Are you blinded by cloud sprawl?

The flexibility to purchase cloud services with just a credit card and without technical IT knowledge, has meant that cloud sprawl is a much bigger issue than shadow IT ever was.

Cloud can be invisible; it can be locked up in individuals’ user accounts, it can’t be registered on an asset list by walking around an office.  Shadow IT was more visible – is that a new printer you’ve got over in the corner?  What’s this server under your desk?

But cloud – who knows where it is throughout your organisation?

Have you tried documenting and tracking your organisation’s true cloud usage? Or have you become blinded by cloud sprawl?


The ease of purchasing cloud has contributed to its ubiquity across businesses.  Anyone with a company credit card can purchase cloud services – and companies are now also seeing more BYOA (Bring Your Own App) where staff are selecting their own apps, sometimes free, to get their jobs done.  A good example is Mailchimp – the email sending and tracking software.  Many people wouldn’t think twice about setting up a Mailchimp account and importing contacts to send out a company newsletter – but what happens when that staff member leaves; does the account go with them?

We are often trying to manage cloud in the same way that we managed traditional IT purchases – but the purchasing models are now fundamentally different.  CFOs are struggling to understand what their IT budget is with so much cloud sprawl muddying the numbers.  Traditionally, the IT budget would be set, but now it’s often unclear what the real spend is, and it can be impossible to predict costs if using a pay as you go cloud service based on consumption.  Bills can vary, budgets can increase and planning becomes more difficult.

Who is in charge?

So who is in charge of the cloud services across your business?  Who makes a decision about whether to purchase the services? Is it always IT? Or does Marketing purchases their own SaaS apps?  Does HR use its own SaaS HR tool that they purchase locally?

Who sits above all of these cloud decisions?

Often, it’s now the CFO or Finance Manager. Before, it would often be the IT Director with Finance signing off on budgets.  But now, in the wake of cloud sprawl, it’s often the Finance Director having to make the call on whether to approve purchases.

Perhaps in some businesses, there is a joined up approach to cloud purchases: Finance signs off on the business case, IT is notified and everyone discusses how the new service will sit alongside current systems and how the cost will fit into IT’s budget.
But I wager that there are many more organisations that don’t have this joined-up approach in place; where cloud has run rampant through their business, and the cost-savings originally intended as a result of moving to the cloud may all have disappeared due to the number of new services added every year.

Bring back control

When I started writing this article, I thought about how could organisations better control cloud sprawl.

But I’m not sure they can – we can put in place recommendations about developing asset registers for cloud services, and cloud service purchase process standardisation – but will that be realistic?

Perhaps cloud will have to fully mature within organisations before we can hope to start controlling it more thoroughly.

A few things to look at in the interim, are:

  • Are you overprovisioning cloud services? Many times, out of a fear of moving to cloud services, customers overprovision and end up paying more than they need to.
  • How are you managing user logins for cloud services? Do you have a central system for keeping track of user logins for the different cloud services used across the business in the event of a staff member leaving?
  • Do you have a purchase code in your accounting systems to track when cloud services have been purchased for easier reporting?


There’s a saying (some say it’s from Spiderman, I couldn’t possibly say), that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ – and a similar saying is true for cloud: ‘with great flexibility, comes great complexity (if not managed)’.

What are your thoughts?


Think you don’t have a hybrid cloud strategy? You’re wrong.

I recently spoke to an IT Manager, and during our conversation, I asked what his hybrid cloud strategy was. He said that his company didn’t have a formal hybrid cloud strategy; they were moving more applications out of their data centre and choosing SaaS apps where available, but there wasn’t a hybrid cloud strategy in place.

But he’s wrong.

Whether that IT Manager likes it or not, he already has a hybrid IT strategy in place. The company itself has set it in stone, with or without the help of IT.

No one person is responsible, but many have contributed. Over the years, each additional SaaS service purchased, each new application that was brought in and hosted with a Public Cloud provider, and each new upgrade to the existing onsite data centre has developed a hybrid cloud ecosystem.

Cloud has already spread throughout the business I met with, and every month, as new services are added and old applications are taken offline, a hybrid cloud ecosystem continues to grow.

Perhaps the attraction of hybrid cloud is that it may not be something that can be entirely set in stone in a formal strategy. By its very nature, perhaps it has to be a living, breathing ecosystem, that flexes and changes as new situations arise: perhaps your data centre experiences a failure and more services are moved to the cloud one year; or your ERP provider moves to a pure cloud play strategy so you’re forced into SaaS world for your central business applications.

