We were privileged to have thought leader Stephen Parker deliver presentations in Auckland and Christchurch this week in association with SolarWinds MSP, using CompTIA research coupled with his own insights. He provided some excellent guidance on where resellers should be moving their focus to stay relevant in the fast-changing world of IT. Stephen made the point that not everything he said would be new for his audience, but used his concept of three R’s – how the insights he was sharing would either reinforce something the attendees already knew, remind them of something they had heard before, or reveal something new.

Starting at the end, what ideas were presented that you can use now to help focus your sales efforts?

Look through your customer base to find those with essential challenges – areas where they need to change their technology but need help on identifying and implementing the solution – Stephen’s suggestions include enhanced compliance requirements, reputational risk, and digital transformation. For example if you have 100 customers, how many are doctors? What special needs should they address around preventing ransomware? Yes all of your customers need to protect against that but creating a special message that resonates with doctors will let them see you as a specialist in their field and give you an edge in having them listen and accept your proposal.

In Australia there is a mandatory breach disclosure regime for when personal information gets into the wild and it is inevitable this will get to New Zealand. In 2017 the Australian scheme was voluntary and there were 117 breaches reported. In three months in 2018 once reporting was mandatory, the number was 248 – that’s 248 organisations who had to tell their customers that they had insecure systems. One anecdote heard recently was a recruiting company who thought, well we only store CV’s, it’s not really going to matter if they get taken – but when they were breached, and told the story, their reputation was significantly damaged. What would YOUR customers think if you had to share that all the information you store about them had been made public – like system passwords? Talking about this is not scaremongering – it’s putting your customers on the front foot to actively ask, what information stores do they need to ensure are actively protected? Do they use a password manager? Do you?

There is no profit in selling Office 365 or AWS (did you see that with Amazon Lightsail you can get a virtual machine with Windows Server for as little as USD 8 a month?). Another “known fact” – customers have already completed 70 percent of their buying journey before they reach out to a company to talk about a purchase, so expecting to be able to sell a product with margin in it is gone; you need to be seen as having skilled knowledge that will assist the prospect for them to want to engage with you then sell them on the value proposition of your services. Even your closest customers will start the search for a solution on the web, unless you have already adopted the new account management – training. Showing your customers that your organisation has the knowledge, and actively pushing out webinars and posts so they know your areas of expertise, will get them talking to you first. But do keep in mind that to make money, what you propose to them must have something that is your unique selling point – otherwise they will price-compare and your efforts will come to nought. Another oft-repeated message we have been using for years: what can you say about your offering that is different from what all of your competitors can say?

So if you know all these things, are you still trying to sell “product” to your customers? How are you going to still be in business a year from now?

One of Stephen’s slides showed the progression of sources of revenue in recent years: moving from selling hardware and software and charging for services around those; to taking customers into the cloud; and now the new buzzwords … IoT, AI, and robotics. But how do you move into these new fields? CompTIA has an excellent resource called Six Steps to Success in the Internet of Things – a look into what is available now, and how others have moved into this field.

Turning to cybersecurity, Stephen made the point that it is scary how few businesses assess system risks until after an incident – you need to sell your customers on the cost of downtime versus the cost enhancing their shields. One tool you can use to help customers see the scale of the issue is the statistics published by Cert NZ – cert.govt.nz.

Are notebooks and other portable being encrypted, or loaded with an agent that allows auto-deletion if they are lost? Even if the information itself is not of high value in other hands, what is the risk to reputation if it becomes known to be “in the wild”?

Final (scary) thought for your customers – do they realise that 25 percent of cybersecurity issues are caused by IT staff failing to follow policies and procedures, eg by one admin password that, once logged on from anywhere, provides seamless access to all systems including the off-site backup?

Our thanks to SolarWinds MSP for making this event possible.