Selling technology solutions is a difficult business: On one side, you have vendors pushing for more new business, more upgrades, more margin and on the other side: your customers, who love nothing more than a good bargain - but where does that leave you as a reseller?
If you find yourself in an uncomfortable position in between vendor and buyer, there is a chance that you are missing an opportunity. Take software as an example: you will rarely find an IT manager willing to invest budgets in new features that have just become available. More and more customers demand a clear ROI path before considering any investment and unless it works financially for their business as a whole, it is not a priority. However cool the new solution from your vendor may be.
Given the overall economic uncertainty, it is safe to assume that most of your customers right now will operate their technology equipment on a good enough for the job on hand basis. This approach will of course include revisiting their overall IT expenditure with a view to reducing costs where possible. Knowing that this is what customers are looking for, why not align your service offering with these needs?
The b question
In your mind, you are probably thinking: Why on earth would a customer that doesnt want to budget for new technology consider paying for my consultancy services? Well, there are a number of good reasons, and right now, earthly ones are near the top. With many companies committed to deliver on green promises in the public eye, old IT equipment might just be in the way of achieving future energy usage targets. In the first instance, you could help your customers to cut costs by identifying which systems are key to their operations and which ones they acquired, but never put into good use. And as the existing equipment comes close to the end of its useful life, you will be ideally placed to recommend greener alternatives.
Another budget-friendly option are on demand and as a service offerings that can complement and/or replace existing on-site solutions. Not only are they more budget-friendly and less resource-intensive, but if you resell or host solutions in this way, you can truly own a consultative relationship with your customers for the long-term. Because IT decision makers are pushed into delivering value to their business, they need your expertise in selecting suitable vendors, your help with a seamless migration path and training for administrators and users on the new solutions.
And although the customer perception is that they could easily switch in and out of such solutions, the reality is that very few companies actually do. Why? Possibly because it is just so much easier to budget for a regular monthly or quarterly payment than those very large upfront cash investments traditionally asked for. And then of course there is the question: do you really want to go through the headache of switching from one solution to another just to save a few s every month? Applying basic financial metrics of time spent internally vs the minimal savings realised over time quickly make switching exercises in an on demand world unattractive.
The shortcut to exceed customer expectations
But what I hear you ask if I neither have domain expertise in green technologies nor have resources and skills to operate an on demand or as a service offering myself? Well, there is of course an easy way of combining the customer benefits from hosted solutions with the inevitable need to replace existing equipment every so often: IT leasing offers protection against obsolescence, the ability to shift costs between capital and expense budgets; and access to incremental capital.
And it is at times like these, when you wonder why technology finance is not more commonplace by now. When making investments, organisations need flexibility and finance products that offer greater benefits to their business at operational, financial, and strategic levels. Some observers even go as far as saying that the availability of finance is a critical consideration when short-listing potential vendors and their products*. These customer requirements are not new in themselves, but made even more pressing by major shifts in the global money markets, where many companies find that their traditional finance source is less, or in some cases, no longer available to them.
Your shortcut to exceed customer expectations should therefore be an attractive finance offer, allowing your customers to pay for their technology investments over time, while you get paid on delivery of the equipment. Investing in this way typically puts your customer in a better tax position and effectively eliminates your credit risks and headaches in collecting cash from late paying customers.
In one of todays internet success stories, smartfundit.com is winning over its marketplace participants, by letting them arrange finance online, without the lengthy phone calls. Finance Directors and CFOs simply log on and compare technology leasing options for their business, much in the same way as booking a flight. This approach for buyers of IT solutions is complemented by the smartsellit.com partner programme for technology vendors and their channel partners. Whether you already operate a finance scheme as part of your standard quotes to customers or not, smartsellit.com is a useful resource to stay in touch with market developments and give access to a wide range of financing options at competitive rates.
* A recent IDC survey** of 206 professionals responsible for IT procurement found that the availability of leasing and financing capabilities is a critical factor in the primary stages of product and vendor selection. Source: Business Wire / Gale, Cengage Learning
** IDC 2007 IT leasing and financing end-user survey: Customer needs and wants - Ref: Doc #207435.
The smartfundit.com platform delivers equipment leasing and technology finance in real time over the internet. Its innovative technology and unrivalled market coverage enable users to search through 8000 product combinations from a network of global providers, delivering finance on demand. The sophisticated decision engine matches the users investment requirements with the available software leasing or asset finance option from leading funders and technology leasing specialists. Modeled on web 2.0-type user experiences, this makes the most appropriate finance terms available 24/7 for CFOs, Finance Directors and technology vendor sales teams. The company is privately held and is based in Camberley, UK and San Francisco, USA.
The smartsellit.com partner programme gives technology vendors and their channel partners instant access to fast, competitive hardware and software leasing options through an independent online platform that is operated by smartfundit.com. This zero effort self-service computer finance portal gives visibility and control over customers financing requirements whilst accelerating cash flow.