Vendors to Partners: Get to Know Your Customers

Hello, My Name IsA vendor saying that solution providers need to engage in selling solutions is nothing new. But when the channel marketing heads of SAP’s Business One program talk about solution-selling, the conversation is more about building customer personas and solving common business needs.

Sona Venkat, vice president of SAP marketing, and Alain McHugh, director of SAP Business One marketing, are looking at solution selling through the channel differently for their SMB business analytics products. Rather than assuming every business needs consolidated business management and intelligent tools, Venkat and McHugh are developing concepts to help solution providers understand the discrete needs and solutions of SMB companies.

“What we want to know is what the typical use cases are for customers of different sizes, and how to leverage the solution provider relationships to meet them,” Venkat told Channelnomics.

“If we can provide the air cover — the lead generation, support and market guidance — solution providers can better leverage their local relationships,” added Alain.

By building personas that map the common needs of different SMB companies, SAP believes it can help solution providers drive better sales because they will have offerings with valued-relationship to their customers’ operations.

SAP isn’t the only company thinking this way. Hewlett-Packard Co. is thinking along the same lines with its new “Just Right IT” program. Just Right IT is prepackaging hardware and software combinations based on known business workloads. The concept is to make it easier for solution providers to identify the right product for common customer needs and expedite sales.

Parallels, a provider of virtualization and cloud management solutions, believes developing business personas is the right path to enabling correctly positioned solutions. John Zanni, vice president of Service Provider Marketing and Alliances at Parallels, says service providers who use the company’s management tools are looking for partners that can identify and respond to customer needs, which requires having intimate knowledge of operations and focus.

“SMBs are used to going through their trusted advisors to pick and buy IT products and services. The world isn’t getting simpler; it’s getting more complicated. Solution providers need to be good at assessing, segmenting need and selecting products,” Zanni says.

Again, the idea of knowing your customer and reacting to their needs isn’t a new concept. What SAP, HP, Parallels and other vendors are beginning to recognize that customer needs are not being met because discreet technologies continued to be sold in isolation. The customer persona concept is more about understand the outcomes customers need from their technology investments, and enabling greater channel success through knowing and meeting those outcomes.