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Planning for 2018 with your customers

We’re quickly moving right into 2018, and if you haven’t broached the subject of budgeting and projects slated for next year with your customers, your time to get in as their tech consultant of record is rapidly closing. It’s important to remember the perspective of your contacts. Pending their title CIO, CFOs, CISO, CMOs and/or IT Directors, they all have very different agendas. Schedule time now, find out what their priorities are and how you are equipped to handle them.

The most successful selling partners have very distinct approaches when it comes to business planning with their customers. But, without setting the proper stage for the meeting discussion and expectations nothing will truly get accomplished. Indirect channel selling partners have opportunity like never before, selling across a company’s entire technology ecosystem. Each partner’s objective is to understand the current environment to improve productivity, ensure security, eliminate single points of failure and be the go-to-resources to maximize efficiencies moving forward. And you earn that right a few different ways. You can demonstrate some quick technology sales wins, thought leadership and landscape expertise and/or ask all the right questions at the right time.

2018-plan-1.jpgHere’s what we know. IT budgets are expected to either stay flat or rise, accounting for more spend on cloud services. Globalization, mobile workforces, new technologies integrated with existing systems to function cohesively like IoT, BI, AI, account for budget increases. According to Spiceworks, “Most companies across the globe will be keeping IT budgets steady, or giving them a boost over the next 12 months. In fact, close to half of companies (44%) expect budgets to increase while 43% anticipate no change at all.” Bigger organizations are more likely than smaller companies to allocate budget to managed services. Mid-size orgs (100-499 employees) are slightly less likely to invest in hosted/cloud-based services than both the largest and the smallest companies. Also, according to IDC, building infrastructure to support cloud computing now accounts for more than a third of all IT spending, worldwide. Whereas, spending on traditional, in-house IT continues to slide as computing workloads move to the cloud.

So, how are you getting in, capturing that spend and selling more cloud services? Successful selling partners prepare for each meeting and learn everything they can about the customer’s environment, short and long-term goals.

  • What are the company’s overall growth objectives?
  • What is each departments agenda for the coming year? What specific technologies are they looking into to forward them?
  • As it relates to current network and infrastructure, what are specific goals to meet? (reduce expenses, add security, streamline processes, etc.)
  • Are there new emerging technologies that you’d like to learn more about?
  • Do you have specific IT projects you have budgeted for already? What are the motivations for them? (end of life hardware, enhanced user experience, growth needs, upgrades and better compliance, unburden IT staff, enhanced mobility, reduce expenditures, etc.)

Will your customers open up the kimono? Continue to ask questions that get them to disclose what’s working and what’s not.

  • What are the primary concerns you have with your existing IT infrastructure?
  • What is your current budget for technology and how do you see that money being allocated (i.e. security, redundancy, virtual servers, etc.)
  • What are the goals of the financial department versus those of the IT department?
  • If there’s one thing you could change about your current technology environment, what would it be?

Continue to assess your customer’s current frame of reference and mindset. Are they open to discussing specific technologies, do they have particular feelings about providers? What is considered premature vs good timing?

  • How many providers are you currently working with?
  • Which providers have you had a positive or negative experiences with? 
  • What purchases have been made in the last 12-24 months and how are you using/implementing the technology?

Understand the company’s breakdown of hardware vs. software spend to start to formulate how can you help forward their objectives. Help them think beyond the here and now.

  • Have you ever considered having a 3rd party manage your infrastructure vs. handling in-house?
  • What are the key aspects you consider when making business decisions on your network infrastructure?
  • What would a technology outage cost you on a per hour or per day basis? What would it cost you from a company reputation perspective?
  • What is your disaster recovery plan in the event of an outage?
  • How are you storing and securing your data today?

 

As your strategy and planning meeting comes to an end, decide on takeaways and action items.

Follow up with a few relevant case studies of how you’ve helped others with similar goals. Schedule a follow up with technical resources to go over possibilities and infrastructure recommendations. Put together a working plan on your suggestions with timelines for the projects they have and how you can assist.

Truly understand your customer’s mindset before trying to align solutions. Continue to ask open-ended questions where you learn, build trust and can bring back recommendations that show how you can further enable flexible and scalable environments that will achieve business goals.

 

About the Author
As Director of Marketing at TBI, Cohen is responsible for managing TBI’s marketing communications and implementing multi-channel branding and press strategies. In addition to driving TBI’s overall marketing strategy, Cohen directs both internal and external communications to ensure the delivery of valued products and programs to providers and partners alike. You can contact Corey at ccohen@tbicom.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.