You can’t always plan for that – with Microsoft Dynamics being Azure-led now, customers may be moving central systems to the cloud earlier than their strategies may have previously anticipated.

But it doesn’t mean a strategy doesn’t exist, it just means that maybe the traditional way of deciding on a long term IT strategy for your business doesn’t fit in a world where new providers can launch applications on the fly or the industry’s largest vendors can change their position on onsite or public cloud hosting overnight.

A hybrid IT strategy is all about being flexible enough to allow for change both internally (i.e. what your business decides to do commercially and operationally) and externally (i.e. what the market dictates and also what technology industry and vendors offer each year).

Previously, vendors might introduce a newer, shinier box – but it was just a newer, shinier version of the previous box. It didn’t mean you had to throw out your IT strategy and start again. Today, an application vendor deciding to only release their updated version as a SaaS product means that your strategy to keep that application in-house for the foreseeable future changes. And perhaps it has a knock-on effect on your other applications; making it more costly to keep other apps in-house if you don’t have the economies of scale of all of your applications being hosted within your own data centre.

And, the stakeholders responsible for your hybrid IT strategy have changed. Shadow IT and the proliferation of cloud services means that the people involved in making a decision about your hybrid IT strategy may be sat in diverse roles across different departments of your business. They may have been purchasing their own cloud services for over 10 years and now have a key voice in decisions about future IT strategy of the organization.

So, do you have a hybrid IT strategy? Or has your company sorted it out without you?

The State of Cloud 2017 – What’s the opportunity?

With all the articles you’ve probably read on cloud, all the hype and all the talk about cloud – you’d think that every business was now at least 90% in the cloud.  Yet apparently there’s still some way to go.  Here’s a little round of some of the latest predictions, stats and figures relating to the cloud industry.  We also think there’s a great opportunity for innovative startups in the enterprise IT and cloud market to disrupt the status quo for cloud migration and enterprise hosting services.  What do you think?


So what’s the state of cloud in 2017?

74% of tech CFOs believe cloud computing will have the most measurable impact on their business in 2017. Is this the year that things get done? The year in which those large scale moves to cloud happen and central business applications finally tip over the edge into the cloud abyss? Perhaps… (Source:


Enabling top performers

A report from IBM showed that the top-performing companies in the banking sector are 88% more likely than underperforming banks to implement a hybrid cloud strategy. We’ve always had an inkling that the best performing companies have embraced cloud where it makes sense, but it’s good to see it in stats and facts! (Source:


Cloud spend 6 times the rate of spend as traditional IT

Still pushing against the pull of cloud and refusing to budge?  Apparently cloud compute spend is growing at 4.5 times the rate of IT spend – and that rate is expected to increase to 6 times the rate of IT spend between 2016 and 2020.  Is your IT reseller still telling you to buy on-premise or ignore SaaS tools?  Maybe 2017 is the year to reconsider your supplier strategy. (Source:



The hybrid cloud market is expected to be $91,740,000,000 in 2021, raised from an estimate of a comparably feeble $33.28bn in 2016.  With such a huge increase in the market size, we’ll be paying close attention to who the big players in the hybrid cloud market are – surely it’s going to be an attractive play for many existing cloud providers and startups? (Source:


Global IT-as-a-Service spend

Deloitte believes that in 2018 the global spend on ‘IT-as-a-service’ will be $547bn, up from $361bn in 2016.  With such an increase in spend, we are predicting that providers will be bringing evermore innovative solutions to market to make it easier for the larger organisations with complex ERP systems and on-premise legacy environments to move over.  We haven’t seen much innovation in the arena of cloud migration services and taking legacy apps to the cloud – maybe this is an area for startups to focus on in the future to harness the uptick trend in as-a-service spending? (Source:


I believe that many of these cloud statistics offer a lot of possibility for newer market entrants to capture a piece of the cloud pie – customers are looking for something different; they want simpler systems and easier paths to migration.  Who will own the market for easier migration to a hybrid cloud environment?

Make Your Sales Stick

One of the top books I’ve read over the past few years is “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – and although most of the book and ideas are focused around how to make new products ‘stick’ in a particular market, I think some of the ideas can be applied to sales.

