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