Selling IT in EMEA: Keeping up with changing purchasing trends

One of the biggest challenges for established IT vendors in EMEA is retaining a clear vision and strategy in an increasingly complex marketplace. New competitors, with new solutions, are attempting to gain traction across the region, and the way that customers purchase IT has shifted.

For many vendors the big question is, how can they extend their marketplace whilst facing this challenge?

Reformulating your sales pitch to get back to basics is a good start.

Changing perceptions

Think about perception changes to identify the upselling opportunities in line with the changing purchasing trends. For example, when it comes to video, it is no longer considered an investment that is much different from any other UC technology spend, such as on VoIP or online presence, and instant messaging. Most organisations have at least one element of UC already in place. Improving the UC experience in a simple, cost-effective way is an attractive proposition for customers who are looking to streamline their technology spend while boosting staff and business productivity.

Working with the right partners is extremely important. One of the things that vendors could do is look to expand their partner base beyond the traditional installation and integration specialists. We are all working towards a common goal, and the customer is not looking just for voice, video or services – they could also be looking for the underlying networks and servers as an example. The voice industry has witnessed further growth through partner diversification measures, such as adding ITSPs to the network. This, in turn, opened up much of the largely untouched SMB market to vendors, who have historically only targeted the enterprises. Similar tactics could be identified for the video market by analysing the commonalities between the vendor and the ITSP operating spaces.

Look to 'as-a-service'

Selling services, not just solutions, is also key to maximising the current opportunities. 'As-a-service' models aren’t just for SMBs, they are also an attractive proposition for larger organisations that experience capacity peaks and troughs. Look at the retail sector, for example, where the current purchasing trends indicate clear seasonal peaks. Retail is where a hybrid or cloud-based model that allows expanding capacity on demand, using technologies such as cloud bursting, would offer a tangible benefit while keeping the business-critical communications live. It would not require the customer to invest in hardware or infrastructure, which could go unused during off-peak seasons.

Even though IT is mission critical for the modern workplaces their budgets are getting continually squeezed, often leading to the internal support departments being made responsible for monitoring and managing all of the IT solutions. To deliver more value to the business and focus on improving business productivity, IT needs to move away from being the people who ‘just’ fix things. Having the right support or managed services offering can help them achieve this.

The reality of the IT space right now is that there is a huge migration from on-premise CapEx-heavy models to service-led cloud-based models. This is evidenced in the new Cloud PBX offering with Microsoft Office 365; customers are demanding choice, and cloud services are becoming popular not just amongst SMBs but also across enterprises. The rise of the cloud has increased the popularity of IT-as-a-Service and the services wrap that can improve the experience around that. More emphasis needs to be placed on as-a-Service solutions and the services offering when speaking to customers to drive business growth.

Identifying new selling opportunities

Identify new IT selling opportunities by keeping on top of changes in the purchasing trends that are driven by the vertical markets and business function leaders with department owned IT budgets. Look at each technology and each segment of the market to develop a strategy that caters to their business objectives.

Different products and solutions might map to different verticals in different ways, and will similarly differ for each business function as well. Most business function leaders tend to be quite familiar with video collaboration for group meetings. Speak their language and identify business issues that these decision-makers could face keeping in mind that they are not IT specialists. For instance, HR decision-makers could be mapped to function-specific solutions for conducting live training sessions and enabling flexible working for employees.

This same approach works across vertical markets. In education, video collaboration can be used to add value to learning and teaching, and not just as an administrative tool. Higher education establishments can use live video streaming, recording and archiving content management capabilities to offer distance-learning courses. This improves access to education through increasing the number of students they can teach on each course, negating the need for duplicate lectures and improving student satisfaction.

All of this results in better margins for the faculty and business of the educational institution. In secondary context, video collaboration can also improve cost efficiencies, when needed, for contracting external subject experts, diversify the curriculum offering and improve ‘field trip’ opportunities, all on a budget. Adjusting your approach to accommodate the vertical market requirements will help demystify the untapped pool of opportunities.

In some vertical markets you need specialised endpoints for the environments, for example in healthcare they have to meet strict medical standards. You might need qualified status to supply to certain sectors; government organisations often require suppliers to be registered to serve a tender framework. In both of these situations you can still tap the market by teaming up with the right partners. Whether you are an integrator looking for the right endpoints, a niche technology vendor looking for a service provider, or an ITSP in need of all the pieces of the jigsaw to meet your customer’s needs, it’s all about creating new mutually beneficial partnerships and turning them into opportunities.

Marco Landi, Polycom EMEA President