I’m always looking for new and different ways to reframe how we apply learning in the world of sales, and looking for new ways to explain why customers buy and what we can do as sales teams to improve how we align with those buying patterns.

So, if we look at the core ideas below from Made to Stick – you can instantly see how these ‘rules’ can be applied to sales activities.


Made to Stick – the ‘Succes’ formula

  • Simple – find the core of any idea
  • Unexpected – grab people’s attention by surprising them
  • Concrete – make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later
  • Credible – give an idea believability
  • Emotional – help people see the importance of an idea
  • Stories – empower people to use an idea through narrative


(Heath & Heath)



Finding the core of any idea

What’s more frustrating than speaking to a sales rep who tells you hundreds of facts, figures, stats, and points about their product.  Not many sales execs are good at finding the core of an idea – they make propositions too complicated, and they include too much info.  We are simple beings, and we need simple messages.



Grabbing your audience’s attention

The reason why most of our customers have chosen to partner with us is because we are unexpected.  They didn’t expect our sales guy to visit them over the weekend to help them wire up their new datacentre, and they didn’t expect the Jonathan Palmer Race Day experience invite.  It’s not just about unexpected gifts, but it’s also about taking a different approach to how you sell.  Be unexpected, delight your customers – make them smile.



Make your idea memorable

Once you’ve done your presentation and you walk out the door, that customer you’ve just met goes back into their world.  That world might include catching up with voicemails missed during your meeting, or dealing with a problem that’s keeping them up at night.  How does your message break through all of that so that they remember it?  If it sounds vaguely similar to most of your competitors, then it’s unlikely they will be able to differentiate between you and your competitor a week later.  So instead, think about how you can simplify your message down and present it in a way that sticks.

One of our best sales reps mapped out a customer’s new IT solution using coasters, pens and whatever was to hand in a meeting – as a way of visualising a new solution for a customer.  This was memorable as it required the customer to physically engage in designing their own solution – it was an interactive process whereas a traditional PowerPoint presentation is often a one-way conversation from presenter to audience.



Give an idea believability

How do you demonstrate credibility to your customer? Could it be by sharing interesting customer anecdotes (and we’re not talking about a boring case study) – or inviting an existing happy client to come along to a meeting with a new customer?  Or perhaps get a customer to record a quick personalised video message in preparation for your meeting?  Customers want to feel reassured that they are making the right choice, don’t make it difficult for them to find the info they need to make that choice.



Help people see the importance of an idea

In sales, it’s important to develop an emotional connection between what you’re selling and your buyer.  Your product or service will have a business impact on your customer’s organisation and job, but it will also have an emotional impact on your buyer – they have a very important choice to make.  If they make the wrong choice, it will have both business and personal ramifications for them.  They might not be put in charge of selecting a new supplier in future, or perhaps their confidence in managing large projects where they are the decision maker will be dented.  Understand the emotional impact of your service, but also the emotional opportunity of your product.  What could they achieve with your product? What would it mean for them personally?



Empower an idea through narrative

Perhaps the most important one of all: stories.  We talk a lot about story-telling in sales, but do you actually do it?  How could you shake up your traditional customer presentation by making it story-centric – could all the same points be told by telling your customer a story about how you helped someone before and talk them through that particular story?  Moving away from information overload, and to a valuable story that captures your customers’ attention is the only way to form true connections with buyers and help them to better understand your business, your product and your value to them.


What do you think? Have you read Made to Stick? Do you think it applies to the world of sales?

What Role Does Loyalty Play in Online Shopping?

Customer loyalty has historically been formed largely through face-to-face interactions. However, with the advent of online shopping, retailers have found it significantly harder to build brand loyalty, instead focusing on factors such as product selection, convenience and lower prices to drive revenue.


There’s no doubt that ecommerce channels present many advantages to retailers and consumers alike, particularly given the rise of mobile and the added accessibility and convenience it brings. At the same time, being spoiled for choice has also had its effect on the consumer market – there is now so much competition that it’s easier to lose customers than ever before.


Transforming new customers into brand ambassadors can be challenging when you’re working with a medium as impersonal as ecommerce. Nonetheless, by guaranteeing customer satisfaction and taking steps to acquire their trust, you’ll be in a better position to turn a new customer into someone who will happily spread the good word about your business through social networks and other platforms.


