The Voice of the Channel


Collaborative Selling, Part IV

Three Strategies to Help Bridge the Gap Between Business and Technical Decision Makers

By Theresa Caragol, Achieve Unite Founder & CEO

Being a Trusted Advisor to your customers is not as easy as it used to be. Gone are the days of dealing with one decision maker in an organization and selling them a couple of boxes every few months. We live in a services world – driven by an OpEx business model. This creates a lot of new opportunity for us to sell to our customers, but it also introduces new challenges.

Read on for strategies on how to succeed in this new IT world, collaborate with multiple decision makers with different goals and help solve your customers' technical and business needs.

Jim Schwartz, Sr Director, Global Channel Programs, Sungard AS

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According to a CEB study, on average 6.8 decision makers are involved in most IT purchases, and the average buying group now consists of 3.4 different functions.

With the advent of cloud, we see business models dramatically shifting and disrupting the industry.  Some well-known examples include Airbnb, Netflix and Uber. Agility and velocity have become the name of the game. Companies cannot afford to just maintain the status quo and strive for healthy, incremental growth. They need to be ready to take advantage of the next paradigm change. This means that IT solutions are no longer just about operations. They are a conduit to driving business growth, so business leaders across the organization need to be engaged.

The business leader could be the CEO who is accountable to shareholder equity and is thinking about the long-term growth of the company or it could be a Line of Business decision maker like a CMO who is trying to implement a game-changing e-commerce engine. As a result, we now have the CEO/business leaders and the CIO sitting at the same table each with their own priorities.

We see this dynamic often when it comes to cloud migration strategies. The CEO knows the Cloud is the key to innovation, but they may not understand the technical considerations that need to be addressed when moving to the cloud nor do they understand a risk of a poorly planned migration. On the other hand, the CTO knows these things intimately and wants to carefully map out a plan that ensures business continuity while capitalizing on the advantages of the cloud.

Enter... you, the trusted partner. Now what?

A collaborative selling approach will enable you to weave business and technical considerations into discussions to create a greater understanding of all stakeholders within your customer environment and help you drive a holistic approach with all parties onboard.

Here are 3 key steps you can take to bridge the connections and negotiate a better outcome for your customers:

  1. Gather all stakeholders in one meeting to review their priorities and requirements for the solution. Be sure to understand both the technical specifications and the business objectives, the potential business impact and any potential risks.
  2. Establish a regular communication cadence to keep all parties connected and updated on the state of the project. 
  3. When presenting the solution, it's important to present the business impact of deploying the solution as well as a plan for risk mitigation. By tying the technology to the corporate function it will serve and the business impact that will result, you can bridge the gap between business and technical considerations.
When done right, collaborative selling will help you to connect with each decision maker and ultimately create a shared understanding across the customer organization. This will further solidify you as a trusted advisor to your customer while also helping ensure you deliver a solution that better meets their cross-organizational needs.

As the market evolves, the customer dynamic will also change. Read our next post, the fifth in this six-part series, to learn how Collaborative Selling will help you navigate to important trends in 2018.

Theresa Caragol is founder and CEO of TCC, LLC, and Achieve Unite, a strategic advisory firm that provides business acceleration services to global enterprise. She has more than 20 years' experience in building and managing multi-million-dollar indirect channel teams and strategic alliance business and programs from inception to sales success. Prior to founding TCC, Theresa held senior executive roles at Extreme Networks, Ciena and Nortel.

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