The hardest thing about selling IT products and services these days is that the percentage of the customer’s actual budget that is available to fund anything new is usually somewhere between five to 30 percent. The size of the IT budget obviously varies from company to company. But the reality is that the preponderance of the money being allocated to IT these days is being used to keep the proverbial lights on. If a solution provider wants a customer to embrace a new emerging technology, it generally means first figuring out how that emerging technology is going to reduce the amount of money being allocated to fund an existing IT project.
That brings us to a big idea that Tommy Petrogiannis, president of Silanis, an iBM business partner based in Montreal, came up with during a recent breakfast meeting that took place during the IBM PartnerWorld conference in New Orleans. In Petrogiannis’ experience, the solution provider that has the most strategic insight into a customer’s business usually winds up with a lot of influence over how a customer allocates their IT budget.
The best way to go about gaining that insight, says Petrogiannis, is to perform an end-to-end assessment of how a prospective customer is spending their IT budget as it actually relates to their business goals. The sad truth of the matter is that many customers have lost sight of exactly how their IT dollars are being allocated. There is generally a lot of money allocated to IT, but not a lot of insight into the business value that is being derived from those investments. More often than not, the communication between the internal IT people and the rest of the business has broken down, which generally means that the business executives are a little suspicious of anything related to IT, especially when they look back in time to consider all the broken promises that someone has at one time or another made about IT.
Rather than trying to just sell them another product, Petrogiannis says Silanis opens the conversation about providing a business assessment. Whether a solution providers decides to do this for free as part of an effort to gain the customer’s trust or opts to put the cost of performing that assessment against an another project later on is up to the solution provider. What’s more than apparent these days is that business executives have lost a lot of faith in IT, and truth be told, they more often than not don’t know exactly what business processes are associated with any given set of applications or systems.
There is opportunity to rationalize applications and consolidate hardware in almost any organization of any size. If solution providers really want to succeed, they need to be able to identify what applications and systems are either redundant or expendable. Only then can they really start freeing up the money needed to fund additional IT projects that should add even more value to the business.
This assessment idea isn’t all that new. Solution providers, for example, routinely do assessments for security. What’s different about the Silanis approach is the scale of it. Instead of chasing piecemeal projects, Petrogiannis is proposing that solution providers become not only trusted IT service providers, but essentially business consultants. There’s a world of difference between being the company a customer trusts to buy a server on its behalf and the company they perceive as a strategic business partner.
When all is said and done what this really comes down to is either solution providers can wait for their customers to either figure out they need something or they can choose to explain to customers what they actually need to do next. The stark contrast to those two approaches usually comes down to the difference between merely surviving and actually prospering.