Cisco Partners Poised to Cash in on Line of Business Selling
The way we sell to customers continues to evolve. What works for a while may not be effective in a year or two because the market and buyers are continually changing. Back when I first started in sales many moons ago, the small regional company I worked for didn’t leverage any type of formal selling model. We were encouraged to personalize our sales approach, build relationships with customers and continually build pipeline. While these things are still important, they may not be enough to sustain your business. Understanding the various sales methodologies and applying those models that fit the maturity of your particular local market is critical for your long term success.
The first methodology I was able to leverage was Solution Selling in the mid 1990’s. With Solution Selling, the salesperson focuses on the customer’s pain(s) and addresses those pains with his or her offerings (product and services). The resolution of the pain is what constitutes a “solution”. Typically, we would focus on taking a “latent pain” (something that was always in the back of the customers’ mind) and create a sense of urgency around it. Since I was selling IT services, my questions and solutions were designed for IT Buyers. This worked very well for a few years as I was selling a limited set of solutions.
With Cisco in the mid 2000’s, we were focused on solution selling but it became a challenge as more and more of our products were designed to work together. We needed a selling methodology that would put our products and services into a much broader context for our customers. We moved to an Architectural Selling Model. Instead of solving for specific business problems, the architectural seller looks for opportunities to change and improve entire customer business functions by creatively applying their products and services. Here, an architectural seller from Cisco would look to determine how a large investment in Collaboration hardware, software and services can help clients improve the effectiveness and efficiency of how they collaborate, increase productivity and lower their total cost of ownership, accelerate time to market and increase revenue growth, improve customer satisfaction and generate new ideas. Typically this type of selling is directed towards IT buyers as well and results in much larger deal sizes.
Over the last few years however, the market has once again experienced some significant buying behavioral changes. The CIO/CTO no longer is the primary owner of the purse strings. As a matter of fact, according to Richard McLeod, Senior Director of WW Collaboration Channel Sales at Cisco, 70% of funding came from line of business and only 30 percent came from customers’ IT business last year. That is an incredible shift. Focusing on selling to IT buyers will no longer suffice. Sellers must shift to Line of Business Selling (LOB). This is where Cisco partners are poised for the most incredible opportunity – probably the most lucrative opportunity of their lifetime.
You see, more LOB managers are avoiding their IT departments. At first glance, this might seem like a great thing for the LOB department as well as for the solution providers and vendors selling to them. After all, who better to choose the solutions then those who would use them, right? Here’s the problem – all companies are becoming more digital which means everything is connected to everything. It’s simply a matter of time and where they are on the maturity curve. Many non-IT focused vendors will put customers in vulnerable positions because they don’t have the expertise needed to securely integrate their solution with existing infrastructure. And all LOB decisions should be vetted by IT to understand the impact on such vital IT services as disaster recovery, compliance and security, Cisco partners who master LOB selling, will not only discover brand new pipeline opportunities but will also find their credibility with customers increasing and their win rates growing against non-IT solution resellers.
So what is LOB selling? This involves the seller talking directly to line-of-business decision-maker. Partners still need the technical competency but additionally they need to be able to go in and take ownership of the conversation with an owner of a business, an operations manager, a health-care clinic provider or a facilities manager. It’s a different sale. Partners no longer focus on the technologies they are selling. Instead they focus on the outcomes they are trying to drive. For example, a LOB seller talking to a Facilities manager for a Public School System might focus on the cost of electricity and how much could be saved if there was a way to automatically lower the thermostats, turn-off PC’s and lights after the school day. With Cisco Energy Wise, the service would pay for itself within eight months. That’s a compelling value proposition!
But partners don’t have to be experts in all LOB’s. That’s almost impossible. Instead consider collaborating with an ISV who focuses on a vertical focused application that solves a particular LOB pain point. Working on a collaborative sale still allows you, the Cisco partner, to be the expert on the infrastructure solution while your ISV can focus on the application side. It’s a win-win for everyone. Looking for help on how to set up a collaborative partnership? Visit the Cisco Market place for an overview of ISV’s, solutions and architectures, and collateral.
You can also learn more about different selling techniques through Partner Plus’ Sales Excellence curriculum and much more available via online modules at the Cisco Partner Education Connection Good Selling!