Then one day after several years of this frustration reaching a boiling point, I had the whole cliche epiphany around this fact. This is not a problem that clients don’t get it about their systems, it’s my problem that I don’t ask them. It’s my issue because I don’t figure out what my clients need and how to engage with them to give them exactly what they need. Imagine that, communicating with the client and finding out just what they need! I see company after company try to do the hard sell on the clients. Increase those footprints, increase the billable hours, sell that add-on, renew those maintenance agreements. And on and on and on. I get it, everybody has to eat. But should we do it by just shoving products and services down the throats of clients who don’t even know what they want? If they can’t tell you what they need and they still buy your products, then great. Waste of money. But I think we have a responsibility to really truly care about our clients and what they need. Even when they don’t know.
So that leaves us with really only two options: continue down the same path of selling crap and time that don’t make sense, or listen to the clients who have real needs and want to work out a solution for your high value product or service on IBM i. I think we all know the first option since it’s pretty much the same Kool-aid that vendors, ISV’s, and “partners” have been feeding clients for decades. So let’s go down the other path….listening and educating. First is the length of the buying cycle by listening and educating. Will it be longer than the normal buying cycle? Sure will be. But if you’ve been talking the talk about value and building long-term relationships with clients, shouldn’t you start acting in that same mindset? I think you do, and deep down you do too.
Listening. Does the client know much about IBM i? What are their thoughts about it? Take the time to understand if it’s the hero in the enterprise or the bane that needs to be sunset in order to make way for an investment in new technology and re-tooling personnel. It’s amazing that many clients want to get rid of their IBM i and yet the big blue machine keeps trucking along shoving services at the client without listening to them first. I am going out on a limb and say that I think working with clients to sunset IBM i in some environments is a good thing. At the end this is about their business, not yours. If the focus is on the end of 3rd quarter instead of a dinner conversation about how they really feel about the platform is a big mistake.
Educating. If the client knows a lot about the IBM i, how can you increase their value even more? What is it that they don’t know that you can bring to their attention? What real scenarios related to their business can you sit down and explain how you add value instead of ridiculous presentations with CPW numbers, disk arms, or pie in the sky forward statements about technology they don’t want and can’t afford. Again I’m going to go astray and say that for the most part it probably isn’t about education the client as much as it is educating ourselves about their situation and business in general. Put yourself in their shoes. Does this solution put their people at risk for obsolescence? If you owned this business, what would you think of this presentation? And for goodness sake, stop being so afraid of giving clients information to make decisions or do things on their own. Labor and doing things on systems is now quickly into a downward spiral of commoditization. You can find a website, video, colleague, book, etc. to get through your tasks. What clients need are thoughts, solutions, real discussion with real terms instead of an acronym filled BS session to make a sale.
So now you’ve got the two foundational blocks needed to get started. Listen to the client and educate the client more importantly, yourself and it will lead to greater value to the end client. Next time I’ll explore a few specifics related to IBM i that we should be educating the client on.
Rob is the co-founder of ZB Solutions, a company providing security and infrastructure assessments along with IaaS capabilities on IBM i, Unix, and other platforms. We also offer cloud solutions for Google Cloud Platform and AWS. We pride ourselves on being a strategic adviser company to provide solid, useful information to better your environment.
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