What ever happened to that great vision?

(Editor’s note: This is post is a guest blog from Matt Fox, worldwide vice president of Avnet Academy at Avnet Technology Solutions. Guest blogs like this are part of ChannelBuzz.ca’s annual sponsorship packages. Find out more here.)

Matt Fox, worldwide vice president of Avnet Academy at Avnet Technology Solutions

Matt Fox, worldwide vice president of Avnet Academy at Avnet Technology Solutions

Over the years, I’ve held different positions in the technology industry, and I’ve seen pretty much every side of software sales throughout my time in the channel. Selling enterprise software is about creating a roadmap for an organization to use your solution to deliver better financial results, smoother operations and a better customer experience, and then helping the customer realize that vision and value. As customers realize that value, they frequently expand the footprint of that new software to new areas within the enterprise – new divisions, new countries, new use cases. However, I was frustrated to find that many times customers stopped well short of the broad vision we had created together during the initial sale.

Early in my career, while working in software sales for one of the largest software vendors, we would try to paint that end-to-end roadmap for how our software could help the organization reach their goals. And what we sold was definitely possible with our software — but it wasn’t like a new tablet today that a 3-year old could pop open, turn on and it’s ready to go. Frequently, there was substantial development and integration that needed to happen, so we always knew to include services with our software sales to help the customer realize their vision and avoid having our software become that dreaded shelfware. In that role, that was the extent of my reach with the end user.

Some years later, I left that vendor to join a systems integrator and reseller. I was excited about the prospect of being able to sell the total solution, not just being limited to the software sale. Our teams would work onsite with customers building toward their vision, long after the software sellers were on to the next deal. But then again, my role usually began with an initial implementation that only addressed part of the broad vision that was sold. We did great work that we were proud of; we built solutions that won awards for our firm and for our customers, and helped customers achieve their business goals, but at the end of the day, some solutions never achieved the long-term success we had planned.

One example — we sold and implemented a business process management solution for a local utility. The solution automated manual and error-prone processes allowing the utility to push through more volume with fewer resources, ultimately increasing the productivity of taxpayer money. We presented the solution with the customer at conferences and won an award for our work. Our initial phase automated the first two of many processes targeted for automation. We were excited to build off this momentum and continue automating processes, but follow-on phases were continually delayed. More than a year went by, and the customer told me that while the solution was a great success, the upfront services investment required for future phases was difficult for them to fund. The software footprint didn’t grow, and ultimately a great solution died on the vine.

In my current role leading education solutions at Avnet, I now look back on this experience and realize my mistake. I had thought I was selling a full solution with software and services, but I hadn’t thought about how we would ultimately enable the customer’s long-term success without our services. Now I’m at the point in my career and have the past experience to know that to prepare our solutions and customers for success, we need to encourage our systems integrators and reseller partners to include training in any new solution they sell. Enabling customers on the solution helps ensure the solution will grow and thrive long after the consultants have left.

Partners can resell Avnet Academy training and realize additional margin on their software or hardware sales, or they can work with us to have their own staff deliver the training. No matter whether you work with a partner like Avnet or build and deliver training yourself, make sure any solution sale includes in the scope a plan to train your customer’s staff. Ultimately, this will lead to more sales down the road as the solution grows and to happier customers empowered to drive on their path to success.