Making IT Buying Easier

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Constrained IT budgets are making customers delay technology purchases again. But changing the way you make your proposal could make them change their minds.

Have your customers’ IT requirements changed just because their IT budgets have been cut? Does this long recession we are in mean that those ancient PCs at your customer site are suddenly good for another year or two?

Of course not. Your customers still need the technology. What they don’ t have right now are the funds to pay for it. The real question is this: Is it possible to help your customers buy the technology they need in a way that is friendly to their new IT budget constraints?

And the answer is: It just may be. Last year Cisco introduced a new way to sell its unified communications solutions through its reseller partners. Cisco broke down the price into a hardware-as-a-service-type structure. With that restructured pricing, Cisco and its resellers could talk to customers about how the unified communications solution would cost end users “pennies per user per day.”

“If we break the price into monthly chunks, that’s a much easier conversation than ‘Could you write me a check for £20,000?'” Brad Kowerchuk, president of Bralin Technology Solutions, a Cisco partner in Saskatchewan, Canada, told Channel Insider last year.

“I think hardware as a service is where we ultimately can go with this,” he said. “Photocopier guys have known this for decades. You pay them a maintenance fee, cut them a small check every month. With hardware as a service we are really just going in those footsteps.”

To offer this kind of low-cost, hardware-as-a-service-type pricing, Cisco and its channel partners used a tool that may seem counterintuitive in today’s market: end-user financing. It’s a tool that can be applied to many deals and offered as an option to customers to help break down that giant price into smaller, monthly, digestible chunks. Such a strategy can ease the price objection, something that could be crucial to closing the deal in today’s market.

Cisco and its resellers were able to use end-user credit to help make those sales because they made it easy for the customers. They didn’t just sell the technology. They also sold how easy it was to buy it. They didn’t just talk about the benefits of unified communications technology and then dump a load of loan documents on the end customer’s desk. They talked about “pennies per user per day.” That’s a compelling message.

And while headlines all around us have pointed to the drying up of credit over the last six months, including some in the technology space, other credit offers have become available to the reseller channel during the same time. Computer hardware companies that are nervous about sales in 2009 are offering some great credit deals. For example, Dell is offering 0 percent financing on EqualLogic storage products, HP is offering 0 percent financing on all its hardware products, and IBM is offering solid deals on financing for its hardware, too. Dell also has just announced some 0 percent financing deals on other Dell technology, including laptops. Technology distributors such as Ingram Micro, Synnex and Tech Data also often can help resellers put together offers to take to end-user customers to help those customers use credit to finance their deals.

Take advantage of these offers and put together a compelling message of your own for end-user companies. Your customers are losing productivity every time their employees’ PCs crash. As the trusted adviser, it’s your job to help them find a way around that. Sure, you can fix it. Again. But why not offer another option, too? Why not offer customers the technology they need today in an offer that they can pay for over time?