Security vendors, distributors and resellers are furiously reworking their sales pitches to cater for end users’ shrinking budgets.
All are in agreement that to close business in 2009, suppliers must either
demonstrate a compelling argument on price or offer the customer something
completely new. The era of selling on the size and speed of the box alone is
Jonathan Lassman, managing director of reseller Network Technology Solutions, said: “You either have to appeal to innovation or to their wallet.”
The global network security market grew 7.8 per cent last year to $5.5bn (£3.8bn), while content security sales rocketed 25 per cent to $1.93bn, according to Infonetics Research. Single-digit growth is expected in both sub-sectors for the next few years.
However, with UK end users becoming increasingly reluctant to part with their cash, security suppliers are overhauling their messaging to reflect the new climate of caution.
One such vendor is unified threat management specialist Astaro, which is switching the emphasis of its messaging from how it can help end users simplify their infrastructure to how it can save them money.
Andrew Fourie, UK country manager at Astaro, said: “To get good
air-time with people you have to demonstrate that you can really save them money and our messaging will reflect that.
“Financial directors and chief executives have a lot more influence than they did before and when the IT manager asks for budget they have to demonstrate they can save them money. Resellers need to realise they must have business conversations now it is not just about security and technology anymore.”
Symantec is another vendor to have recently overhauled its messaging. In March, the security and storage vendor launched its Stop Buying Storage campaign to spell out just how customers can save money by using its software.
Ashish Patel, UK country manager at network security vendor Stonesoft, agreed that price will dominate sales pitches in 2009. But he argued resellers will also have to be smarter in the way they save their clients money.
“Over the past few years the pitch has been ‘this box is bigger and faster’,” he said. “This year resellers have to approach it in a more educated fashion and give the customers something that they have perhaps not heard of before.”
As an example, Patel said Stonesoft is focusing on how much its firewalls can save customers if they also get rid of their MPLS networks.
“We are not just going up against another firewall and saying ‘ours is cheaper than yours’. We are also wrapping in the savings for connectivity and management costs. That sort of messaging needs to be taken to board level and not the IT manager.”
Patel said the change in emphasis has already paid off, citing a recent contract win to replace a five-site MPLS network. “This will save them £50,000 in a year on connectivity costs alone,” he said.
Dave Ellis, e-security director at distributor Computerlinks, argued that the smart resellers out there should be emphasising return on investment (ROI) and creative pricing models in their messaging.
“ROI has always been a sales message, but not always one of the key ones. It has come to the fore over the last 1218 months with the market downturn,” he said.
“Security resellers are also having to be more creative now in terms of pricing models and the way they sell solutions. Anything using an Opex rather than Capex model is attractive because the customer is paying monthly rather than upfront.”
James Mckee, security manager at reseller Qual, agreed that cost increasingly dominates his conversations with end users. However, he claimed resellers will only win big if they tailor the solutions to the client’s needs rather than leading on price.
“Customers are saying ‘we have currently got this and are looking to save money; what have you got to offer us?’,” he said. “Our role is to be their trusted advisor and understand their needs before we talk about product, rather than going in all guns blazing with the best of the best.”
Qual is not the only security reseller refusing to lead on price. Paul Spencer, director of security VAR Axial Systems, said he is instead redoubling his efforts to find niche markets demanding high-end skills.
“The economic climate means everything is more focused on reducing operating cash and capital expenditure,” he said. “The other issue is that lots of sectors in security are becoming more commoditised. Customers are aware of that and want to shop around to reduce the price. So it is key for specialists like us to remain in niche markets where we have the skills that generalists lack.
“Our message has not changed. There are still sectors around where you can make real margins, but you need something special to offer.”
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