How to shortlist prospective Cloud clients?

VMware cloud Desktop
Cloud, the technology that redefined the IT landscape a few years ago, is an attractive value proposition for most businesses.

However, cloud providers still find it hard to get the right customers for their cloud products. The scenario is no better for incumbent providers who have built robust channel partner networks across the world. To survive in today’s competitive market cloud providers need to adopt a highly focused sales strategy that would help them identify the potential champions who could add value to their business in terms of revenue and goodwill.

Selling cloud is a difficult proposition, not just because it’s a relatively new concept but because there are several misconceptions associated with cloud. To break in to the legacy IT set-up of the customer and replace it with the novel Cloud model, you need to employ an aggressive sales strategy supported by a crew of market insight specialists who will provide valuable information on the trends that drive cloud adoption and suggest ways to address the concerns arising from the customers.

Who are they?

While there is no single approach that may be applied in all the scenarios, there are many ways to identify and acquire new customers. One such way is to segment the customers into different categories such as:

# Early Adopters
Strategic Buyers
Wait-and-Watch Players

The above categories of customers differ drastically in their approach to cloud, so your sales strategy should be molded to identify and address the needs of each category of buyers.

For example, Early Adopters are among the best targets because they are the ones who have already realized the benefits of cloud and are ready for the next level of IT transformation using cloud. They contribute to the majority of the cloud revenue today. Targeting this customer group with your cloud strategy requires a thorough understanding of the business models of these customers. With the right products tailored for their needs, you can turn these targets into a long-term business partners driving your cloud sales.

Innovators are those who are ready to experiment Cloud for their IT set-up. Typically small businesses and startups fall in this group, but established businesses that view cloud as a cost-effective alternative to traditional IT set-up may also join the bandwagon as cloud innovators.

However, Innovators may present a risky deal especially because they are more oriented towards the cost benefits of cloud and may be looking at immediate returns from their investment. There’s a tendency among these customers to shift from one provider to another until they are convinced about the way cloud impacts their business. Here, you need to adopt a selling strategy that will address the cost concerns of these customers while also bringing tangible returns to their investment within the stipulated trial period.

Strategic Buyers are the category whose buying decision is influenced by factors like cost, competency and security. They are typically the ones that are convinced about the benefits of cloud and are likely to adopt a balanced approach among these factors , meaning CIOs of these firms are probably the most difficult to approach. The sales approach in such cases should encompass appropriate methods to target each of these elements. Like Innovators, Strategic Buyers are highly prospective but the effort required to turn them to prospective buyers is much more than that required in Early Adopters.

As the name suggests, Wait-and-Watch Players are not ready to adopt cloud merely based on the promises from a couple of providers; rather they will wait to see the results from peers, watch the growth of cloud penetration, analyze new trends and technologies, and explore multiple options available in the market. They are among the toughest targets but once trapped, they will remain as an invaluable addition to your business.

Deciding among Public, Hybrid and Private Champions

Mostly you see that customers are unable to decide among public, hybrid and private clouds. Since the choice of cloud depends on a number of factors, selling the three cloud types demand three different approaches and selling strategies. For example, public cloud seekers may be attracted by the price offering, but are likely to be affected by the security concerns at a later stage of their deployment.

While Hybrid cloud and Private cloud deliver better results in terms of security, customers in this category may be worried about the RoI and associated benefits. The challenge here is to identify the right model and convince them about its benefits. To turn such prospects into champions, you need to go deeper to understand the drivers and barriers to cloud adoption among these customers.

Which Industries/ Service Models to Focus On?

Cloud providers offering custom solutions may focus on specific business models like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), cloud desktops, e-commerce platforms, etc. Service segmentation is beneficial as it helps them offer the same tailored solutions to multiple customers looking for the same business model. Successful providers like exemplify the benefits of such models. In the same way, providers can focus on specific industries like Healthcare, Retail, Hospitality, etc. The advantage of this approach is that Sales can link their go-to-market tactics to the specific industries they are catering to and optimize its resources to gain maximum results.

Selling Cloud: The Final Call

Now, after realizing the fact that cloud is not an easy product, there is no reason to get disheartened at the hostile attitude of your prospects. The hostility is built up on the misconceptions associated with cloud, especially the public cloud. Customers move to a cloud platform whenever they need to scale their operations at the switch of a button.

Enterprises which can ensure high-level security at their end ward off the security concerns associated with cloud whereas for others security in public cloud remains a concern. However, the silver lining is that despite these concerns, there is no turndown for public cloud. Same is the case with hybrid clouds and private clouds. No doubt, customers who have realized the potential of the cloud become the innate advocates of cloud services, be it public, hybrid or private cloud. Meanwhile you need to look out for other potential customers who are on the brim of transformation to cloud and tap them effectively with your strong sales/marketing approach.

In a nutshell, the task of identifying the right customer for your cloud revolves around several elements that influence the buying decisions of the prospects. Thus it is important that you employ the right go-to-market strategy that addresses the customer pain points. Also, in the world of cloud, the task is not to sell a product only – the task at hand is to sell AND most importantly, drive consumption. The requirement is to ensure that while the purchase happens, the usage and thereby the consumption is also an absolute focus.

Appropriate pricing strategy is required to entice the right customers to the right offering. Cloud is cost effective from a Capex perspective because enterprises can opt for pay-as-you-grow basis. There are several free cloud options to experiment as well. In this context, pricing of your cloud services will clearly make a difference in your sales approach.

The knowledge and experience in driving consumption in this market is an absolute key in order to target incremental and consistently growing revenues. If you are an organisation that’s focusing on selling and driving cloud consumption, you need to absolutely partner with experts who can become your extended sales force to:

Increase awareness
Drive readiness in the eco-system to help faster adoption
Drive activation
Grow usage
Drive consumption

Remember: Not everyone is a target for your cloud offering. Listen to them patiently to identify who the potential champions are and then streamline your sales strategies in their direction.
Snehashish Bhattacharjee
Snehahshish Bhattacharjee, global CEO and co-founder, Denave