In decades past, before the dawn of the internet and explosion of information, sales was a simple process, something like a funnel—people have a problem and search for a solution. Your product solves a problem and through advertising and various methods of marketing, you lead people to become aware of your product, provide information to cultivate their interest and weigh your product versus other solutions, then push for action (choose us!). The four stages of the funnel look a little something like this:
At any point of the funnel, potential customers can drop out, but at the end of a successful cycle, there should be a healthy number of sales closing.
These days, the easy access of information increases not only competition, but creates a new type of savvy buyer who can instantly compare costs, features and value adds at the touch of a screen and is virtually immune to traditional methods of blanket marketing and sales tactics while expecting to get what they want with very few compromises. Some say that the modern day sales cycle looks less like a funnel and more like a funnel cake, with customers entering at different stages and companies needing to provide unique, sometimes customer-defined values beyond just the scope of a tangible product.
A new revolution of customers requires a new evolution of product, services and value positioning. In AMAX’s industry of server to rack level data center and cloud infrastructure solutions, we are definitely seeing the tide shift from both the product arena as well as the services and value arena. Whereas data centers were once dominated by traditional legacy gear from Dell, HP, IBM, EMC etc that utilized a limited range of proprietary designs and components, and were purposely built for specific applications and sometimes included expensive licenses and subscriptions, the industry is moving towards a white box approach in which integrators utilize best-in-breed components across all available technology vendors to build solutions specific to customer requirements. Specifically, with the exponential growth of data and corresponding storage needs, and the high-density required for cloud infrastructures, the industry requires:
- more bang for the buck from a data center footprint
- commodity hardware that is easily replaceable for low cost upgrades
- interchangeable for business agility
- extreme CapEx and OpEx efficiency
- converged infrastructure solutions with total compatibility and single vendor
Today’s data center not only has to be built smart, but it needs to run smart.
End of last year, IDC reported that while worldwide server revenue fell 3.7% on shipping volume of 2.26 million units in Q3, the white box server market share was 6.5% of the total revenue, up 4.3% from a year earlier, representing a 45% surge in revenue. Of the Tier 1 server manufacturers cited in this report, only HP reported a gain in market share due to its support of hyperscale data centers (the Amazons and Facebooks of the world), yet last month, HP announced a 16,000-job cut across all business units, leading many to speculate just how well the previous models of server products fit today’s data center and cloud direction.
The biggest sign of changing tides is Facebook’s decision to spearhead the Open Compute Project (OCP), a movement to open up design specs and encourage collaboration in developing data center platforms that better fit the scale and efficiency demands of today’s data centers and cloud infrastructures.
The benefits of OCP platforms are:
- an open design with limited frills–only the components and features needed specifically for cloud and data center applications
- better power and cooling efficiency
- a streamlined and modular design that allows servers to be repurposed on the fly for different applications based on fluctuating demands
- a commodity model that avoids vendor lock-in
In this way, the product itself has evolved away from a “one size fits all” to one in which the right solution should fit a customer’s specific demands and needs. From there, the value of a company relies on its ability to not only identify a customer’s specific needs, but also identify which of its strengths, services, values and capabilities can provide a true solution.
What also needs to evolve is how a company meets customer demand. In an interesting blog post written by Dave Bui, co-founder of Saleschase.com, he recommends doing away with traditional sales and marketing approaches to create one general “revenue department.” He positions that historically sales will:
- Push off the shelf solutions without understanding actual prospect needs
- Make frequent calls and send repetitive emails to see if prospects are ready to buy
- Create one-size-fits-all solutions to appeal to the largest audience
- Bombard prospects with generic messages and hope for the best
The job of a Revenue Department is to:
- Focus on prospect pains and desires
- Co-create custom solutions based on specific needs
- Guide prospects through the decision making process
While doing away with traditional sales and marketing departments is not feasible as they each have their distinct and valuable functions, one way AMAX has evolved to meet the market’s expectations along the lines of what’s outlined for a revenue department is by having multiple departments work together to co-create validated solutions that meet the market’s demands and needs, followed by customer-centric cycles in which sales and business development teams then further customize solutions or value-plans to ensure a specific solution is delivered to address a customer’s pain points.
Our product development looks like this:
Marketing/Sales/Engineering—>Product development. Product should:
- Address market needs
- Be a validated and tested solution
- Meet and exceed AMAX’s stringent quality/performance requirements
Once marketing draws in a customer who is in need of a solution, the AMAX team works closely with the customer to co-create a solution that fits their real needs:
- Understand specific prospect pain points and requirements
- Educate customers of available technology and platforms
- Facilitate communication between customers and engineers to ensure solution meets needs
- Create customized solution proposal
- Ensure full delivery of solution
- Create solution design recommendation and service package (ie custom testing, application validation, onsite installation) based on customer needs.
We’ve found that this approach has been extremely successful by allowing us to create solutions that we know will work, and rather than pushing a customer to buy an arbitrary product, we are tailoring solutions based off a customer’s real needs and desires to ensure their needs are met, which is the ultimate value of a solution and the basis of a company’s value to a customer as a trusted long-term partner. Because what value is a solution if it doesn’t actually solve a problem, right?