Archives For February 2011

The Var and the Vendor

February 25, 2011 — Leave a comment

When I first entered the technology consulting business, my new manager referred to our firm as a VAR (value added reseller).  VAR!  He said it with pride as though it meant something special.  Coming from a large bank where we referred to our services providers as vendors and VARs, I knew this was no complement.  Yet our manager seemed to take pride in something that, on the client side was viewed as a commodity.   I soon learned that, on the provider side, VARs were partnered with vendors, but in my heart, I knew the client perceived us all as one thing – the vendor!  Simply put, we didn’t see any value in those we called vendors and there was no such thing as “Value-Add”; vendors provided people and products at the lowest possible price, and free lunches on occasion. This is not the way to position your company if you are looking to build a profitable business.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Content and Finesse

February 23, 2011 — Leave a comment

I’ve seen presentations given by less charismatic people, but with very strong content, and then from others with less content but very strong presentation skills.  Content is king!  But a poor presenter can destroy great content; on the other hand, a great presenter with a hollow message comes over as shallow, and full of hype. Both are a waste of time.

If you lack content, get some.  Educational content delivers value while product knowledge is free online.  Personal viewpoints and stories give listeners new perspective and move them to action, where sound bites by themselves, while establishing credibility, rarely lead to change.  Leave selling to commercials and become an educator.  Spend time understanding the needs out there, discover lasting answers, and then find ways to communicate truth around the mental roadblocks of your listeners.  Become a catalyst; an agent of change.  Develop a concern for those you call on and then spend your time finding ways to improve your clients’ position.

Then as you reach out to different prospects, focus on becoming an excellent communicator.  With an urgent message in hand, you may find people are still loath to take action – it’s your job to find out how to move people to action when the need is real.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Is Webex a good tool for selling over the phone?

Some sales calls lend themselves to Webex or some other form of web collaboration software.  For the same reason I don’t really like PowerPoint for an initial sales call, when Webex is used to show PowerPoint on a long distance sales call, I find it takes away from the interactive experience I am looking for.  On the other hand, if you are at the point of demonstrating a software product (meaning you have a software product to sell), it may do the trick.

The secret to success is in knowing when and how to use it.  If you have a product you intend to demo, using Webex can be highly productive and cost effective.  Once again, shooting from the hip is bound to result in lost sales.  On the other hand, if your call is qualified, you have the right people on the call, and your product is attention grabbing in a demo, you have the foundation for success.  But you still need a well thought-out sales strategy.  Starting with success stories is the best way to go, then having already understood the company’s core needs, come prepared to demo just those attributes that matter.  Like radio, dead air time is dead.  It’s not like being there, so you can’t afford dead air while you navigate through countless software menus looking for something to show them.  In fact, in my opinion, sales teams that rely on these remote communication tools require more training and practice than those who sell in person.  Without the personal touch, your presentation must be executed flawlessly with a strong follow-up plan.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Presenting by Phone

February 18, 2011 — Leave a comment

RSA is over and I’m headed home.  While here  I thought of one more important presentation topic, so continuing from the whiteboard and PowerPoint posts last week, here is an important add-on.

Sometimes you just can’t be there in person, so what do you do?  I am not a fan of cold calling when it comes to high-involvement selling, however learning to use the phone is key when it comes to saving time.  Especially when you cover a large geography.  I cover the world with just one rep – me.

Like most, I hate cold calling, but if the call is set up through email or a referral, it’s no longer cold.  The problem is, people lose their focus on the phone, so you can’t really present anything.  Keep your descriptions short, use a story to draw them in, and predict objections to staying on the phone.    But you need more.

Here’s a simple strategy that I’ve found to be effective.  Since most of the people I schedule a call with are sitting in front of their computer of laptop at the time of the call, taking them to a website that has been set up correctly (meaning it has good content and graphics) is a great way to engage emotionally.  I have descriptions of what I am doing with customer testimonies on the side bar.  Without having to set up Webex and do a slide show or demo, I am able to take them to a page that outlines or pictures what I am talking about.  This allows me to systematically walk through my value, filling in the gaps with a story or two, to show how I have delivered value to others.

Become great at phone selling and you’ll save an incredible amount of time.  An on-sight meeting may take two or three hours with travel, waiting, meeting, leaving, and driving back to the office, and that’s best case, in town.  The phone might take thirty minutes to an hour tops. And that’s only if they are really interested.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Day two of the RSA conference – what a great day.  I started off with breakfast in the Consierge lounge, meeting with RSA’s US Sales manager.  From there I navigated through a 5 minute hail storm on my way to deliver a keynote address to Cisco partners on ways to apply the concepts of educational marketing, assessments and discovery, as well as effective messaging in the security space (which was also accessible through Webex and recorded if you did not attend)o0. Spent a couple of hours working on some business in my room…

By the way, check out this room in the Marriott Marquis!  This is the place to set up a base camp.  I have a corner room overlooking the Expo center, that is about the size of  three rooms.  The hallway (a hallway in a hotel room!) pictured to the left heads down to my living room, bathroom on the right, and then out to a bar area with refrig and various entertainment accoutrements. Two giant flat screen TVs, three phones, and great service.  The only problem is, the internet service if very slow, so I’m using my Verizon 3G instead.

From there I attended a couple of receptions, most notably the Cisco reception, where I met with  security executives, gathered insights on product road maps for the coming 18 months, and reconnected with various clients, partners and manufactures.  A jam packed day and well worth being out here!

Here’s a shot of my living room…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2011, David Stelzl

I arrived yesterday in time to visit the expo, attend sessions with Cisco, Palo Alto, Kaspersky and a few others, adding at least one new t-shirt to my collection.  The highlight of my trip out was sitting next to a mother holding her restless 1-year old, who spilled coffee on my sleeve, knocked the creamer onto the floor and almost into my shoe, kicked my leg for 5 and half hours, and insisted on resting his head on my arm most of the trip. What a great character building session this was!

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking on the topic of how to create new business opportunities using educational marketing programs and assessments…but first, time for a San Francisco pizza, which will probably be marginal at best.

View of the RSA Expo

San Francisco under cloudy skys

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

I am focused on entrepreneurship!  When my wife and I first started homeschooling our children we caught the vision for a different kind of education.  One that would build the not-so-academic side of those we are raising, but still equip them with the essential reading, writing, and arithmetic skills needed to succeed.

My schooling history has made me more risk adverse than I’d like.  It’s taken me twenty-five years to unlearn the principles of:

- Mastering the No. 2 Pencil

- Only submitting what was asked for

- Never thinking outside the box – putting away all creativity

- Thinking that wisdom is somehow related to memorizing a certain number of biology terms

(and the list goes on)…

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

With this in mind, my kids are working on businesses – all the time, thinking about how to create new opportunities, serving the basic needs of those around us, establishing value, setting fees, and selling.   This year marks another year of Sarah’s annual Valentine’s Day Cookie bake.  This year she sold over 200 cookies by cold calling with a compelling message.  Some even gave additional money or donated without accepting cookies!  Of course she had help from Tiny-Tim who enjoys cooking (and perhaps even more, eating the left overs.)

Through this project we’ve studied how to discover a new opportunity, how to avoid working at McDonalds for mininum wage, how to sell to strangers (cold calling), how to develop a message that sells,…but also, how to count the cost of goods sold (COGS), the difference between sales, gross profit, net profit, and losses due to wrong or canceled orders.  Fortunately we have not had to deal with customer service issues on this particular project, but we’ve covered that in other projects, and hope to minimize this in the future.

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

What are you doing today to extend beyond what you learned in school – to think creatively, and to find business opportunities where there don’t seem to be any?

 

© 2011, David Stelzl