Customer Loyalty Is Declining


Being spoiled for choice in an often extremely competitive marketplace, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that customer loyalty is dropping steadily. In fact, conversion rates have dropped by 28% in the last seven years. The rapid rise of comparison shopping and the relative ease of finding alternatives online have also made it more difficult for brands to hold onto existing customers. As such, many consumers don’t even consider brand loyalty to be a significant factor in their purchase decisions.


To overcome this trend, retailers need to work harder to better accommodate their customers through personalized loyalty programmes and excellent online content. After all, no longer is customer loyalty just about face-to-face interactions and competitive prices.


How Mobile Commerce Influences Customer Loyalty


Mobile commerce is rapidly catching up with desktop commerce, with more than 40% of online transactions now occurring on the small screen. Online stores that don’t provide an optimal experience on smartphones will likely be losing out on a great deal of potential revenue. Additionally, some digital loyalty programmes are not nearly as effective as they’re only tailored towards desktop users, or those using physical loyalty cards.


Studies show that 70% of consumers will develop a better impression of a company that allows them to save a loyalty card to their smartphone. From the consumer’s perspective, mobile loyalty programmes are far more convenient, since they can present things like personalized discount cards and digital loyalty cards in-store rather than having to print something out or carry around an additional card.


The same study also found that 83% of consumers appreciate a personalized approach whereby they receive specific rewards and promotions for events such as birthdays and anniversaries. By demonstrating to new customers that you’re aware of their individual needs and desires, you’ll be in a much better position to retain their business. If, on the other hand, a customer feels like nothing more than just another sales statistic, they’re not likely to feel any sense of loyalty to your business.


The Importance of Online Content for Building Brand Loyalty


One of the biggest challenges with building a highly visible online brand is getting heard amongst all the noise. However, according to NewsCred Insights, 62% of millennial consumers consider meaningful online content to be a major driver in brand loyalty. Every day, millions of people, particularly those belonging to the millennial generation, turn to the web to find answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. That’s why content marketing, especially social media, have become so important. Nonetheless, many companies have yet to embrace the potential of quality, engaging and relevant content to increase their brand’s visibility and influence.


Millennials generally aren’t interested in receiving sales messages, hence the rapid decline of traditional advertising in recent years. Instead, they want actionable content in a variety of formats, such as social media updates and blog posts, that helps them to fulfil their goals.


Building an ecommerce empire is no longer about sending sales messages – it’s about building loyalty through a strong, consistent and genuinely helpful online presence. From personalised loyalty rewards to value-adding content, online retailers need to do everything they can to build and retain audiences in an increasingly crowded marketplace. It’s about a two-way, engaged conversation between retailers and customers.  

Mobile Ecommerce Trends – What Are the Numbers Telling Us

While adopting a mobile-first approach may require an extensive overhaul of your website, the benefits are undisputable. Thanks to the increasing ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, interactions with potential and existing customers can happen anywhere at any time instead of being restricted to the desktop.


Mobile traffic overtook the desktop around three years ago, and around 90% of consumers now keep their smartphones with them around the clock. The mobile share of the ecommerce industry continues to skyrocket, profoundly effecting the industry to the extent businesses are now more likely to talk about ‘m-commerce’ rather than e-commerce. Mobile is now the defining platform of the online shopping experience, as these trends and statistics prove:


Ecommerce Sales

Just a few years ago, using a smartphone for online shopping was fraught with frustration as consumers struggled to navigate the average website on the small screen. Today, mobile accounts for well over half of all web traffic, and more than 40% of e-commerce transactions now take place on smartphones or tablets. From the consumer’s perspective, mobile is more convenient for shopping, since they can browse online stores, add items to shopping carts and make payments no matter where they are.


Shopping Cart Abandonment

People abandon online shopping carts for all sorts of reasons, such as a lack of preferred payment and delivery options. However, easily one of the biggest impacts on shopping cart abandonment is the user experience. Try navigating an online store that’s designed primarily for use on a desktop device, and you’ll quickly see how fiddly and frustrating the experience can be. Nonetheless, despite the unprecedented rise of mobile, many e-commerce stores are still woefully outdated when it comes to user interface and functionality.


Studies show that almost a third of mobile shoppers will abandon their shopping carts if the experience isn’t optimized for the small screen. Given the fact that mobile commerce is growing, this clearly isn’t an opportunity that retailers can afford to miss out on.


