Exactly how to sell Internet of Things solutions is a huge challenge facing the channel. We all have read the news media detailing how the IoT is going to be part of nearly every facet of daily life by the year 2020, but the reality is, what are those solutions going to look like — and how are solution providers going to fit in?
I recently talked with a software CEO about the importance of the channel when introducing new products. The key, he said, is not to ask people what they want. Many so-called experts will flippantly say that’s because people don’t really know what they want. That’s just arrogant. Of course, people know what they want, they just don’t realize what is possible. As a result, their wish lists are often not very inspired. For example, did people know they wanted a mobile phone before 1990? Maybe, but they certainly didn’t think it was feasible until then.
What’s really critical, then, is to watch customers and understand what they are doing in their work and personal lives, and how those things can be simplified or made more enjoyable. The eyes and ears for many vendors are their channel partners. Who better to see what customers are using to do their jobs faster, better and more efficiently? Solution providers can identify the “job to be done” and make trusted suggestions.
Partners must find a way to be part of the discussion before vendors launch products. They can offer invaluable insight to their vendors regarding competitors’ products. For example, the channel will know exactly why a competitor’s product is resonating with customers. Internet of Things solutions can be complex and intimidating to some customers, who may become overwhelmed and pass on a solution that otherwise could transform the business. For example, a retailer may opt for simple display signage rather than displays integrated into an IoT system that can track customer movement within the store, analyze traffic patterns and recommend floor plans to maximize sales. Or a building manager who could really benefit from integrating separate building systems into one platform for greater control of building, security, energy and life safety systems may not know the benefits of doing more than simply asset tagging.
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With Internet of Things solutions, it’s important for the channel to understand exactly what is being offered and how it can be used to support their customers’ goals. Solution providers must articulate to their vendors the importance of their being part of product development to ensure the final offering is relevant to users.
It’s important to remember that a product launch doesn’t start the day a device debuts. As solution providers, your insights can lead to the “ah-ha” moment that is the difference between introducing a product met with indifference and one that is seen as a breakthrough.