When it comes to selling cloud-based services and solutions to small and midsize businesses, many resellers, integrators, and managed service providers struggle to make the business case. Part of the reason is that the customers, and at times even the solution providers, just aren't sure where cloud offerings fit into the solutions mix.
To help clear up the confusion, at least in part, I would like to offer a few ways in which many of our channel partners have overcome customers' or prospects' lukewarm responses to cloud backup sales pitches. These tips and practices will help you gain more clarity on where, specifically, the cloud can help your customers, and provide a couple of proven practices for successfully selling cloud backup and recovery.
Start with a BDR Assessment
My first piece of advice for existing customers is this: Consider performing a backup and disaster recovery assessment prior to pitching your products and services. A BDR assessment entails looking at all the ways your customer's company is currently backing up its data and comparing that with what the company should be doing to back up its data, based on best practices of other companies in its particular industry.
For example, many businesses commonly use tape backup. If you discover that a healthcare customer is backing up its data to tape, this knowledge can lead to good follow-up questions on your part, such as:
1. How does your tape management process work? Essentially, you want to determine who manages the tapes and how often they are rotated. You also need to find out if the tapes are stored off premises, and if so, what process is used from start to finish. This line of questioning can reveal security and reliability problems of which the customer may not be aware. If tapes are stored off premises and they are not secured, for instance, it could lead to a major fine in addition to damaging the business's reputation. Additionally, if the tape backup process isn't automated, there is a good chance that backups are not being performed on a regular basis, making the threat of data loss even greater.
2. When was the last time you tried to do a restore from tape? This question can help a customer self-discover just how expensive tape backup can be, by the several days the company's network will be down while a new server is being built and all data assets are being retrieved from tape. Additionally, silent data corruption, also known as undetected data corruption, can be a major concern with tape media.
You can offer this kind of backup and disaster recovery consultation as a promotion for more serious, well-qualified prospects. A BDR assessment enables you to perform a deep exploration of a customer's IT environment and will inevitably reveal one, if not multiple, IT issues of which the company may not even be aware. The findings from an assessment will help you engage in a much more consultative discussion with your customer, beyond the surface-level IT problem of the week and into the overall health of the IT infrastructure. The BDR assessment is also the catalyst that enables you to sit down and talk about your customer's business goals and the growth barriers the company is facing.
Many SMBs make IT decisions blindly, so investing time in assessments and consultations provides a prime opportunity for solution providers to educate clients and become trusted business advisers in the process. Much like quarterly business reviews, BDR assessments provide resellers and MSPs with an open door through which to engage customers about their current and future business needs.
Don't Make Assumptions
Even if your customer has some kind of backup system in place, don't assume it's providing all the protection your client needs-especially if the client operates in a regulated vertical such as healthcare. Maryland healthcare provider Cignet Health illustrates why. The practice was fined more than $4.3 million for failing to provide patient records to 41 individuals who had requested them. Whether the healthcare company was backing up its data to tape and the tape media became corrupted or files were accidentally deleted off their server, either of these situations could have been easily remedied with a BDR solution for a negligible monthly cost compared with the cost of the fine.
Encryption is also a big deal within the healthcare vertical and in other highly regulated industries such as banking/finance and legal. Yet according to the latest data from security researcher Ponemon Institute LLC, less than one-third of organizations encrypt their data. Adding this extra layer of protection to your customers' on-site and cloud backups is a big differentiator that will distinguish your company from the average IT services firm.
Consider Adjacent Cloud Services
As you begin having more consultative discussions with your SMB customer base, be sure to also explore how and where adjacent cloud technologies may offer value. If your customer is already comfortable with cloud backup, present the advantages of moving more of the company's business environment into the cloud, such as leveraging hosted unified communications solutions to resolve collaboration issues or developing customized SaaS apps to drive customer engagement.
In some cases, understanding the value that cloud solutions and services offer to a particular vertical can go a long way in helping you engage decision makers. After selling a cloud backup solution to a healthcare client, for instance, you should discuss the value of accessing electronic medical records in the cloud-and protecting your customer's IT infrastructure with a hosted security solution.
A final piece of advice: Never itemize your cloud solutions. Rather, roll your entire cloud offering-starting with backup, service, and support-into a managed services contract that presents your customers with a monthly fee, not a capital expense figure. Remember, it isn't about the individual products you're selling; it's about the overall business advantage you can provide to your customers as their trusted IT and business adviser.
NEAL BRADBURY is a co-founder and the vice president of channel development at Intronis Inc., a Chelmsford, Mass.-based cloud backup and disaster recovery solution provider for the SMB IT channel.