Long ago (longer than I care to think about) my old man summarized it in a single phrase: “A difference that isn’t a difference isn’t a difference.” At the time I was young, and this sounded so obvious I took it as proof that Dad must have gone senile. (Of course the young all know that old people - everyone over, say, 40 - are feeble minded and stupid. Strange how old people get smarter as we ourselves get older, isn’t it?). In the meantime I have learned to appreciate the wisdom of that seemingly simple sentence. I now realize that it is the heart of all marketing. Because no matter what we (the vendors and the partners selling our products) believe, if the customer doesn’t perceive a difference between us and the competition, then there is no difference. And the customer might as well decide on price alone.
In my previous blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2) I described how, paradoxically, increased functionality is leading to greater commoditization, and that this can be explained by the Consumption Gap: technology companies are adding functionality faster than our customers are able to absorb it. Rather than trying to understand how all these new features could benefit them, they simply throw their hands up, decide all products are equal and choose on price. The solution lies in services: the job of the VAR or Systems Integrator is changing from providing product to counseling the customer and creating great results.
The really successful companies in coming years will grab the chance that the Consumption Gap gives them. They will identify new opportunities that the technology opens up to the customer and create new desires. This will differentiate them from other VARs. The vendors will like it, too, because it fills that gap between what the customers think they need and what the products can do. This goes beyond mere “solutions selling” to what I call Vision Selling. Solutions selling is about understanding the customer’s needs and fulfilling them. Vision Selling is about looking beyond the customer’s needs and creating possibilities that go far beyond them. As Bob Dylan would have said if he were in our business, solutions selling knows what you need, but Vision Selling knows what you want.
In some cases, this is going to mean completely rethinking your company’s business plan. At the very least it requires a mental shift away from “we sell products from vendors A, B, and C” to “we sell our networking knowledge and expertise to help the customer implement the right networking solution.” Remember, other VARs and SIs can also sell the products from vendors A, B, and C, and someone will always be willing to take a lower margin. But if you sell your brand – your consulting, your smarts, your creativity – you develop a bond with the customer that goes far beyond the logos on the boxes you install.
So, where are these opportunities?
Certainly some vendors provide more than others. Juniper’s approach to the New Network makes it a particularly rewarding partner for channels that want to engage in Vision Selling. Here are just a few examples of the opportunities Juniper provides:
Develop new monitoring or management applications using Junos Space. You can make use of the built in network discovery and inventory to create applications your customers will value. Or use Junos Space Service Now, which is included in every Juniper support contract, to add value to your customer support, becoming proactive and helping the customer avoid problems.
And notice that I haven’t even mentioned what you may think of as Juniper’s core business: routing, switching and security. The opportunities are endless for you to show your customers a bright future with the New Network.
How are you fighting commoditization in our industry? Why not share some examples of Vision Selling that your teams have already done. I welcome your additions to the conversation.
I have been in the networking industry for over 30 years: PBXs, SNA, Muxes, ATM, routers, switches, optical - I've seen it all. Eleven years in the US, over 20 in Europe, at companies like AT&T, IBM, Bay Networks, Nortel Networks and Dimension Data. Since 2007 my focus has been on services at Juniper: support services, professional services, service automation. Our market is characterized by amazing technological innovations, but technology is no use if you cannot get it to work and keep it working. That is why services are so exciting: this is where the technology moves out of the glossy brochures and into the real world!
For more about me, go to my LinkedIn profile: http://fr.linkedin.com/pub/joe-robertson/0/4a/34a
Justin has held a variety of positions at Alternative Networks since 1997 including responsibilities for running sales, product management, marketing, and training functions.
More recently he has been incubating a Wide Area Network division, and running cross sales in the enterprise sales division following an acquisition.
Justin Scopaz is senior director of Juniper Networks’ Worldwide Distribution organization. In this role, he is leading a global team driving worldwide distribution strategy, sales, and operations.
Prior to Juniper, Scopaz spent nearly two decades at Ingram Micro in a variety of senior leadership positions. Most recently, he served as vice president and general manager of Ingram Micro’s Data Capture and Physical Security business units. He also had responsibility for major national partners.
Based in Orange County, California, Scopaz is involved in both private and charitable organizations. He holds a B.A. in Business Management from California State University.
Zoe Sands is Head of Digital Marketing at Juniper Networks and is responsible for digital marketing and social media across EMEA. She is an experienced Digital Marketer since 1997 with PRINCE2 practitioner status, during this period Zoe has successfully launched many new online innovations for Juniper Networks, Cisco, Dialogic, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and Hyundai, including content managed and e-commerce based websites to integrated social media programmes. She has International exposure running projects globally, regionally and at a country level.
Zoe’s approach is to create an environment where those around her can share her passion for the Internet and the opportunities it presents. She says sharing knowledge, championing and communicating the benefits of digital capabilities enhances both the user experience and offers additional online communication channels and business opportunities. Zoe has a blog ‘Learning and sharing...’ to share her experience of all things online marketing, social media, chat online, SEO, SEM and mobile related content. You connect with Zoe via LinkedIn or find her on Twitter: @zoe9 and @ZoeSands.
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