Solution providers that offer their customers value and solve problems will find success as they adapt to new technologies.
But new technology adoptions can be disruptive. So while solution providers are on that journey, they can use specific strategies to help ease their move to game-changing offerings like SD-WAN, next-generation security or containers, Mike Schmidtmann, peer group facilitator and business coach at Trans4mers told an audience at the XChange Solution Provider 2018 conference in Orlando on Monday.
First, keep your goals attainable. Schmidtmann used the example of the L.A. Lakers of the 1980s. After losing an NBA championship to the Boston Celtics, then-coach Pat Riley demanded the team get 20 percent better. "[The players] said you don't think we were trying last year?" Schmidtmann said. "You think you can snap your fingers and we can be 20 percent better? He made the goal seem impossible by making it too big. It was a demotivator, not a motivator."
Riley explained, however, that the goal was just a series of 1 percent improvements, a distinction Schmidtmann said is vitally important for solution providers looking to begin selling new technologies. "Can you do networking 1 percent better?" Schmidtmann said. "Can you get 1 percent better referrals?"
When it comes to sales strategy, Schmidtmann referenced McDonald's, which often advertises new, or limited items it does not intend to sell in great quantities but relies heavily on low-cost, high-margin items like soda and french fries to sustain its 15 percent margins.
"Ask yourself, what's here that would get the attention of my prospects?" Schmidtmann said. "Use that to leverage an initial meeting with the customer or prospect, and the customer will say, can you help me with this, this, and this. Listen to customers. Ask: 'What would you like to do that you can't?' Now you have a competitive advantage."
Solution providers should back that strategy up with a clear focus on their areas of strength, Schmidtmann said. "We sell to everybody is the wrong answer," he said "We had a client that sold in clusters around trucking, dermatology offices and Catholic schools. I couldn't see anything in common between those things, but over the years, they managed to sell to those business, got referrals, and built on it. You have to get to know that business intimately."
Schmidtmann said solution providers should key in on opportunities to use new technologies like SD-WAN to help save businesses money. "You can lower the customer spend and make money at the same time," he said.
Joe Ussia, CEO of Infinite IT Solutions, a Toronto, Ontario, solution provider, said Schmidtmann's point about maintaining focus struck a chord.
"Keep it simple," Ussia said. "Pick three things you are good at and focus on them, and pitch it that way, and don’t try to be everything to everybody."
Atul Bhagat, CEO of Base Solutions, Tyson's Corner, Va., said it was heartening to hear a market expert acknowledge that sales increases would come in small, steady increments rather than large chunks.
"You're not going to get a 20 percent increase overnight," Bhagat said. "It's a slow progression, and you have to take it day-by-day. That's the way you're going to grow."