If you make your living by selling computer hardware, you’ve probably noticed that the world has changed. It used to be that the people who managed IT hardware in a big company—your buyer—had all the purchasing power, and their constituents in the line-of-business teams had no place else to get IT services. You’d fill up your quota showing up with a newer version of the same hardware you sold the same people three to five years ago and everybody was happy.
Then AWS happened in 2006. Salesforce.com already happened in 1999. Lots of other IaaS and SaaS vendors started springing up all over the place, and all of a sudden, those constituents your IT buyer had a monopoly on had another place to go for IT services—places that enabled them to move faster—and the three to five-year hardware refresh cycle started to suffer.
But selling is still selling, and there are a lot of myths out there about why someone like you can’t sell cloud. Let’s debunk a few of them now.
If your IT buyer customers haven’t seen decreased budgets for on-premises hardware, consider yourself lucky. In their cloud research survey issued last November, IDG Enterprise reported, “Cloud technology is becoming a stable to organization’s infrastructure as 70% have at least one application in the cloud. This is not the end, as 56% of organizations are still identifying IT operations that are candidates for cloud hosting.” If your IT buyer isn’t at least considering spending on cloud, it’s almost guaranteed that there is Shadow IT going on in their line-of-business teams.
Hence, the “Shadow” part. As far back as May of 2015, a Brocade survey of 200 CIOs found that over 80 percent had seen some unauthorized provisioning of cloud services. This doesn’t happen because line-of-business teams are evil. It happens because they have a need for speed and IT is great at efficiency and security but typically lousy at doing things quickly.
While it is true that the cloud consumption model works best with varying demand, when you zoom in on almost any workload and examine utilization on nights and weekends, there is almost always a case to be made that any particular workload is variable.
Any new technology takes on a familiar pattern where organizations try less risky, new projects that don’t necessarily impact the bottom line so they have a safe way to experiment. Cloud computing has been no different, but the tide has started to shift to legacy workloads. This past November, ZK Research compared cloud adoption to virtualization adoption by pointing out, “The initial wave of adoption then was about companies trying new things, not mission-critical workloads. Once organizations trusted the technology, major apps migrated. Today, virtualization is a no brainer because it's a known technology with well-defined best practices. Cloud computing is going through the same trend today. "
Granted, cloud computing is different than hardware refresh, but as a sales executive it’s still about building relationships. The biggest changes relate to whom you build those relationships with (which now includes line-of-business teams instead of just IT, but that’s who has the money anyway) and utilizing the subscription-based financial model of cloud consumption. (Gartner has a great article explaining the basics.)
Certainly, there is some overhead involved in building new relationships as opposed to leveraging your existing ones, but increasingly the line-of-business teams are retaining more of their IT budgets so investing that time will pay off. Even CIO Magazine admits that CMOs will spend more than CIOs on technology in 2017. Go to where the money is—it’ll be worth your time.
This one is, admittedly, the trickiest in this list because some of the solution is in the hands of your company as opposed to within your power directly. If you work for a value-added reseller, public cloud vendors have plenty of programs that indeed pay you on cloud. Even if that isn’t the case, though, educating yourself on public/private cloud differences and building those relationships with business teams can help preserve sales for the hardware a customer public cloud ultimately runs on.
Another step would be to get acquainted with a Cloud Management Platform, which is software that helps an Enterprise manage workloads across both public and private clouds from a single pane of glass. Moving up the stack to this control point can help you stay involved in key decisions your customer makes and put you in the position of a trusted advisor.
Selling is fundamentally about building relationships, understanding problems and providing solutions. Regardless of the technology encased in the solution, that will always be true. There is a learning curve involved with cloud adoption, meeting new people you haven’t worked with before and potentially adapting to a subscription-based model, but the fundamentals remain the same of providing value to someone who has some roadblock they need help getting around.