Reference case:

Hostnet: more sales thanks to the switch from product sales to partnership

Hosting provider Hostnet turned to Force21 because sales in the small business segment fell. In order to achieve growth again, both parties jointly analyzed the target groups and the sales proposition.

After Hostnet merged with the Danish group in March 2020, the desire to focus on one specific target group and to accelerate sales gained momentum. After a number of strategic sessions, they decided to focus specifically on the target group of web developers and digital agencies, with a unique partner program.

The result? An upward trend in (repeat) sales.

Rene Oldenbeuving | CEO Hostnet

CEO Rene Oldenbeuving recalls from these strategy sessions that Force21 was not satisfied with the first answer given by those present: “They ask sharp questions, hold up a mirror to people and point out inconsistencies in answers or input. In doing so, they forced us as a group to make one choice.”

Reversing a declining trend: are we targeting the right target group?

Hostnet initially focused on two target groups: Enterprise and the lower segment of SMEs. The first priority was to determine whether these were the right target groups. In a number of strategy sessions, we discussed offerings, pricing structure, sales approach and other strategic choices. The aim of the sessions was to achieve a clear focus in target group and a sales proposition.

Following the sessions, Hostnet chooses to focus on IT companies, web developers and digital agencies. They also indirectly serve their customers through these types of companies. A win-win: the agencies can offer their customers a good product and Hostnet has a wider reach. A partner program is being set up to support the web developers in this as well as possible.


Unique partnership for the target group

In particular, IT-related companies for whom hosting is not a core business are relieved with the partner program. Besides being able to provide their customers with a good hosting product, they are technically supported by Hostnet’s technical experts.

Administratively, their work is simplified by the control panel that gives them insight into (sales to) their customers and margins. Adding or closing products is easy to arrange yourself in this control panel. The company can offer the hosting under its own name (white label) and therefore simply sell it as its own product.

Such an affiliate program is unique to a hosting provider. The program will be expanded even further in the future.

Sales training: trained to take over the baton yourself

In addition to this sales proposition, Force21 actively trains the sales department. There are weekly one-on-one sessions with the account managers in which we jointly evaluate the selection of customers to be approached and customer conversations. In addition, we discuss the progress of sales with the entire sales team every two weeks.

Nedlloyd Vo | Partnermanager Hostnet

Hostnet partner manager Nedlloyd Vo says he has benefited greatly from Force21’s experience and coaching: “They asked critical questions about how I could help a customer grow even further. In the one-on-one sessions we discussed the plan of action, the structure of the conversation and where the opportunities lay.

Even with my 20 years of sales experience, it was still very useful to discuss this. Especially because Thijs and Tjarko have a lot of knowledge of the hosting market. This gives them a different perspective on sales and where the specific opportunities in our market lie. All in all, relationships with customers have improved and we are attracting more new business.”

Ambitious targets

The goal is to ultimately grow further with the chosen sales strategy. Kevin Stam, Manager Customer Service at Hostnet, talks about the follow-up: “We had already set fairly ambitious targets for the past few months and they will be even more ambitious in the coming six months, but so far we are still on target. You can see that the business is developing because we have more focus, and those one-on-one conversations have also released something. For the time being, we will maintain the coaching sessions, because the view from the outside – but with knowledge of our industry – is very valuable.”

The added value of a go-to-market partner

CEO Rene says that the chosen strategy has led to the reorganization of teams. Especially for the partner program there is now a dedicated team within the sales department with Nedlloyd as partner manager. By no longer serving the Enterprise market, the total sales team was able to shrink. In practice, this means more growth with fewer people (and therefore costs).

The result is a joint effort, but when asked if this would have been possible without Force21, he says: “In the end we could have done this ourselves, but then it would have been less fast, less carried and with less enthusiasm from the team. To me, quality = acceptance x content. Someone can be good at his craft, but he must also be able to convey it. Force21 is capable of that. They can transfer their knowledge and experience to those who have to work with it and enthuse them.”