In my last entry we discussed becoming the emerging technology experts in your field, the guys that can fully vet and recommend the right technology to clients. While you can never guarantee success with the companies that make these products, your clients are going to want some assurance that they’re not making a big mistake in buying an emerging technology, and this is especially important in today’s down economy. There are several factors to look for in a new company when determining whether it’s on the right track.
First, make sure the product or solution really does solve an actual problem. This may be painfully obvious, but it always surprises me how many “neat” products there are out there that really don’t solve a problem the customer has. They might be nice to have – for example, putting a pretty console on an existing application – but do not try to sell them in a down economy. Instead, look for products that really solve a problem that the customer has and is motivated to get rid of.
Second, make sure the emerging company has some (at least five to 10) customers. In my experience, this is not the time to be an evangelist; you do not want to be the guy establishing the first beachhead into the marketplace. If you are, you need to get paid very well for it. This is even more true in a tight economy. You need to be spending all your time on products that you know work — not experimenting on one that has yet to prove itself. In general, the channel is better suited for market expansion than market creation. This may appear to be at odds with my pro-channel beliefs, but part of being pro-channel is not wasting your time. Let these guys take down five or six deals direct. In the grand scheme of things, it won’t make a difference as long as the channel gets the next 950. If the emerging company is really smart, it will involve you in the process and let you write the business – while doing all the work. This allows it to get the customer, keep your attention and prove to you that it has a saleable product.
Third, and this one may not be so obvious: Look for an organization that has turned over its sales team and changed its go-to-market strategy at least once. With only a handful of exceptions, emerging companies that have become established companies very rarely did so with their original market focus. Often it takes time to shake the technology out and really figure out what it has and what problems the technology solves. This process is messy and sometime bloody. Don’t get in the middle of that. Let the vendor figure out who it wants to be when it grows up — then start helping it expand its market.
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.