Selling Microsoft

The 3 Stages of Cloud Sales Mastery

A quick progression from the moment you meet a prospect to the moment you close the opportunity is critical to a partner's cloud business. The "Velocity Sales Process" shows you how to get from Point A to Point B.

With cloud, cost of sales is important, margins are tighter and the number of opportunities is potentially greater.

During the past few months, fellow Redmond Channel Partner magazine columnist Keith Lubner and I have been writing about the impact of the cloud on a partner's business operations, marketing and sales organization. This month, I'll focus on developing a defined sales process for cloud partners. It's based on our recently introduced Master the Cloud Business Builder series for Microsoft Cloud Champion partners.

My goal is to provide you with thoughts on what your cloud sales process should include. With the cloud, cost of sales is important, margins are tighter and the number of opportunities is potentially greater. You have to decrease the time from when you meet a prospect until you close the opportunity. I call this the "Velocity Sales Process" (VSP).

VSP is a pre-defined, templated, three-stage process. VSP requires that you command trust and confidence, lower your time of presales discovery, sell your knowledge of best practices and exit the engagement early if a prospect fails or is unwilling to follow a defined sales process.

The incoming call or marketing-generated lead is quickly scanned by management to validate the account potential. It's passed directly to a sales development representative for follow up if the lead is an unknown firm, or if the potential of the sale appears to be fewer than 25 seats. Otherwise:

Stage 1: Qualification and Discovery
At buying stage one, the buyer's No. 1 concern is on their firm's need definition. Cost is second-most important; proof is low, as is the consideration of risk.

During Stage 1 you may be in face-to-face selling mode or in a telephone meeting. This isn't necessarily a cold call, but a sales opportunity where you'll qualify the suspect to the prospect stage. In Stage 1 you begin building trust and confidence in your approach and understanding of the suspect. You will combine selling your firm, selling Microsoft and understanding the suspect's needs. Key points:

  • Speak from authority on the subject and show expertise in the cloud market

  • Speak to the knowledge of your local market and industry -- go vertical

  • Use your documented client implementation process as a sales tool

  • You must sell the sales process during this stage

Stage 2: Proof
In buying Stage 2, need definition begins to drop in the buyer's mind, cost is a very low consideration, proof is the No. 1 concern and risk begins to rise in the buyer's mind.

This should be held at your office or via Live Meeting. It gives the client the opportunity to see your team, meet others in the office and lower any risk issues. At this stage you'll demonstrate your solution and personalize the demonstration to the needs of the client. As in all sales calls, it must be highly organized, well planned and executed brilliantly.

Stage 3: Close
In buying Stage 3, the buyer's need definition is very low, cost becomes the second-most-important consideration and proof is very low because you have solved that issue in the second stage. But risk is very high in the mind of the buyer.

As a result, you will present your proposal with a focus on safety of implementation. Have a short executive summary ready that explains what you found out in the discovery/needs area, includes any comments made during the Stage 2 or proof stage and presents any ROI information you've created. Other good resources for Stage 3 meetings include a binder of endorsement letters from current clients and a binder listing client benefits to acquiring your cloud solutions.

While this is only a summary explanation, if you execute brilliantly on the basics, the returns will be increases in velocity of orders, size and number of the client base, leveling of consultant utilization, annual recurring sales to the base, and profitability.

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com.

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