Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune  |  Tribue file photoIt All Started With Novell, High Margins, and Big Opportunity

It’s Channel Sales, But What’s The Next Big Thing?

Seth Godin, our key note speaker at last weeks Ingram One event, once wrote, “People don’t have great ideas, but the problem is, they don’t have any ideas.”

I’m quoting from memory, but it’s close. We’re all too busy to take time to THINK.

Remember when everything as all about Novell? Resellers nationwide were selling Novell software, installation, and LAN setup at high margins. The business was endless…until it ended.

The reseller industry is changing. Ray Noorda is no longer with us, along with the high margin, endless demand for Novell. It’s been gone for years…It’s 2017, Are you ready?

Expect less product business, longer sales cycles, and fewer qualified appointments. This isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. Looking back over the years the channel reseller business has been good. Strong growth with a few dips that some didn’t survive. If you’re reading this now you are to be congratulated. That probably means you survived Y2K and the 2008 slump.

What About 2017? Will Your Business Survive?

Do you have ideas? Do you know what to try next?

Two insights were passed on to me this quarter that deserve to be passed on.


Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism observes that people no longer take time to think. They stare at phones and email all day doing mindless work. It’s become an addiction for most. And it leads to failure at some point. Thinking just doesn’t happen while staring into a black hole of technology.

Greg sets aside time each week just to think. No computers, no phones, no people. It’s hard at first. I’ve started doing this 2 or 3 times a week since reading the book. Sitting quietly, note book and pen in hand ready for idea.

But what then? Ideas start to come.

So I jot them down. I plan an hour – sometimes less. But it’s s fixed amount of time that has a start and end. Greg says, when you run out of ideas just doodle and think. More ideas are sure to come. Just don’t give up. And sure enough the more I do this the more the ideas come.

It’s pretty cool. In fact, I find it’s theraputic.


Then I heard Craig Ballantyne, author of The Perfect Day Formula, speak at the GKIC Marketing Info Summit in November. Craig added something new to this THINKING IDEA.

He challenged us to think through our biggest problem – just 15 minutes every day. Five day work weeks suddenly turn into just over an hour of THINK TIME focused on solving that one big problem.

That’s 5 hours per month dedicated to fixing something I really need fixed.  Another great idea.

Seth Godin was right. People don’t have great ideas simply because they’re not really thinking. So Craig and Greg (hey that rhymes sort of) have given us a place and time to start brainstorming – coming up with ideas.

Some of that time might be on the BIG problem while some of the time might be more open ended. Both are essential…

If you sell technology or MSP / IT services one of your biggest problems is commoditization. Novell as a primary money maker for the reseller is over. The channel business is changing (so let’s not ignore it). And you need something new.

If you get struck, check out the House & the Cloud and see where the fastest growing opportunity is in the technology business right now. We’ve already thought about this.

©2016 David Stelzl

data-security-picWhat’s The Point of Your Security Assessment?

Are Your Clients Actually Taking Any Relevant Action?

This week on a coaching call with one of our Mastery Security Training Attendees we were discussing the role of the consultant in the security assessment process. In this case the Assessment Sales were NOT closing.

In other cases we discussed conversions from Assessment to Remediation or Managed Service were weak.

The complaint: Can I rely on our security consultants to deliver, or should I sell something else?

The Problem is Sales, Not Technical

First, sales people should never turn the SELLING over to a consultant or engineer unless that technology expert has a track record of closing. Knowing a lot about security does NOT lead to selling assessments. Selling and marketing are not driven by sound bites, technical know-how, or certifications.

In the Security Sales Mastery Program we teach sales people to speak about security at the business level. Executive Management is where the assessment should be sold.

Assessments are about risk. They measure Impact vs. Likelihood. At least they should. 

The Point of the Assessment is NOT Just About Risk: It’s About Conversion

In a sense Assessments are a marketing effort.

The Sales person sells the deal to measure risk. The consultant measures risk. But then something salesy has to happen.

Like the Cardio Doctor, if your patients are about to die but don’t take on the treatment plan, the doctor is failing.  It’s the doc’s job to sell his patient on doing something. Yes, ultimately the patient is responsible for their health, but if the diagnosis is poorly communicated or risk poorly described, the doc is doing something wrong.

Look at the Deliverable.

In many cases it will be a 50 page paper (enterprise size deal) or something much shorter in the SMB.  But is it written to the person who cares about risk? In most cases the answer is NO.

This is a sales problem. If you, the sales person, sold the assessment, hopefully you sold it to to someone at the business level to help them measure something specific – risk.

