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How Technology Salespeople Lose


 

CyNexLink Blog   •   August 9, 2017

 

Sales strategy and the sales process within the MSP, telecommunications, cloud, and software industry is often gritty and always a war of attrition between equally valuable competitors.

During the technology selection process, where companies must decide upon a managed service provider or IT professional, what are the reasons why some evaluators rejected certain salespeople over others?

The knee-jerk response from many will be that the salesperson in question did an inadequate job at persuading or presenting his product, or that the product itself was faulty and an incorrect fit for the prospective client.

But research from thousands of technology sales transactions conducted at the C-suite level, and interviews with hundreds of chief technology officers reveals quite a different reality, as evaluators often “ranked all the competing salespeople and [their products] as being roughly equal” – says foremost ‘sales linguistics’ expert Steven W. Martin.

It is most often the case that realities completely unrelated to sales rep ability or prowess would come to sabotage the chances for a contract to be won.

Incumbent Advantage

No matter how persuasive a sell or how unique a business solution may be presented, many companies who field new offers will end up sticking with their existing technology provider simply because of peace of mind and trustworthiness. Here, the only way to wrench an incumbent vendor out of his comfortable spot would be to directly criticize his product and show why yours circumnavigates the same trouble.

C-Suite Access

Major purchases relating to managed services and professional technology solutions usually require C-suite level approval. Thus, the ever-present hurdle facing sales reps is their ability to penetrate the relevant C-class person, and, according to Martin, “there is a direct correlation of winning to the number of interactions the salesperson has with executives during the sales cycle”.

Presenting a Tailored and Ideal Solution

It is very often the case that both the winning and the losing salesperson carried a rigorous grasp of their feature service. Knowledge of the offered service and the sales rep’s ability to apply that knowledge to remedy existing problems is roughly similar for losers and winners. What distinguishes most winners, however, is their ability to study closely the company’s holistic needs and tailor a solution which seems exactly ideal for the circumstances.

Inadequate Presales Resources

With the rise and proven excellence of inbound sales and marketing services, sales reps advancing with hot leads must consistently refer back to and coordinate with a presales expert who knows the company’s needs intimately. Today’s complex sales process demands a robust team effort, with on-call presales experts and online presales resources co-developing a company’s trust alongside outbound sales reps.

An insight from the Harvard Business Review states: “Souping up the presales engine can yield a five-point improvement in conversion rates, a 6–13% improvement in revenue, and a 10–20% improvement in the speed of moving prospects through the sales process.”

Incompatible Pricing

In the end, smart evaluators consider price to be important, but not zealously so. Pricing most often comes second to organizational fitness and compatibility. However, there are general principles which govern acceptable and unacceptable pricing schemes: the lowest and highest bidder will usually lose the contract, while those who price their services 10-25 percent above the lowest market rate are usually selected.

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Life Cycles of an IT Organization


 

CyNexLink Blog   •   August 8, 2017

 

There is a direct interrelationship between the sales organization cycle and the company life cycle. The life blood of any business organization, regardless of industry, is its sales strategy, its ability to pull in new customers and profit from existing ones. If a company grows out of its initial start-up stage, where it has turned its idea into operational reality, it faces the potential of reaching four future stages: adolescent, adult, middle-age, and senior.

Adolescent Stage

During this most early build stage, the IT organization is in its embryonic form, refining its foundational infrastructure. The sales engagement model is yet unformed and subject to validated learning from collision with early customers.

It is a time of high risk and high reward. The company can either the seize the market with exceptional pricing and marketing precision or miss the mark completely with misinformation.

The IT company during this stage is dealing with many and varied marketplace protocols – pricing, competition, state of the economy, customer demands, and more.

More than the concrete specifications which make up marketplace transactions and protocol is figuring out just what type of salesperson should be hired and what kind of sales pitch would most appeal to a prospective client. The salesperson who is brought unto the team, besides needing to have a strong native ability to sell, must also have a holistic understanding for how to tackle problem-solution projects within complex IT scenarios.

