How is IT Sales Evolving in the Age of Automation and AI?
For as long as I can remember, IT Sales has always been about three words: Product, Product, and Product. The technology was evolving at such a rapid pace, that you didn’t even have to wait for something to be end-of-life anymore because the new shiny product did oh so many things more that you just had to have. They all made sense too, the toughest part was showing an IT department, that their investment from two years ago, was now becoming obsolete, and they could lower their maintenance times significantly. Just like everything though, there are those companies that “stay the course” and those that push the envelope.
For the longest time as well, the main companies of the world like HP, DELL and CISCO had almost the entire market share of the products. They were dependable, and no Director of IT was ever fired for buying Cisco products, so it was a sure thing. However, not too long ago now, these smaller companies started doing the one thing the large giants were not…innovating. They were looking at the problem and coming up with new, better ways to solve them using the cloud. Sure, Gillette razors ignored “Harry’s” or “Dollar Shave” for a little while, but suddenly you’ve lost 10% to 15% of your market share and the little things start to add up. As a result, you started seeing these giant product companies start to acquire all these smaller technologies, so they could roll them into their portfolio and start offering a seamless start to finish solution using one product set; again, with the focus on Product.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to say there is no need for product anymore, just the opposite actually, product will never truly go away. However, we are starting to see a shift right in front of our eyes; companies like Amazon, who are always pushing the envelope, continue to disrupt companies like Sears, that have stayed the course and built a very successful company for a long time without truly being forced to make major changes to their business model.
Fast forward to modern day, a lot of people assume Cloud and X as a service type platform have dramatically decreased product sales. While that may be true in the mid-market and SMB type of companies, what really happened is that we have shifted “where” that product sits. Just because something is in the cloud doesn’t mean it’s not running on a product, it’s just owned by someone else and hosted in another location, which is why nowadays most SMB’s are almost fully hosted at this point, and VAR’s are now focused on enterprise clients more than ever.
The most difficult part of the product and services industry though, is that there are so many people offering it, and it really has become a commodity (for quite some time now actually). People don’t have much interest in taking appointments to meet with you if you’re just selling them the new product that they already have. Companies now are trying to crack into Big Data, Machine Learning and Automation through different AI Technologies. Now more than ever, they want to hear about how they can use these Business Process Automation tools to capture an edge on their competitors and lower their back-end time and costs to focus on growing their business, rather than just sustaining it.