Understanding all that your Partners do
As we begin 2016 in earnest, I wanted discuss partnerships once again. I've talked about this a few times over the past few years, but I believe it's something that needs revisiting. I've talked about how important it is to have a small, but effective, group of partners to help you when you need. And "when you need" really depends upon the organization. Some organizations and IT departments are run very effectively and have a need to reach outside for help rarely. This might be around projects, resource constraints temporarily (we work with one company who needed help for 3 months while a key resource was on maternity leave, as an example), or when certain issues arise that require outside intervention. Then there are other companies that need help continually in managing their environment or resolving issues. Neither is right or wrong, just two different approaches.
Which leads to a question that is the theme of this month's blog post: Do you truly understand all that your partners have to offer? Seems like a very simple question but in my experience it's not. We work with lots of different organizations within many different industries who work with a variety of IT solutions providers. If I were to ask these organizations about their depth of knowledge of the services and solutions that their IT solution providers and partners provide, do you think they would know it detail? In my experience, the answer would be "no" much more than you would think.
How can that be? How can a firm work with a customer and that customer not have an in depth understanding of what they provide? It boils down to opportunistic selling versus strategic selling on the part of the solution provider. In opportunistic selling it's just as it sounds: selling a particular solution or service without regard to the customers overall needs. Hey, if a customer needs that virtualization, server or storage solution why not sell it, right? I wholeheartedly agree, as long a deep conversation is had around how this solution fits in within their rest of customer’s environment and more importantly, their overall goals and objectives.
If a solution is being presented opportunistically and does not fit in with the customers overall goals, then we, as solution providers, have an obligation to be forthcoming with the customer. We've actually walked away from solutions that we proposed and were fully transparent with our customers after we found out that the solutions might be good fit in the immediate future, but do not a good fit into their overall strategy. We're some upset? Yup. But we are obliged to tell our customers and we know that this will help us foster a stronger partnership with that customer overall. How would it look if we sold a customer a product or service now, and then later find out that this solution or service ran contrary to their overall strategy? We would lose all credibility and most likely them as a customer. We have a saying here at Vicom that might sound so passé and overused, but couldn't be truer: We are looking for customers, not transactions. A single transaction is of small value to us, but a long term partnership with a customer is invaluable and what we strive for.
Which leads to strategic selling, which is very simple to articulate, but not very easy to achieve: Truly understanding what your customer is trying to achieve and then helping them to get there. It might mean selling them something, but also might mean NOT selling them something. This might mean guiding our customers against a short term solution (or what they want now) that we feel is not appropriate for something that is better for their long term needs. And this all starts with us understanding our customer in depth and them understanding all we do.
We make a very strong effort with our customers to constantly reinforce all that we do, as the worst thing we feel that could happen is being in front of a customer and have them say, "I didn't know you did that". Shame on us if it happens, and yes, it has happened occasionally. It's also not fair to our customers. And yes, we do see it happen with our customers with their other partners. That in fact has given us the opportunity to provide our services and value to new customers. Not because their current partners and IT solution providers can't provide them with exemplary service and solutions that they need. But because the other service provider didn't make sure the customer understood all that they do, we were given the opportunity to provide that solution or service.
So I would encourage you to make sure you understand all that your partners do. Demand it of them. Make them come to see you regularly (they should be doing it already anyway) and have them articulate all that they do, what's new, what they see other similar customers doing and how that can apply to you and your environment. This is not a nice to have, but a necessity in today's ever changing IT environments. As without this what is the value that your partners truly bring?
That being said there are customers out there who are just looking for opportunistically driven IT (need this specific IT technology or service, and need it now) versus strategically driven customers who take a more holistic approach. Who do you think that we as a IT solution and services provider would rather work with? Our approach and value lines up with strategically driven customers. It your partners are unwilling or unable to articulate all they do and their value then you'll know the type of firm they are on the spectrum of opportunistic or strategic. By demanding this of your partners, you will get the value you need, as within IT and what we do it's all about delivering value.
Until next month…