How do you stand out in a crowded market?
I watched as the "Managed Services" buzz spread across an industry of SMB IT Pros. We quickly adopted this model, all in with a fixed monthly fee as our preferred engagement with customers. While others cried and stressed about the risk of doing that (especially those moving from hourly billing or blocks of hours), we have never been burnt and don't regret it for a moment.
Now, at least here in Australia, the Managed Services module in the SMB space seems to be "the norm". The features and benefits of this are plastered across every partner's website. "Focus on what you do best and leave the IT to us". "Know your costs in advance and smooth out the IT services costs peaks and troughs." "No more surprise bills." "Your staff will be more productive because they can call us as much as they like, for any little thing, without worrying that it will cost them more."
There's a saying that a buyer needs to find a difference to justify choosing one thing over another. If you all look the same, the only difference to them may be your price. So the value & benefits of a managed service go out the window if they know that's what they want, and they're trying to choose between you and your competitor to get it.
How do you stand out in a crowded market? What are you saying or doing that's truly different than your competitors? You might not want to give away your IP secrets here, but what would you tell a prospective customer?
Creating a relationship with your customer is essential. you create a relationship when you understand their needs and how they work. It can be hard and take time but in the long run is worth it. A lot of business can provide them with the same services or compete in price but the way you talk to your client can make a huge difference.
In the past, I would have agreed with you re relationship selling, but have you read The Challenger Sale? It has some interesting stats on why relationship selling doesn't perform as well as we'd think.
I don't think that The Challenger Sale argues to do away with forming relationships. For any type of sales strategy, including value-oriented sales, relationships serve as a basis to get in front of the desired audience with minimal effort and with some established pathos. How the opprotunities provided are leveraged, however, is rather the point of discussion when utilizing established relationships.
An existing relationship is not necessary to have an effective disruptive conversation with a prospect.
We have been working with Telstra, Australia's largest telecommunications provider. They have inside sales teams calling existing and lapsed customers. The sales individuals concerned have never spoken to these prospects before. They want to sell them LAN Assessments - to uncover opportunities on their internal networks.
It's a pretty dry topic and there was limited success - until we taught them to mention that, on average, 10% of current users that have network access in an organisation have already left the employ of that company(!)
Success rates have quintupled.
Having a relationship with a customer is neither necessary nor sufficient. In fact - and this is what I believe The Challenger Sale™ was saying - it can get in the road ie if the salesperson is relying on the relationship, they're not adding any value or getting cut through. Hence the Relationship Builder is the poorest performing sales profile when it comes to superior performance.
According to my sense, the only strategy to stay out in a crowded market is to be somewhat specific and to differentiate from other partners.It is crucial to be on the head and win the competition in terms of lead and delivery time, cost and price. I believe finally that the most important factor is last but not least the trustworthiness, the confidence customers have in our whole structure.
I hear this nearly every day! We meet countless partners who are transitioning, or who have transitioned, to a managed service provider and ask HOW DO WE DIFFERENTIATE? We always recommend staying away from price, because it just drives margins down for everyone – which isn’t healthy for any business.
I agree it’s about looking for value, and how business pains are solved. But in addition to that (because everyone says the same thing regarding the value they bring!), we ask partners – what are the areas that you have built up knowledge in? Is this in a particular horizontal or vertical market? What are those insights and can you use them to better create relevant, targeted marketing messages that helps you to differentiate? We also ask them to think about which types of businesses they are best suited to – do they do their best work in the small business space, or medium or enterprise space? Why? What do they know about these organisations that they can use to differentiate? This goes beyond just looking at value – it’s about understanding where they work best, and how to communicate this. It's also about trying to engage in meaningful conversations ealier in that prospect's buying journey - so that you have influenced what they are looking for in a provider, and have already given them some value prior to them (hopefully) engaging with you.
It’s not easy – and that’s why we’re in business! It’s a journey – and we love this kind of work because, believe it or not, most partners are very different even though they may have similar offerings, sometimes it just takes an outsider to look in and spot the differences.
I agree and would like to add that forming partnerships is a great way to network at a business level. Mutual partnerships lead to mutual connections, which is half of the battle.
That's a great segway @MelanieUnwin into my upcoming presentation and deep dive on "disruptive selling" at Microsoft Australia's upcoming Partner Summit!
@SCuffy - you're quite right - even if our managed services offerings are differentiated, in a market full of content noise customers just can't tell the difference, and think we all sell the same commodity.
"How" we sell is now more important than "what" we sell - and as the various commenters in this thread have shown, we have to accentuate the value. What's important to realise, however, is that the MOST value is not so much what the service delivers, but more that we're teaching customers better ways of doing things.
So - "early buyer engagement" is all about making customers aware of problems before they realise they're experiencing them! That's real value add!
Hopefully I'll see all at my sessions!
Accentuate the value - Agree!
And in order to know how to accentuate the value, our sales people needs to know not only their solutions but also have a great understand of their customers' businesses. Sales people with Vertical Knowledge will do an amazing job! Air cover comes from Digital Marketing and most partners are under-invested in that area (and sometimes over-invested in traditional 'suits' trying to sell).
Great insights! I think that you should talk about value - especially the business value that you provide. Avoid to talk about technology if you can. And be bold to not ask the customer to sign long contracts - better to give him the ability to terminate with 3 months notice as that will show that you're proud of the value that you provide.
It's also worth to remember that your services will need to be constantly improved and a yearly internal review is a good thing to do. Also - give the customer a few and relevant metrics (SLA) but make sure that your internal SLA is more rich with KPIs and have a higher bar (i.e. lower tolerance for bad quality).