4 Trends Influencing the Selling and Buying of IT Security Solutions

Technology and market trends are influencing the evolution that is taking place in the IT security landscape. Big Data, mobility, the Cloud, and the Internet of Things have made dramatic changes in IT network accessibility, flexibility, agility, overall performance, and most important of all, IT security.

However, risks are part of doing business and IT security is a present and real concern — from infrastructure to servers, applications, and endpoint devices. In recent years, security breaches resulting in huge financial and reputation losses have not been rare. The Target Corporation data breach, the JP Morgan Chase hack, and the millions of potentially compromised user records at Adobe are security eye-openers that can be remedied with proper security measures.

Cybercrime will continue to grow and have bottom-line financial impact due to ongoing and new vulnerabilities.

Cyber attacks are a reality and attackers are seeing more opportunities in the Cloud and the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) environment. They employ targeted attacks, advanced persistent threats (APTs), and other evasive techniques without being detected, at least for some time.

It’s important Cloud providers and businesses work together to craft a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA). It should include a fail-proof security provision to serve the customer’s unique needs. Company IT departments should likewise review BYOD programs and implement secure mobile device management (MDM) solutions.

Customers place higher priority on functionality over cost.

IT security cost is a big consideration, but recent Gatepoint Research respondents were more interested in how security solutions can meet unique requirements. For instance, can the solutions do what they are looking for? More than the ease of use, can the solutions meet their objectives? Will they spend only for the features they need?

Another Gatepoint Research discovery is the growing IT security budgets in mid-sized, retail, and health care companies.

Publicized hacks in the retail and health care sectors have resulted in massive credit card thefts and patient data exposure, respectively. Such developments offer an opportunity for vendors, Service Providers, Telecom Agents, Solutions Providers, and other IT security sales channels to step up marketing and sales efforts in these market segments. IT security sellers must understand buyer behaviors and the nature of security needs in these sectors amid changing technology trends.

The security basics are indispensable.

Telecom Agents and the rest of the IT security sales chain need to revisit the basic security programs of their customers. Virus protection is still a key security option in all layers of the security network. Mobile storage security can be achieved through hard drive, flash drive, and optical disc encryption as well as implementing anti-malware solutions, remote management, and options to wipe out lost, stolen, or compromised devices. Secure logging, authentication, and encryption also ensure a more efficient and protected IT security infrastructure.

With the growing intensity and sophistication of cybercrime, a purposeful effort at proactive threat detection and prevention is ever better now than a struggle at recovery and reconstruction later. Overall, sellers who exude a sincere concern for their customers’ IT security needs will always win more business.

5 Tips to Preserve Successful Telecom Alliances

In a massively networked world, telecommunications play the crucial role of connecting people, devices, and processes in the information community anytime and anywhere. Globalization, digitization, and intensifying competition are the driving forces behind the on-going telecom alliance movement where simple licensing agreements, affiliate marketing efforts, joint ventures, consortiums, mergers, and acquisitions are becoming increasingly common.

In a paper titled,“Strategic Alliances in the Telecommunications Sector,” author Eva Meurling, LL.M., states that about 80% of all strategic alliances are dissolved at an early stage because they do not achieve the desired goals. Often, partners fail to do their part of the bargain in terms of finance, marketing, management, and technology. More significantly, partners frequently gave insufficient attention to the underlying factors that create truly lasting alliances. Here are some of them:

Choice of Partners

Alliances come in different forms and sizes and from divergent locations.Telecom operators can partner with each other, or with other players in the field, such as non-telecom companies, telecom agents, Value-Added Resellers (VARs), or managed service providers (MSPs). Choosing the right partner is the first logical step to forging a meaningful alliance that fulfills the partners’ mutual needs. This early stage determines whether a potential partnership offers the right mix of resources, capabilities, and commitment that will add value to the new alliance.