Buyer Journey

Online shopping has very much become an omnichannel experience, and while desktop devices aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future, there are now more ways to access the web than ever before. Mobile now plays an important role at every stage of the buyer journey from initial discovery to making a transaction. In fact, the latest statistics show that sixty percent of consumers have made a purchase on a mobile device, either to pick up an item in store or order online.


What this statistic demonstrates is that different people like to shop in an increasing number of different ways. For example, many consumers still use mobile devices only for initial research, hence the growing popularity of mobile-friendly comparison shopping, while leaving transactions themselves to desktop devices. Others, however, prefer to use the mobile for the entire buyer journey right up to making an order. In fact, the mobile-only consumer, who doesn’t even use a desktop device, is rapidly becoming commonplace.


Black Friday Sales

Despite being an American tradition, Black Friday sales are rapidly gaining ground in the UK and elsewhere in the world. In the US last year, shoppers spent $3.34 billion on online shopping during Black Friday, with $1.2 billion worth of those transactions taking place on mobile devices. That presents a 33% increase over the previous year, yet again exemplifying the fact that mobile commerce is already a big thing.


Online shopping is now an omnichannel experience with a strong focus on the availability and convenience afforded by mobile devices.

ERP as a Sales Engine

image1Enterprise resource planning is rarely seen as one of the more glamorous sides of modern business. However, contrary to popular belief, ERP is not just about managing your operations. While data and processes may sound boring, they define the way modern business works. In fact, there’s a good chance that data is the most valuable asset your company owns. With the right technology at your disposal, you’ll be better equipped to leverage this data to increase sales and reduce your overheads. ERP is not just about the boring side of business – it’s also a core lead generation tool and helps you to better connect with customers.

Know Who Your Customers Are

All digital processes, from online transactions to customer support requests, generate data. Making sense of this data allows you to learn more about your customers, and that’s exactly what a modern ERP solution does. An ERP suite provides a centralised database containing information about your customers, such as their purchases, the amount of revenue they generated, the number of support requests they’ve filed and more. By making this information more accessible, you’ll have everything you need to adapt future marketing and sales campaigns to better cater to the needs and habits of your customers.

Provide Better Customer Service

Poor customer support is one of the most common reasons for consumers and businesses alike to look elsewhere, particularly now that a company’s reputation is now very much at the mercy of online reviews. Great customer service, on the other hand, creates brand ambassadors who will happily spread the good word about your company, in turn leading to increased revenue. Since a cloud-based ERP solution provides a centralised database with information about everything from customers’ past purchases to what’s in stock over at the warehouse, it allows you to provide a timely service with far more effective real-time communications.

Seek Out New Market Opportunities

Without scalability, future business growth will be severely stunted by the limitations of your existing IT infrastructure. However, modern ERP systems provide an unprecedented level of scalability, since they’re not reliant upon on-premises servers and other expensive and bulky hardware. The data such a system generates, as well as the way this data is stored and accessed, allows you to quickly identify new market opportunities and proactively respond to changes in the market. A modern and flexible ERP solution also makes it easier to expand into other locations or even to other countries.

Agile Service Delivery

The agile software delivery model is all about adaptive planning, continuous improvement and evolutionary development in accordance with the release of new technologies. By their very nature, modern ERP suites are agile, since the systems are maintained and updated constantly by vendors rather than by an in-house team. As such, ERP allows for the early delivery of business value without having to worry about the unforeseen impacts of major software or hardware releases. Other advantages include greater visibility, management and control and faster recovery from failure, all of which ultimately translate into increased revenue.

You might not think of ERP as one of the more glamorous elements of business but, by making it the central lead-generation tool of your company, you’ll quickly see just how beneficial it can be as a sales engine to drive your business forward. At C24, we strive for continual improvement of your business through an agile approach to ERP. To find out more, speak to one of our experts today.

Are You a Sales Athlete?

Perseverance is essential in sales, and my recent blog about the way in which we can learn from the dedication and commitment of Olympic athletes chimed with many people who work in sales today.

There’s a lot to be gained from listening to those who’ve achieved sporting success, and there’s a reason why many former Olympians such as Kriss Akabusi and Roger Black now charge big sums for motivational speeches (1), appearing at sales conferences to pass on their skills.