It might be compliance like HIPAA or it might be to identify the likelihood of data theft, system disruption, or data misuse.  Theft, misuse, and disruption can all be in the same report, however your findings must be written to the asset owner. The person with liability.

Don’t let the consultant take this to the client before reading and understanding what it says.

Are there mistakes?

Was the paper written using an old assessment from another deal?

If so, are there facts left over such as a “company name” that just don’t belong in this paper?  Believe it or not these are common problems. But it’s the sales person’s job to read it and scrutinize the value of the report.

Sure, the technical team shouldn’t be making mistakes like labeling a diagram with Cisco routers when the client uses Juniper (Yes, I’ve seen this happen!). But technical people are rarely writers. They won’t write at the executive level, they’ll miss edits that are obvious to the sales person, and they’ll often use an older document rather than starting from scratch. It happens even with the best teams.

Should You Keep Selling Assessments?

Yes, your clients need them. And they’re one of the best avenues to big business.

But sell them at the business level. Don’t succumb to IT people wanting assessment quotes. Unless they’re high dollar projects, they’re not worth doing. Make your way upstairs and find out what’s really needed.

When it’s time to assess, make sure your technical team knows exactly what you sold. It should be a measure of risk as described in The House & the Cloud. And when it’s time to deliver. Read it. It’s your deal. It’s Your client. It’s your responsibility. And it’s your biggest up-sell opportunity.

© 2016

img_4248What’s Your Value Proposition?

Have You Ever Tested it With Customers?

Or are you just going off what some other seemingly successful VAR is doing.

This business is incestuous.

Resellers meet with each other quarterly copying each other’s ideas without actually testing anything.

It’s also deceptive. 

The 1 million dollar reseller looks enviously to the 10 million dollar reseller for direction. But the fact is revenue is meaningless with privately held companies working on single digit margins.

Everyone Has The Same Value Proposition, “Our People Are Better”.

At Ingram ONE this week I’ve met with numerous resellers. It seems like everyone has the same value proposition. Some more sophisticated or sporting bigger certs but at the end of the day everyone looks the same on paper.

Is Your Marketing Working? What About Sales?

Conversion is the measure of success. If your website doesn’t pull in leads it’s broken. If your assessments don’t readily convert to business they’re useless. If your first meeting presentation doesn’t convert to something great it should be trashed. And if your prospecting efforts (cold calling or whatever) are not landing meetings it’s time to reengineer the process.

There are 4 Value Propositions,  Only 2 Work…

in this economy. I list all four in The House & The Cloud, however these two are what you need to know:

  • Risk Mitigation
  • Customer Experience (a form of competitive advantage)

The second points to custom software and digital connectedness with the customer. It’s Amazon morphed into whatever business you’re calling on. The other is minimizing risk.

Different types of risk exist in different vertical markets. The bank is more concerned with account balances being off. Healthcare wants to know life support systems are up and patient privacy is sure.

Stop thinking your people are better, your workflow if more efficient, or that your IT Service Offering somehow provides a more efficient way to handle IT.  It might all be true, however the business owner or CIO is not going to see it as unique.

© 2016, David Stelzl


Budget Cuts and Cloud Just Might be The End of Product Growth As You Know It

So What Can You Do to Prepare?

Like any habit (and box pushing seems to be a habit among many sales reps) the first step to freedom is admission.  I’m out at  INGRAM ONE in Las Vegas this week. In case you’re not here I thought I’d pass on a few secrets to get you pointed toward profit – 2017 is just around the corner.

Are you ready?

Expect more budget cuts, less momentum to upgrade, more migration toward cloud. WSJ is event talking about more IT automation to get rid of the people. Expect commoditization and most of all expect…

Your Business to DECLINE over time unless…

You have something new to keep your clients interested and buying. What?

This week I’m talking about beating budgets with security. It’s just one problem you need to solve. Getting someone to part with hard earned dollars (especially small business owners) can be brutal.  But not impossible…

I met with Truman (one of our Peak Performer Members) for dinner last night. His recent lunch & learn converted 100% to an assessment. Now he’s doing the assessments. Is it working?

It is! 100% conversion so far. (Find out how – the STEPS are in The House & The Cloud)

He’s just getting started but he is doing it right. People question his bold move to security. Regardless, his hunch is paying off. He’s already covered his cost of sales, his event costs, and more. The big question for you right now is…

What Do I Do As Product Sales Decline?

