Four ways to sell more cloud and mobile tools to SMBs

Hand with cloud floating above it raining different currencies
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Only 40% of SMBs have adopted public cloud offerings or plan to in the next 12 months, according to IDC's European Tech and Industry Pulse Survey 2019-2020. Cloud boosts customer profits by supporting productivity-enhancing mobile, collaborative or flexible-working tools; the channel should be in pole position to grow this market.

Yet just 46% of respondents in the IDC survey bought their cloud tools through channel partners. What will persuade the other 54%?

Describe how tools improve employee satisfaction and productivity

Research carried out by analyst house Forrester, sponsored by Lenovo and Intel, highlights flexibility and mobility as drivers for the good employee experience that underpins an effective workplace.

Michael Littler, executive director of global SMB marketing in Lenovo's Intelligent Devices Group, says it suggests SMBs aren't supplying the tools that support how people want to work.

"When we drill into why people don't feel productive, the tech aspect is a huge piece of it. Only 26% of respondents said 'my company is providing me with access to cloud-based tools'," he says.

Of employees in the 2019 survey who indicated feeling productive at work, 81% were satisfied with the devices available. The converse is true among those who said they don't feel productive: 47% of workers who feel unproductive are satisfied with device provision. Only 23% of the group who feel unproductive felt satisfied with their work overall.

74% said they have no flexibility to choose "suitable" technologies to perform their tasks, and 71% rely on desktops as their main device. Only 49% of SMB buyers said, though, that these desktops would be replaced at refresh time, with only 40% promising to invest in laptops instead, for example.

Yet 87% of buyers within these SMBs cite employee productivity as a high or critical priority over the next 12 months, notes Littler.

Offer SMBs access to dynamism and enterprise-grade offerings

The channel should be asking SMBs if their systems are sufficiently flexible and scalable for future agility or new ways of working.

Steve Joyner, managing director for UK and Ireland at Avaya, says SMBs need more sophisticated offerings. "Once it was assumed that only enterprises needed the connectivity or higher-end use cases, because they had many employees and really worried about how to collaborate.

"Everyone now expects to be able to collaborate and work together and use systems and applications the same way," Joyner says.

Meanwhile, younger employees who grew up using mobile tools flexibly and collaboratively expect to do so in the workplace as well.

In response Avaya, like other vendors, has rejigged its offerings, opening up its platforms as well as researching customer needs, offering a full suite of solutions, education and training to all sizes of customer and channel partner, says Joyner.

Devise specific solutions that deal with questions about cost

SMBs that don’t use cloud often perceive it as expensive or insecure – even though moving non-core tech and systems to the cloud can save money.

Avaya's Joyner thinks this preconception goes back to the days of on-prem, when sophistication, reliability, redundancy and security came at a premium. Cloud can enable complexity to be delivered per user.

"Smaller firms can enjoy the security and encryption that large enterprises do, because the platforms in the cloud are actually large-enterprise platforms," he says. "And there's nothing stopping them taking private cloud – still consuming and not having all those up-front costs."

Demonstrate benefits concretely via proofs-of-concept

Spinning up a proof-of-concept quickly can enable customers to "kick the tyres" and lay concerns to rest. Avaya's Joyner notes that customers, large or small, typically ask to review their various cloud offerings live, whether they're public, private or hybrid.

"Demos are far easier to do with cloud. They used to be just for the enterprise, because it was less cost-effective to do proofs-of-concept for smaller customers – but that's not the case now," Joyner adds.

It's the channel's role, as trusted advisors on cloud and mobile, to ensure it has the skills to communicate these benefits to more SMB customers.

Fleur Doidge is a journalist with more than twenty years of experience, mainly writing features and news for B2B technology or business magazines and websites. She writes on a shifting assortment of topics, including the IT reseller channel, manufacturing, datacentre, cloud computing and communications. You can follow Fleur on Twitter.