It’s more apparent than ever that cloud computing is not only picking up momentum, it’s also a key component driving other industry trends such as mobile computing and the Internet of Things (IoT). With that said, you can’t capitalize on any of these exciting trends if you don’t first learn how to sell cloud.
One of the most important starting points is recognizing the fact that there’s a lot of confusion and wrong information about the cloud that has to be dealt with before you can discuss specific cloud services and costs. CompTIA’s 4th Annual Trends in Cloud Computing sheds light on three specific areas of confusion end users have that IT solution providers (ITSPs) need to uncover and address to win cloud business.
- Cloud Washing. This term refers to the marketing ploy of labeling all remote computing activities as “cloud” in an attempt to associate one’s product or service with the cloud market. IT professionals see this confusion regularly among small business customers who confuse hosted Exchange with Office 365. In some instances, an Exchange service is hosted in a data center that doesn’t meet the requirements for “cloud.” One characteristic of the cloud, for example, is elasticity, which refers to storage and compute resources expanding and contracting automatically to meet user demands. In a hosted environment, users must manually allocate these resources, which oftentimes leads to purchasing more than is currently required in anticipation of future growth.
Asking customers open-ended questions such as, “How exactly are you leveraging or planning to leverage the cloud?” is a non-threatening way to engage them and confirm whether they’ve been cloud washed or not. If they have, the only known “cure” is education about the benefits of the “real cloud” such as scalability and elasticity.
- Downplaying the Cloud. While it’s true that remote or distributed computing has been around for many years, a client who downplays the cloud as “nothing new” could be a sign that the client is confusing the cloud with hosted computing. Asking questions about how new services are provisioned can get to the root of this issue. For example, if the question “How do you set up your email server and add new email accounts?” involves a response that includes “calling a guy” or “sending an IT person to a remote location” you know there’s a disconnect. If it’s “real cloud,” new services such as hosted Exchange can be deployed in minutes with little or no human intervention.
- False Cloud Adoption Claims. CompTIA’s research also found that some end users will describe their infrastructure as cloud-based to have the appearance of keeping up with the trend and others may apply the cloud label to their IT systems without much thought in an effort to avoid further discussions on the topic.
Once again, asking open-ended questions about how the prospect’s “cloud” environment is the best way to uncover the truth. Touching upon cloud’s “pay as you grow” (aka elasticity) model, which enables users to pay for only the compute power and storage capacity needed at any given time can be an effective way to open prospects’ minds to discovering the benefits of true cloud computing.
Taking the time to listen to clients talk about their cloud notions is a necessary prerequisite to selling cloud services. Without this information, ITSPs relegate themselves to guessing what prospects need, which is almost always a recipe for lost sales opportunities.