It is a time of high risk and high reward. The company can either the seize the market with exceptional pricing and marketing precision or miss the mark completely with misinformation.

The IT company during this stage is dealing with many and varied marketplace protocols – pricing, competition, state of the economy, customer demands, and more.

More than the concrete specifications which make up marketplace transactions and protocol is figuring out just what type of salesperson should be hired and what kind of sales pitch would most appeal to a prospective client. The salesperson who is brought unto the team, besides needing to have a strong native ability to sell, must also have a holistic understanding for how to tackle problem-solution projects within complex IT scenarios.

Elizabeth Wasserman at Inc.com remarks that “the biggest mistake many businesses make is to believe that price alone drives sales. Your ability to sell is what drives sales and that means hiring the right sales people and adopting the right sales strategy”.

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Adult Stage

Upon forming its foundational sales strategy and settling its business and operations infrastructure, the company now heads into the adult stage where it competes with well-established competitors in the field. During this stage, the company will be growing its operations with a growing sales team and an engineering staff, which is expanding product functionality and adding ancillary products in order to realize its product road map.

Aha!, a project management software company writes: “Creating a product roadmap should be a continuous process throughout the life-cycle of a product. Requirements and features should be generated by lots of folks including: customers, partners, sales, support, management, engineering, operations, and product management”.

In the field of technology generally, and IT specifically, the demands for continued general learning is enormous, as systems and software engineers must maintain a cutting-edge understanding of the most advanced platforms.

Middle-Age Stage

As the IT organization continues to grow, and market prices between competitors become more fixed, it can now be said to enter the maintain, or middle-age stage, where the market has flattened out around a group of mutually robust and tenured companies. At this stage, companies are concerned with maintaining existing contracts and the contextual marketplace surrounding existing partners.

Senior Stage

The final stage of an organization’s life cycle can be termed the senior stage, where the objective is to amplify current services and extend the market position of the company through strategic disruption of existing contracts. The IT organization must seek to reinvigorate its current involvement with the marketplace by presenting unique and improved differences in its technical execution, as well as tap into emerging markets in order to win new clients.

How an IT organization handles itself during this senior stage will determine whether they evolve into a monopoly or Fortune 500 company, or devolve into irrelevancy, outdated protocol, and a diminished market presence.

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‘Match.com for Leads’: Marketing & Automation


 

CyNexLink Blog   •   August 7, 2017

 

In front of a crowd of 19,000 attendees at InBound 2016, HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah deliver a startling group of sales and marketing facts for the modern business to consider. We don’t usually plug the content we cover, but we would highly recommend tuning into the above presentation if you have not already.

“We need a Match.com for leads” – Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot

The quintessential fact presented about the modern marketplace is this: supply outstrips demand (by a lot!). No longer is the startup with a new product competing for “inches on a four foot shelf”, instead they are competing for “millimeters on the infinite shelf of the internet”. Like any innovation or change in processes/technology, we are presented with a Faustian bargain.

Something is given and something is taken away. Startups and existing companies who have a product to offer face a much broader (indeed endless) spectrum of markets and venues in which to sell. The diversity of products on offer for buyers, especially where the internet is concerned, is huge. This makes the task of marketing and selling one’s product, amidst a sea of ever-increasing competitors, more and more difficult.

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It has become exceedingly difficult to outstrip one’s competitor, since the competition is so potent, varied, and ever-increasing. Just as we’ve had the democratization of entertainment (YouTube as the new TV) and the democratization of education (Online universities and community colleges as the new Oxford and Cambridge), we are today witnessing the democratization of competition.

On the positive side, starting a website, creating prototypes of applications, building brands on social media platforms, and more, are all hallmarks of the modern economy, and are all extremely fast endeavors to undertake. Contra the 1950s when raw marketing and manufacturing material required heavy capital, today a startup is born every minute due to the very low cost of operating.

