Considerations when choosing a new product to sell
This is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from working in the IT reseller space. Finding something new to sell is easy, finding the right thing to sell is rather more difficult. I am putting this blog together as an example of what I have found to work and importantly what does not work. I am not a salesperson, I am a techie through and through but I do get involved in choosing products to sell and ultimately assisting salespeople to sell those products.
Build it and they will come
No, they won’t, or it is very unlikely they will. Trust me, I have made this mistake.
Let’s be clear here, there is a lot of information out there from vendors trying to sell their wares. They have marketing departments that will shine their product in the best light possible. This is all well and good, and it gives you a flavour of what the product is and what problem it is could solve for you, but do you really have that problem to solve in the first place?
IT vendors have huge conferences they put on each year, things like VMworld, AWS re:invent, Dell Tech World, ETC. If you can think of an IT software or hardware vendor, I will pretty much guarantee that they have their own conference or at least have a stall at a more generalist conference. These events create a lot of noise and a lot of hype, it can be easy to get drawn into the echo chamber and lose sight of what your customers could benefit from. Don’t start selling steak if your target customer base is vegetarian.
There are organisations like Gartner, IDC and so forth that determine how “good” a product is and where they sit in relation to that products categories competitors. For example, these organisations may pitch the likes of Cisco, Aruba, Dell against each other for their ability to deliver and execute on a good networking product. This is a good place to start if you have a particular focus area to work with like security, storage, networking etc. But it is still ultimately another vendor trying to indirectly sell you something.
Then you have independent analysts. This can be another good source of information as they will typically give you the good and the bad of the product, but at the end of the day, they are still likely being paid by the vendor to write that review.
So what to do? For me, having a deep understanding of what your customer base could potentially benefit from is key. Spotting gaps in a product offering or understanding the evolution of existing products is crucial. So how do you get that understanding? Regular cadence calls, quarterly business reviews, understanding their IT roadmap. If you can, helping to architect a new solution for a customer whilst taking into consideration what the new solution needs to integrate with, helps a lot. This kind of information can not be acquired overnight, it takes time to build a relationship and to figure these things out. Working across multiple customers who all require a similar thing does highlight what is missing. If we look at DoorDash as an example, every single one of their employees has to deliver at least one door dash a year. Knowing how the business works end to end and how customers interact with the business really does help with product research and selection.
Keeping abreast of new and emerging technologies will help you to identify what is missing. You do not need to know what every product does in great detail, but if you know the challenges it addresses, and then you find that challenge, then take a deeper dive into the technology.
If we use an Office 365 migration as an example, what functionality could be lost by moving from on-premises to the cloud? Backup and Security are some good items to think about. How do you protect that data, how do you secure that data? This leads to finding a product to meet those requirements. The security aspect could include multi-factor authentication. You find a product that meets the initial requirement of protecting O365 with MFA, but actually, it can be used to protect other workloads. Plan the upsell! These are things that people need, they should be an easy sell.
Evaluate more than one product that could fulfil your requirement. Have a checklist of what the product needs to do and what it would be nice for it to do. Check out their support process, their licensing models, support renewal costs, ramp-up time for your internal team to learn the product etc. You may find that the product you were originally set on investing in actually has a high cost or is very difficult to implement and the benefits don’t outweigh downsides which means another product will fit the bill.
Do not be afraid of including customers with who you have a good relationship that you may think would benefit from this new technology, in your decision-making process. Run a proof of concept. If 5 customers say this is a terrible idea, then chances are, it is. Do not be afraid to walk away from something if it is not viable. It is better to cut your losses now and chalk it up to experience.
Remember the research element? Part of that should also be about having a deep understanding of what is an acceptable cost for your customers to spend on something. It is no good trying to sell something that a Fortune 500 company might buy into if your target audience is SMB customers. Know your audience.
Also, be mindful of what adjacent products cost. Going back to my O365 example previously, you could still continue to buy Office licenses, Exchange Server licenses and everything else required to support that kind of infrastructure. O365 rental license might actually work out more expensive in the long run depending on how long a customer tends to sweat an asset, but you equally have to look at where other cost savings are made. No more need to support the Exchange server for example and patch it thus freeing up time in the customers IT team to focus on other items.
This is a collection of my thoughts on the journey to find new products to sell, it is not easy to find the right thing. In a world full of marketing fluff, only rarely do you uncover a diamond in the rough.
I am not professing to be an expert by any means, but hopefully, this helped someone with their decision-making process.