The weakness of sales is that, unless you are directly engaging with end consumers, you are ultimately several degrees removed from interacting with the final buyer. This is a weakness because often times sales professionals are only engaged with their direct points of contact. They become proficient in the technical or operational aspects of their business insofar as is necessary to take care of their customers, but there many take a shallow approach to understanding the market.
This isn’t just a matter of knowing who sits on the next rung of the food chain, as it were. It’s about understanding the opportunities for reflective growth that come from trying to imagine what would make your partnerships that much more effective in delivering a solution to meet the evolutions of the market. In many cases, it’s about individual sales professionals realizing how well positioned they may already be to take advantage of significant opportunities.
What brings this to mind is an article recently published by Steve Kaplan. In this, he very well outlines factors which have significant influence over various members of the C-Suite. The most interesting element therein is that, in the example of helping the CIO be more successful, it requires an understanding of what will resonate best with the CFO. There is a powerful lesson here which applies outside of the context of a datacenter. Looking at industrial computing, and the progression of more powerful compute being brought to the edge, the same logic applies. We are seeing the worlds of OT and IT colliding. We are seeing public cloud providers devoting more and more effort to win over professionals who have traditionally been outside of their field of vision, and we are seeing the struggle that cloud providers have in educating their industrial-focused partners on how to sell what is perceived as an IT solution.
In the industrial case, where edge compute is an OpEx incurred by the customer (for the time being, at least), the financial discussion is much more straightforward. Edge compute is significantly less expensive than the spend on public or on-prem cloud. But many of the practices in managing inventory, integration, and delivery for edge compute can extend to benefit on-prem cloud. Flexibility or JIT SKU management, providing revision control and longevity support for a 5-7 product lifespan (across a multitude of configurations), and doing all this for high- and low-run rate platforms alike, are all familiar to industrial manufacturers. In these arenas it is not as difficult to also be cost-competitive, especially when offering either an off-the-shelf or customized OTS platform. Going back to Mr. Kaplan’s article, all of these costs can also be capitalized and thus reported in such as way as to not impact EBITDA.
Understanding these elements – and training oneself to reflect on how to meet or address such realities given the strengths and weaknesses of your own company – is no mean feat. It is certainly a far cry from more straightforward business development/account management, especially since it takes a concerted effort by a well-equipped team to deliver any potential solution. But for sales, it is well past the time when one can throw the ball over the metaphorical wall. Sales are not just company evangelists externally and customer advocates internally. We are, or should be, databases of knowledge, aggregating the best and worst of what the market is doing and publishing this information, intelligently, to cross-functional teams for the general improvement of everyone.