Archives For July 2011

© 2011, David Stelzl

At the Buffalo US Airways Club

This morning I had the honor of presenting to a group of business owners and sales professionals at Ingram Micro’s Technology Solutions Conference in Buffalo.   I covered material from my, soon to be released book, From Vendor to Adviser…how do sales people move from point product selling to high-involvement selling; how do they reposition themselves as an adviser.  People have been talking and writing about this for decades, yet it still seems to be a hurdle companies have yet to overcome.  In a sidebar conversation I was asked, how long should it take a rep to ramp up?  This business owner was asking, “If I hire someone to sell, how long should I give them to start producing?”  This is a great question, and one more people need to be asking.  Whether you yourself are that new rep, or you oversea a team or company, hiring and getting started with a new company in sales is no easy task.  Some thoughts are worth considering:

1. Watch out for Retreads.  I use this term when referring to sales people who were, at one time, big hitters.  They may have managed large accounts, worked for global companies, and earned significant commissions and awards; but for some reason they failed to keep pace with the industry.  For the past decade (perhaps) they have been hopping from one company to the next, or maybe the company they work for continues to employ them, but they can’t seem to close.  Don’t become one, and don’t hire one.  The technology industry moves fast, and old experience is just that; old.  I doesn’t matter how old you are, it matters that you are a learner – innovative, creative, hard working, and a student of this industry.

2. Forget the Rolodex.    If you’ve worked in sales long enough you may have actually used a Rolodex.  Does anyone know what this is anymore?  The point here is, don’t expect to find a rep that has numerous contacts who are ready to buy as soon as you hire.  It happens occasionally, but don’t count on it.  Instead, your company must be prepared to help with lead generation at some level.

3. Lead generation requires marketing.  If you run or work for a smaller reseller, like many in today’s session, you can’t expect to hire someone who will go out and generate new leads, with enough GP to make it big in the first few months.  I recommend companies hire with a marketing program in force.  Paying base salaries, benefits, and guarantees to someone who is going to start from scratch using the Yellow Pages, is a slow way to start in this business.  Plan events, webinars, and other marketing campaigns, and hire people while in process.  Having a list of qualified leads is the best way to help someone ramp up their territory.

4. The Mentoring Process is important.  Michael Gerber in his book, EMyth Revisited, does a great job of explaining what happens when managers hire in new people without any formal ramp up process.  While it may seem expensive to ride around with your new rep, send them to some training, or hire a sales coach to work with them (one who understands your business already), the cost of not doing this is higher.  Hiring people who take a year to ramp up is far more expensive, and if they don’t make it, you’ve spent a lot of time and money on nothing.

5. Careful who you hire.  Learning to interview is one of those things few have gone to school on.  It seems like hiring is supposed to just come naturally to those who manage, but this is far from the truth.  Years ago, when I was running a large consulting and sales team, I spent a significant amount of time training people to hire great people.  This was one of the best investments I have every made.

© 2011, David Stelzl


Social Media and The Internet – Marketing Available to You.

When I started my company the first thing I did was build a website.  Within minutes of launching I was talking to the entire world for about $30/month.  Since then some great tools have been introduced, allowing me to interact, create content, publish, reach out, collect names…and it continues to grow.  Many of these tools are free to me as an individual…

By using the right tools, I can reach millions of people no one knows about, reach into countries I’ve never been to, automate interaction, schedule ahead, and broadcast live, and go global.  And the great news is, this is nearly free.  The key is, figuring out exactly who I really want to reach, and building my program to reach them.  Just because the entire world can see me, doesn’t mean they will, or that I want them to.   As a sales person, you can also narrow this down, targeting a special group in your region.  While the entire world can see you, your content is highly dependent on search criteria, which means you can refine your search-ability or become Google-able (this will likely be in the dictionary before too long) to a niche group simply be setting your content up with your target market in mind.

