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About six months ago when Channel Insider asked resellers
and solution providers if they were feeling any effects of a recession, the answer
was a resounding “no.” While resellers and solution providers may have become
aware of the first chill out there in the market, certainly none of it had
filtered into their businesses yet.

Today’s business environment is a stark contrast. Ask most resellers and
solution providers how business is, and they will tell you it’s tough out
there. But because they’ve been successful businesspeople who know how to
pursue the opportunity, they will also tell you about potential deals that
could hinge on economic stimulus package funds or even other pockets of
opportunity where they are focusing their efforts.

Ken Lamneck, president of distributor Tech Data in North America,
says that IT budgets start at zero these days. It used to be that there was a
standard amount of money allocated to basic IT spending that solution providers
could count on, and then they would go after additional dollars in project
spending. No more. Now, Lamneck says, budgets are starting at zero and solution
providers must sell and negotiate for every cent.

How do you sell in this kind of environment? Many experts say that now more
than ever it is time to change your approach to sales.

Consider this: There’s a certain amount of money spent in IT every week, every
month, every year, just to keep the lights on. There’s a certain amount of
money that goes to maintaining the systems and keeping them running the way
they are. Experts say keeping the lights on uses up between 65 and 70
percent of your customers’ entire IT budgets.

As a trusted adviser looking to help your customers do more with less, what if
you could reduce that percentage to 60 to 65 percent of IT spending? What if
you offered your customers a free assessment to help them reduce their IT costs
and found the efficiencies in the system?

Juniper’s global channel chief Frank Vitagliano and Gartner Vice President
Tiffani Bova both recommend this approach as a way to sell during this
recession. If you can reduce the cost of maintaining your customers’ IT
operations, not only do you gain customer loyalty in hard times, but you also
potentially free up budget for spending on strategic IT projects.

Maybe the CIO at a customer site has
business intelligence on his wish list, as Bova says many CIOs do. Or maybe
your customer is targeting server consolidation or a long-overdue refresh of
computer hardware. Your customer wants to spend money on IT in 2009.

But your customer’s IT budget is currently zero. What are you going to do to
help your  customer find the money to
spend with you?