Not so long ago, when a customer was interested in a particular technology, they would do research (references, internet, trade shows) and then invite vendors to demo and discuss their technologies. In most cases, the provider/manufacturer of the technology would connect with a local trusted partner from their partner channel for assistance. They would organize and demo the technology to help customers understand how it could help their organization.
This process provided solutions to technical issues by connecting customers with a partner who worked daily with interconnected or integrated technologies and the provider who developed the technology. These demos and discussions also helped foster trust and build relationships. However, as well as this sales tactic worked, it was clear that this process had its faults and weaknesses, which included:
- Time consumption and perplexity of meeting with multiple providers and their teams.
- Difficulty getting a feel for the most suitable solutions with so many players trying to make their solution the best fit.
- Biased providers only talking about their solution and limited perspective on true competitive performance.
- Non-public pricing that gave little insight into what customers should really pay.
Direct Sales Channels/ Independent Sales Channels
As technologies have evolved, so has the way they’re sold to the market. With so many services operating as SaaS now, the perception is that they require a much simpler sales cycle and deployment project. Many of these services are taken to the market through direct or independent (Agent) sales channels. Many companies have seen this as a nice change because they feel that dealing directly with a provider gives them the best information.
By gathering information directly from service providers, the customer usually gets detail and insights into solutions. The problem is they get very limited information about the solution’s real-world performance and how it stacks up against competitors.
When customers use an independent channel the experience is very similar to the direct sales but, they will usually get an unbiased opinion about the features, benefits, drawbacks, and performance of provider solution offering. An independent agent can also narrow down the number of services that best fit the customer’s needs.
This new direct and independent sales channels provides some solid benefits, but are also ripe with challenges that include:
- Inaccurate information by an unreliable source.
- Lack of complete knowledge about the technology or competing technologies.
- Reliance on a remote contact center with limited customer support for a hands off deployment.
- Limited technical depth on how to integrate a new service.
- Up to date unfiltered performance of the service is limited.
- Difficulty identifying, understanding, deploying and supporting the digital transformation while integrating the new technology.
- The absence of an expert that keeps customers current with the latest applications, automation, and integrations.
- Poor access to support and informed resources
As we can see, the sales channels and service cycle of technology needs to continue to evolve rapidly to keep pace with the technology itself.