Mapping  Alliance Goals with Clarity

By diligently learning about each other’s objectives and agreeing on them, partners are better able to plan a common direction for their alliance. Partners must clearly map out:

  • A shared purpose
  • The processes by which the agreed purpose is to be realized
  • The performance expectations of the strategic alliance

Documenting the Alliance Agreement 

Putting every term, condition, and provision on paper ensures that the rights of all the partners are properly protected during and after the life of the alliance. A formal agreement also serves as a reference document for duties and responsibilities, accountability, disputes, claims, and other legal issues. More importantly, the partnership contract functions as a general guide to the future development of the alliance, ensuring that it is in accordance with the agreed-upon objectives and plans.

Trust and Credibility

Partners depend on each other to share information in order to satisfy mutual goals. Trust depends on a complete awareness of each partner’s true intentions, honesty about problems, openness to disagreement, and the commitment to maintaining confidentiality of trade secrets and key information. Credibility means that each partner believes in the other’s capabilities. Credible partners are expected to share knowledge and competencies freely in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration.

Communicating and Validating

Communication in alliances should be a two-way process where messages are sent, received, and responded to efficiently. Regularly validating that messages have been received, and understood as intended, helps partners bond better and so cultivate a robust alliance. Listening is an important component of effective communication. It not only develops transparency, openness, and a clear understanding of issues, but also generates new ideas to foster healthy relationships.

The telecommunications market is one of the largest economic sectors of the world. Analysts foresee a growth in strategic alliances as telecom companies try to get ahead. Successful telecom alliances are the key to acquiring new technology and skills, discovering new markets, and benefiting from the economies of scale, while thriving in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Buyer Personas Help Guide Customers Through Their Journey

Successfully selling telecommunications services requires in-depth knowledge of clients and their needs. Telecom buyers increasingly demand custom solutions, tailored to their exact situations. Telecom agents who understand this, and look to fill those specific needs, will be far more successful in finding steady clients.

For many companies, the best way of achieving this is with detailed “buyer personas.” These personas can then inform and guide their sales processes to maximize conversions of website visitors to clients.

Building Accurate Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is, in a nutshell, something like a profile or character sheet. It’s a multi-page document that attempts to describe, as accurately as possible, a typical client or buyer and their overall situation. 

What goes into a particular company’s buyer persona will be wholly individual to them, based on their own business goals and client base.  However, a well-made buyer persona will usually include most or all of the following elements of a typical buyer:

  • Basic demographics and socioeconomic indicators

  • Their position/role within their company

  • The typical buying process at that company

  • Sources of information they use for research

  • The challenges they face, at home and at work

  • Common problems at work they’re looking to solve

  • Services that frequently appeal to these buyers 

While every buyer will be different, a well-written buyer persona will provide a good overview for sales and marketing purposes. The better individual buyers are understood, the easier it becomes to pitch solutions that will appeal to them personally and, thus, seem better-suited for the company they represent.

Usually, the best way to gather this information is through direct research. Satisfaction surveys and face-to-face interviews can provide a wealth of valid data in building personas.

The Buyer’s Journey
Sales experts generally break the process down from the point of view of the buyer, identifying three common stages in the purchase process. Most, if not all, buyers will be following this same basic “journey.” The stages are:

1 – Awareness
At this point, the buyer becomes aware of a problem that’s affecting their productivity or happiness. At this stage, they may or may not be aware of solutions, just the underlying problem.

2 – Research
Having identified a problem, they start taking steps to rectify it. This is virtually always accomplished through research of some fashion. They attempt to educate themselves on the topic and, very frequently, begin thinking about budgeting and buying criteria in preparation for pitching a purchase to their boss.

3 – Decision
Having done the research, and created buying criteria, they commit to a single purchase that hopefully fulfills those criteria.

To make sales, it’s vital that a company insert itself into this process as early as possible. Ideally, the right piece of messaging can even create awareness by displaying solutions to a problem the buyer is experiencing, but had not yet identified as a problem. Failing that, a company should work towards being discovered as early in the research process as possible. The first few solutions a buyer discovers are likely to be the ones given the most consideration.

Or, put another way, the further buyers are along in their journey, the harder it becomes to change their path.

