Pitching disaster recovery

Nick Cavalancia

I recently finished an 8-step series on business recovery, where I covered a number of methodologies that would not only enhance your recovery offering, but provide better data protection for your customers. Assuming a few of those are appealing and can be applied to your customer base, the next logical step is to market these services.

Having 10 years of experience as a Marketing VP in the tech space, as well as being a former owner of two service organizations, marketing the benefits of a technical solution comes easy to me. But it may not for you. So, I thought I’d tack on some thoughts on how to best promote disaster recovery.

Selling the Disaster

Unless the customer already buys into the fact that a disaster of some nature is coming, disaster recovery can be one of the hardest things to sell. So here are a few recommendations to use when having the discussion with a customer:

  • Stay away from Fear – By now, everyone has heard of the term FUD. A pitch based on FUD is not only going to fail, but wouldn’t produce the right result in the long run anyway. If you were to sell DR based on FUD, you’d have an overcommitted customer who purchased way too much DR service from you with buyer’s remorse. Eventually, they’d be unhappy with the service and you risk losing that customer because you “coaxed them into it.” Instead, you want an educated customer to respond with their specific needs based on facts and business value.
  • Start with Risk – Having an intelligent conversation about disaster recovery starts with the customer’s perceived risk of any given disaster. Covering the types of disasters you help recover from (loss of data, services, applications, servers, data centers, and locations) and determining how your customer sees the level of likelihood that each scenario may occur is the right place to start. Statements like “I want to understand what kinds of data loss and service interruption are important to you” or “which systems are most critical to you and why?” will get you far. Note the disasters they identify with and continue down those paths and stay away from the ones they’ve dismissed or you’re right back at FUD.
  • Follow-up with Business Value – Talking about the value of getting business operations back up and running makes sense next. Discussing specifics around Recovery Time Objectives and Recovery Point Objectives will demonstrate to the customer your expertise around recovery, as well as your understanding of what’s important to them. Because there are many ways to recover (see my 8-step series), this is your opportunity to educate them on varying speeds and methods of recovery, allowing them to fully understand their options.
  • Compare Costs – With risks identified, the best way to sell disasters is to compare the cost of recovering with the cost of not recovering.  Remember, to stay focused on the scenarios your customer has indicated they care about, so you remain clearly in the business discussion arena and don’t wander back over to FUD. Questions like “Let’s talk about your Exchange server.  How would it being down for <insert RTO discussed> impact your business?” Ideally, have them estimate a number. Why? So you have something to compare to when you tell them how much the, say, Virtual Disaster Recovery, service you’re offering is going to cost monthly.

The title of this section was a bit misleading, as you will have really sold the business value of protection from a disaster rather than the disaster itself. But to be successful, you’re going to need to ensure you’re talking the right language when you approach your buyer.

Matching the Pitch to the Buyer

You’ve probably met each of the two possible buyers – the technical buyer and the business buyer.  Each one has a different business concern, a different set of challenges, and, therefore, needs to be addressed differently.  Doing so, will allow you to quickly (and easily) turn details around recovery into a paying customer.

The technical buyer is likely the IT admin who needs to ensure systems stay running. Your conversation will dig into the bits and bytes of how recovery will work, details around features that make it fast, secure, and reliable, and (somewhat most importantly) how using your solution will make their life easier.  You’ll need to give the “disaster selling” the techie bent it needs in order to be successful.

The business buyer may play any of a variety of roles within an organization – from the IT director all the way up to CEO.  Regardless of their position, they are focused on the business. The importance of business reputation and continuity, trends with cloud back & recovery, and specifics on the cost structure will definitely come up with this buyer – be sure to weave those topics in if they don’t.

Keeping the Pitch From Being the Disaster

If you can’t convince the customer that they need to be able to recovery from a disaster, there’s no sale. So stay focused on the higher level conversation, tweak the message for the technical or business buyer, and define their specific needs around  recovery and you should be successful.

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