Sell to – Sell through

One of my partners reminds us that, to be a success, a company must not only sell successfully to its immediate customers (“sell-to”), but also enable the customer to sell successfully to his/her end customers (“sell-through”), not just once, but repeatedly. Too often we (as venture investors) see businesses that have revenue traction selling to immediate customers. But, that success proves illusory when the end-customer does not buy, or if s/he buys, there is no stream of repeat business. As a result, the business spends more and more on sales and marketing, but ultimately fails to scale.”
Todd Hixon
here on Forbes.

If you’re with an OSS vendor or integrator (or consultant), are you selling to immediate customers (“sell to”) or do you also have an approach that sells to their customers (“sell-through”)?

It’s patently clear that you know who your customers are (eg CSPs – Communication Service Providers, Utilities, etc) and are selling your products and/or services to them. But do you know who their customers are? Do their customers have a need for OSS products or services?

Let’s take the example where you’re selling to CSPs. They undoubtedly have lots of corporate / enterprise customers that need to monitor and manage the networks on which they rely (increasingly so in the information age). How do you partner with your direct customer (the CSP) to deliver valuable OSS-related products / services to the corporate / enterprise market repeatedly?

Now let’s say your customer is a utility. They have a completely different set of customers because they tend not to deliver communications services to their customers (unless they’re a multi-utility). Their customers might be wholesale providers (ie if they’re electricity generators / distributors) or might be retail customers if they deliver their utility into homes. These customers may derive more value from the analytics coming from the OSS rather than the OSS tools themselves.

To summarise – who are your customer’s customers and how can your products or services potentially help them? Would they be suited to a sell-through model? Does that customer base allow repeatability to thrive?

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