Author Archive: Valentine Che

August 19, 2015

Selling Cloud in the Cloud

Conventionally, the sales department’s style consists of men and women dressed to the nines—tailored suits and expensive Italian shoes. Appearance is a key factor to success, and most follow and master S.C.O.T.S.M.A.N., a forecasting and qualification system that stands for scope, competition, originality, time, size, money, authority, and need (we’ll get to this later).

Once a prospective client is qualified, they are placed in the sales funnel, and that’s when the fun begins. Deals are made over fancy dinners or a round of golf. Factors like location and size determine the time it takes to close the deal. Sometimes it takes days. Sometimes it takes months.

But in the cloud industry, where “on-demand” is the name of the game, following the conventional sales process can be a bottleneck in and of itself. Cloud, by its very nature, allows for spontaneity—such that by the time conventional salesmen arrange a wine-and-dine meeting, the new breed of cloud salesmen have already closed the deal and happy customers are accessing their deployed servers.

In the cloud, there’s no time for face-to-face with the customer, so most opt for comfortable t-shirts and jeans over tailored suits and fine Italian leather shoes. And in the absence of these things, products and services provide the wow factor that lure customers.

SoftLayer offers a variety of wow factors. Depending on how the customer will be using servers based on their business, any of the points below (or combination of them) could serve as a wow factor:

  • Free incoming and server-to-server data transfer, as well as bandwidth pooling
  • Auto Scale and rapid deployment (virtual servers in as little as five to 10 minutes and bare metal in as little as one to four hours)
  • Free, premium, round-the-clock technical, billing, and sales support
  • Complete control and flexibility
  • Dedicated basic server resources, including CPU, RAM and storage, on all server types
  • No long-term contracts
  • Seamless connectivity between virtual and bare metal platforms

Although the cloud marketplace today looks saturated, the providers offering genuine cloud services are few and far between, and the disparity between the services they offer are abundant, laying waste to the theory that cloud is a commodity. Today, there are ads boasting price advantages and overtly dramatized high-pitch marketing punch lines promising unrealistic offerings. Remember the old adage, “The bitterness of low quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Given the control and flexibility inherent in the SoftLayer platform with no contract to tie you down, the SoftLayer sales process cuts through the clutter and seeks to satisfy the last three elements of the S.C.O.T.S.M.A.N. system:

  • Is there a need for a new cloud environment? Are you looking to host a new application or are you looking to move an existing application from another hosting provider or from an in-house environment? If existing, what are your primary reasons for wanting to move?
  • Do you have a budget for a new cloud environment?
  • Do you have the authority to place an order on behalf of your organization? (To make it easy, it will cost $0.00 for the first month with a no-strings attached cancellation if you’re not satisfied.)

Some cloud consumers I have spoken to confess to choosing their hosting provider based on convenience rather than value offering. Cloud providers who are household names try as much as they can to blur the differences between offerings and propagate the doctrine of cloud being a commodity. As the cloud marketplace matures, the success of this strategy has an expiration date—soon!

- Valentine Che, Global Sales, AMS01

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September 30, 2014

SELLING SOFTLAYER (in Amsterdam)

Selling SoftLayer services to Internet-centric companies—hosting resellers, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) providers, big data and e-commerce companies—are no-brainers. These companies clearly see the advantages that come with having their servers (the backbone of their business) hosted by a specialist. They switch their capital expenses into variable costs that can be spread over time.

On the flip side are companies in non-Internet-centric industries—banking, health care, oil & gas, and aerospace. How do these companies find value in the IaaS offered by SoftLayer? The IT infrastructure (servers to be precise) accounts for less than 5 percent of their capital expenditure (CAPEX) as opposed to almost 95 percent for Internet-centric companies.

Will the same value proposition work for both Internet-centric and non-Internet-centric companies?

With Internet-centric companies (where servers constitute up to 95 percent of CAPEX), the majority of the workforce is server-savvy. This means there is a very high chance any contact we have with these companies will be with a server-savvy fellow. Selling SoftLayer will then be a question of how SoftLayer’s USPs differentiate from the competition.

The current industry trend is driving a faulty message: The cloud is a commodity.

The truth is: Unlike basic commodities (electricity, gas, or cable), where there is little or no differentiation between what the end user gets irrespective of the provider, cloud and hosting in general are different. This faulty commodity-based assumption drives the price wars in cloud computing.

Comparing apples and oranges cumulus and stratus.

To test and disprove this theory, I brought a customer’s systems engineer (a server expert) into a sales discussion with the CTO.

I requested to put the price negotiations on hold for about 4 hours, and evaluate the services first. To do this, I asked for the exact configuration that the customer had hosted with a competitor. I ordered the exact configuration on the SoftLayer platform and within 2 hours the servers were ready. When the customer’s system engineer tested the performance of the SoftLayer server and compared it to what they had from a competitor, the price comparison was thrown out the window for good.

There are many different facets wherein SoftLayer outperforms the competition but unfortunately, most prospective customers only see price.

For the non-Internet-centric companies, to reach the price discussion is a milestone in itself. Pricing negotiations only begin when the need and suitability (originality) have been established.

The IBM and SoftLayer effect.

As a salesperson, I subscribe to the SCOTSMAN Sales Qualification Matrix (Solution, Competition, Originality, Timescales, Size, Money, Authority, and Need). Most companies in this group need solutions. IaaS is just part of that solution. This is where IBM (Big Blue) comes into the picture. As a service giant in the IT Sector, IBM can and will build on SoftLayer’s IaaS prowess to conquer this landscape. The synergies that are coming from this acquisition will send shockwaves across the industry.

Question is: Will the stakeholders maximize this potential to the fullest?

- Valentine Che, Global Sales, AMS01

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