CDW introduced cloud solutions a number of years ago as things were really just starting to get exciting. This represented more than just a new product. It was a new way of consuming technology, and the benefits were many.
But with opportunity comes challenge. For any organization to succeed in selling a new offering, your sales team needs to become comfortable enough to effectively convey its benefits to customers. They can’t be expected to sell what they don’t know. Education is key.
Build your knowledgebase
Our most effective sales education efforts entail gathering smart resources, staying consistent, and getting buy‑in from sales managers, account managers, and leadership. I believe this is the single biggest factor in why CDW has succeeded in consistently delivering against the promise of cloud computing over the years. In fact, we’ve been able to increase cloud sales significantly every year since we started.
We’ve found that success because we’ve solved a problem for our customers. There’s a lot of misinformation that could leave some unsure what to believe or whether Hosted VoIP and other cloud technologies are for them. Adding to the confusion is the fact that a lot of things are moving to the cloud. It’s not just business phones. It’s data backup, accounting applications, HR software, and so much more. That’s a lot for business owners and IT guys and gals to keep track of.
Whether you are selling unified communications software or real estate, the secret is to provide the experience, knowledge, and objective information your customer needs to make a good decision. Offering that value to clear away the stormy skies your customers see when they think of the cloud – or any complex topic – and watch business boom.
Stock your toolbox
Sales people need education tools to help them understand the need and find the right solution to scratch that itch. Which tools go in your toolbox and how to deliver them varies, of course.
For our account managers, I’ve found the single most impactful tool is being present. By that I mean being in front of them. I provide seminars, programs/activities, partner introductions, conference calls, and lunch-and-learns chock full of information to increase their knowledge. With so many demands on their time, this gives them a moment to focus on one topic. Additionally, I also make every effort to exude leadership within my expertise when present so that our account managers have full confidence and respect in my abilities.
I’m also a big fan of creating tools to help them learn and to communicate even better with their customers. For example, I created Cloud Customer Forms with help from some other CDW experts. We collected relevant questions we knew would help our customers take a step back and say, "Wow, I didn't think of that for a cloud solution. I should write that down. I should talk about that with CDW."
Because of our deep ecosystem, we’re able to work with many very intelligent cloud providers. I’ve ensured these partners are present in our account managers' daily lives just like I am. I’ll have them head to our Eatontown, Cherry Hill, Herndon, Chicago, and Woodland Falls offices to provide lunch-and-learns, build relationships, and educate our folks about their offerings. This supplemental education by knowledgeable, trustworthy partners like Fonality really sinks in with account managers and makes them more effective.
Think about your vendors. Which of them could help develop your sales or even customer service teams in a similar way?
Consult with customers
Great sales people focus on what the customer needs, not just selling a widget. An educated account manager comfortable with your offering approaches the job differently. At CDW, our account managers don’t just think about selling a widget and walking away. They strive to be trusted IT partners who are going to find the right solution for the customers’ business. They educate the customer on what’s in the marketplace and how to make the right choice.
Customer education happens in a number of ways. First, we have a very robust website with a lot of great information. Second, the sales force is very educated, having gone through many months of training and having heard from a range of vendors/partners. We transfer that knowledge to customers through conversations with their account managers and specialists. That’s not all, however. We also offer experiences like webinars, customer events, and what we call red carpets. That’s when a customer visits us to see the CDW warehouse and meet the account team.
While some people use the term consultative selling, I believe consultative education is a more appropriate term. Our goal is to work with customers to help enable their success. That's core to the CDW culture, so we don't feel like we need to “sell” to a customer. We want to help the customer, partner with them, and make things happen for them.
How can you do the same for your sales team and their customers?
Guest blogger Arnie Becker is a Senior Aggregation Infrastructure and Managed Services Specialist at CDW, a Fonality Partner. During his nearly 10 years in this role, Arnie has seen the Hosted VoIP industry mature from a residential, consumer-grade service to an enterprise-class technology that meets and exceeds the needs of an ever-increasing number of CDW customers. Reach Arnie at firstname.lastname@example.org.