Now the real treasure chest of insight at the InBound conference was Shah’s bold pronouncements about artificial intelligence (AI) and it’s relationship to the future of marketing. AI, he notes, will impact marketing and sales in a revolutionary way, similar to how Amazon revolutionized shopping. GrowthBot, a marketing chatbot created by Shah and his contemporaries, is the first attempt in revolutionizing the way marketing is done.

Things like lead routing, predictive lead scoring, email acquisition, and content recommendations will all dramatically improve based on an automated, learning engine, Shah explains.

Chatbots are already improving how people visit and interact with the internet. Plugins and automated engines fulfill a similar task. Chatbots act as a natural and intuitive cyber-guide for customers to search, understand, and buy goods.

Automation of this sort sits well with the overarching theme of the modern lifestyle: seamlessness and enhanced user-ability. Self-service checkouts at the market allow us to be in and out on our own accord, ATMs and mobile apps allow us to transfer money and pay bills without the slowing intermediary of another person.

Whereas some have thought that automated bots would act as a slowing intermediary of sorts – and this is a legitimate fear – very well designed bots actually trim the time a client spends on research and analysis, getting them out the figurative door with ease and comprehension.

The ‘marketing conversation of the future’, Shah notes, will become a human-machine conversation, always accessible and much more knowledgeable. “Machines,” Shah explains, “will be much better matchmakers, connecting leads to the perfect sales person. I believe that in the next few years we are going to have autonomous, self-driving, marketing automation.”

Existing marketing methodology consists of taking a host of marketing inputs and making decisions about those bits of data. In the future, this sifting through of data, sending out of optimal content, and more, will be initiated by machines who can perform such tasks at a much faster and finer pace.

In this new customer landscape, attracting buyers to one’s business is an increasingly herculean task. The huge amounts of data to sift through, the rapid change in software and technology, and the highly personalized customer interests make the accurate management of it all a near impossibility.

It’s about time we call on the aid of machines to manage and process the sea of information – as software has done with Big Data – so that marketers can get on with their more meaningful duties of productive conversation and interaction with customers.

Lastly, in case you are too busy to tune into the entirety of the InBound keynote speech, I transmit to you a host of helpful points collected from the speech which are tangential to the main thesis of this post:

  • Adding value to customers is more important than extracting value from them.
  • The best (marketing) content is CONTEXTUAL. Email and other media must be personalized, tailored, meaningful, and relevant. Gone are the days of bulk email spamming with pseudo-personal touches like adding a name to the introduction.
  • Automate the buying process. In an era of hyper-multitasking, customers want self-service and a quick and seamless path to closing the transactions and going about their business.
  • Accelerate content: combine paid marketing with content marketing.
  • Present value before the purchase. In an era where supply outstrips demand, marketers must offer value BEFORE their prospects buy. Prospects are looking at dozens of similar products and services other than your own and traditional good reviews of your product don’t quite cut it anymore (although good reviews continue to be a staple).

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What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Why it Matters


 

CyNexLink Blog   •   August 4, 2017

 

Remote and mobile work have become an integral part of most businesses with ever-advancing technological tools at our fingertips.

However with that expansion comes added security risks. The critical information of any employee could easily be compromised if they use unsecured remote connections. See Shadow IT. This is where a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, comes in handy.

A VPN is a private network of computers fused to establish a secure connection over a public network, or the Internet. It can protect data sent in messaging apps, emails and can safeguard online activity.

Wi-Fi security: It can help you connect to Wi-Fi outside of the office in generally unprotected areas like an airport or bookstore. The VPN will encrypt the activity of the user.

Anonymity: A VPN can keep communications secure from Internet service providers and allows users to use anonymous browsing due to the encryption.

Access to the web: Certain websites may not be accessible in certain countries. Organizations like Netflix or Hulu may block access to their web content based on geographical location. But a VPN can bypass these constraints.

Apart from security, a VPN can also allow businesses to glean a competitive advantage over others. As an example, a VPN allows you to connect to international servers, so businesses can monitor what their and their competitor’s advertisements look like in other markets. This can help businesses make better decisions on their marketing content.

