• Who Buys the Cloud: Business Line Managers or IT?

    With the increasing presence of cloud-based solutions in our personal lives – through services like iTunes and online banking – a change is happening in how people expect to be able to do their work. Today’s employees want to be able to do their jobs anywhere, anytime, on any device, and cloud-based solutions allow this flexibility over traditional IT solutions. There has also been a change that may have gone unnoticed in how cloud-based IT services are purchased…and by whom. Today, you will find that business line managers are working with the IT departments when choosing cloud-based solutions, often as equal partners. With these changing roles, there needs to be a corresponding shift in the type of content and outreach methods used to sell to them.

    Traditionally, the IT department has been focused on selecting, installing and implementing enterprise software, storage and connectivity solutions. IT departments were the leading prospects to target in sales outreach for technology solutions, and sales outreach was largely aimed at the CTO or the IT staff.  As for the content of traditional sales pitches, it had as much to do with data center space, power and cooling as it did with business solutions and solving business problems.

    But today, IT can be delivered as a turn-key service. Server rooms with dark glass and tangled blue cables are disappearing quickly from small and mid-sized businesses locations, because the cloud has minimized the need for IT staff to implement and maintain IT infrastructure.  Accordingly, a new approach to sales is emerging as well. Cloud-based IT solutions need to be sold simultaneously to both IT and business line managers, which requires a change in the very nature of the sales message.

    The new approach to sales required for the cloud should be far less technical and more driven by business process improvements.  You are also seeing business line managers entering the sales process far earlier than even a year or two ago.  The days are long gone when the first step in the sales process was to sell the IT infrastructure and only then turning to the business software, business service, or workflow solutions.  Now the sale should lead with messaging focused on business software, business service, or workflow solutions, because the solution is likely no longer tied to implementation, space, power and cooling requirements, or training for managing the IT infrastructure.

    Sales efforts should be more focused on business-specific issues as well with the appropriate content created to support this new message. Business line managers are looking for testimonials. They want to know how their peers are solving business challenges with cloud solutions, and they will be far more impressed by business process performance than IT capability, even though the IT department will want – and should get – full review of that capability.

    IT Departments: Here to Stay

    It’s true that today’s business line managers are thinking of outcomes when reviewing cloud solutions, but IT still needs to be focused on methods and means. Their involvement and expertise is essential, and they should be called upon to review such things as which business operations make sense to move to the cloud, and which should be kept in-house.

    The new role for IT is also focused on managing cloud vendor relationships, such as ensuring that there is no vendor lock-in, addressing security and privacy concerns, and confirming that service level agreements are in place to address outages and possible downtimes.  IT can also evaluate the various tiers of cloud services, such as the competing benefits of private vs. public clouds and the data standards used by the cloud vendor.

    Next Steps for Cloud Sales

    What are the next immediate steps for companies eager to sell cloud services? The most effective demand generation services and appointment setting outreach efforts are ones that recognize the undeniable shift of buying patterns and roles, and create a new class of content that appeals not just to IT experts, but to business problem solving. New sales messaging should focus on how the cloud-based solutions allow the business line manager to reach customers and markets faster, and how the cloud can help manage customer and prospect information more efficiently.

    If you can help ensure that your client’s efforts can, without technical distractions, be focused on becoming more efficient, improving processes, and penetrating markets, that’s how you will win sales.  Can you carry that message in your sales efforts? If so, this new breed of business manager buyers will likely welcome your recognition of their new status and – if you can solve real problems – reward you with their time and purchases.

    Channie Gilbert is assistant vice president of strategic projects at eCoast.  eCoast is an outsourced sales and channel marketing agency focused on executing highly customized programs that result in increased revenue for the high-technology industry. Learn more at www.ecoastsales.com

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    2 Comments to “Who Buys the Cloud: Business Line Managers or IT?”

    1. Kenny Madden Kenny Madden says:

      one word ” AWESOME”

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