Jan-Feb 2020 - ChannelVision Magazine

N etwork solution providers have a challenging job nowadays, managing vendor expectations, customer questions and concerns, and fierce competition from other channel companies. Margins are squeezed by commoditization of the offerings by you and your competitors. In addition to understanding the design and applica- tions of products in your portfolio, you also have a quota to achieve, and cus- tomer relationships to manage, grow and protect from competitors. Indeed, channel sales can be a dog-eat-dog world. And for those IT solution providers managing network visibility solutions for monitoring and security products, mistakes often can result in lost revenue and customers. Following are four key but all-too-com- mon mistakes every solution provider offering network visibility solutions should keep in mind in order to stand out from the competition, keep custom- ers happy and make more money. 1. Being a salesperson, not a con- sultant – Customers look to the chan- nel for support in identifying the right equipment and services for their needs – whether that be an incremental deploy- ment or a complete network upgrade project. Developing and automatically proposing a “cookie cutter” solution for all customers is a mistake. Take the time to listen to your customer. Ask questions. Discuss the present and the future. Look beyond the equipment and core service the customer is requesting and make suggestions that will complement to- day’s plans, as well as tomorrow’s. Your customer may be very experienced and technically capable, but no one thinks of everything, every time. Probing ques- tions and comprehensive discussions about the network may help develop new ideas in your mind, as well as the customer’s. Using this approach, your proposal will be the only one that meets the highly nuanced needs your customer has conveyed. Being a consultant brings competitive edge, loyalty, repeat busi- ness and a reliable revenue stream. 2. Mixing up network visibility solutions – Network test access points (TAPs) and packet brokers have similar features but getting them confused can be a major mistake. Only TAPs offer failsafe connections to monitoring and security tools. Deploying a packet broker where a TAP should be deployed could result in a complete link failure (if power is cut off from the packet broker). The differ- ence is that network TAPs will keep live network traffic flowing even if the power is lost, providing a consistent, reliable flow of data to key network monitoring and se- curity tools. More complex networks may use TAPs and packet brokers together, in which case it’s critical that you ensure all network-side connections are made with a TAP, while tool connections are consoli- dated on a packet broker. 3. Failing to consider link and bandwidth growth – As most IT solu- tion providers know, network links and speeds will inevitably grow over time, and customers need to be prepared for those changes. Budget concerns may prevent network managers from discuss- ing their future plans, but if you bring up the subject of scale proactively, you’re more likely to gain valuable information about their future priorities and roadmap that may present an opportunity for a competitive edge. Helping a customer meet today’s network demands and presenting a budget-friendly solution to scale in the future will make your propos- al stand out from the pack. Look for flex- ible, modular network visibility solutions FOUR MISTAKESTO AVOID WHEN OFFERING NETWORK VISIBILITY SOLUTIONS By Alastair Hartrup that can grow incrementally, eliminating expensive rip-and-replace upgrades. 4. Fear of limiting sales potential – Deploying sophisticated network visibility solutions for your customers can actu- ally bring about a level of efficiency that reduces the number of monitoring and security tools needed over time. For ex- ample, advanced load balancing capabili- ties allow lower-speed, legacy monitoring and security tools to continue operating when network links are upgraded to faster speeds. Additionally, providing aggrega- tion capabilities that allow a single tool to manage multiple links also can reduce the total number of new tools your customer’s actually need to purchase for a network upgrade project. Why would anyone limit additional tool revenue? If you are re- sponding to a competitive RFP, you may need to cut equipment costs. The above approach can help cut CAPEX without re- ducing functionality of the tools, thus mak- ing your bid more price competitive without reducing profit margin. This approach also can make you a trusted business partner to your customer, better positioning your company to tap into ongoing revenue streams, beyond one-off sales. Selling and managing networking solu- tions can be tough. Avoid these costly mis- takes and incorporate the above tips to pro- vide better network visibility solutions and monitoring and security tools and support for your customers. This will help differenti- ate your business from the competition and solidify ongoing customer relationships. o Alastair Hartrup is the CEO and founder of Network Critical, a company that provides network TAPs and packet brokers, which help organizations increase visibility across dynamic and complex networks. CORE COMMUNICATIONS 54 CHANNEL VISION | January - February, 2020