Spreading your technical knowledge too thin is a very common mistake that resellers (and manufacturers) make. A great example is the issue of what VMware storage protocol to use. There are three choices: iSCSI, Fibre Channel or NFS. Many solutions support all three.
But whether you represent a solution that can support all three protocols is really not the point. The point is: Are you equally comfortable with all three? Chances are probably not. Most channel organizations are particularly good at one of them and just OK at the others. Further protocols are not the point; focus is. Whether it’s VMware implementation strategies or something else, being all things to all people often leads to trouble. The technology itself takes second place to your ability to explain it, implement it and support it. It doesn’t matter how fast or how easy these systems are if they are down and you don’t know why or how to fix them. This not only costs your customer time and money and costs you time and money, but it also risks potential future business.
That means that you and your organization need to have the discipline not to be all things to all people. You need the ability to walk away from a project. Not an easy thing to do, especially in times like these. But compared with the cost of a failed install, walking away could be a huge time and money saver.
It also means that you’ll need to be honest with your customer. You might say something like, “Look, we’re really good at VMware on XYZ solution, which is based on ABC protocol. We’re confident that this protocol offers everything that you need, Mr. Customer, and where there are shortcomings — each protocol has them — it has good options to overcome them. Most importantly, we know this solution; we can educate you on it, implement it and support it, and we have x number of customers that will attest to this fact.”
How’s that for a bold piece of honesty? There are going to be some customers who hear that statement and ask how you can be objective — and that’s a risk. You may appear less consultative. But there will be more customers who are impressed with your honesty and perceived skill set.
You win some, you lose some, but on the ones you win, you should also be profitable and improve your chances at additional business with them.
George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators.