salesperson at IT reseller anywhere in the world: “Thanks for asking about the
Cloud. It truly is a wonderful thing. Ever since the ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on
1 January 1983, the little ‘network of networks’ that started has grown into a
world of interconnectedness and with the introduction of IPv6 to ensure the
shortcomings in address space of IPv4 are overcome there is really nothing
holding back the growth in Cloud services now.” The salesperson is just warming
up to really launch into a full-blown intricate explanation of the Cloud –
making sure to quote all manner of minutiae in technical details especially
latency times the salesperson receives at their home after changing service
providers and installing that new piece of equipment.

from potential client: “Yehhh…” Eyes glaze over from complete lack of
understanding while they shuffle off slowly towards the exit in the hope that
no-one notices they are obviously a complete fool and they need to get out of
there as quickly as possible. Maybe this cloud thing isn’t really for them
after all.

agree entirely with the statement made by the salesperson and, although the
response by the client may not be as dramatic as running from the store in
complete confusion, mentally that is exactly what happens after an initial
statement like this by the salesperson. Of course I am sprinkling this with a
dash of hyperbole but all over the world I hear technical salespeople talking
at a level that is way above the understanding of the person they are talking
to. It is not as bad as having a pre-memorised script but many salespeople talk
at the same level regardless of who they are talking to (or more accurately
talking at) and regardless of their level of interest and understanding.

staff training sessions, I often talk about salespeople needing to be
chameleons. The most important tool in sales, and particularly in technical
sales, is the ability to listen. Listen to the client and adjust the commentary
accordingly. Having complete background knowledge of an aspect of the job –
such as a full understanding of the Cloud – is absolutely essential but knowing
when to roll out that information is of much greater importance.

speaking to clients about the Cloud, I often refer to the electrical grid. It
is well known that Thomas Edison developed the first commercially viable
incandescent light bulb. That was way back in 1879. This was a great product
but it needed electricity to make it work. Many people were using small coal-fired
generators at their place of work to generate electricity to power their lights
but Edison had a better idea. He organised investors to back six jumbo dynamos
that were housed at Pearl Street Station in lower Manhattan and, in 1882, he
had 85 customers with a total of 400 light bulbs. He had created a vertically
integrated market for his lights.

course today we don’t really think about where electricity is generated and
what happens when we flick a light switch. All we know is that moving a light
switch makes a light come on.

so it should be for clients using the Cloud.

well remember conversations with clients from twenty years ago when they wanted
this new-fangled thing called e-mail and the luxury of calendaring and their
own domain. Some of our clients were only very small businesses with only a few
employees but they made a huge commitment with their e-mail needs. They
invested $10,000 for a server running Exchange with appropriate redundancy and
backup facilities – and this was when connecting to the Internet was so
expensive that the server was set to dial the Internet once every hour to send
and receive e-mails (only during business hours of course). This was the
equivalent of 1879 in electricity. Hosting your own Exchange Server was akin to
having your own electricity generator. Fast forward to today and I have many
clients who pay less than $10 per mailbox per month for Exchange services in
the Cloud. Clients don’t particularly care about what is sitting on servers
somewhere else. They don’t care about the intricacies of the Exchange Server
interface and the redundant servers. They just want to know that when they
pick-up their smartphone that their e-mail comes through and their calendars
and contacts are syncing. Just like we don’t care about where the electricity
is generated when we turn the light switch on, many Cloud services are at the
commodity stage. So talk about the multiple layers of the protocol stack if you
must. Delve into the structure of the Exchange store repository and the pair of
ESE databases that are required to make it work. But don’t be surprised when a
client switches off completely and simply wants to know how much it will cost
per month to have their mail hosted somewhere. This type of technical information
might make you sound cool at parties (at least the type of parties that I like
to go to) but it won’t really help you sell more Cloud services.

you really need to focus on is listening to what the client is asking for – and
then answer their questions. You might also need to answer a few additional
questions that the client isn’t asking but would ask if they knew more. But
bamboozling them with the science to show how much you know is never going to
win the sales game.

importantly, Cloud computing is not a binary decision. It is not a concept that
is off today and on tomorrow. Cloud computing is an à la carte menu. There are
a huge number of services available in the Cloud. The job of the reseller is to
inform and educate clients as to the services available and the client can
choose what they require from the menu. Then you need to make sure you have
chosen Cloud providers that will deliver on the promise.

look forward to seeing you at a party where I can tell you my joke about a TCP
packet that walked into a bar and asked for a beer…

Mathew Dickerson

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