The traditional sales model – sell them on the benefits, close the sale, deliver the product – is outdated in the digital world. Modern salespeople require different skills and far greater knowledge to sell the cloud, writes Andrew Cruise, MD of Routed.

There can be little doubt that cloud computing is one of the key enablers of digital transformation. With its ability to enable businesses to modernise their IT infrastructure and adopt the latest technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), as well as to innovate more rapidly, it is no surprise that some in the industry have described it as the largest change in data centre infrastructure since the 1980s.


This is borne out by statistics that show the local cloud computing market experienced growth of 38% last year, while the same report indicates that by 2027, the cloud computing market in SA should be worth some R79,7-billion.

While the impact of this growth is being widely felt, one group it has had a profound impact on is technology salespeople – changing both what, and how, they sell.


Offer a better experience

For cloud sales people, the first thing to recognise is that unlike in the past, you aren’t trying to sell a new product or new way of managing data, so much as you are focusing on the customer’s existing products and how your solutions can offer a better experience.

Selling the cloud to a customer is akin to selling them a car – your sales pitch would not be about explaining that a car is faster than using a bus. Rather, the pitch would focus on why they need a new model and why your brand is best.

It is also critical to have strong listening skills, and to listen carefully to your leads. Be willing to ask them key questions and listen intently to their responses, in order to clearly understand what they know and afford you the chance to speak their language. Remember, you don’t want your client to get lost in the jargon, but neither do you want to appear condescending when explaining it.


Do your research

It should be obvious that a good sales pitch begins with quality research. This means not only understanding the cloud itself well, but also the specific client’s business. With such foreknowledge, you should be able to develop a plan to close the sale based on their current knowledge, language and needs.

Armed with effective research, salespeople can direct the client to focus on the tangible benefits and solutions that these services bring. You should be prepared to communicate the critical benefits succinctly, such as how the integration of cloud technology can deliver stronger security, improved cost savings, and better real-time collaboration opportunities.

If you hone in on the most practical advantages, you can more easily demonstrate how cloud services can revolutionise the way they do business. And achieving this will translate into stronger relationships with the client, that ultimately lead to further successful deals.


Tackle security concerns

Perhaps the single biggest concern for those not yet in the cloud is the perceived security challenge it represents. In fact, it has been reported that more than 60% of IT decision makers still consider on-premise security to be more effective than its cloud equivalent.

This creates a unique problem for cloud solution salespeople – namely that before you can make further progress with a sale, you will have to allay these concerns. The best approach here is to frame a move to the cloud as a strategic shift in risk, as opposed to additional risk. You want to sell the idea that by choosing you as a provider, the client is essentially offloading their risk onto your operation.

At the same time, you must make your point that cloud solutions consistently improve operational efficiency. This means that the client can leverage economies of scale in ways that were not possible before. Place the focus on the technology being evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Ensure they understand the long-term benefits of the cloud – including the value of offloading risk – and position your business as one of the leaders in this ongoing evolution within the cloud space.


Provide proof

Start small, to keep cost low for the client, and choose applications that, when improved by the cloud, will deliver value in the short term. Starting small also positions you to identify and address any implementation-related challenges, and be able to solve them on a more manageable scale.

With a smaller proof-of-concept approach, you help the client to become more at ease with the technology, while also demonstrating tangible benefits to them. As they begin to recognise the value of the investment, it becomes much easier to expand the scope of the engagement.

When choosing the pilot project, it should be something that addresses an obvious business need, and can thus establish an immediate benefit. If the scope is kept small, it will deliver value more rapidly. At the same time, remember that it must still be a big enough project that the client’s IT team is able to begin developing their foundational cloud skills.


Continuous learning

The cloud salesperson needs to understand the customer’s business even better than the customer, in order to identify opportunities to change the way the customer does business. Of course, cloud is constantly evolving, which means that to always be in a position to identify such opportunities, the need to remain ahead of the cloud curve.

The key to achieving this is for the salesperson to move beyond the traditional approach of building the relationship and knowing the product. While these remain important to the sale, the ability to solve the complex problems the client faces, and thus become a trusted member of the customer’s own IT team, is really what is key.

And the best way to achieve continuous success is to stay ahead of industry trends – something that can only be done by inculcating a culture of continuous learning, and a dedicated focus on reading up on the latest trends and focuses in this arena. Keeping your knowledge on cloud up to date remains one of the best ways to position yourself as a knowledgeable and trusted advisor in the client’s eyes.