Be A Thought Leader: Your Cloud Success Depends On It

UBM Channel's XChange 2013

Perceived security risks to cloud-based services and threats to mobile devices and applications have created opportunity, but selling needs an effective strategy, said sales management consultant Ken Thoreson of Acumen Management and channel strategist and executive coach Keith Lubner, founder of Channel Consulting. Taking advantage of the momentum behind cloud and mobility issues requires strong sales execution and distinct sales processes for volume and velocity opportunities, they said.

The two experts encouraged sales executives to target business executives to win cloud and mobility sales. Top-line business executives, marketing and human resources professionals have pain points that can be addressed with cloud services and mobile products.

[Related: BYOD And MDM: 10 Vendors That Get It ]

"You need to get out of IT," said Thoreson. "One of the major questions you have to ask: How do you plan to use IT to improve the competitive advantage of your current situation?" The two experts laid out many of the challenges associated with selling cloud and mobility products. Education and establishing thought leadership in the two areas can eventually help fuel sales wins, they said. Channel pros need to gain an understanding of the economics of cloud and on-premise technologies.

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"You need to understand the person and their business needs," Thoreson said. "Salespeople have to be highly trained."

The bring your own device phenomenon has fueled interest in products that can help businesses gain control and secure corporate data while keeping employees happy and productive. Security experts say organizations are still struggling to establish policies and gain an understanding of the technologies available. In addition, the use of cloud-based services for file sharing and project collaboration are popular among employees, increasing the risk of data leakage and other threats.

"We know there are issues out there, and a lot of companies are taking a wait-and-see approach because it's still very early," said Jason Tierney, founder and CEO of BeyondIT Consulting. "There are no easy answers to tell prospective clients."

Tierney and other channel executives say the mobile device management market, which consists of dozens of vendors, is expected to shake itself out as it matures. Until the emerging market corrects itself, Tierney said many businesses are sticking to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync to enforce basic policies.

Even if direct MDM products aren't selling, solution providers can still build gravity and momentum in the marketplace by establishing thought leadership, said Lubner. Content in the form of regular webinars, case studies and newsletters should outline best practices and can establish ways to improve customer service or lower the cost of sales, Lubner said. Ultimately, the thought leadership targets the right potential customers.

"Thought leadership goes after non-IT people generally," Lubner said. "Some of the best ways to gain sales is by word-of-mouth and that is established partly through thought leadership activities."

Mobility platforms are surrounded by different technology areas, and companies that may not have the expertise shouldn't turn down a potential opportunity. Instead find a partner that has niche expertise, Thoreson said. Generally, mobile offers potential opportunities for additional hardware and software. For small and midsize businesses, expense management may be important. The key is to understand the pain points of your client, Thoreson said.

"Business guidance is an important and often-missed opportunity," Thoreson said. "Once you recognize that you're implementing your solution and have an ROI or an increase in benefits, that's when most people stop, but you can take it one step further and make recommendations to improve your future prospects."