“Planning the Art of the Deal”

We asked Josh Andrews, our young and bright cybersecurity Pre-Sales Engineer, to write about his first deal experience in the IT Channel as a reseller. Josh is newer to IT and the Channel and we wanted to see and hear what the experience is like. — Think IT Ai

They talk about the “Art of the Deal”. About how with finesse and creativity you could sell ice to Eskimos. So, when I received my first job of providing a Bill of Materials (BOM) for a school district seeking a new multi-site firewall solution. I was ready to step into my role as a pre-sales engineer and give them the best creative solution I could.

Reviewing the RFP

I started off like any good engineer and read the blue prints or RFP of the order. The entire school county had standardized on SonicWall prior and had already created a desirable BOM for a datacenter that acted as the gateway for all schools. The request also included a smaller firewall for one of the elementary school branches. With all this information I was ready to get creative.

The first thing I noticed was that while they standardize SonicWall they would accept something else if it was proven to be better or comparable. Then I noticed that the Firewall for the elementary school was acting as a switch/route. This gave me the idea to be creative. My team had good connections with Cisco, and I believed I could submit an even better product that would fulfill the County’s needs. Show value in what else I could bring and stand out at submitting something new and different.

This started my first true teaching moment on what it takes to be a MSP and Pre-Sales Engineer. I figured we would identify the needs, put a solution together, do some stuff, and profit.  That was a grossly huge understatement of what went into getting this solution together. I had to communicate what I wanted to do with my team, get in contact with Cisco engineers and then in contact with the buyer to get all the specs together. Then while waiting for that get in contact with my distributor to work out pricing. What I thought would take a day or two ended up being a week and of half of regular phone calls, emails and adjustments to put together the best solution possible. Something Hollywood or any other media representation doesn’t ever go into detail about when they show the “Art of the Deal”. The late nights researching parts and putting together everything was a lot of hard work and taught me a lot on what it means to be dedicated to get the job done.

This all led up to my next big learning moments, why details are important and how to make an audible last minute. I put in that week and a half of work but turned out right as we hit the finish line I missed an important detail in my comparison. While the solution I had put together worked compared to the original solution the school, fell short by a distinguishable margin, not just in specs but also pricing. So that led to a lot of decisions as we were also at the deadline of submitting our solution. I couldn’t, not submit anything. Too much work and effort, was put into our solution to let it go to waste, but then I couldn’t submit a product that wasn’t up to meet the demands of the client. This was when the idea came, why not submit multiple solutions. This wasn’t just about the product we were submitting to the client but how we were submitting ourselves to the client.

Which leads up to the penultimate lesson learned. Anyone can put value in a product, but only the dedicated and passionate can put value in themself. I worked with my team and we put together a quick SonicWall solution to the exact specs they initially requested, and we submitted both. Sending the client both solutions and letting them know, that I and my team are dedicated and passionate to meet the ongoing needs of our client and are willing to submit them options to try and satisfying any need that may arise.

And in many ways, it paid off, we didn’t win the contract with the school. Someone else was able to come in just a little cheaper than we were able to. However, the client themselves were impressed by the work we did and that we thought about more than just a product and thought about the client themselves. They have continued to be receptive to us. Giving us a foot into the door for future opportunities and set us up for success next time.

So with all those lessons you might wonder exactly what was achieved with all these lessons and the attempt to win my first ever contract, and in short it taught me that one Hollywood simplifies everything but more importantly it taught me there is something far more important than “ The Art of the Deal”, there is the “Planning the Art of the Deal” which is about all those little ups and downs and hard work that goes into making sure that by the end of the day. The deal you present to a client isn’t just a good one, but rather a deal your client actually wants.

–Josh Andrews, Pre-Sales engineer with Think IT Ai


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