A Microsoft Sales Recipe for Cloud Success

Microsoft and the personal computer used to go hand in hand. But then came the rise of the Cloud and mobile devices. Suddenly, Microsoft found itself at a crossroads.

Which way to go? If recent earnings indicate anything, it looks like Microsoft has chosen the right path.

Visionary Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, has certainly helped steer the company in the right direction.

Look at these quarterly revenue numbers released at the end of January:

  • Office 365 revenue up nearly 70%
  • 1.8 million new Office 365 subscribers; 20.6 million overall
  • Dynamics CRM Online seat adds more than doubled year-over-year for the fifth consecutive quarter
  • Azure revenue is up 140% from the previous year
  • Azure premium services are growing nearly 3x year-over-year

Clearly Microsoft’s Cloud solutions message has resonated with businesses large and small. So what key takeaways can you can apply to help you succeed with yours? Here’s what I think:

Sell Innovation

Nadella knows how to tell a story. Rather than sell products and details, he sells a vision and Microsoft’s place within that vision. “The Cloud is what enables the mobility of the human experience across all of the devices in your life,” said Nadella in response to recent earnings. “We want to make sure we’re adding value.”

When you sit down with a customer it’s easy to talk about features and benefits; ROIs and TCOs. But at the end of the day, isn’t that what everyone does? You might as well throw in cost savings, security, and productivity too. While there’s value in each of them, they no longer make a very compelling story on their own.

Microsoft tells customers its Cloud solutions open a door to a new world of innovation. It’s one of our visions here at N3 as well, and one you should add to your arsenal. This world is imperfect, even sloppy at times, but that comes from ideas flowing freely within an amazing and safe sandbox where you can quickly test hypotheses without fear of failure. It’s a practice we firmly believe in at N3. The end result is an easier path to successful solutions. It’s fast, invigorating, and pushes a company forward to achieve its goals—long and short term.

Sell Small Before Going Big

As sellers, you often have to maneuver around common obstacles such as limited budgets, fear of change, and dread concerning integration and migration. Typically, and as expected with solutions such as Office, Microsoft’s sales scenarios used to revolve around addressing these challenges with a message of productivity.

With the Cloud, Microsoft now focuses on monthly and annual subscriptions, which equates to no upfront costs or long-term commitments. Microsoft is basically offering any company a test ride with limited risk. Start small and then build. Productivity still exists as an undercurrent, but the main target is to remove the whole fear issue in small bites. Then, as customers realize the potential, they add more seats and additional services.

Sell Layered Accessibility

Microsoft underwent a transformative change in philosophy in recent years. The company started offering Office on mobile devices outside the Windows ecosystem. As a result, Office 365 subscriptions surged.

Microsoft made accessibility the main character in this narrative. The point made with customers was that accessibility is two-fold. The first piece is the mobile one. If you use Microsoft Cloud solutions, you gain accessibility anywhere, anytime, on any device. It’s a powerful message to be sure. But now add Office accessibility across platforms, the major ones being iOS and Android. That’s a very compelling idea.

We are at a stage in the technology revolution where selling the idea of mobility to sell mobility is passé. You need to layer the meaning of accessibility beyond the anytime, anywhere story. Microsoft’s long-term strategy of Cloud domination focuses on practical and accessible solutions customers can use anywhere, but more importantly, any way they choose.

Sell Hybrid, but Honestly

Hybrid is an abused word. Lots of companies claim they offer a hybrid Cloud when in truth they run some pieces in a private cloud and some in a public one. That’s just another form of what IT has always had: different servers in different places. A hybrid Cloud strategy is where one application takes advantage of multiple computing environments at the same time.

Microsoft is basically the only large company that sells a full hybrid solution between on-premises and the Cloud where information and applications easily work together. In addition to broad benefits, it honed in on a particular underdeveloped niche that offered real customer value. It backs up what it boasts. Using it any other way is misleading and confusing to the customer and does a disservice to your credibility as a knowledge source. You never know when the customer will call you out on the point or feel let down after choosing a solution you recommended that doesn’t deliver the real promise of hybrid. Focus on selling the vision and value, not the terminology.

Specific takeaways aside, the conclusion to make here is that Microsoft has successfully changed with the times to the extent that its transition into the Cloud is positively defying Wall Street’s expectations. With Amazon’s Cloud also performing well in recent earnings, the road ahead for Cloud solution sellers looks very promising.


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About the Author

Jeff Laue

Jeff has more than 25 years’ experience in management, business process transformation, and sales and marketing strategy development and implementation. As CEO and co-founder of N3, Jeff sets the course for the company’s vision and strategy for ensuring revenue impact for clients. Connect on LinkedIn

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