Using IT As A Competitive Sales Weapon


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For years we have talked about how every company must become a digital company. For even longer, we have talked about how information technology should be viewed as a competitive weapon.

For solution providers in today's market, it's a viable sales pitch with many examples in a time when a top priority for every partner should be new customer acquisition.

The economy is red-hot with room to grow. Most businesses that have solid business plans and good management are growing. As a rising tide lifts all boats, so too does it encourage spending on capital improvements and operating expenses. Information technology is a key spend for all businesses.

For partners selling either public cloud services or on-premises infrastructure, there is a willingness to listen on the customer part that is not as prevalent in a down economy and hasn't been there to this degree over the past decade.

In short, it's easier to grow when the customer base is doing well, as it is today. In addition, every potential customer has new competitive threats it needs to deal with in this environment, and those threats often unseen are frequently the result of a competitor's technological advantage.

Walmart's former CEO Bill Simon recently lashed out at the store's biggest competitor, Amazon, complaining the online company is using advantages it has in non-retail businesses to supplement its meager profits in retail.

Amazon's leadership position in public cloud services and the profit driven there is being used to prop up its retail businesses, Simon claims. This type of thing happens all the time, and in the end every company that can do such a thing, will, to protect its flank or grow in new areas.

When Microsoft totally missed the onslaught of the internet and Netscape's browser looked as if it would mow down Microsoft's monopoly, the Redmond, Wash.-based company began giving Internet Explorer away for free. It ultimately did Netscape in, though that success was fleeting as Microsoft in turn lost the browser leadership position to Google.

I only bring this up because competitive advantage comes from many places, and every business must face the fact that a different avenue of attack from the competition is always a threat.

Solution providers have the advantage of understanding IT threats and should use it when appropriate as a selling technique. Customers whose senior leadership don't understand IT do understand competition and in a good economy are better equipped to spend to stay ahead of their rivals.

More importantly, as the economy is growing, solution providers should be pushing hard to bring in net new customers. The cost of doing so, while higher than getting more from current customers, is less in a growth economy than it is in a flat or down one.

Sales cycles are shorter when the kind of economic growth we are seeing is helping potential customers grow their own businesses, and having more customers is never a bad thing.

At some point the economy is going to slip into a recession. When it does, some customers are bound to leave and others will go dark. Many more will be flat from a spending perspective.

Having more customers also allows you to jettison those that are frankly not worth having. We all have them. Customers that demand more than their share of time are a challenge in any economy, but in a down economy their drain on resources is problematic.

To me, building compensation plans that reward sales drivers for new customer acquisition is a smart initiative in any economy.

In a growing economy with low unemployment as we have today, it's especially important because your sales people are understanding that it's easier to bring in new business and as such is worth their time.

Take advantage of it now and it will pay off in the short term, especially when things ultimately turn down.

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is Executive Chairman of The Channel Company. You can contact him via email at rfaletra@thechannelcompany.com.

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