Not before time: smart sales support for the IT distribution sector

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IT resellers have been among the first to recognise the potential of a new breed of out-of-the-box, sales intelligence software. James Prior, vice president of sales at Vecta Software Corporation, explains the value of industry specific tools that empower sales professionals.

As a supplier of technology to sales teams in all sectors, Im always amazed by how demanding the IT distribution sector is. There are few industries that are influenced by so many different factors. The relationships between the original manufacturer, the distributor, the reseller and ultimately the customer can be extremely complex. As a result the IT distribution sector has to be among the most agile and flexible sales environments in the world.

Its the rate of change driven by both manufacturers and customers that places such high demands on IT distributors and resellers. Theres a lot to consider: keeping up with the pace of technology, identifying emerging trends, securing niche markets, reacting to government legislation, meeting ever-changing customer needs. And the business model keeps changing too. Increasingly IT decisions are being made in the boardroom not by IT departments. ROI justifications are becoming more sophisticated and more important. On top of this, customers want flexible pricing models: pay for use, subscriptions payment plans, managed services etc.

But you know all this. Whats important is finding ways to meet and exceed the demands of the IT sales environment. Over recent years weve seen the evolution of sales support tools that have made varying degrees of impact to help meet this challenge. Received wisdom has it that these tools must offer one of two things (or indeed both): contact management or its more sophisticated elder brother, business intelligence. Being able to access information of this kind is undoubtedly beneficial for sales organisations, offering timely reminders at the very least or complete sales performance analysis at best. But as time goes on, the limitations of these technologies are becoming more apparent. Most notably they dont actually help to sell.

Sales force effectiveness
The information that can make or break your business is generated by the guys at the sharp end: the sales team. That information is pushed up and up the food chain in the form of reports and forecasts until finally it reaches the shareholders, enabling them to see how their investment has been performing. Its a stream of information moving in one direction from the sales team to the boardroom and theres no fast way of redirecting the data back to the sales team to help it sell more.

Recently, a new breed of sales technology, known as sales intelligence, has begun to emerge that addresses this issue. What sales intelligence does is make smarter use of existing customer, product and sales data by keeping it active and feeding it back to the sales team, even when they are out on the road or sitting in front of a customer.

Sales intelligence takes existing information from back office and accounting systems and repurposes it into alerts, campaigns and enquires that actively keep the sales team informed of all sales opportunities or potential problems with drifting business. Its a sure-fire way of making certain your sales team is proactive rather than reactive: looking forward for opportunities and potential threats to the bottom line rather than looking back at what might have been.

As IT resellers, you understand that customers are now demanding quick-to-implement and easy-to-use IT solutions that add value immediately. Because of this inside knowledge, IT resellers have been among the first to adopt this new breed of out-of-the-box, industry specific sales intelligence solutions in favour of the generic toolkits offered by analytics, reporting and business intelligence vendors. Using sales intelligence you can monitor the performance of individuals and the sales team as a whole, resolve inefficiencies and bring new staff up to speed very quickly.

Imagine knowing exactly what needs to be done each day to drive success few things could be as helpful in ensuring that you and your team remain as agile and flexible as you need to be to meet the challenges of the IT distribution and reseller business head-on. Its a pretty compelling proposition and one that, if implemented properly, could change the landscape of the sector and revolutionise the IT sales environment.

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