A recent panel debate among IT leaders suggested they value honesty, stability and specialisation over price, argues Doug Woodburn
It will be of some comfort to the channel that the topic of price came up only tangentially during a recent debate among IT leaders on what they most value in their IT suppliers.
Price competitiveness normally ranks as the top attribute in studies of how end-user customers choose their IT suppliers.
But the IT chiefs who took part in our IT leaders' debate at our inaugural European Channel Leadership Forum in London this week had other things on their mind.
In so far as pricing came up at all, it was in relation to suppliers not being transparent about how much a project might cost from the outset, or justifiable gripes about being over-charged on consulting fees.
But listening to the three leaders on the panel, I got the strong impression that price is some way down the pecking order when it comes to how they select their suppliers.
Of greater import is the honesty and financial stability of their would-be partners, as well as whether they have deep industry expertise in the technology area concerned.
"One problematic thing we've come across is people trying to sell services they don't actually know themselves. We also want a very stable company to work with," said one of the IT leaders.
"I will recommend you to everyone left, right and centre if you're honest with me," said another.
Although the leaders conceded that cold calls and email spam have worked on very rare occasions, they urged the 50 or so reseller bosses in the room to grab their attention early in the sales cycle by building a slow-burning relationship at face-to-face events.
"When I look back to some of the really good relationships we've had they've just been borne out of chance conversation at some of these sorts of events," one CIO said. "Then six months later you think 'I actually spoke to those guys and they were quite good; let's get them in for a chat'."
The lesson I took from the panel was this: CIOs are willing to pay a fair price for the services of suppliers that can prove their expertise in a particular domain, and who go out of their way to be honest and transparent with them. Competing on price, without the expertise to back it up, may well bag you an initial deal, but the client may well never deal with you again and - worse still - bad-mouth you to their peers.