We need to stop creating solutions and only getting good at selling them; we need to co-create solutions with our clients. At Wazoku, we work with top system integrators and management consultancies who are managing client relationships and innovating for and with clients like it was still 1999. It is hard enough for consultancies to up-skill their employees quickly enough to understand the vast possibilities that arise when exploring Blockchain, Machine Learning or AI for example, let alone understanding how these technologies can be used to create value or transform the businesses they supply and service.

Learning for the customer, not just learning

For example, we provided an idea management solution for an internal digital consultancy event exploring how to pitch and position emerging technologies to their clients. The top 200 European sales people and account managers attended, the premise being to capture the great innovation that happens over the couple of days and use it to sell these technologies. So far so good.

There were eight subjects from robotic process automation to IoT. Over 100 ideas were captured, teams were created around the best ideas and a great deal of collaboration happened to develop the pitches that were presented at the end of the two days. Whilst these clearly talented sales people developed a great understanding of how this new tech worked, they had no idea why. There were articulate explanations of the cool things you could do with it but there was no real-world application; the client, the customer was not at the heart of their understanding. They expected the client to figure how to apply these technologies, which offers them no more value than what they could find on Google themselves. It is real-world application – personal to the individual businesses that is valuable.

Lecturing, but not integrating

I have listened to other clients express their frustrations with another technology service provider I have worked with. Their process for ‘innovating’ for and with their clients is a periodic meeting where they would come together in a room with key stakeholders and subject matter experts to discuss the new solutions they have built and ask: do you want it, Mr Customer? They would spend the day going through presentation after presentation of new technology solutions, with subject matter experts coming in to generically explain what it does.

Does it help the client solve strategic challenges? Does it help the client differentiate themselves in their market? Better service their customers? Understand a changing landscape? Mitigate the disruption happening to them? Nobody knows.

When the day is over, and this is not a problem exclusively for system integrator partners, everyone goes back to business as usual, with a head filled with new words and acronyms and very little idea of what to do with it all. They meet again in three months and go through the same process, maybe with a little more frustration and tension in the room. What happened in those three months? Where was the collaboration?

They have no way to continue the conversation, to ideate, to explore the possibilities in the context of the client’s business. No way to build on ideas, to co-validate those ideas and to co-create the new solutions that will help resolve genuine challenges or help meet real opportunities.

Why is this approach failing?

These service providers are not working backwards from an outcome so there is no real focus or purpose for the solutions they are discussing. They lack a structured process to follow to ensure the ideas that might add value to the client have a chance to develop and be fully understood. And most importantly, they lack a collaborative, accessible workspace to track all these developments in one place.

Some of these technology partners are now struggling to win the seven to ten-year contracts where they will traditionally deliver the entire IT infrastructure and the tools a client will use, these are becoming rarer as clients become more educated and look to the market to deliver new solutions to drive the business outcomes they are looking for. For technology providers to continue to sell the solutions they present, they need to add value to the client; they need to address an issue that is important to them, aligned to a want or need. They need to understand these wants and needs and validate them constantly to ensure the client will buy the finished product. This makes it easier to sell and the client actually won’t feel like they’re being sold to.

I have worked with digital services companies who understand how important it is to get it right and position themselves on the same side of the table as their client. These agencies are not just fulfilling their contracts but want to go on a journey with their clients; to invest in their relationships and make their clients’ problems their problems. This is the essence of partnership that builds long term engagement and trust.

So what should you do differently?

Building a true collaborative environment with an always-on digital platform can bring you into 2018 and can be an amazing sales enablement tool. System Integration and digital services businesses have a huge amount of knowledge and clients know their businesses and challenges, so bring these things together in the right digital and physical spaces, underpinned by a structured process to develop ideas and the proceeds of that collaboration will drive more projects for the provider, a happier client and new and exciting innovation.