fact that they KNOW the client, even if not what they actually sell (and that’s fine with them). A typical salesperson at a vendor has been used to “selling “ products(or services) and licenses for far too long. Even in the name of selling solutions, all we have been selling is productized services. The basic approach to selling has not undergone any change for a long time even though the quality of selling has gone down substantially. It served all of us, up till now. Nothing can be more perilous for sales careers.
In most cloud based delivery models, IT services sales is becoming increasingly dependent on the internet and the touch points for the client from the vendor side are shrinking. In fact in case of certain segments in the market, e.g SMEs, a cloud vendor may never see a client for the whole lifecycle of the service consumption. Even in case of large enterprise accounts, with their own IT teams for implementations, the actual sales part of the whole engagement would undergo a drastic change with little “sales” required than ever before. When you can download a service in a few minutes (with all its features and details available at the click of a few buttons), you hardly need the same old “salesman” skills. Clients have never had it so easy “buying” products and services in any period of time than today. So what’s the change required and how should sales people cope with these changes? Let’s look at the sales roles in the vendor organizations and how these roles have to change to find an answer:
Selling to Value added selling: I have heard a lot of sellers complaining that they have terrible time fixing meetings with their clients and how clients refuse to meet them citing one or the other excuse. Instead of challenging the clients, it would be good for sales people to do some introspection and understand the reason for this. The day you hear a client saying “ Let’s meet later” or “i am busy”(if you are smart enough, you know the difference between genuine busy schedules and excuses), you know your value has started diminishing in the eyes of the client. That’s because she does not find any value in the interaction with you.
Sellers have to transform from selling to value added selling. In most of the organizations I know of, sales people have bequeathed their sales work to others. Pre-sales reps end up doing work of sales guys; educating clients of the products features, responding to RFPs(even that is mostly copy pasting job but that is another discussion for some other time) etc. or delivery people manage and monitor client expectations, implementation etc. between clients and internal teams. It’s just about time sellers take back control of some of these activities if they want to remain relevant to their clients (and to their careers). I am in no way saying that sellers have to do someone else’s job but my view is that sellers have to become more technology sellers than “relationship sellers”. They have to show value to the client by being able to discuss the technical and business issues of the client rather saying “I will get back to you” or “I will ask my technical guy to get back to you”. Only then will you see clients respecting us as equal partners in their growth and success. Currently, most of that is being outsourced to someone else(pre-sales in most cases) and that is reducing both the value in front of the client as also some great opportunities for learning.
So all IT sellers rise, shine and take back your seat at the client table which is rightly yours by being less of sellers and more of Values Adders and Thought Leaders clients look up to for solving their business and IT challenges!!
Next we will see the changes happening to those in the “Cloud Brokers” or “Cloud Services Providers”. They are perhaps the most affected in this whole game.