​Just like not wanting to admit certain aspects of one’s health to a physician, sometimes SMB customers are afraid to be honest with their IT providers when it comes to the sensitive subject of licensing compliance. While they may not understand licensing completely, they, like large business, are usually non-compliant because they lack information. On the flip side, they’re rarely surprised to learn they’re not adhering to their software licensing agreements. Enter cloud. And how it solved the customer challenge of compliance while giving one of my SMB customers a flexible, low-cost solution and add-on managed services for my business.

 
Recently, I was performing a needs analysis with an SMB prospect. When I spotted and inquired about some boxes of Office Home and Student 2010 in his office, the prospect embarrassingly admitted his business was out of software license compliance. Knowing full-well that running a 12-person medical supply business qualified neither as home nor student use, initial awkwardness actually gave way to opportunity.
 
I began by asking the owner if he knew he could become software licensing-compliant for US$20/month per user. By the time I finished explaining the up to 5 devices benefit of the Office 365 E3 plan—and that he and his staff could install Office at home, at work, and on their spare laptops―he was hooked. The hosted Exchange and other features became the gravy in the deal. In the end, removing that skeleton from my customer’s closet earned his trust, solved a problem, and, I believe, ultimately led to the US$600/month managed services plan I sold him to take care of his LAN and users.
 
Even though my client knew compliance was a mandate, the several thousand dollars he needed to spend for 12 licenses of Office 2010 shocked him. Sticker shock is relative; a customer five or ten times the size would likely have felt the same way when faced with unexpected expenditures. Giving the client a way to do the right thing on a pay-as-you-go plan was exactly what he needed to move forward. Everyone won on this deal. And one thing’s for certain: I’m definitely looking forward to the next time I uncover a prospect’s dirty little secret.​