Strategy & Best Practices

Selling Value, Not Just Features with the Microsoft CSP Program

By Christophe Girault / November 4, 2015

Microsoft  Csp Blog Images

Last week, I explained why creating a strong value proposition is critical to being successful as a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP). In this post, I’m going to delve into how the Microsoft CSP program can help your sales team create more value—for both customers and your company alike—and why the initial on-boarding process and optimizing the customer experience are so important to retention.

Fostering a Culture of “Solution Selling”

Thanks to the enhanced technology behind the Microsoft CSP program, partners now have the opportunity to move away from technology and feature-centric discussions with IT buyers. Instead, they can engage buyers in finance, sales, and marketing departments with conversations that focus on how Microsoft cloud products deliver benefits to the business as a whole.

Although it’s a positive move, it can be difficult to shift an organization’s focus away from selling “speeds and feeds” to offering a whole solution that solves specific business challenges. For example, before it may have been important to explain that your technology offered a fast way to login and find documents. Today, it’s more important to explain how logging in quickly and finding documents faster can help businesses be more productive.

To make this change, CSPs need to train their sales teams on how to create 30-second elevator pitches, quick, easy-to-understand explanations of what a product is and what value it offers. They will also need to build use cases, learn strategies for handling objections, understand buyer personas, and focus on business outcomes, such as total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI). This sort of training takes time, but can pay big dividends as you ramp up your sales efforts.

Focus on First-Time Adoption

Even if they seem tech savvy, many customers may run into issues with getting up and running with Office 365 and other Microsoft solutions. Skipping the critical onboarding phase of the adoption cycle can put pressure on your customer support team, generate unnecessary customer friction and frustration, and ultimately lead to early attrition.

As a CSP, you should clearly outline a comprehensive activation and onboarding process for your new customers. The best way to do this is to funnel customers through a simple step-by-step onboarding flow with four steps:

  1. Send a “welcome to service” email that includes clear onboarding instructions.
  2. Offer an “onboarding center” where customers can go to find additional tutorials, how-to guides, and FAQs related to initial activation, setup, deployment, and data migration.
  3. Always provide customers with ways to contact your support team for an assisted onboarding experience. As described below, your support team can be in-house or offered via a third-party provider that specializes in support services for Microsoft cloud products.
  4. As an alternative to steps one and two, you can offer customers a “white glove” onboarding service call. Some partners choose to build separate consulting businesses to support Microsoft onboarding and usage, while others use third-party experts like Plumchoice or Mural to deliver the service on their behalf.

AppDirect research shows that partners that deliver a streamlined onboarding experience within four business days after purchase see up to four times greater adoption of services than those who do not, along with a 50 percent drop in future support calls. Clearly, spending some time to map out the onboarding flow can deliver results for both you and your customers.

Optimizing the Customer Experience

Microsoft’s CSP program has enabled partners to get to market faster than ever before, and there is a wealth of best practices and other knowledge that can help them succeed once they are up and running. However, CSPs should always be looking to test and optimize their business. There are easy to use tools—such as Adobe Target or Optimizely—that CSPs can use to tweak the online customer experience to best fit local markets and buying behavior.

When it comes to the assisted sales experience for cloud services, on the other hand, optimization is much more complex. It can be more difficult to test and optimize one-on-one human interactions, but it is possible. To do this effectively, you will need to set up a feedback loop between customers, your sales teams, and marketing, while customer support is the key ingredient that keeps this loop humming along.

With a well-oiled internal communication process from customer support to sales and marketing, and vice versa, you will enable your teams to test and optimize their own behavior at every step. This will keep your teams keenly focused on customers’ needs, which ultimately leads to a far superior customer experience overall.

Christophe Girault is Director of Global Customer Success at AppDirect