Now, marketing depends on changing your mindset.  Forget about oldschool marketing, and having your marketing department write, print, publish, and somehow build your brand.  Online, it’s all about you and the content you push out.  You are the thought leader here; the person people buy from because you solve problems.  Online you can promote that single-handedly.  This kind of marketing is not putting out HTML and banners, or pop-ups that annoy websurfers, but rather content that is searchable, using key words and phrases that people will find as they research problems online.

Becoming the adviser now means something new.  It means:

-       Moving from advertising to content

-       A willingness to put intellectual content online for free

-       Believing content will draw new prospects

-       Being real – people want you, not some vanilla website

-       Participating in blogs and forums

-       Writing things that help people – providing real answers

So start writing – interacting, and putting out content that matters.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo Taken on My Blackberry

Well, we completed the first phase of our marketing strategy yesterday, but more importantly, I was delighted to find that Winter Haven, FL, has some great pizza!  Who would have guessed…Not sure of the name of this place, but it’s right next to Arabella’s, another great place to eat if you enjoy Italian food (we did have dinner there).  This Pizza is slightly thicker than a traditional Brooklyn style pizza – more like you would find in Manhattan…cooked in a brick oven, a full size pizza (meaning their large pie is 18 inches unlike the 14 inch large at fast food pizza chains like Papa Johns and Domino’s), and the sauce and cheese are excellent.  I believe they make their own sauce, meatballs, and use fresh mozzarella.   The pizza folds like a real slice should, so that you can eat it without everything falling off.  I had pepperoni, sausage, ham, and meatballs on mine…Definitely give this a try if you are traveling through the area.

© 2011, David Stelzl

The Importance of a Plan

Recently I have been working with a couple of different companies on marketing and business plans.  This morning, while preparing for a two day meeting with a security software company in Florida, it occurred to me how important it is for every sales person to have a plan in place if they aim to grow their business.  Hopefully this will help you put some structure to your next two quarters as we finish out 2011.

You plan should contain some or all of the following:

1. You strategic aim or vision.  This is where you are personally headed with your business –  your long term goal should be to run an account team (including dedicated presales, inside sales, and admin).  You may think this is impossible with the company you work for, however, it’s always a question of return on investment – your management thought you would quadruple sales, they would dedicate some people to you.  Even if you are a hunter, you still want to be running a hunting team.  To do otherwise is to set yourself up for starting at zero every quarter for the rest of your life.

2. Your niche – what will you be the adviser in.  I have written much about this topic, but here you want to identify it.  So stop and write something down, edit it later.  Where is your focus, and where do you specialize?

3. Your people group – again, stop and write this down.  Who do you love calling on, and where will you focus your growth.  You may not have complete control over this right now, but put it down and work toward it.

4. Identify your key competition.  Often when I ask, I hear, “We don’t really have any competition,” or “IT is out primary competition.”  While that may be what seems right, it really isn’t.  Know who is out there, and what they say is their value proposition.

5. Pricing – study and understand fee setting and write down some guidelines for yourself on how you will set fees, where you will discount, and under what circumstances.  Also, have a plan to learn negotiating skills and work through it in the coming months.

6. Identify key partners; if you resell, include vendor sales people in your region that you can help, understanding that they will often bring you into deals and promote you as the go to channel partner once you establish loyalty.  If you are on the product side, the same is true with channel partners.  Plan to make this model work.

7. Plan out campaigns and events.  Encourage your company and partners to join you in setting up events, speak at local business meetings, write articles, do press releases, and set up webinars.  Have a marketing strategy to take this program forward.  Also, get a strategy on how to leverage social media – everyone is doing, few understand how.

8.  Put a plan in place to build your pipeline.  This should include time with existing customers, past customers, and new prospects.  Each should be approached differently, but a plan is needed to balance your time and think through your approach.

Print it, update it, use it.

© 2011, David Stelzl

August is almost here, and I want to thank Cisco for sponsoring me to speak to a select group of their partners…Seating is limited, but if you sell Cisco and plan to attend either the BlackHat or Defcon conferences this year, you can register here to attend this special session on selling security solutions.

