In an earlier post I talked about why it is critical that Microsoft Partners transform their business to capitalize on (and survive in) the Cloud. One of the things that I have heard when talking to Partners is how hard this transformation is. And it is. To transform is to radically change what you were and this can be painful in many cases. But the choice is clear, it’s either deal with the pain and transform or watch your business lose out on the massive opportunity that Cloud brings.
One of the areas where Partners can start the process is with the sales teams – teams which have likely been very successful at transaction selling over the years. If you examine the structure and make up of your sales teams you will likely find a well-oiled machine designed to sell licenses, maintenance, integration, and all the things that made Partner businesses successful over the years. But it is important to note that selling recurrent, subscription based software and services is very different from the traditional transaction selling – it requires a very different skill set and attitude. More than that, it requires new processes and possibly new compensation plans.
There is a very good book that I highly recommend called “Consumption Economics” (Consumption Economics) which looks very deeply into core elements of software as a service, subscription selling and recurrent revenue. In a chapter on selling in the recurrent world of cloud solutions the authors say “Winning profitable new customers in cloud, managed service and outsourcing deals will take very different skills and steps. We need salespeople who think on their feet, absorb complexity and uncertainty, and are uncomfortable selling with canned pitches – ones who are business experts much more than sellers of speeds and feeds.”
Recently at a regional Microsoft Partner conference, I heard Jason Milgram, CEO of Champions, a Florida based MSFT Partner, talk about their transformation process. Jason said he had to create a brand new sales team (initially consisting of one person) to focus 100% on their cloud business. His main sales team was not interested in converting from traditional on-premises based licensing, so he left them to continue in the traditional transaction selling. Today that company has totally transformed and is incredibly successful – often used as a case study for other Microsoft Partners. The CEO indicated that he would never have been able to convert his original sales team into an effective cloud sales team wholesale – he had to start from scratch, even if it was just with one person initially. Eventually, when the one person was successful and the lifetime value of the customers was discovered, the wider sales team followed suit.
Whatever you decide, it is key to understand that transformation is not easy. If you start with a new sales team you cannot use the same metrics, the same compensation and the same expectations in the same timeframe. It’s a different business and it will take time, effort, patience and commitment to be successful.
Kevin Khelawan is a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Teleios Systems Ltd - a gold-certified Microsoft Partner, founded in 1997 and based in Trinidad & Tobago. Kevin is also the President of the International Association of Microsoft Partner Channel (IAMPC) West Indies Chapter.