Guest Column | June 21, 2013

5 Tips For Successfully Selling Cloud Services

Rob Merklinger - Intronis

By Rob Merklinger, VP Sales, Intronis

According to the latest research from Gartner, three years ago only 2% of all cloud transactions went through the channel. Today that number has grown to 20%, and it’s growing at a faster pace every day. The reality is, however, that many VARs and MSPs struggle to close cloud business. If you find yourself in this category, take heart, the solution is probably simpler than you think. Below is a handful of common objections MSPs face when selling cloud backup solutions, as well as some tips on how to overcome them.

  1. Find a Cloud Provider You Trust

The majority of objections around the cloud come from a fear of the unknown. Think about it, even the name “Cloud” suggests mystery and evasiveness. When it comes to your customers’ data, these are two terms that don’t evoke peace of mind. If you’re in the minority of IT service providers that has its own cloud data center, you can skip this first tip, but the majority of service providers rely on third-party co-location facilities to house their customers’ data. If you don’t know anything about your cloud provider beyond their cost per gigabyte, it will quickly become apparent when your customer asks questions around this topic.

At the very minimum, you should know whether your cloud service provider has been audited against the latest data center security standards, such as SSAE 16, and you should know the results of the audit as described in a SOC (service organization control) 1,2,3 and/or 4 report. Even better is when you have enough confidence in your cloud provider that you’re willing to put your company’s data there. The more knowledge and confidence you show in your cloud provider, the better chances you’ll have of overcoming your customers’ concerns.

  1. Address Data Ownership Upfront

Another objection your clients have with the cloud is the issue over who owns their data. This is a legitimate concern and the reason that many well-known consumer cloud providers are more than happy to give away free storage in their data centers in exchange for the right to use the data that’s stored there in any way they please. It’s important to be able to make the distinction between the business class cloud services you’re selling and cloud services that are geared toward consumers. Additionally, you should be able to point to your SLA (service level agreement), which should spell out the fact that the end customer never loses ownership of its data – even in the event that the cloud provider is acquired by another company or goes out of business. The SLA should also outline the details explaining how the client’s data would be handled should either party chose to terminate the service.

  1. Don’t Take Data Encryption for Granted

Even though using a top notch data center solves many of the issues related to selling cloud, you can never be 100% certain that your customer’s data is protected against a rogue employee or system glitch. The best way to ensure complete peace of mind is to encrypt the data before it leaves their facility. Even if that one-in-a-million worst case scenario did occur and data was stolen from the cloud provider’s server, it would still not be readable. With no extra costs or compromises to data backups, encryption is a smart choice for your customers and an important key to overcoming cloud objections.

  1. Provide a Cloud Cost Analysis

If you’re able to overcome customers’ security, privacy, and data ownership concerns, the next hurdle you need to prepare for is cost. Some customers have the instilled belief that owning equipment that they can see and touch is more cost effective than paying monthly for something they never truly own. This is where a three- or five-year cost analysis can be very effective. Some of the key points you should include in this report are:

  1. The capital expense of purchasing new servers every three to five years and transferring data and applications to the new servers.
  2. The monthly cost of monitoring and maintaining the servers.
  3. The extra utility expenses associated with powering the servers and maintaining ideal operating temperatures.

For some of your customers requiring a high-level of security combined with a very short recovery time guarantee, the cost of using the cloud might not turn out to be less expensive than an on-premise solution. In that case, you may want to see if your cloud provider can offer the option of a hybrid solution — including both local and cloud backup.

  1. Demonstrate Data Recoverability

Anyone can store data in the cloud. What separates a professional business class cloud offering with a do-it-yourself consumer cloud experience – besides the features mentioned earlier – is time to recovery. This refers to how quickly your customer can get access to its data following a local server and local backup failure. Before you can even begin selling a cloud service, you need to know your customer’s recovery time objective (RTO), which could range from a few minutes to a few days. After confirming that you and your customer are on the same page, be prepared to walk them through the process of how their data would be recovered following the loss of their local data. Here are a couple of questions you should be prepared to answer:

  1. How will the cloud provider return a copy of your customer’s data? For example, the provider could overnight an external hard drive containing a copy of the customer’s data.
  2. Once the customer has the copy, how long before they can access it? For example, would you need to build a new physical server (8 hours, minimum) or could you spin up a virtual machine (less than a half hour)?

Depending on your customers’ requirements, your plan of action and costs should be adjusted accordingly. By focusing on these five points you’ll be in a much better position to anticipate – and overcome – your customers’ objections when it comes to buying cloud services from your company. 

Learn how easily you can profit from integrating cloud backup into your PSA and RMM environment in the whitepaper, “Integrating Cloud Backups Into Your MSP Management Platforms.”

About The Author

Rob is an experienced software sales leader with proven track record of driving success and developing sales talent. Rob joins Intronis from Gomez, Inc., a web optimization platform provider for SMBs, where he was the director of sales. While at Gomez, Rob doubled the company's annual revenue and managed a team of 40 representatives. He also pioneered the Software as a Service sales process at Gomez and developed a comprehensive go-to-market strategy.

Rob graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.