Disrupting Status Quo – The Assessment That Actually Sells Something

Assessments are great business – but will you do it for free?

Assessments can be great business…the margins are usually good, and the delivery can be powerful…but getting one sold can be a challenge.

The temptation when an assessment gets sold is to think the deal sold!  Most sales teams will get the contract in, high-five everyone, and hand it to the scheduler – moving on to the next opportunity.  This is wrong thinking.

When I see an assessment, my first thought is, “Okay, how do we leverage this to get a year’s worth of business out of it?” It’s not the end – it’s the beginning. In fact, if I could do 5 or 6 assessments every month, the year would be over.  Even if they were all free…

No one wants to do a free assessment.  I hear this from the technical side all the time and I understand this kind of thinking. But what if a free assessment landed you a year’s worth of business?  What if it brought in a managed services contract that was 10X what you usually see? What if this new client made a three year commitment on that 10X contract? Would you do it for free?

You would!

The Problem:

The last ten assessments I reviewed were boring!  They didn’t say anything…at least to a business person.  They were dead end projects – one off sales.  Profitable, but limited.

From the economic buyer’s perspective: The data gathered was irrelevant.  The executive summary started off with a brief history of my company – I already know where I work.  Someone spare me from having to read a brochure on my own business.  The summary goes on – I’m still interested because the title says this is my section, “Executive Summary.”  That’s me!

I flip over to page 5 and read, “Large layer-2 Domain increases risk of traffic loop and limits scalability.  Cisco 2800 and ASA 5520 as core routing engine can potentially be network performance bottleneck.”  Yikes, someone call for an interpretation!  Is this the right section?  (Note: I am quoting from an actual report handed to me by one of my clients. This was before our coaching session…)

Maybe it Gets Better. I turn the page…

Findings:  “Ports and Protocols.”  I have someone who handles these things for me.  As I sift through 50 to 100 pages, all I see are tables and charts, listing devices by model number. I recognize the brand name, but the model means nothing.  There’s a long number following it – they tell me this is the network address.  Why do I care?

Then there’s an issue listed.  They all look the same.  “Insecure Network Services – FTP, Telnet, HTTP.” Is this supposed to mean something? Then there’s the detailed explanation: Open Ports Commonly Used by Trojans (Lula-10001, Lula-10003).  Should I be worried about this?

Most Assessments – Desk, to Shelf, to Trash

Q1 is almost over.  Chances are you’ve done some assessments – and more are coming.  This one project opportunity has tremendous power to drive business – but only if you use it correctly. The sad truth is, most assessments will go straight to IT – They’ll land on the front right corner of the desk, where unread trade-rags pile up.  Eventually that SE will feel the need to straighten up.  The report goes on a stack on the shelf (If they have one.)  Finally, that sad day comes – they realize it’s out of date and they just don’t have time.  Plus, you’ve sort of told them what they need to know – so in the trash it goes.

There are 5 steps to take on the heals of every assessment agreement.  Here is just one that I see most often overlooked…

Tip #3 – The Untapped Power of Influence

In sales training you’re told – Find the Economic Buyer.  This is good advice, however it’s not true that influencers don’t influence.

Imagine the EVP of Investment banking suddenly awakened to his true risk! You and I know that most companies out there have much more risk than they imagine.  Yet, trying to convince the CIO or CISO is not easy.  Look at the “Target IT Guy.” Clearly he was unsuccessful.

Here is just one important tip to remember when conducing an assessment; Talk to the REAL Influencers.  Not about technology or ports, or protocols.  Talk about workflow.  Talk about how they create data, where they create it from, who would want it – and what damage would be done if it were to get into the hands of those perpetrators. Business-side influencers are the real influencers.

And when it comes time to deliver the report – make sure it’s written in terms that these influencers understand.

The conversion rate, from assessment to project, has little to do with how vulnerable a company is.  In just about every assessment I review, there are major holes in the operation.  The problem is, those holes are hidden in pages and pages of tech-talk.  Jargon!  No one really understands what the risk is, and no one is willing to listen to the IT Guy.

© 2014 David Stelzl

P.S. Get the other 4 Points in our upcoming series on Assessments and Follow Up…starting this week on March 13th.  Click here to learn more about How You Can Convert 90% of Your Assessments to Big Business and Managed Services.


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