We are meeting at the Rio on August 4th – in the evening; the location of this years BlackHat conference.  I’ll be covering some of the strategies and materials I personally use as I meet with executives all over the US, showing them why companies, no matter how much they spend on security, continue to be victimized by hackers.  I will also show you how my clients are leveraging this material to gain access to decision makers, and how justification is created to move forward.  Please plan to join me – I look forward to seeing you there!

Sign up Here (Click) while there are still seats available.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

Is your brand memorable?

Some have tried to brand by offering lower prices, others with great customer satisfaction, or by building great relationships with their clients.  I see companies touting great people, certifications, or their status as a reseller of some product.  “We are gold partners”, or “Platinum and security certified!”  But these things don’t work as unique branding contributors.  Your business, and you yourself must offer something unique or represent something people see as unique and compelling.  Uniqueness comes with specialization; a unique process, or intellectual capital that others don’t possess, or something about you that adds to your ability, character, or appeal.  You have a product or an approach no one else has.

I was on the phone with a client the other day, and at the start of our call to discuss our first contract (recently signed), she said, I have heard you speak before!  It had dawned on her just a day or two ago as she was lying in bed. She remembered me as “The guy with seven kids and one wife, who home schools and has his children involved in all kinds of entrepreneurial businesses.”    In this case it was my personal story that caught her attention.  She couldn’t remember my name, but my story was fresh on her mind and memorable. The fact that I have children is not impressive, the seven children is somewhat memorable, the businesses are highly memorable, especially when combined with my seven kids who are homeschooled.  People remember this and it works. It adds to my credibility simply because, if I can help teenagers start profitable businesses, perhaps I can help anyone.

What makes your story unique and memorable?  This is the key to your brand…and a business without a brand, is on it’s way out of business.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo Taken By Hannah Stelzl

I had the honor of speaking the West VA. F.E.W. conference this past weekend on building profitable businesses…a couple of points worth reviewing:

1. Brand – memorable is the key word here!  I see companies depending on best pricing, certifications, status with vendor partners, and just thinking their people are great. The truth is, every company has people and certifications, and while customer service does vary, it’s hard to present your company as “Better” unless another company is failing while you are standing next in line.  This does not grow business.  Branding must be something unique and memorable.  I have written and taught on using positioning questions.  Download my free copy of the House & the Cloud (right hand side bar) to learn more about this.

2. Sell, then build.  Most do this the other way around.  Building an offering, and then looking to fit it into your client’s world is backwards.  Identify the needs, selling the client on fixing them, then create the solution.  This provides unique value and commands a higher fee.

3. Be the best.  Specialize…there is no such thing as high-involvement sales people who sell everything.  No one wants to pay big commissions to someone who takes orders.  Your value depends on expertise.  As a sales person, this expertise should be at the business level – learn your target prospects business, become an expert at solving certain problems that tend to exist in this type of business – using the tools your company provides.

4. Don’t paint yourself into a corner.  Specialization is important, but if you’re not careful, you might find yourself in a business that has no where to go.  Business expertise tends to provide greater options in the future, where highly specialized technical expertise will eventually commoditize – if you focus on the latter, be sure to watch the trends and grow your career with the market.  About every two years you should be looking to grow into a new technology area that seems to be growing.

5. Setting Fees.  Sales people who continually discount are on the road to disaster.  Work out the right pricing before you propose and make sure your value matches your pricing.  When it comes time to negotiate, change the scope when a price change is needed.  Honest pricing means you can’t change it without a scope change.

6. Great products die without great marketing…plan and execute marketing plans and messaging.  Working hard to sell is a waste of time without it.  Sales people should plan out there marketing each quarter – use social media, events, webinars, and email – be sure you have one core message you are representing.  Build your brand by continually focusing everything on one central theme – perhaps you are the Retail Automation Expert.  Your company may do it all, but you should be known for one thing!  Make it memorable.

7. Learn how finances work.  Understanding how businesses make money, where they lose, how debt, depreciation, ROI, TCO, op-ex vs. cap-ex, and budgets work will go a long way.  Defining the terms is not enough, learn how they work.  Read The Wall Street Journal and Google terms you don’t really understand.