Well-crafted buyer personas make this process much easier by identifying key needs and motivations for buyers. When a telecom agent understands the problems that clients face, it becomes much easier to ensure that their message is heard by buyers early enough for their product to become a serious buying option.

By combining data-gathering and focused messaging, independent agents will have an easier time appealing to new clients.

Helping Customers Sell Themselves on SaaS Services

The push among businesses to adopt Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options is only gaining momentum. The SaaS industry is adding billions of dollars of growth every year, making it a huge growth market.

What makes SaaS sales unique is that most companies investigating SaaS already want it. They are aware of many of its benefits, but need reassurance that SaaS implementations exist that will fit their individual needs.

By and large, selling SaaS boils down to emphasizing seven key aspects and demonstrating how they can be adapted to the specific client’s business. Then, clients should really sell themselves on the relationship.

7 Key Factors Driving SaaS Sales

Outlining the seven key benefits of SaaS can help transition into a conversation about features and the client’s systems.

1.  Lower upfront costs. SaaS requires little or no new on-site hardware, and other costs are often amoritized into the monthly bill.

2.  Fewer IT burdens. SaaS moves most or all daily IT work onto off-site staff and reduces internal IT department needs.

3.  Less long-term commitment. SaaS requires fewer hardware investments and usually no long-term contracts, so businesses have freedom to explore other services if the first try doesn’t work out.

4.  Rapid rollout. Once again, less hardware and fewer employees required means a quicker path from planning to practical implementation.

5.  Greater flexibility. Services can be added, changed, modified, or swapped out at will. For instance, if business needs change drastically in six months, SaaS services can be updated within days or even hours.

6.  Modern software compatibility. Cloud-based software seems to be the wave of the future and being tied to terrestrial hardware can hold companies back. SaaS solutions can be easily updated to stay cutting-edge.

7.  Go-anywhere access. It’s a global business environment. Employees should be able to work from anywhere.

With these key factors on the table, it should be easy to get potential clients to start thinking about how to improve their own systems. The only thing they really want to hear is that their desires can be fulfilled.

Helping Customers Sell Themselves

If the client needs a few incentives, these are the most effective at overcoming pain points, pricing concerns, or the fear of changing computer systems.

I. Free Demos

A month of free service won’t just sell a customer on the utility value of the software; it’s likely customers will have to migrate systems over just to try it out. And with that hard work done, why would they go back?

II. Low Introductory Rates

Make the up-front costs as low as possible and spread out the rest into the monthly service plan. Up-front costs are the #1 pain point for businesses upgrading systems.

Effective SaaS Sales Build Bridges and Trust

For most leads investigating SaaS, the question isn’t whether they want it. The question is whether they can find a SaaS implementation that meets their needs. A positive client-focused approach, paired with a can-happen attitude, builds the trust needed to seal a new partnership.

Crafting a Compelling Cloud Game Plan

Increasing cloud adaption is bringing VARs and MSPs at the crossroads of their careers. Similarly, partners may stand to lose valuable affiliates who have helped grow their businesses. SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) and cloud are more than just buzzwords. They are redefining the way people do business and the way that they live in the name of cost-effectiveness, ease of use, and flexibility.

VARs and MSPs are poised to rethink and transition their marketing and sales options to a recurring revenue model—especially because their reluctance seems to be holding back partner sales of cloud solutions.

VARs and MSPs have long basked in their comfort zones of annuity-based or bundled solutions revenue models. However, as businesses give more focus to cost savings, the cloud is fast becoming an attractive alternative. Recurring revenue is something new to VARs and MSPs, and it may take time for them to leave the model they are accustomed to.

What can make VARs and MSPs change their mind? One thing is quite clear: VARs and MSPs are needed. End users trust them as advisors and want to be served by them.

A game plan that sells

Cloud providers or partners need to craft a compelling game plan that sells and a revenue scheme that is attractive to VARs and MSPs. The game plan may look like this:

Restructure the cloud sales team. The skills of people selling cloud services are totally different from those of people selling on-premise solutions. Companies need to revisit the cloud sales team setup and infuse new skills and competencies where needed.

