By Barb Paluszkiewicz, CDN Technologies Inc.
Like death and taxes, commoditization is a given. You see this “race to the bottom” with real estate agents and others who work for commission in competitive markets.
Now, with cybersecurity in IT booming, MSPs are complaining about the commoditization of IT. How does the techie-turn-business owner handle this? Should they accept their value proposition is not unique and their clients and potential clients can get comparable IT service and support from their phone, internet, and copier company?
I don’t think so. This “race to the bottom” is simply a distraction and diminishes any focus on value. You can either embrace commoditization or embrace sales and marketing.
Sales is about listening. When we listen, we do so physically, mentally, and emotionally. Many people shut themselves off physically and don’t even realize it. Poor eye contact, crossed arms, and an expressionless face reflect negative body language and subliminally sends a message to the other person that you are not listening to them. The more eye contact you make (without staring), keeping your arms open, and having a warm expression on your face while talking — with a head nod here and there — indicates you are engaged in thought and conversation.
The second part of sales involves mental engagement. Ernest Hemmingway wrote, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Every consultative sales conversation is guided by questions. The questions should move the person you are speaking with from point A to point B mentally. At its most fundamental level, mental listening requires deep concentration on what the other person is saying or trying to say. Answers can be obscure or long winded, but they are full of information. Mental listening involves hearing everything, so you can build bridges and provide guidance on how to connect with the person with whom you are listening to and help them achieve their goals.
Lastly, sales involve emotion. Helen Keller learned, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.” Emotional listening involves a range of qualities: politeness, political intelligence, an awareness of verbal, and nonverbal cues. The communication should inspire action and showcase a deep sensitivity to the other person’s feelings and circumstance. When you are engaged emotionally it makes the conversation comfortable for the other person. In most sales conversations there is an opportunity to lighten up, share something funny or personal, and provide observations relevant to the topic of discussion. These are the moments to take advantage and demonstrate the value of the IT solutions offered and work in close cooperation to focus and educated on technical and serious material.
I think people need to remember IT-related problems aren’t rooted in technology but in a company’s leadership failings. The people in the executive seats don’t understand IT problems and, as a result, don’t provide adequate resources to solve them. Clients don’t understand the serious risks they are exposing themselves to unnecessarily. This is evident by the ever-increasing rate of cybercrime. We need to be careful that our clients and potential clients have the clarification needed to understand the value of the solutions being offered so they can make educated choices.
This is easier said than done. One of the biggest concerns I see is people undercutting each other to get the business — offering free hardware and free service is a red flag. Sales is not a strength of the techie turned business owner, and neither is marketing.
Marketing is about story telling. It’s communication magic.
The words used in marketing messages are packages of emotion that have a physical impact. They inflict pleasure or pain; they don’t just describe, they define. The message becomes the recipient’s world. Great marketing has the capacity to influence people’s choices through information and inspiration. The right words at the right time are the moments that shape our lives.
In today’s truly cluttered environment you need a remarkable story to capture someone’s attention. The tiniest of details can reveal the greatest insights but you must understand how to communicate the facts. You can best do this through the ways that people learn. Visual, so they can see; tactile, so they can experience; and auditory, so they can hear.
The moral of the story: the marketing message generates movement toward a desired future outcome — making the phone ring, having a web form filled out, and always supporting the strategic sales process.
Yes, its true everything commoditizes over time, but the wonderful thing about the technology industry is as one area commoditizes, another area emerges. There are parts of the market that are maturing and there are parts that are becoming more important. The key is to deliver a solution strategy and where you fit in because that demonstrates strength and value.
The average MSP owner was a technician whose company grew. Now our environment is turning away from technology and more to sales, so these technicians need to develop selling skills which many don’t have. One terrific way to improve sales is to identify future problems clients will have through marketing. Through a consultative sales process you can then demonstrate value, otherwise it’s a race to the bottom with squeezed margins and you are just going to say, “Come to me because I am the cheapest.” and that’s the way the IT service space has become a commodity.
One of the reasons the focus at CDN Technologies is growth through acquisitions is there are many people who don’t understand the sales or marketing side of the business. As more players enter the business, sales and marketing becomes more important. CDN Technologies is always actively looking for opportunities to grow through acquisitions for those owners who want to focus on technology and leave the sales, marketing, and management to someone else.
About The Author
Barb Paluszkiewicz, CDN Technologies CEO, is the author of IT Scams: How To Avoid Being Ripped Off. Over the course of her 20-year career in IT, she has been known for her ability to present highly technical information in a clear, easy to understand manner. A frequent expert guest on ABC, NBC, CBS. CityTV & FOX TV News & Talk shows, she speaks on the dangers of ransomware and tech developments that save companies big money on their IT Systems and critical data security. In addition to her assignment as CEO of CDN Technologies, Barb serves as an Executive with internetHosting.com and internetRegistration.com. A Global company, with representation in Canada, Australia, Europe and the United States.