Having only been at CRN a little under a year, it's fair to say I've not been writing about the channel long enough to have identified many themes and trends myself.
One shift that became apparent very quickly though, is the move away from "box shifting" to "real value add". Everyone says it, as if merely buying something and selling it on is now criminal.
While it seems that the vast majority of the channel accepts this shift (apologies if I'm wrong), I've heard very little about how resellers have to change internally to cope with this - not from a business model perspective, but from a people perspective. Surely things become more complicated when you're asking your sales team to sell a hyper-converged infrastructure solution, rather than an EMC storage product, for example?
For a recent CRN article I spoke to two resellers who, for similar reasons, employ only technicians, with no sales team whatsoever. While this might seem strange for an industry so driven by sales and marketing, their rationale makes perfect sense.
One of the resellers sells only emerging security products from the likes of Cylance and Palo Alto Networks. He claimed that with the number of vendors in the security space increasing at an unprecedented rate, things have become more complicated than just simply selling a Symantec antivirus product and that because of this end users aren't comfortable just buying a security package from a salesperson over the phone.
In my role at CRN I try and keep track of new vendors and technology launching in the UK. After speaking to them, I often only just pull together a passable understanding of what the technology actually does. If I was a salesman talking to an IT professional within an end user I've no doubt that I'd fail to answer a number of their questions.
Likewise, if I was in charge of a small organisation without an IT team I'd have no idea how the next ‘must have' tech a salesperson is trying to sell me would actually help me.
From both these perspectives, the idea of all all-technical team seems to make sense. A technician in a reseller is surely more qualified to discuss what a product actually does with an end user, while a technician will more than likely be able to explain how a solution works to that end user than a salesperson.
I'm sure some will read this thinking ‘this is why you have a salesperson and a presales person in meetings', which is what the reseller pointed out, but how necessary is this? He claimed that end users are pushing more and more to remove the salesperson and just have the technician present. If you went to car garage, for example, and spoke to a salesperson and a mechanic, would you be interested in the salesperson's opinion of the car, or just the mechanic's?
It's worth noting though, that while the second reseller boss I spoke to also employees no salespeople, they are as important to his reseller as they are to most. His company makes 70 per cent of its revenue by selling highly specialised services back into the channel, so although they don't employ any salespeople themselves they are heavily reliant on them in other companies.
You also can't argue with the likes of Softcat and Computacenter who employee armies of salespeople. While the no-sales approach might work out well for smaller niche players, perhaps there is relatively low potential for growth. After all, there are only so many IT technicians to go round, as is reported frequently.
From an end-user perspective however, I struggle to see a reason why they'd prefer to speak to a salesperson. I don't know whether it's an innate trait of a journalist to be naturally suspicious, but when I'm speaking to someone in sales I'm always thinking ‘why do you want me to buy this?' or ‘Do you want me to buy this particular product because you've got a target to hit?' When someone with an agenda says ‘This is the best option for you' I think people find it hard to believe them. Perhaps a technician not working on commission is better placed to explain the pros and cons of two different solutions and let the end-user make the decision?
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