© 2011, David Stelzl

(You might have to turn up your volume on this – the audio is weak)…Why do some deals look good, then stall out?  In this short clip I explain what it is that makes deal justification strong, and where things fall apart.  I invite you to share your comments and experiences.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo Taken By Hannah Stelzl

I was talking with one of my clients this morning about Demand Generation follow-up.  After inviting and presenting to over 40 potential buyers – executives who have both risk and liability, he is in the process of calling them to schedule next steps.  A quarter of the way through his list and so far, everyone he has called has agreed he should come in to review their security…why is it so hard to get sponsorship for these events with this kind of results?  A few tips on funding…

1. First, my client is doing something most don’t do – that is, following up immediately.  In his case there were multiple solution providers involved. The sponsor made the mistake of assuming they needed more attendees.  In this event, my client invited most of the attendees and his results would have been even greater for the the sponsor if he had been there alone.  You must convince your sponsor that the number of attendees is less important than the number and quality of attendees who agree to a follow up assessment.  This is where impact and likelihood will be demonstrated!  This is where the deal will close.

2. Sponsors are not seeing the ROI on these events.  Why?  Two reasons; if there is a strong response, solution providers may not be keeping the sponsor informed.  But more likely, the hosting solution provider is not inviting the right people to the event.  More often than not, sales invite their IT level clients and the sponsor is invited to be the speaker.  This does not make for an effective event in most cases.  In the above case, we did reach out to Asset Owners – making the follow up meetings much more likely to produce business.

3. The presentation, or presentations are not geared to driving business.  That’s right, the presentation must be crafted to drive people to buy.  Purely informational presentations are generally technical in nature and do not lead to emotional response.  On the other hand, product pitches are often hour-long commercials geared to technical audiences with no money.  Interesting, informative, but not built to drive new sales.  The above meeting was focused on cybercrime trends – my client will follow up with details on why security strategies are failing, showing his prospects how to make sure they don’t have unwanted intruders hiding in the bowels of their network.

How do you get funding?  It’s a bit like getting angel investors to fund a new venture…JMF used to be there, just waiting for you to announce a date.  Those days are over.   Both large a small companies have to justify the use of JMF;  here is how to approach it:

Use a letter:

  1. Have a plan; dates, venue, speaker, target audience (which should be buyers), a current hot topic (like a security briefing), and a great speaker with a message that will both attract high level attendees and drive toward the need for follow up.
  2. Choose your sponsor list – select and prioritize your vendor partners who seem most likely to contribute or Invest in this opportunity.  Think of this as an opportunity – one that will land your sponsor a strong return on investment.
  3. Agree to work on this as if you have angel money – meaning you really do intend for there to be a return on investment, and you are committed to there being one.
  4. Send a personal letter to each sponsor – with some customization to each, sharing your plan, your expected outcome, and how it will contribute to their sales incrementally.  If you are not aware of your local channel manager’s quotas, you should be.  Sell this program as a way of helping them hit their numbers.
  5. Offer them sponsorship levels.  For different investment levels, offer different levels of involvement.  This might include an opportunity to say something, have a table, have logos displayed, etc.  Like a trade show, different sponsors will pay for different levels of advertising.
  6. Agree to keep them informed as to your progress.  Share with them something from past events to let them know you understand your program and demonstrate you have a track record of success.
  7. Follow up with a phone call to review and sell them on the idea.
  8. Like sales – don’t take no for an answer…

Not every company you resell for will sponsor you.  There are some vendors who are focused on driving higher level business and invest only in their top producers (you may of may not be one of them).  Some are focused on small and medium markets, others on enterprise business  (where do you fit and is this a good partnership to be in?).  Going through this process should clarify who will sponsor you in the future.  If they say no, find out why.  Is there a performance issue on your part from past events or sales?  Make sure you understand who is going to sponsor you in the future, who is helping you grow your business, and who is truly interested in helping you serve the market you work in.  These are the companies you want to wrap your services and intellectual capital around going forward.  If they claim there is no JMF – remember, its like any sale; budget doesn’t really matter when the ROI likelihood is strong.

© 2011, David Stelzl