When choosing a VPN, it’s best to look at several important features: price, speed, locations and privacy.

There are also different types of VPNs. Here are a few and the benefits and drawbacks of each:

IPSec VPN: Offers a remote access to the network through an application. These were developed for businesses that are spread out globally to connect on one central office network.

· Benefit: Creates a permanent connection between locations.

· Drawback: It can be difficult to restrict access because most corporate resources are available on the network.

SSL VPN: Built to benefit the remote worker, this VPN doesn’t have an application. This type is best for businesses that have teams that sometimes work remotely.

· Benefit: Easy to install because of the lack of an application.

· Drawback: Security might not be as good as an IPSec VPN.

Despite the positives of a VPN, there are still businesses that operate without them. If a company regularly has employees working remotely, then a VPN is a must. Moreover, the cost of a VPN is dwarfed in comparison to its necessity.

If customers even suspect that their information is at risk, they will generally take their business elsewhere. If companies want to avoid these standard, yet intricate security mistakes, then they need a strengthened security plan devised by a team of dedicated IT professionals.

If you’re interested in fundamental IT terminology and how it applies in everyday business, head over to our archives.

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What is Shadow IT?


 

CyNexLink Blog   •   August 2, 2017

 

You may have heard of the ominous-sounding term ‘Shadow IT’ while exploring the topics of hacking or cyber security.

You might think the term hails from some captivating mystery film about secret societies. While it almost assuredly is not so sensational as that, the reality of shadow IT can actually pose serious risks for a company.

Shadow IT is essentially when employees use technological products that are unsupported by company devices and protocols, or any other IT department for that matter. Such employees could be using these products as a consequence of impatience or simply because they favor their own personal tech over the company’s. Some examples of shadow tech is personal smartphones, tablets and USB thumb drives. Some popular shadow applications are instant messaging programs and Google Docs.

In point of fact, the major scandal which rocked the Democratic party en route to the 2016 presidential elections involved Hilary Clinton’s private (shadow) servers.

While the term is neutral within itself, the habitual and unchecked practice can pose serious threats and embarrassments for a company.

Here are some of the risks of shadow IT:

Compromised Security: The use of unsupported hardware and software can compromise a company’s overall security because they aren’t subjected to the same rigorous security measures applied to managed or support tech.

Reduced Efficiency & Organizational Dysfunction: When unsupported tech is introduced into a company’s tech grid it can negatively impact the bandwidth, hurting the user experience for other employees. There’s also no way to tell whether the unsupported tech will conflict with other applications contemporaneously utilized by the business.

Risk of Data Loss: The backup procedures of shadow tech are very often not up to a company’s security standards. Employees who store company data or professionally sensitive information on non-company tech are at a much higher risk of data breach. In fact, data loss and downtime cost businesses an estimated $1.7 trillion each year, according to a recent study from Dell EMC.

Despite the dangers, some proponents of shadow IT believe such extemporaneous tech usage can actually supply personal and disruptive innovation to a company’s workforce. Rather than promote its eradication, advocates of limited shadow IT contend companies should create policies to regulate it.

Businesses standardize their own IT systems. They have a playbook for how systems are vetted and introduced into the company. When shadow tech is brought into the system and mixed with sensitive data, it can spread like a virus, impacting the whole grid.

IT departments once reigned supreme over company tech usage and protocol, but the rapid growth of the shadow tech industry has loosened their grip. A serious question to ask ourselves is: Are we forever beyond the pale (cybersecurity-wise), or can strong managed IT departments once again act as sentry of all things tech?

For one, businesses need to identify the weaknesses in their own tech systems that caused the accelerated need for shadow IT employment. Another crucial practice is inter-departmental communication — so every department is in ideological sync with IT security protocols.

For more information on shadow IT and topics relating to tech security, consider checking out the articles at info security magazine, or the articles and whitepapers at computer weekly.

