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Making your deal count

So, just how should a solution provider effectively sell in today’s tough economy? How can one differentiate early and position themselves as a true solution provider or, better yet, a trusted business advisor rather than just another box mover or reseller representing a given vendor’s products and technologies?

For a long time, solution providers in the IT channel relied so much on the products, technology and the vendor brand in order to make their deal count to the end-user customer.
While this worked wonders for some time for solution providers, the same cannot be said about this today. So how did it all change?
I do believe the answers to this and many of the other challenges solution providers face when making their deals count lies in the way they sell themselves and the technology solutions they take to market. Simply put, the way they interact with clients tells them a great deal about their intent, competency and compatibility, so how resellers sell is a free sample of how they should solve problems for their customers.
Solution providers that pitch themselves and their businesses as brands rather than just relying on the vendor products and technologies they sell are more likely to win deals than those that heavily depend on pitching product and technology features and benefits.
So what are solution providers up against? How can they change their interactions to create more value for their clients and most importantly themselves?
Part of the problem to this situation today has to do with the emphasis solution provider companies are putting on their internal sales teams to meet quarterly targets rather than meeting the needs and expectations of their customers.

Salespeople may hawk products thinking the fastest way to make a deal – after asking cursory questions – is to wax rhapsodic about features and benefits. To the client, it often seems that the only need being considered is the reseller’s need to sell something or anything for that matter.
What this has done over time, is that end-user clients have learned to distrust resellers and respond to their dysfunctional selling practices by becoming equally dysfunctional. To make matters worse, when customers make poor IT purchasing decisions based on inadequate information and lack of mutual exploration, the reseller still gets the blame.
Many of the solutions resellers sell are reseller-defined rather than client-defined because often the client hasn’t clearly explained the problem or opportunity and the specific results being sought. Without meaningful information about key business issues and challenges, you may not have a qualified opportunity to resell. It’s better to find this out early on rather than after spending time and effort consulting with your clients.
It’s always vital to remember that a true, client may not like tough questions, or they may believe they’ve already done their best thinking and analysis. Unfortunately, clients are frequently wrong or their analysis is incomplete, and still resellers still get the blame.
I truly believe that if you’re a trusted business advisor (which you should) for your clients, it’s your job to ask hard, intellectually rigorous questions in non-threatening ways, to many key stakeholders, not just one when you are making that all important sales pitch or closing a deal. This will put you in a strong position and make your deal count once the problems a client is facing are resolved when you deliver what you promised.
At the end of the day, it boils down to putting and restoring “order” in the sales and business-development process where all parties stand to gain value, success and satisfaction.
Let me know what you think about selling in a tough IT market and what it means for your solution provider business. I can be reached at manda@cpidubai.com

A lot has been said about this year and how most channel players view 2010 as the year of channel revival in the Middle East. Amidst all the optimism, solution providers are confronted with the same issue of how to make their sales pitch count.

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