Fear comes from not being in control of a potentially harmful situation. Traditionally playing on peoples insecurities and fears has been a successful way of driving sales, one that the insurance market has capitalised on. In todays market any number of policies can be purchased from car insurance to being able to insure body parts. In the same manner, security products and services are often sold to customers on the basis of FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
Yet while the number and type of threats might be increasing, fear often arises from not being able to do anything about them. Theres no excuse now to fear the unknown when you can protect against it. Not every company instantly needs to rush out and buy the latest protection each time a new threat emerges but reality dictates that by leaving gaps open in the companys web security, you allow fear and uncertainty to creep in. Resellers are there to evaluate and educate customers on what they really should be concerned about rather than exploit these fears just to make sales.
Every individuals circumstances are different a self-employed professional might need income protection less than an employed parent, for example so too are the requirements of every organisation. Heavily regulated companies or those in possession of highly confidential information, for instance, will obviously need greater security protection than a sole trader operating a carpentry business.
The resellers role is not to take a shopping list of products in one hand and a list of security threats in the other to the customer. It is to find out what activities the organisation is involved in, assess the risks it faces and provide a security solution that best fits its criteria and budget.
All resellers would invariably like to sell more stock, but dishing out new products is not always the right answer; a better solution might be to explain how an existing investment could be better used or where an extension could be added to a product to provide extra cover.
This is the message that successful resellers using the TRA model what I call Trusted Reseller Approach adopt to give customers the service they want and need. It might take time, effort and require an understanding of the market to sell responsibly to customers. But the reward a customer relationship for the long, not short, term is more than worth it.
Organisations tell us they have moved from one reseller to another because they did not just receive a quote for renewal, but the reseller visited their premises, listened to the problem and explained what strategy they should adopt. Learning about the security marketplace and understanding the issues organisations face is central to a resellers role. If a customer can search the internet to find out about the risks Instant Messaging poses, then so too can a reseller.
As well as understanding the security landscape, resellers should target their sale. There is a move underfoot for resellers to sell more products, but this is damaging their ability to articulate clearly the benefits of any one product set or make a reasoned judgment. Indeed, some of the most successful and fastest growing resellers are those that offer a limited product range because they understand the benefits better and can spend time finding out about the customers circumstances.
Over the last 12-18 months, Websense has encouraged more revenue through focused partners because they undertake a qualitative understanding of a customers environment and sell them a targeted solution that fits their requirements, not FUD. In recognition of their efforts, we also make sure they have assistance throughout the sales process. A channel programme that encourages a non-FUD based sales approach and support tools such as the Employee Computing Risk Assessment (ECRA), which helps identify risks within a customers organisation make it easier for resellers to give a value added sale.
Ultimately, the role of a reseller should not be to emulate the insurance salesman standing on the doorstep mis-selling policies to hapless consumers. True VARs bring proper value to the sales process, which build understanding rather than fear amongst customers.
The solutions are there to remove the fear but education is the key. You may not be afraid of spiders but without the education from a trusted source, you may be mistaking a black widow for a harmless house spider.
Frank Coggrave is regional director Websense EMEA. Websense is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2006, which is Europe's number one information Security Event. Now in its 11th year, Infosecurity Europe continues to provide an unrivalled education programme, new products & services, over 300 exhibitors and 10,000 visitors from every segment of the industry. Held on the 25th - 27th April 2006 in the Grand Hall, Olympia, this is a must attend event for all IT professionals involved in Information Security. www.infosec.co.uk