Big data, streamlining business operations, generating revenue, integrating systems – once upon a time, buying solutions for these business needs was mostly the territory of the CIO and IT department.
But nowadays, other verticals – like marketing, finance, and human resources (HR) – are stepping up and making their own decisions about the tech they want to use. And while that kind of power can really surprise line-of-business leaders and executives, there’s no denying it’s there – now that other departments are spending more of their budgets on tech, there’s a need for channel solution providers to be where those customers are.
That was the theme of a workshop held just before the Channel Elite Awards on Sept. 10. In the afternoon, Computer Dealer News held a panel with line-of-business executives, discussing how channel solutions providers can develop sales strategies for them, as opposed to the CIO or IT.
We’ve rounded up a few of their points into three tips:
1. Understand as much about the line-of-business you’re trying to tackle, before you pick up the phone to make a call
Like any other client meeting, channel solution providers need to thoroughly prep themselves ahead of time and understand what clients do, and potentially what challenges they face, before they make any kind of suggestion or pitch.
That’s key for Lee Horigan, CMO of Thomson Reuters, who says he can remember a slew of times when someone has called to ask about his business.
“[It’s] really needing to understand my business as much as possible, and offering a value proposition. It’s being able to say, here’s why you want to talk to me, and here’s what my solution can do for you,” he says.
The same goes for Marylka Empey, managing partner at Trinity Associates Inc. As a human resources executive, Empey says she is looking for solutions that are centred around automation, helping her streamline some of the paperwork and processes found in HR.
“From my perspective, before, HR was seen as overhead, but now I think it’s more of a profit centre … Right now, there’s pressure on HR to be so responsive and quick with getting answers and solutions,” she says, adding that’s a gap that channel solutions providers can fill.
And for Winnie Leung, acting CFO at Moneris Solutions Inc., her company’s unique needs include finding a predictive analytics solution that will not only integrate with Moneris’ other solutions, but will also make it easier for her team to sift through data to find insights.
Aside from understanding a client’s business, channel solution providers should also be mindful of how customers’ budgets work. As Horigan heads marketing at Thomson Reuters, he says he’s confident that right now, his department is poised to spend on IT this year – but that may depend upon the project his team is undertaking, which could change from year to year.
2. Speak the same language as the line of business executive you’re trying to work with
This doesn’t just mean staying away from technical jargon.
For Leung, she’s looking to work with solutions providers who have a background in finance, like herself. She’s also looking for someone who is willing to bundle maintenance into their offerings, and truly manage their solutions.
“From my instance, I’m looking at usability. I want solutions to be intuitive and easy … I want them to be easy and integratable,” she says.
Empey agrees, adding it’s important channel solution providers can talk about costs upfront – not just the hard costs of paying for a new solution, but also the soft costs, like training people to use them, maintaining them, and so on.
3. Don’t cut IT completely out of the process, but understand line-of-business needs to be agile and flexible
Giving line-of-business verticals what they want while maintaining security can be a difficult balance, but it’s an important one. For example, among the line-of-business executives on the panel, all of them favour the cloud for its quickness and ease of deployment – but they also recognize there may be risks and drawbacks.
“If I wasn’t at Moneris, I would go all cloud. Cloud is the future,” Leung says.
That being said, line-of-business executives say they also need to be conscious about maintaining a good relationship with the CIO of their organizations. Leung says in the finance department, her team works closely together with IT, holding a “constant dialogue” to ensure they’re not stepping on IT’s toes.
She adds it’s important that line-of-business needs to be accountable for its IT security policies too.
“It’s about being holistic, and asking, how can we be more effective?”