Nov 12, 2012 Food for thought
Is faster better for all? Resellers are always being encouraged to take the latest products to market and all too often the core message is ‘bigger-better-faster’. It’s little wonder that customers will ask about – and resellers will tend to sell – ‘speeds and volumes’.
We’ve seen the “Next Generation Network” became the “Now Generation Network” and, during the implementation and introduction of this new platform, we’ve all been constantly bombarded with technical and marketing messages about the latest and fastest connectivity services on offer. In a market where we’ve talked endlessly about speeds and volumes and led customers to believe ’faster is better’, how we manage customers’ expectations and, more importantly, educate them becomes a very important task.
First of all we need to recognise the change of the market’s dynamics. End users nowadays are more technically aware than before, due to the vast amount of marketing information available to them and this has significantly accelerated their adoption of technology. Years ago, end users valued their IT expertise at work and would replicate that experience in their homes. Today it seems everyone is an IT expert, with their experience of iPads, streaming television, Wi-Fi and 3G in their homes. Customers’ desire to take those technologies into work is driving businesses’ necessity to change. As a result, we often face customers who ’appear’ to know what they’re talking about with all their use of current jargon. They come to resellers having designed a solution for the issues that they want to address and ask for a specific product, with the best price seemingly being their most important consideration.
Now think about how your business handles this scenario. Maybe it’s time for us to refresh our memory about an old sales tip. A customer comes into your shop and says he needs to buy a drill. Do you start raving about all the fancy technical functions of all the ten different drills you stock? Or do you ask how big a hole he wants to make and in what? It’s worrying how many of us have stopped asking what the customer really wants to achieve. This may come from the slight ’fear’ of challenging the customer as we don’t want to lose the business. In reality though, we’d do far more damage to the customer relationship by not providing the right solution, as no doubt the customer’s fingers will be pointing at us when things don’t turn out how they’d expected.
We think that now is the right time for us all to remind ourselves that we need to focus on how the technology enables the business transformation that our customers desire, instead of just the technological specs and the networks. Having said that, understanding what’s available at your disposal is important.
As a responsible supplier, we have a duty to ensure we validate a solution by using our expertise and experiences. More importantly, this is where we add value and how we can protect our margin in this competitive market place. And protecting margin is probably one of the greatest challenges that our channel faces today.
When you start looking in more depth at the needs of different industry sectors, they become even more precise and diverse. Retailers may want to use digital signage and stream video and other content across the network nationwide. Financial services companies may want to provide their traders with the optimum speed to access systems alongside numerous video feeds and voice lines. In education, there may be a need for highly flexible bandwidth that can cope with scores or even hundreds of students accessing the web during peak daytime hours, but that will be pretty much unused outside of lesson times. Architects and graphic designers may need the ability to share and backup very large files rapidly. This then puts you in a position of needing to add value beyond the pure connectivity requirement and needing to be able to use all the technologies and support available to you to differentiate your offering.
When you consider the variety of needs and dig a little deeper into them, you soon start to see that you’ll need a whole range of different next generation services in order to find the right solution for each customer. A whole array of services exists that give you the ability to provide different levels of performance, availability, bandwidth, QoS and security. Having the right mix of products at your disposal is important. It’s no good finding out that the customer actually needs a hammer if you don’t have one to sell!
Focused on benefits
It’s important then to understand the services and the options that are available, consider the customers you serve today and want to serve tomorrow. Ask yourself whether you’re making the most of the opportunities to address their needs with these services. We believe very strongly that it’s time for everyone in the communications market to focus on the business benefits that next generation networks can and are now delivering – on the improved efficiency and flexibility; on enabling organisations to adopt new hosted and cloud based services; and on the cost reduction and improved responsiveness that next generation networks empower them with.
If you currently have multi-supplier relationships in place, consider also how well they equip and support you with the technologies to serve your customers; understand what infrastructure and connectivity platforms they base their services on; their options for broadband, Ethernet and voice services; and their approach to technical and commercial support.
As well as investing time in developing your own knowledge, you must take time to ask and listen. The more you listen, the more you’ll hear – and the better placed you’ll be to make your business stand out from the crowd and make a real difference to your customers.
To be successful and avoid being a victim of commoditisation, it’s time to recognise that you don’t sell connectivity, you sell solutions! Challenge your customers by asking the right questions and help them to make the right decision. Technology is only the tool but you are the craftsman that enables the business transformation required by customers’ business objectives.
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