[Column] Adrian Futcher, Gordon Fairlie: There’s never been a better time to be in the sale of IT but it still has its challenges
It’s safe to say the pandemic has sparked a record demand for tech products and solutions. Though business leaders have been talking about digital transformation for years, COVID-19 has been the catalyst for them to stop talking and start implementing. In fact, according to a study by cloud communications platform, Twilio, the crisis has accelerated digital transformation by around 5.3 years.
As Charles Dickens once put it - “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. And for many of us in the tech industry, this famous line from the 19th century describes exactly what it’s like selling IT in 2020.
Undoubtedly a big driver of this phenomenon is the pressing need for companies to achieve operational efficiencies and improve performance. But in many other ways the need to digitally transform has quite literally been forced on business leaders.
Data management no longer a nice-to-have
Think for a moment of the sudden explosion of data most organisations are experiencing. All sorts of new processes have been put in place - Teams meetings are more often being recorded, people are undergoing thermal imaging before entering buildings, all of which produces data that needs to be stored somewhere safe and secure.
Now more than ever, that data also needs to be accessed rapidly and easily so that decisions can be made quickly. Market conditions are shifting all the time and businesses need information that empowers them to make the right decisions at the right time. But often enough this is easier said than done. Research shows, for example, that around 59 percent of African CEOs believe they lack the reliable data needed for decision making.
To complicate matters, the explosion of data has also created a far more intense workload for IT professionals who have their hands full dealing with the enormous spike in storage requirements.
Customers are looking to the IT community for answers
But the good news is that we have, at our fingertips, the answer to many of our clients’ mounting challenges. Hitachi Vantara, for example, recently rolled out a range of data storage solutions for mid-size enterprises. In other words, we’ve brought the enterprise functionality and capability of our larger systems to a mid-range system that is more accessible to companies from a price point perspective. They can bring on board the tools they need to store data securely and access it easily for decision making. At the same time, they have the ability to automate processes and help alleviate their IT team’s capacity.
If you take a storage administrator, for instance, there are a number of mundane tasks for which they are responsible that can be done automatically by AI. In fact, the right technology can free up the administrator from having to go into the office to perform tasks such as provisioning storage and making changes normally done on premise.
As sales people we have an incredible opportunity to be out there showing customers, not only how we can better automate and orchestrate their businesses, but also how we can help fine-tune them. By providing companies with cost-effective, reliable access to data, we can help shape them into agile, streamlined and lean operations
And this is why, in many ways, there’s never been a better time to be in the sale of IT solutions.
The danger in overdoing it
But on the other hand, there’s also never been a more challenging time to be on the frontlines of the tech industry. It’s a blessing to be working harder than ever before, but it’s also impossible to ignore the impact of this incredible pace on work-life balance.
Before COVID-19, the average sales person would probably attend between two and four face-to-face meetings a day. But cut out travel time and suddenly any and every open space in your diary is filled with a meeting.There’s a very real danger in hitting burnout if we continue at the current pace we are going. So much so that the biggest challenge for leaders in this space at the moment isn’t about securing sales at all, but rather about making sure we look after our people. It might be as simple as introducing processes like gaps between meetings or only booking 45-minute meetings, so that there’s a natural breather between sessions.
But to truly provide our customers with the support they need our people need to be at their best. Selling technology has always been about more than just taking a message to sell. Instead it’s about partnering with customers to help them change their businesses and maintain pace with all the change that is happening. Especially at a time like this when the rate at which things are evolving can be daunting for business leaders.
If we are truly effective in what we do, and can help our customers adopt and embrace change, we can make a genuine difference to their businesses. In fact, the solutions we sell today might help them avoid closing their doors tomorrow. And that’s key, not just for those we partner with, but for the growth of the South African economy as a whole.