Create a new sales team.  A new sales team with an entirely new profile and a higher level of skills can be a good new start. Hiring parties need to make sure that the new hires possess the necessary business acumen, technical skills, and experience for an impactful kickoff.

Set the right incentive system. Most cloud sales are subscription-based deals with recurring revenues. However, in an integrated sales team model, one-time sales, especially of major products or services, do happen. Companies should devise a balanced sales incentive scheme so that sellers are not solely motivated to sell the one-time deals that are hard to predict and that do not ensure regular revenue. Another strategy is to bundle a number of value-added services around cloud offerings, which means added revenue for the company and increased commissions for the resellers.

Oblige sales team members to generate new customers. Growing sales is not as easy as sustaining sales. Companies need to get their sellers to agree on reasonable sales goals through the generation of new customers.

Instill in VARs and MSPs the benefits that they will get for their businesses. From a strategic standpoint, VARs and MSPs stand to get additional business through cross-selling opportunities. After winning their first sale, this could be an entry point into organizations for other cloud solutions like backup, security, or consultation as well as their traditional IT needs.

The multiple forces of change—new mobile technologies, social media, changing end user expectations—are impacting VAR and MSP options. Now that the door to the cloud is open, it is up to them whether they want to have the edge or lag behind.

Is It Time to Add SIP Trunking as a Service Offering?

As companies upgrade their internal databases, networks, and other communications, they usually find that they have excess capacity beyond their current needs. Given the rise in virtualized and Cloud-based services, it’s inevitable that many see this as an opportunity for further monetization. If a company is only using half of the hardware’s capacity, why not find a business that will pay to use the other half?

This has now extended to SIP trunking, with more Cloud-oriented organizations looking to resell or bundle their own internal communications. When they’re buying bandwidth “raw” from the ISP, with no overhead besides the pure data charges, they’re in a prime position to leverage that bandwidth in their service offerings.

Benefits of SIP Trunking

In short, SIP trunking is a newer revision of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) technologies, with a well-established protocol that allows for easy transmission of voice, video, or other data to\from a wide variety of devices.

Its strength lies in its near universal compatibility with most modern end-user devices and relatively inexpensive hardware. At the low end, the equipment needed to establish on-site SIP trunking is only in the low four-figures, and leasing options are becoming popular as well.

Most Cloud services organizations can afford to buy into SIP trunking today.

Why Buy Voice Service From Non-Phone Companies?

For comparison sake, here’s an idea of how margins look with voice services.

In terms of raw dollars, the cheapest a company is likely to find local + unlimited long distance on a line is $75/month. On the other hand, SIP-based voice communications cost less than a cent per minute. A thousand minutes of voice would cost less than $10.

So a company selling 1,000 minutes of voice for $25 is making a substantial profit, while significantly undercutting the local telephone company.

In other situations, companies haven’t charged for the service, but simply include it in their “premium” bundles as an added incentive.

Major Stumbling Blocks in SIP Reselling

Businesses interested in the monetization possibilities with SIP trunking should also be aware of potential issues that can arise:

1. Unforeseen Infrastructure Needs

SIP reselling puts a strain on all of a network’s systems. Just having the hardware to handle the trunking may not be sufficient to carry heavy loads without other upgrades. Failure to upgrade would nearly guarantee the failure of the venture.

2. Becoming a Phone Company

A company providing phone service to its customers should expect to be treated as a phone company by customers. High levels of reliability would be expected, and there would be increased demands on service staff.

3. Outside Dependencies Beyond Direct Control

Company A cannot resell SIP services without Company B providing them in the first place. If Company B fails, Company A is left in a bad situation. If there are multiple levels of outsourcing involved, through Companies C and D, this can quickly become a tangled and risky web.

Every organization in the chain has to be absolutely reliable, but that sort of reliability is hard to find and harder to guarantee.

Reselling SIP Services Is Growing

Despite these risks, the reselling of SIP trunking is growing steadily and likely to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. With proper planning and informed risk management, it offers new opportunities for services monetization.