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Poking holes in customer plans

“Trusted adviser” is a status that all reseller salespeople should try to achieve with their customers, but sometimes being the trusted adviser means you have to confront customers on decisions they’ve made that may adversely affect their business. Sometimes as a trusted adviser you need to poke some holes in the plan.

This skill is especially relevant now, when customers’ temptation to save money and your temptation to generate cash flow is stronger than usual because of a difficult economy.

Poking holes is a delicate way of pointing out that the customer is not always right and that sometimes their decisions can lead to problems. This topic came up recently during a discussion on disaster recovery. Should the customer select cheap storage for their DR site instead of high-quality storage identical to what that they have at their primary location? After all, it is a DR site, and, really, what are the chances that they will actually need it?

It depends. If DR is just a checklist item for your customer, then yes, lower-quality hardware at the DR site could be a viable alternative. But you need to make sure that the customer understands the consequences — and put it in writing.

The problem isn’t just that the solution might not be reliable; it might also perform poorly. Again, many customers, when planning their DR sites, only think about it from a checklist and testing point of view; they don’t actually comprehend that they might actually have to use it as a production location for a period of time. This is where the real risk is. As we learned from the hurricanes of the past few years, you may be at your disaster site for weeks or even months. The solutions that you put there have to both be reliable and provide adequate performance for the foreseeable future.

As a trusted adviser, don’t always take the path of least resistance; some pushback shows your value and keeps you out of trouble.

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators.

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