Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Aug 6 2012   5:07AM GMT

How to sell data center services

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

We have seen an increasing trend of companies moving their facilities to external professionally managed data centers. Some companies still feel the need to retain their facilities in-house while many others stay undecided and defer their decisions. As far as the data centers are concerned there is a great potential for them to nab customers but this opportunity needs to be tapped effectively.

One would tend to assume that enough is being done by vendors to expand their business but it may be good to examine this premise. I will look at this situation from the users’ perspective, based on my experience in dealing with them.

In my last article I discussed various obstacles that companies face when they consider data center outsourcing. While some of these can be attributed to indecision at the customers’ end, lack of adequate support from the vendors is also a matter that impedes progress on this front. I will discuss the measures that vendors can take to address this anomaly.

  • Users’ predicament

It is no secret that users feel intimidated when the sales representatives come over to meet them with their sales pitch. They invariably start off with a list of the services offered by them, cutting edge technology they possess, and their strengths. They offer the moon and throw the gauntlet in the form of ‘cloud solutions’. The customer is usually scared to death, seeks time to savor the concoctions offered and prefers to defer his decision till he understands the subject a little more.

  • Important issues to consider

It is important to realize that various companies are at different levels of maturity and therefore would have different needs. It is important to approach customers differently with offerings that are specific to the their requirements. The first step, in my opinion, should be to understand the customer’s current status in terms of IT assets they have, applications they run and problems faced by them. If they have expressed a desire to outsource, it is important to understand the objective and the target that they have set to achieve.

  • Sell solutions

Once having understood the requirement, it is good for the vendors to go back to the customer with specific solutions that they propose for them. The vendor can restrain himself from overselling, as is often the case with sales persons pressured to meet their targets. An honest assessment and an appropriate solution go far in building a lasting relationship with the customer.

  • Help the customer decide

Customer usually seeks help in arriving at a right decision and so it is prudent to do hand-holding and to help him choose options that work best for him. Nothing works better than educating the customer, making him aware of the technology options being proposed and the advantages that the company would derive.
When organization’s data moves out from its premises, there are usual concerns on safety and security which need to be addressed. Some good vendors go a step further and help the customer in preparing a business case and a ROI justification where necessary. It may sometimes be prudent to initially take the customer through baby-steps rather than leading him to a big commitment — that will help build confidence. Filling the customer with case studies, providing references, and taking them on site-visits can help the cause further.

A disconnect
During my interactions I have felt the disconnect between the vendors and users and think vendors need to work more on this area. Instead of merely dispatching sales representatives to pick up orders, they would do better to assign solution specialists to work out proper deals for the customers. This, in my opinion, is the best way to expand the market and win customers.

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