Comments on the blog about “committing to the race” and “deliberate practice” got me thinking about how we can look at the commitment made by top sportspeople and use these lessons to improve the way we work towards our goals in sales.

Laying the foundation for sales success

Olympic athletes train for between four and eight years before making it into an Olympic team (2). That’s not years of competitions, going out in front of a crowd and winning medals: that’s up to eight years of sheer hard work, putting the effort in every day before they see any return at all.

Can you learn from that kind of dedication? Do you approach your sales role with the same level of perseverance, putting in that kind of effort to improve your skills? When I look at Olympic athletes, I see people who are prepared to commit themselves totally to their goal. They go as far as changing the way their bodies work, increasing strength and lung capacity to maximise their potential. To people like that, training is a full-time job.

This commitment is inspiring, and it’s something that those of us in the world of sales can learn from. Training is not just an occasional thing, it should be a permanent part of your job, and an ongoing dedication to progression should be at the very core of what you do.

Planning out success

Olympic athletes plan their training far ahead, with schedules that can cover up to four years into the future. This is the kind of preparation we can learn from, and there are lessons to take on board.

How far ahead do you plan your own training and development? Many of us may treat it as an afterthought, slotting it in around a regular day’s work. Instead, adopting a well-planned schedule that looks far ahead could be the key to making sure you constantly achieve more.

In real terms, this could mean focussing on engaging with new customers and opening up new accounts over a period of time rather than giving up at the first sign of difficulty. It can also include investment in your own abilities and skills, making sure you look at where you’ll be and what you can achieve a year or more from now.

Getting the right team on board

Athletes may well compete individually, but they won’t win anything without a great team to support them. There’s another big lesson that I can see in this – you need the right people around you in order to win.

Nutritionists, psychologists, trainers; any gold medal-winning athlete will have all of these people working with them to bring out their very best and help them get the results they’re after. Each can focus on a different area of the athlete’s needs, and together they create a plan for success.

Who makes up your team, and who helps you to improve? Do you have someone who coaches you in the things you need to work on? Most importantly, is there anyone missing from your team who could help you to achieve more?

Focus on the mind

A winning athlete doesn’t just have to get their body into peak condition, but their mind as well. As I mentioned, psychologists form an integral part of many athletes’ teams, and performing mental exercises is as important as physical ones for preparing for a high-profile competition.

How can we learn from this kind of preparation, and what mental exercises can each of us do to get ourselves ready to push our successes even further? Getting yourself in the right state of mind before going into a potential meeting could make all the difference to the outcome. Some reps even use visualisations to visualise a successful meeting before they go in to see a customer, to help them better handle objections and have more confidence on the day.

Winning the race

Consistently winning sales is a long race and one that you’ll do better at by committing yourself to the right kind of preparation. There are many similarities between the way Olympic athletes prepare for their events and the way a successful salesperson should go about their role. Rather than looking for overnight success, it is a commitment to training and dedication that will ultimately see you taking the gold medal at the end. There’s no shortcut, but committing to self-improvement is the first step.




Land and Expand Sales Theory – In action

I wrote an article last year about ‘Land and Expand’ in sales; around how to gain traction within existing customers by delivering high levels of service in one core area, and expanding out your sales efforts to other areas of your client’s organisation.

This is a proven strategy for many startups who maybe lack the reputation to win contracts at a corporate level with larger customers, but manage to make inroads into individual teams, and then once they have ‘landed’ they can ‘expand’ their offering out.

We recently worked with a client that demonstrated the land and expand theory perfectly.

We were brought in to deliver a standalone project. We were the outsiders, new to their organisation and, in their eyes; a risk.  We focused on getting the initial service we had been contracted to deliver just right. We ensured that the customer services around that service worked to perfection – with accurate billing (apparently quite unusual in the cloud space we found out!), and a focus on communication and smoothing out the service delivery.

We ensured our processes ran without a hitch and didn’t walk before we could run. We just focused on what we had been asked to do, as a supplier. We didn’t ask about the other areas we knew we could help with, we just focused on the task at hand.

This meant that the customer was fundamentally happy with the service we delivered to them, and so was open to talking about other areas where we could help.

Then, when the customer experienced an issue with another supplier in a different area of their business, they came to us for our advice. This led to another project and so our ‘expansion’ into the account started.