Do you become a cloud provider? Go into software development and create better customer experience for your clients. Or is security the right road? The big hurdle will be sales, not technology.

Getting your product strategy in line is important, but getting your sales team retooled is essential…and painful.

I’ve already said it, product is a habit and a bad one. How long will it take to transform? A little longer than you think.

Today might be a great day to set a meeting with yourself to work on the 2017 business plan. Consider three things.

  • Do you have the right solution strategy (one your clients will continue to need and be willing to pay for),
  • Do you have the right people to sell and deliver (sales being the big question).
  • Are your business processes (including sales and marketing) working and helping you grow?

From there you need to know your value proposition….I’ll discuss that more in my next post.

© 2017, David Stelzl

Between AdultFriendFinder  (400 million account records) and Yahoo (500 million account records), considered the largest account compromise this year, there are nearly one billion records exposed…it just keeps getting bigger. Why do IT groups continue to say, “We’ve got it covered.”

Hopefully your name isn’t in either one of these attacks…enjoy your Thanksgiving, and let’s keep working on this!

© 2016, David Stelzl

PS. If you’ve not yet read The House & The Cloud – this is the step by step, no hold barred, plan to getting business leaders to see the light.  It’s time you read it!

Over the past 12 months I’ve spoken at dozens of executive lunch meetings

Ransomware is one of 7 major trends I’ve used to wake people up to their need to assess risk.  

Over 90% of my listeners – ranging from small business owners to CIOs, admit that their firm has not had a risk assessment done in 12 months!1-hc-book-ad-3-0a

When asked what the FBI recommends – most understand the FBI recommends not paying.  But when asked what the FBI will then do to help them get back to business, I get a blank stare. The truth is, the FBI’s recommendation is meaningless, because the FBI has no ability to restore the data. The victimized company is left without data.

Security manufacturers have recommended backing up data. Great…but when I ask my audience how long it might take to restore data, again, I get the blank stare. It could take weeks. Can the doctor afford to keep his patients waiting while he restores? Can the CPA, in the midst of tax season ask his client to hold on? The answer is no.

Do your clients have the ability to detect this intruder before it locks them out? Is there a tested response plan in place in the event that one is hit? Do your clients know what this really is, and what to expect in the coming 12 months?  They all need to face this reality.  Check out more on how to  get people to listen – it’s in my book, The House & the Cloud.

© 2016, David Stelzl

img_4237The Next Big Opportunity for Resellers Is Security

IDC Reports Show That Tradition Infrastructure Sales Are On the Decline

Here in Scottsdale Arizona this week, I was invited to present at the Avnet Partner Summit. The session before mine, delivered by Meredith Whalen of IDC, was extremely eye-opening. A wake-up call to all resellers.

A couple of key take aways…

  • There’s a shift taking place from what she called 2nd platform to 3rd.  One resellers won’t easily make.  She’s talking about a significant decline in the demand for servers and on-premise storage or other data center/network product sales.  Instead, resellers should be gearing up for 3rd platform – meaning, IoT, Cloud, Analytics, Robotics, Cognitive Systems, and of course – Security.
  • The security market is changing too. In my session I talked about how these transformational technologies are opening up huge holes in the security architecture. Next generation security means delivering a clear measurement of risk, and then providing your clients with security intelligence.
  • The customer is also changing. She called for more interaction at the line of business level.  Businesses are mostly focused on Customer Experience right now – something that is driving the digitalization megatrend.  But this sale is largely a software sale – custom software. Traditional resellers can either build it, or head toward services like cloud and security management. Trying to work your way into other 3rd platform areas such as robotics (which is expanding far beyond manufacturing) won’t be easy, however now is the time to start thinking about your future solution strategy.

The Big Hurdle in all of This is Retooling the Sales Team

Having provided sales enablement and marketing strategy services for over 13 years now, I agree with Whalen when she says, sales people can be retooled! However, she also said to expect 50% of your sales team to not make the transition. That’s a big number.

My take on this is simply – most people would be able to make the transition if they believed they needed to. The problem is, most sales people have stopped reading, stopped studying (except for the free product centric training delivered by product vendors), and have stopped investing in their own careers with continuing education.

One simple fact should clear it up – every CIO reads the Wall Street Journal, yet it is rare that I meet someone in sales who does. When I ask a group, “Can anyone tell me what’s going on in the CIO office right now? What’s the big transformation taking shape in their job description?” No one can answer me.  It should be obvious. The WSJ is writing about it almost every day.

© 2016, David Stelzl