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Four Reasons to Consider Cloud Computing


 

CyNexLink Blog   •   June 31, 2017

 

Cloud computing allows you to virtually deliver hardware and software services through the internet instead of housing them physically in your office space. However, not all clouds are created equal: there are private, public, and hybrid clouds, and companies can choose from these three cloud options depending on the nature of their business or the sensitivity of the content at hand.

For example, public cloud computing is generally cheaper and more efficient, while private clouds offer greater security and control over sensitive business content. In many cases, the dualism of a hybrid cloud model can be the most convenient option for an SMB or enterprise company: it allows them to maintain security over sensitive data through private cloud computing while utilizing the public cloud for less vulnerable components of their business.

There are many reasons to consider cloud computing for your business:

 

  1. Scale according to your business needs. Generally, staffing demands can vary significantly in a single year (during peak season for example) and this shifting need for more or less storage capacity is precisely why cloud computing can be so convenient. Scaling to meet current needs is more cost-efficient than purchasing a software or hardware to meet peak season demands, as this will leave much of your software/hardware capacity unused during non-peak seasons.
  2. Smaller monthly payments. With cloud computing, there is no need for large capital investments. This is a key selling point, especially for startups and small businesses where capital is limited and usually reserved for the company’s core-functions and services. As mentioned above, scaling means you pay according to what you use; no need to worry about “wasting” money on unused services.
  3. Access is easy and flexible. Cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure allow you to break free from your desk, and work from home or any other non-brick-and-mortar office you settle in. Storing and maneuvering around your important business files remotely and from anywhere. For small businesses, and depending on the scope of your company, this can eliminate the need for office space entirely.
  4. Focus on your business. Running your own IT can be a business in and of itself, and it can eat away from the core-services and values of your company. If you plan to meet your personal business objectives and grow your company by perfecting your product or service, do not waste time with the non-essentials. Cloud computing takes the hassle out of IT and makes running a business that much more enjoyable.

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Four Reasons to Outsource Your IT


 

CyNexLink Blog   •   June 26, 2017

 

Outsourcing your IT means delegating non-core business tasks to a specialized external body or company. Paying for a managed service provider in the realm of IT has become an indispensable feature for medium and enterprise businesses.

In fact, this industry is bigger than it ever has been. For many entrepreneurs and business owners, IT services can be a nightmare to manage without the help of tenured and thoroughly involved technicians.

Ergo, many growing businesses are now seeking support from outsourced technicians to help them set up and maintain their IT infrastructure – all the while ensuring that their software and services are of the most contemporary type.

What are the core benefits of IT outsourcing? The pros go beyond this list, but here are just four reasons to outsource your IT needs:

1. Outsourcing saves you time

This is perhaps the most obvious advantage to outsourcing your IT infrastructure, software, cloud, or security needs. With too much to do and not enough time, outsourcing these non-core components of your business is a necessary next step.

Many well-meaning and resourceful decision makers lose when they aim to settle IT problems hastily and without sufficient insight, usually by paying to patch frustrating end-point problems.

Moreover, there is no need to allow yourself to get sidetracked by all the technical IT “stuff”: hardware, network systems, cloud hosting, cyber security, etc.

Instead, use that time to tackle your business goals and market your core-services or products to prospective customers.

Many talented individuals and innovators feel discouraged when starting their own business because they don’t want to invest time in learning the ins and outs of IT set-up and maintenance. Through IT outsourcing, executives and entrepreneurs can regain sound confidence in themselves and their ideas as they entrust the non-essential components of their business to highly-skilled specialists.

Especially for startups, time is truly of the essence. Don’t lose the vision behind your business.

2. Outsourcing provides concentrated relief

In many ways, this is an extension of the first reason. However, it is crucial that entrepreneurs learn this fact: outsourcing IT means more time to focus on core-functions and to organize the specifics of your business. Insourcing IT hinders constancy, progress, and innovation on the part of the technician because they lack the context and critical infrastructure which outsourced organizations thrive on.

