Our Senior Vice President of Global Sales, Lee Blakemore, discusses how the cloud is not only revolutionizing corporate computing, but also demanding much more from cloud computing providers in the sales process. Check out the Q&A below. 
Q:  What are the biggest challenges you see cloud providers facing today?
A: The biggest challenges for cloud providers today relate to the speed of change in the market. There are a couple of important trends that are converging rapidly. First, the rise of software-as-a-service by application-specific contenders like Workday and Salesforce is causing the big software companies to review their strategies. SAP is a great illustration of that – more on that later. Second, the cloud-computing phenomenon itself is evolving beyond infrastructure hosting, toward a full spectrum of business management solutions. This is changing the face of what cloud providers can bring to customers and creating opportunities for all-inclusive cloud providers like Velocity. 
The bottom line is that more and more corporate IT organizations are looking at different cloud strategies as CIOs continue to grow disenchanted with the traditional fixed-price licensing model, which often leaves them with underutilized software and hardware. 
In fact, unless you probe with the prospective customer, it’s not always clear what the customer means when he or she says “We want to do cloud and software services.”  The vernacular around cloud is different for different people. You have to let customers explain what their definition is in order to engage in a discussion on what they actually want. 
Q: Given this fundamental shift in the market, how has the role of the cloud sales executive evolved?
A: On the one hand, the role of a sales executive in this industry hasn’t changed. It’s always been our job to understand the customer’s objectives, and take complex issues and dissect them to make it easier for others to understand. 
Today, however, a sales executive must also be prepared to understand the intricacies of individual enterprise applications, whether it’s ERP, human resources management, human capital management modules, financials or other functions. You have to keep up on what the product is and what’s changing on an ongoing basis. You also have to be able to understand the infrastructure from a technical standpoint. 
And then, of course, there is Big Data, which has been what I call a watershed issue motivating companies to move to the cloud. People are swimming in data. Big Data has become a deciding factor for many large organizations to utilize the cloud.
Finally, you have to be able to explain all the differences between your product and that of competitors. It puts an extra set of demands on cloud providers as our industry has gotten more diverse. At Velocity, it’s a part of our culture to be plugged into both the independent software vendor community and the infrastructure providers so we can have a strategic discussion that leads to the best solution for each customer – whether it involves doing an upgrade, reducing costs, integrating after a merger or acquisition, or other type of business problem. 
Q: Given SAP’s recent move to go “all cloud,” how do you see this playing out from a sales executive’s perspective? 
As mentioned, SAP’s recent move to go “all cloud” is a great illustration of the trends I just talked about. Some large customers still feel uncomfortable changing from an on-premises model to cloud-based for their complex enterprise software, as The Wall Street Journal  recently reported.  However, SAP’s plan to transition to an all-cloud model will clearly accelerate enterprise software’s transition to a cloud model.
While I can’t speak for the competition, I can address how Velocity sees the market evolving. When Velocity recently acquired Titan Technology Partners, we expanded our offerings to include support for SAP, opening up great opportunity for the company and for customers. Titan’s deep application expertise with SAP, as well as its business process experience, is a great complement to Velocity’s hosting capabilities, advanced cloud management tools and ground-breaking application usage analytics with Velocity Zoom®. The combination allows us to collectively provide customers with access to an even broader portfolio of services across applications and geographies. 
Q: What are the questions customers/prospective customers ask most often?
A: Increasingly, prospective customers are asking questions about industry certifications, a growing concern in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare; certifications are critical where risk management is a priority. If a vendor doesn’t have a critical certification for a customer’s industry, then you have to ask why. 
Customers should also be asking for details about what is included in the engagement, and which factors are the biggest drivers of cost. 
Further, organizations should look at the overall strategy of the cloud provider they pick. Ours is to provide an all-inclusive set of services to our customers and deep knowledge in the applications we support. If a customer can move everything to a single provider and get a single Service Level Agreement and price point, then he or she can focus on the business. We are seeing many companies move away from the “best of breed” vendor approach because it adds complexity.
In the current environment for cloud solutions, providers no longer have to sell the concept of “cloud” per se. Today it’s a given that customers will make the move; it’s a matter of when, not if.