IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Cloud: No Selling Required

Technology & Beyond introduces customers to new opportunities and new ways of thinking, rather than “selling” a service. By Mike Maendler

We don't "sell" at Technology & Beyond. I haven't sold a day in my life. We provide customers and potential customers with opportunities and introduce them to new technologies and ways of thinking. That's the key to moving customers to new models and new technologies: We provide enough information for them to make decisions about what they need for their business. So moving our customers to a managed services model was pretty easy. We told them: We want to be proactive. We know equipment will fail, and a new computer will not run as fast six months after you purchase it. Our proactive model addresses all those issues. So instead of reacting to an emergency, we can monitor and see trending issues and address them before they become critical. Downtime costs money, and we help customers understand that. What does half a day down on a PC or server translate to in dollars? Take email, for example; it's now a critical business tool and people will go sideways if their email is down. Is there a cost for managed services? Sure, but it's a scalable model, and uptime and speed of recovery are directly related to what is spent for services. We can have a customer on a 15-minute catastrophic recovery, but it's more expensive. We explain that, as well as CapEx vs. OpEx. An operational expense can fluctuate and adjust while a capital expense is fixed. Our customers find OpEx more appealing because it adjusts as their needs change. With this services model, customers who encounter tough economic times can reduce their services and we can still support them, not lose them, while they work their way through their difficulties. WHY CLOUD SELLS ITSELF
While this proactive model is better, no matter what you do you will still run into elements of failure-desktops, components, and servers will fail. We were early adopters of the cloud because it helps eliminate some of those points of failure. Some customers look at the risk of going into cloud. They think they won't have control over information, but the truth is they have more control because there is more redundancy, more backup, more infrastructure-more than a typical business could afford. The only risk is if they do not have an adequate Internet connection. With cloud, hardware becomes less important. And customers gain reliability, redundancy, and typically speed because they are working on a more powerful infrastructure. Another benefit is they can more easily and cost-effectively increase the capability of any of their cloud resources. So providing our customers with this information is how we move them to cloud. When we become a company's IT provider, we feel that we are employees, not contractors. We were employed to provide services, to care about the company-which is our company, and we will offer solutions, not a sales pitch. We have been providing cloud services for about two years, and now about 90 percent of our business is coming from cloud. New businesses are going right to the cloud. It's a no-brainer because the start-up cost is nil; it's just a matter of deciding how much service and storage you want. There are some challenges to providing cloud services, however. Finding cloud partners is the hardest part. The lesson I've learned is talk to providers and get to know them first. If you have trouble with the human contact element you probably don't have the provider you need. Before we engage a vendor we call them. We call the support team and see what it takes to get through to someone. If we are satisfied, then we work with and examine the product. Our current providers are very large but we can talk to anyone in any part of the organization. Another area we focus on, especially for the future, is to look at what the younger generation is doing now-not in business but at home. Most home users are already active in the cloud. They don't technically know what it is, but they have access to their music, movies, and photos anywhere they go. These users are coming into business wanting the same capabilities they have at home, so they're introducing home-grade cloud services into the business environment. That's where we come in. We'll tell them: That's a great idea, but hold on. If you want to use something like Dropbox, how about we use a business-grade equivalent solution that allows you to control data integrity and security, and we give you a means that enables you to control BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). And if you're using home-level apps, how about moving to business-grade apps? Once a customer is introduced to a single service in the cloud, the company's ability to embrace other services is far easier. I can walk into a new or potential client, find the greatest point of pain, and offer a solution. We build credibility and turn the relationship into an opportunity to introduce the customer to more products and services. No selling required.
Mike Maendler
CEO, Technology & Beyond Founded: 1999 Number of employees: 11 Location: Midlothian, Texas Website: Company focus: We strive to make using technology beyond simple. Favorite part of my job: People. Our customers are friends; we care about them and their business success. Least favorite part: The users, and trying to drill down and decipher what the real problem is What people would be surprised to know about me: I was a psychology (not technology) major in college. I blew up the first computer I owned and my wife wouldn't let me touch it afterwards.

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