The process of interviewing and selecting qualified candidates requires you to dedicate a lot of time to something which can be done relatively quickly. The smart solution: outsource IT and transform your business into a productive powerhouse that gets things done.

3. Keep in touch with new technologies and improve service quality.

As we live in an ever-evolving technological world, it can be very exhausting for businesses trying to stay in the tech loop. IT specialists do this for a living: it is their job to learn about emerging tech products and services and to bring them to your doorstep.

They have years of experience with IT products and services and have addressed the IT needs of hundreds upon thousands of clients. Don’t let your company lag behind competitors due to an un-supportive IT infrastructure. Allow yourself to be introduced to new developments in the IT industry, developments which you can invest in to improve service quality and enhance cyber security.

4. Outsourcing IT means more money to promote your business.

The fact is that the primary reason that companies outsource a part of their business is to save money. Outsourcing has been proven to lower administrative expenses while surging operational income.

Insourcing IT can string along a great deal of mediocre expenses for your company. It requires you to vet lone technicians with a track record you can never be sure of.

Outsourcing to a firm that specializes in the service you desire produces a better return on your investment and ensures that your IT needs are being handled by quality specialists. This practice can reserve funds for more central business functions and services, and can allow your company to grow in its respective industry.

To all up-and-coming entrepreneurs (and even long-standing successful business owners), here is research-proven advice to grow your business: outsource your IT needs and redirect your focus to core-services and products. Outsourcing puts your company’s IT (essentially your company’s infrastructure) in the hands of highly-skilled and experienced specialists who will bring to your company the latest and greatest in the tech industry. You will be ahead of the game, all while saving yourself money and time!

 

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Cloud Computing & Lurking Cyber Threats


 

CyNexLink Blog   •   July 24, 2017

 

Storing databases and software in the Cloud can be an invaluable asset to any company, but it can also be a gateway to indiscriminate theft.

A major trend in the business world is the migration of email servers, data, and other software to cloud-based solutions. The cloud computing market is expected to grow to nearly $200 billion by 2020, according to Forrester, an analyst firm.

For example, take Office 365. There’s a high chance that your business uses it considering it’s expected to surpass 100 million users this year.

Keep Calm

Tremendous amounts of data are being shared on this platform, and the mixing of myriad company’s data together is only increasing.

Users are asking, and rightfully so: Is my content safe in these data centers?

Microsoft has done its job to try and remedy the problem by creating a security add-on, Advanced Threat Protection, or ATP, which creates a bulwark around the communal pot of shared data.

ATP can protect emails from malware and allow safe viewing of attachments without risking the network.

But not so fast, the castle walls can be breached.

No single security platform can protect you from all threats. Cyber crooks can still easily locate and exploit gaps.

A business needs to take a multi-faceted approach to security, including cloud-based encryption, training standards and other security hardware. While each may have its holes, the added layers will cover up those of the other.

The palisade may have its weaknesses, but the added moat and concertina wire will fill in the gaps. Moreover, it’s important to have added security externally from Office in case of system failures.

Some businesses may then ask: why move to the Cloud?

The correct respond to potential cyber security threats is not total alarm and rejection of highly productive and efficient Cloud technology. Cloud computing has a variety of advantages for businesses, such as lower costs and increased employee productivity, and its security protocols are extremely high with such services as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

CyNexLink can help your business develop a multi-layered security strategy as you and your customers approach the Cloud.

The risk of dwelling within the cloud is real and many businesses can take a major financial hit if their security is compromised. Not to mention customer and client trust can be diminished.

When cyber criminals breached Target’s data in 2013, they stole the financial information of more than 40 million customers. In response, customers stopped shopping at the store during the busy holiday season and the company lost 46% in its quarterly profit. The company later estimated it lost $148 million due to the breach.

If customers even suspect that their information is at risk, they will generally take their business elsewhere. If companies want to avoid these standard, yet intricate security mistakes, then they need a strengthened security plan devised by a team of dedicated IT professionals.

 

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