An interesting, and counter-intuitive, realisation we have come to over the past 6 years delivering services to clients, is that in many cases, suppliers don’t make it easy for customers to engage with them. They make it difficult for clients to get in touch with them, their payment processes are complex or they overcomplicate their systems – so much so that it inhibits customers actually purchasing.

We’ve looked at how to make our processes simpler for the customer; not for us. We have focused on getting the framework right – from creating our onboarding packs for new managed services clients through to our regular customer support service review sessions. They will never be the most exciting part of the business, but they make a huge difference, and focusing on getting them right gives customers the confidence that we know what we’re doing.

The point is that we succeeded in this customer project because we didn’t go in trying to sell everything including the kitchen sink – we just focused on the part they needed help with at that time, and we focused on solving it to the best of our ability. This built up credibility, confidence and reassurance with the customer that we could be trusted to handle bigger projects.

This has led to us securing one of our biggest clients to date and is a clear example of the ‘land and expand’ theory working – and it is a critical way for small, specialist companies to win larger, corporate clients. It’s where agile, smaller companies can really differentiate themselves from the competition.

We’ve not chased every trend in the industry, we still do what we started off doing: enterprise hosting services with a few bits on the side, such as analytics and traditional resell of enterprise infrastructure. We’ve honed our processes and what we do, and we are still working on process improvement each year to make it all move along smoothly. That’s not to say there’s never a problem – we aren’t perfect. But we get it, we understand it and we do our best.

It’s land and expand sales theory in action.

Winning the deal but losing the customer

I have a strong belief that the real selling starts after the sale.

But so many sales teams are incentivised to focus relentlessly on pre-sale activity, ignoring the fact that a customer becomes more valuable to you once a sale is completed.  The first sale is just the first step in the process – now you have to make sure the customer is committed to you, and remains committed to you, throughout their partnership with your organisation.

We all know the statistics about ratio of costs when it comes to acquiring a new customer versus retaining a customer.  I won’t go into that – but what I will say is that the simple things that would help you retain a customer, are often not being done.  Regular catch-ups, following up when you said you would, or inviting them to the days out that you normally only invite your new prospects to are ways to maintain a good relationship once the deal is done.  Sales reps often just focus on the next prospect instead of spending time with existing customers who actually spend money with you.  And the best thing of all about engaging with existing clients is that you know that your customer wants to be engaged with you, because they bought from you.  They have given you the green light to engage and be a good vendor.  Take the opportunity!


Familiarity breeds complacency

It’s easy to become complacent with your best customers – they pay on time, they don’t give you a hard time and they are always happy to see you.  It’s easy to take them for granted – but if you think about the Customer Lifetime Value rather than the value of the deal in front of you right now, then it might change how you think about the time and resources you dedicate to continually winning back your customer.

Most marketing and sales ROI calculations are based on net new business revenue or margin – but how do you calculate ROI on NOT losing your best customer?  Do you factor customer churn rates into your ROI calculations?

Sometimes all it needs is a period of review and reflect to think about your best customers, and look at what you can do to increase their experience after the sale.  We like to organise our annual Jon Palmer Race Days – there’s no selling going on, no talking about work – just a chance to share some time away from the office with our customers, and it is our little way of saying thank you for working with us.  It makes sense to do this with our existing customers to retain that valuable relationship, rather than ploughing all our marketing budget into finding new prospects who may never become customers.  Obviously you have to do new business prospecting but marketing budgets should always account for how to focus resources on existing clients.

Keeping in regular contact helps to maintain the bonds created between you and your customer – and is a fundamental part of ensuring high customer experience levels.  This relatively new trend of analysing customer experience forgets that it all comes down to a fundamental, and basic, activity: keeping your customer happy.  Maybe in this new digital world where it has never been easier to reach thousands of new prospects on a daily basis, marketing and sales activities have flipped to continually focus on the new, new, new.  But generations ago, the local cornershop with a loyal customer base knew the value of a good and consistent customer experience long before marketing experts coined the phrase.

A recent article by Tamara Schenk highlighted how marketing content should also be employed throughout the entire customer journey, both before and after you have joined your client for the ride.  She advocates creating the right kind of content during the “implementation, adoption and usage” phase.  These are the critical points where the customer starts to develop a view on what working with you is like.  Dedicating time and investing resources into making your solution fit as seamlessly as possible will pay off when the next refresh comes around.

After all, your customer of today will be your competitor’s new prospect tomorrow.