Resellers: Are you Influencing the Influencer?
Here at Blacfox, we were recently granted the opportunity to discuss the evolving trends in the South African market with the global director of Microsoft Dynamics, Cheri Chevalier. This provided a discussion and analysis into the changes in South African buyers’ decisions, product influences, and the role of IT in marketing.
Cheri, on her recent visit to South Africa, noted the exciting advances in our country, where we have steady technological growth, a focus on the fundamentals, and a vast understanding of how marketing is evolving and where it is headed.She shared her insight on buyer trends gained from observing the way South Africans today are buying applications.
“With the shift to the cloud, everyone is empowered to have access to technology in an easy way. It doesn’t matter what size your business is, a small business, mid-market business or a large enterprise, everyone has access to the same technology.”
This means that everyone, regardless of their discipline or the size of their operation, has access to the same solutions. Technology of the same quality is provided to companies of all sizes. And rightfully so, because digital transformation is a critical part of any business operation today. Whether one works in HR, marketing, or finances, everyone should be (and probably already is) looking at these technological changes.
87% of employers believe digitally empowering employees can drive at least 5% additional revenue growth over 3 years and 54% of employers agree that the ability for their workforce to more easily access business applications has reduced attrition rates.
Cheri mentions that everyone everywhere has access to the best and latest technology. This means that everyone within a business is your potential client. And even though they may not make the buying decisions, they can influence the decision-maker. So how does a partner influence the influencer?… by adding value to that person’s business life. Whether through being provided support or being given free trials, or other examples of the like, the influencer must somehow enjoy free fruits of this technology, only then will deals start rolling in.
Marketing to an Audience
So if you, as a marketer, are building a database of prospects, should you limit it only to the IT audience?
What you should do, is consider who (and what) might influence that line of business purchase. It is important to consider the entire picture, and not simply what seems to be the ideal part of a picture. If there is a solution oriented towards a certain department, such as HR, then you should bring HR in with IT and have a conversation with them. And if it’s a smaller business we’re talking about, one that is lacking formal departments, then we have to consider who and what might be influencing these lines of work. And further, who outside of the business has a significant influence on your market.
And then ask yourself, what are you doing to influence the influencer?
There is an endless supply of candidates that can be reached through marketing. Knowing all these influence points and finding a means of getting your product to them is what really matters. The number of ways to reach a client has increased exponentially in the past decade, and there are countless ways to contact potential clients creatively.
Implications to IT
When asked about how these changes and trends affect IT departments, Cheri told us that even though business decision-makers have a growing influence, the role of IT is still very important. The need has spanned and crossed all sorts of disciplines in all kinds of organizations. The critical role is in understanding the solutions that are coming together and ensuring that they are both secure and connected. So IT still plays a prominent role in marketing and product influence.
As a partner who’s marketing a product, the obvious choice is to target clients with the most interest. So, for example, one would naturally want to market an HR product to HR. So again we asked Cheri another important question. How does one keep both IT and the business user happy?
“One must look at the solutions based on secure fundamentals. It’s important to understand what businesses need, to know what software solutions will address those needs, and then really make sure that IT provides such products that are into their overall architecture and ecosystem. Much like how Dynamics365 works, the products need to be secure and well-connected with what is being managed.”
“Companies that aren’t digitally transforming aren’t going to be able to remain competitive because in every industry there is disruption happening, and you are either part of the disruption or you are not. And the key enabler in that is technology,” says Cheri.
Strategic thinking is being heavily influenced by technology, and technology is the key enabler here. You need to ask: how can we provide the technology needed to allow these companies to contribute to this digital transformation?If a company is not digitally transforming then that means they are falling behind (if they haven’t already), because companies can no longer compete in our technologically-disrupted market.
“Digital transformation doesn’t just happen in one department,” Cheri tells us, “it has to cross everywhere: optimizing opportunities, empowering employees, thinking of new ways to innovate and grow products.”
A company is either part of this digital disruption that’s moving the business industry forward, or they are entirely out of the loop. The pace of change has been rapid, and it’s unlikely for it to slow down anytime soon. So businesses must keep up with the changes in technology to stay competitive. According to research conducted by Citrix, 92% of companies across South Africa’s key industries agree that digital adoption directly affects company profits. However, 54% still feel unprepared for the future.
As a partner, one must consider the broader scope of potential prospects and find creative ways of reaching people. To omit major influences through the decision process would be incredibly short-sided. And even more significant than the marketing is the product itself, as Cheri tells us, because
“it is important for partners to know it is not about products. We are not selling products, we are selling value to our customers. We are selling something that will enable them to reach their objectives.”
And in order to sell value, once must understand three things:
1) The specific problems that prospective clients are facing (finding your client’s pain points)
2) The direction the client is planning on moving their business
3) How they are planning on digitally transforming.
As a partner, one must ensure that these types of conversations take place and that it is fully understood where the client is coming from. Moreover, it is important to have the right people on board, ones who are not only in on the decision-making process, but ones who will also contribute to this insight.
As Cheri says, digital transformation is happening whether we like it or not. So a change in the way technology is being bought will likewise require a change in the way it is sold. It’s time for partners to bend the rules and come up with more innovative solutions. Traditional sales cycles need to be replaced by engaging with a higher volume of clients in a faster (digital) manner. The specific technology needs of a client can still be satisfied through support iterations once a generic technology is first purchased. We see this more and more.
So, how will you, as a partner, engage with this new sales think? Are you going to adapt and use this change to your advantage, or fall behind? And most importantly, what will you be doing to influence the influencer?