Category Archives: contracting

How to sell clients on Linux


By Jack Wallen
(Jack Wallen shares tips on how to pitch Linux to clients. He also explains how convincing a client to go with Linux can have long-term benefits for your consultancy )
This article pas taken from TECH Republic. Something Foss Advocates should consider
In such a Windows-centric world, pitching Linux to clients who are not tech savvy is not as hard as you might think — you just have to know the product and know where (and how) the product fits into the client’s infrastructure. Here are some examples.
A client (an SMB with 25-50 users) comes to you with the following needs:
  • Desktop for each user
  • Networking infrastructure
  • Server for email
  • Server for Web
  • Server for storage
The client states up-front that keeping the price as low as possible is key. Although this client may not be a cash cow for you, you know they are connected to a plethora of other possible clients, so you want to do as much for them as you can. Here’s how you can break this down to save them money, keep their systems up and running (with little maintenance), and ensure they refer you to their peers.
  • Desktops: You will want to keep these machines on Windows; you don’t want to add Linux into the mix in such a way that will confuse the client’s employees.
  • Networking infrastructure: This could be a grab bag of any hardware you want.
  • Servers: You could go the Windows SBS route, but then you will have to deal with CALS and maintenance, which will raise the cost. Instead, this is where you can deploy Linux. You can either run all three systems on one machine (using a LAMP server with the inclusion of Postfix for email, ClamAV for antivirus, and rsync for storage). That server machine is going to run like a champ, costing the owner next to nothing in maintenance fees. So the client will save the cost of the OS and the CALS, as well as the cost of maintenance calls to effectively keep the server up and running.
However, let’s say that you have a client who shows an interest in Linux as a desktop environment, but he is concerned about that one application he must use that only has a Windows version. The client likes the idea of the stability and reliability of Linux, so he wants his employees using that desktop, but there is still that one application. What do you do? Virtual machines. This is a selling point that many consultants overlook. With the help of VirtualBox, your clients can run (with only the cost of the Windows license) that one application within a virtual instance of Windows on top of a Linux OS. To sell this approach, you should outline the following benefits:
  • The stability and reliability of the Linux OS.
  • Running the Windows application in a virtual machine means that, should something get corrupted (or break in any way) within the Windows virtual machine, the user can simply close that instance and open a previously saved, working, state.
  • The virtual machine could be served up from the Linux server so that any user would have access. This doesn’t mean everyone can be running the same image at once, but it would make deploying an image easy (e.g., copy the image from one virtual machine to another).

Let clients try Linux

If a client wants to play around with Linux to see if it will fit their needs, a really good approach is to give the client a Live CD of a distribution and tell them to boot it up. The Live instance will not change their current OS, and they could get easily get an idea if Linux will work. You can take this one step further by rolling your own Live CD (with a tool such as SUSE Studio) and adding your branding to the desktop, as well as to applications you think the client will want and/or need.

See long-term benefits

There are so many ways to sell Linux to your clients. The biggest selling point is the reliability of the operating system. Will you make a lot of money using Linux? Not directly. But the customers you satisfy will keep coming back and send new clients your way.

Related TechRepublic resources

Why should IT companies hire you a guide for budding service contractors

With an increase of people in the job market, there’s more competition for independent contractor gigs. Get tips on how to make prospective clients know that hiring you will help their bottom line.This is a prospective guide to budding entrepreneurs.

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When the Information technology trend first began and pushed programming back in the late ’70s, the demand for people who could code was so high that if you knew how to spell GOTO you could find a job. The industry has gone through a lot of cycles since then. In the current phase, hiring of full-time developers has fallen off dramatically, which could be good news for independent contractors. We’re easy to hire and easier to fire than traditional employees. Also, we typically don’t enjoy employee benefits or get paid for time spent on social networks or World of Warcraft.

However, as more regular employees lose their jobs without many prospects for new ones, the pool of available contractors may expand as well. Now the advantages of hiring an independent don’t necessarily work to your personal advantage — especially if former employees are available at a lower rate. How do you make the case that prospects should hire you instead?

Money, money, money

Do you try to represent yourself as the Rolls Royce option? The best consultant that money can buy? The L’Oreal of consultants — because they’re worth it? I don’t think so. Prestige comes at a price that fewer companies are willing to pay for these days. In this economy, it comes down to the bottom line: What is your net effect on profitability (short- and long-term), and how does that compare to their other options?

How can you save them money? How can you make them money? Answer these questions convincingly, and the engagement is as good as yours. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Expertise. You know what you’re doing, you won’t have to be trained, and you’ve already made the mistakes that others would encounter. So even though you may charge more per hour, you aren’t going to need nearly as many hours. Besides that, your implementation will be more maintainable than something cobbled together by a first-time, saving them money for years to come. So if you have experience in the specific technologies involved, talk that up.

  • Results. All the knowledge and experience in the world doesn’t stack up to being able to get the job done. Offer examples of past clients whom you were able to help. Be ready to go into the details (as far as you’re allowed under any non-disclosure) to show how your contributions made a difference to their bottom line that far exceeded what you cost them, or what most anyone else could have done.

  • Personality. “Hey, I thought we were talking about money,” I hear you cry. We are; if you’re a condescending jerk, you’ll bring the whole team’s productivity to a grinding halt. Show that you’re not only friendly and self-deprecating but also that you’re willing to learn from others and give them credit where due, and that you know a thing or two about team-building. A good team player brings out the best in everyone else to get things done — and thus make money.

  • Soft sell. The worst thing you can do is to reek of desperation. If you’re really as good as you say you are, you’ve got plenty of opportunities, and you’re shopping your clients as much as they’re shopping you. I prefer the soft sell: “Here’s what I’ve got to offer — if it works for both of us, great!” If you sell too hard, they’ll be more likely to doubt some of your claims. Go light on adjectives and adverbs; say what you’ve done, not how gloriously you did it. Let them know you’re all about business.

If you can confidently demonstrate that you will save or make more money than any of their other options, then the objection “we can’t afford you right now” goes out the window. Instead, prospective clients can’t afford not to hire you.