5 Essential Skills For Driving IoT Sales

Essential Skills For The Internet of Things

What are five essential skills that solution providers absolutely need when they are looking to build up revenue from the Internet of Things? IoT is more than merely connecting devices and requires solution providers to build up specialized expertise, some of which might be outside their comfort zones, said several executives from IoT vendors participating in CRN's IoT Roundtable.

According to executives at the roundtable – including Cisco Vice President of IoT Solutions Tony Shakib, ForeScout Senior Vice President Rob Greer, Intel Managing Director Steen Graham, and KMC Controls Vice President of Sales Mitch Kehler – partners need knowledge of vertical markets, new consumption models and application development.

Following are five skills that solution providers interested in investing in IoT need to beef up.

1. Vertical Expertise

One essential skill that solution providers need in order to tap into the Internet of Things is a deep knowledge of vertical markets, according to the executives at the roundtable.

Not every solution provider will bone up on every vertical, but the key is to specialize in something. "Some [solution providers] choose to only go in certain verticals," said Cisco's Shakib. "Some of them have stronger relationships in health care, so they focus on that, some of them are transportation, some of them are government, or military … you need to have the vertical expertise."

For solution providers still deciding where to place their IoT bets, Forescout's Rob Greer (pictured) said they don't have to stray far from what they already know.

"Look at your install base, see where you have been able to learn the most about those businesses, and then go work," said ForeScout's Greer.

2. Application Development

Application development is another important skill that solution providers should cultivate in order to double down on IoT, said the executives. Some essential pieces of IoT solutions, such as providing data visualization tools, "could be intimidating to some partners that haven't invested in application development," said Intel's Steen Graham (pictured). "You're going to have room for all the different types of partners, but you probably want to stay in your lane if you haven't invested in understanding what's required to win in that vertical," he said. "You have to extend your expertise to provide a full solution, then that makes sense, but you should be deliberate about it, you shouldn't get there by mistake."

3. Real-Time Data

When it comes to Internet of Things solutions, merely connecting the devices is just one piece of the puzzle, executives said. Partners need to find effective ways to help their customers track real time data and make intelligent future business decisions based off that data.

"Getting that real time information to the customer is really what this all boils down to," said KMC's Mitch Kehler (. "For us, part of it's being able to get the cost down to be able to apply this kind of technology at a smaller site like a dialysis clinic. It's one of the largest growing industries right now medical wise, they're popping up all these miniature dialysis clinics and those customers are worth over their life of the customer hundreds of thousands of dollars to the clinic. It requires a large amount of water to run a dialysis clinic, so to monitor in real-time the energy usage or energy consumption or water consumption at that facility, process it and get that back at the same time into one holistic platform that's going back and providing some user metric key performance indicator to the guy that's running the facility or the doctor that owns the facility. That's what this is enabling."

4. New Consumption Models

Not every skill IoT solution providers need is customer-facing, executives said. One of the biggest factors in whether a solution provider will be successful selling IoT is how well it adapts to handling new consumption models and ensuring that their business models support recurring revenue and selling subscription services. IoT is more than hardware – it is about the services tied to projects, said Cisco's Tony Shakib (pictured).

"People want to take [IoT] on a per-use basis. They want subscription services and, actually, the partners, some of them are very good at that," Shakib said.

"IoT deals take a lot longer than an IT deal, where you walk in, get the order and walk out," he added. "It's not like that, some of them take 18 months. When you do win it, the size is significantly higher and it's repeatable and you won't get kicked out. That's the kind of stuff that [partners] have to get used to it, the longer life cycles, and bigger investment, but the payoffs are great."

5. Technical Expertise

While solution providers should focus on vertical expertise and solving problems in the workplace, technical acumen will of course be critical to implementing IoT solutions.

" Technical expertise is [important] in three areas, certainly connectivity is a big piece of it, networking, and security is a big piece of it," said Cisco's Shakib (pictured). "The data acquisition and application development is the third piece of it. Those are the areas that we help partners along or bring other partners to the party to deliver those sort of things."