September 30, 2014

SELLING SOFTLAYER (in Amsterdam)

September 30, 2014

Selling SoftLayer services to Internet-centric companies—hosting resellers, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) providers, big data and e-commerce companies—are no-brainers. These companies clearly see the advantages that come with having their servers (the backbone of their business) hosted by a specialist. They switch their capital expenses into variable costs that can be spread over time.

On the flip side are companies in non-Internet-centric industries—banking, health care, oil & gas, and aerospace. How do these companies find value in the IaaS offered by SoftLayer? The IT infrastructure (servers to be precise) accounts for less than 5 percent of their capital expenditure (CAPEX) as opposed to almost 95 percent for Internet-centric companies.

Will the same value proposition work for both Internet-centric and non-Internet-centric companies?

With Internet-centric companies (where servers constitute up to 95 percent of CAPEX), the majority of the workforce is server-savvy. This means there is a very high chance any contact we have with these companies will be with a server-savvy fellow. Selling SoftLayer will then be a question of how SoftLayer’s USPs differentiate from the competition.

The current industry trend is driving a faulty message: The cloud is a commodity.

The truth is: Unlike basic commodities (electricity, gas, or cable), where there is little or no differentiation between what the end user gets irrespective of the provider, cloud and hosting in general are different. This faulty commodity-based assumption drives the price wars in cloud computing.

Comparing apples and oranges cumulus and stratus.

To test and disprove this theory, I brought a customer’s systems engineer (a server expert) into a sales discussion with the CTO.

I requested to put the price negotiations on hold for about 4 hours, and evaluate the services first. To do this, I asked for the exact configuration that the customer had hosted with a competitor. I ordered the exact configuration on the SoftLayer platform and within 2 hours the servers were ready. When the customer’s system engineer tested the performance of the SoftLayer server and compared it to what they had from a competitor, the price comparison was thrown out the window for good.

There are many different facets wherein SoftLayer outperforms the competition but unfortunately, most prospective customers only see price.

For the non-Internet-centric companies, to reach the price discussion is a milestone in itself. Pricing negotiations only begin when the need and suitability (originality) have been established.

The IBM and SoftLayer effect.

As a salesperson, I subscribe to the SCOTSMAN Sales Qualification Matrix (Solution, Competition, Originality, Timescales, Size, Money, Authority, and Need). Most companies in this group need solutions. IaaS is just part of that solution. This is where IBM (Big Blue) comes into the picture. As a service giant in the IT Sector, IBM can and will build on SoftLayer’s IaaS prowess to conquer this landscape. The synergies that are coming from this acquisition will send shockwaves across the industry.

Question is: Will the stakeholders maximize this potential to the fullest?

- Valentine Che, Global Sales, AMS01