Nick Lowe, Check Point
by Stuart Wilson, Friday 30 October 2009
Your IT security customers want you to get closer to them, says Nick Lowe, regional director Northern Europe for Check Point. Here’s how to do it, and what’s in it for you.
Selling security gets personal
The Rembrandts’ theme song for TV comedy Friends, "I’ll Be There For You", offers wise advice for security specialist VARs at the moment. Over the past year there’s been a noticeable shift in the way organisations purchase security solutions.
I’ve seen the price-led ’beauty contests’, with parades of VARs being played off against each other, starting to be replaced by longer-term, closer partnerships in which resellers handle the customer’s security needs via a mix of products and managed services.
Why is this happening? I think that part of the reason is the business climate. Operating costs are under pressure, and security is just one part of an ever-expanding infrastructure that hard-pressed IT teams have to manage. Also, there’s the growing complexity of delivering and enforcing security, which is causing organisations to seek expert assistance.
We found evidence of this trend earlier this year, when we surveyed 120 senior IT staff in public and private sector companies on their security pain points and spending plans for this year and into 2010.
When asked to name the security-related business issues they faced in 2009, data security compliance was the top priority for 60% of respondents. Security reporting and monitoring was second highest (47%) and data leak prevention third (44%).
These aren’t routine issues that can be easily addressed by deploying off-the-shelf, cookie cutter products. They are individual to each organisation, often demanding consultancy, tailored services and support from a trusted partner – which is where the value-add of a specialist reseller comes in.
The result of the shift is, I’m hearing about margin pressures easing, and more fruitful links between VAR and end-user – which is not only good news for the channel, but also for vendors too.
So how can you take full advantage of the opportunity in security, and get closer to and more personal with customers? I believe there are 4 key points that will help you.
1. Help customers drive down their own costs. Right now, demonstrating how you can drive down IT operating costs and simplify security will make it easy to sell services to existing clients and attract new ones. End-users are looking inward, and focusing on how they can optimise business processes to boost operational efficiency, cut costs, and do more with what they have. If you can help them with a mix of solutions and managed services, you’ll have a ready audience.
2. Sharpen your focus on your target market. This means revisiting existing customers, to get to know them better than anyone else. You’re not the only one looking for new clients; the competition is too. Taking those steps helps you to be perceived as a trusted partner. By strengthening those core relationships and solving customer problems, you’re in the ideal position for a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership.
3. Help to prepare customers for when the tide turns. Although IT budgets during this year are mostly static, most organisations’ networks are still expanding, with more users and devices. If you can help them to manage their networks more efficiently, they will be in a stronger position as the economy picks up – and you will have a stronger relationship.
4. Partner with vendors that will help you to spot new opportunities, and develop existing ones within current customers. We recently put together an internal lead-generation team tasked with identifying business to pass onto our resellers. In just 10 weeks we identified over a million pounds of business that wasn’t previously on our radar, or that of our channel. But by taking a fresh approach and with some careful questioning, these business needs came to light.
A final point from our survey earlier this year was that a majority of respondents (68%) said the current economic climate would not affect their IT security spending. So there’s still a market there for resellers that can offer the right services and skills.
And to paraphrase The Rembrandts’ song, they’ll be there for you, if you’re there for them too.