In the first part of this blog series, I summarized Phil Sorgen’s speech at WPC 2014. He talked about the promises that Microsoft is making to its partners, and I talked about the promises that PAITgroup is making in return. In this section, we’re shifting gears a little bit to talk about how businesses have to change to keep up with technology. We no longer have to look at technology sales as a cold call scenario—customers these days know what they’re buying because they do the research. So what are we to do? Enter Tiffani Bova, Vice President of Gartner Research.
Technology is Changing
Tiffani started out by saying something that is so simple, yet so powerful that it changed the way I viewed the rest of the presentation: technology is different. I’m not sure why this concept is so game changing to me, but I guess because I’m a twenty-some year old just starting out in the IT field, sometimes I forget that the technology I’m dealing with right now is different than the technology this industry was built on. In fact, the technology I work with each day at work is years beyond the technology I was taught on at school, that’s how quickly it changes.
So how is a smaller company like PAITgroup supposed to keep up with this new and different technology when it is constantly changing? Tiffani’s answer is simple: stop focusing on the product and focus on the experience. She claims that we’ve entered an experience economy, where consumers and businesses are looking to enrich their lives and improve business using technology in new ways.
The Internet of Everything
Tiffani referred to this concept throughout her presentation: The Internet of Everything. So what does that mean? To quote her, “Technology has become so much more than the PCs, software, and data centers. It has become a digital network of people, things, places, and systems. Something we now refer to as the Internet of Everything.”
Everything is on this Internet, from computers and devices to refrigerators and as Tiffani pointed out, diapers. It has the unlimited ability to take us to new places. In order to reach these new places, we have to be bold and confident in our ability to transform as rapidly as it transforms. There is no time to grow comfortable in this rapid industry, and it’s no wonder that when I talk to other developers they frequently feel the same way I do. No matter how much I learn or how quickly I’m adopting new things, I’m always behind. How can companies keep up when the individuals in them can’t? Well honestly, it ends up working out, because it means that NO ONE can. Some people catch on more quickly than others, and some companies will adapt more quickly than others, but with the way technology changes so rapidly we’re all always behind it.
Tiffani also said that as technology changes so do our customers. Our job as consultants, sales people, and partners has adapted from telling customers what technology is available. We also have to be the translators, and communicate our vision of what that technology can do to our customers. They have access to many of the same resources we do these days, and the buyer’s journey has changed greatly as a result. Customers can research companies, solutions, products, and services on their own, and come to us with that information. It is our job to keep the customer at the center and change the way we market to and engage with our customers.
As businesses become more digitized, there is increased business spending in IT. There is also an increased parallel relationship between what IT departments are requesting and the business need. It’s our job as IT professionals, sales people, developers, and Microsoft partners to make sure that both desires are being met. These desires are similar enough that we can often provide solutions to satisfy both, but it’s important to recognize that they are different, and need to be treated as such.
Ideally, our solutions as developers and consultants will address both the needs of the IT team and the needs of the business. If you’re really lucky, the customers you work with have executives that are technologically savvy and they already understand that technology can frequently serve their needs, and they’re willing to invest in IT growth and change. Sometimes, that isn’t the case. It’s our job to hold their hand, to translate the tech-talk into dollars and sense (because who deals with cents anymore?) and reassure them that investing in technology is the safest move.
To achieve this, Tiffani says it’s time to rethink the sales model. She drives the point home that now is the time to shift thinking from selling a product to selling an experience. The example she uses is coffee. You can sell coffee beans from different suppliers, at different price points, or of different quality but at the end of the day your customer is buying coffee beans. If you take those beans and make them into a pot of coffee, your customer is still buying the beans but they’re buying more than just the product. Your customer can get a pot of coffee anywhere, so why would they choose you? You want to turn your coffee into an experience, so that even if your competitor is selling a cheaper bean or a bigger pot of coffee, customers are lining up to buy yours for the experience. It makes so much sense!
Tips from other partners
Tiffani also talked to two partners to discuss tips on success. First, she talked to Finn, a Cloud partner that does a lot of service contracts. She asked him how taking risks helps his business, and he said that taking risks enables his company to stay sharp and cutting edge. He also said they do a lot of learning by burning. Finally, he emphasized the importance of partnering with other partners and getting the best of the breed from the organizations around you to succeed as a team.
Second, Tiffani talked to Emily Lynch about a hybrid business model. Emily’s business has focused on reinvesting to reinvent, embracing change, focusing on education, changing the sales model to focus on marketing first and then sales second. She talks about marketing and sales being like a funnel, starting out with really broad marketing and an understanding of the context of your customers, then moving them down the funnel by providing content relevant to their needs. The final phase of the funnel is of course the sale.
Finally, Tiffani asked each partner to provide one last insight on success. Finn encouraged us all to use the local Microsoft team. Emily recommended embarking on your digital marketing journey.