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Talk to me straight

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Paul Bevan, Director of Surefire Excellence, wields his light sabre to cut through any BS he hears from vendors at Cloud Expo Europe this year. You have been warned.

The folks at Compare the Cloud have thrown out another gentle challenge to me. With Cloud Expo Europe fast approaching and memories of last year’s orgy of feeds and speeds still giving me indigestion, they suggested I needed to get my light sabre out and talk about how to engage those elusive new customers.

In this day and age, if you have to resort to being economical with the truth or simply leaving out important facts that don’t support your story you shouldn’t be in marketing. Customers are faced with business and technology that is constantly changing. They are looking more and more for vendors to deliver actionable insight and become trusted advisors. You can’t achieve that unless you are open, honest and knowledgeable.

Customers have learned to be as savvy at buying as analysts are at gleaning the whole picture from technology vendors. Good analysts have an ability to smell BS at 20 paces. Their reputation, and income, actually rests on their ability to deliver sound, impartial advice to their customers. Having an open discussion with them that showed you knew your market and your customers, how your product or solution worked and how it solved customer problems didn’t necessarily guarantee being in the leadership category of a quadrant or wave, but it did guarantee access and, usually, insights from the analyst that helped in the development and positioning of your product.

Customers are looking more and more for vendors to deliver actionable insight and become trusted advisors.

Customers are much more like analysts now. Their reputation rests on their ability to deliver value to the businesses that they work for. Sure, with the pressures they are under and the amount of information they need to assimilate, you may occasionally be able to sell them something against the run of play…but you’ll only do it once.

In any case, that scenario is getting ever less likely. The excellent book, “The Challenger Sale” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, based on a Corporate Executive Board survey of thousands of sales people globally, highlighted the increasing number of people becoming involved in the process of buying technology solutions, and the need for consensus across a wide range of stakeholders. Never mind all the other insights from the book, it shows there are simply too many people involved to “fool all the time”.

Once you have “got in” to a customer by helping them solve a business problem, they will give you the freedom to lay out all your technical goodies, and you will find they will also be more willing to work round minor visible technical shortcomings rather than going through the pain of switching to another vendor.

So, if you are manning a stand at CloudExpo Europe this year and you see me coming… remember my BS detector will be switched to “ON”!