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Just Because Your Message Is Poor Doesn’t Mean You Should be Selling Harder

What’s Your Value Proposition?

When I look at a reseller’s messaging, I ask myself, “So What?”

Is there a compelling reason to buy here? Will the CPA, doctor, lawyer, or business executive care? Or is this message designed for techies without a budget?

Great Marketing starts where someone is right now…

Then takes them to where you need them to go!

(Discover the Most Effective Security Value Proposition in my Book The House & The Cloud…Special offer)

There are Five Components of an Effective Value Proposition…

But before I get to how to build one, let me share with you one memorable experience where the sales rep was clueless and wasted over 3 hours of his day trying to convince my family to buy…

The Product Guy and His Value Proposition Mismatch

Our vacuum died…It was a bad day at the Stelzl house. 6 Kids (Now 7), all very young, full of energy, and making lots of messes…But it gets worse.

You see, I grew up in an “Electrolux” family…if you’re over 45 you might remember the original Electrolux brand (the current Electrolux is not the same). It was like a cult following…

As a boy, our family bought one vacuum and we used it forever. Electrolux was the Cadillac of vacuum cleaners. These high-end cleaning machines were only sold in-home. Stores didn’t carry them.  They were expensive. However, they lasted forever. In my mind there were no other options.

Jump ahead to life as a married man. Electrolux is not the same company. Having been acquired and cheapened, it’s nothing special…

I tried buying one of the newer models (a whole story in itself), but it just didn’t last like the original I knew as a boy.

With our dead vacuum in hand we needed something fast!

Skipping through all the shopping disappointments, one salesperson stands out, and that’s what I want to focus on here. He’s the Rainbow guy. A reseller of sorts selling high-end hardware.

Rainbow vacuum technology is compelling.   It’s the “Water Vacuum”. You can buy one for about $2000. A refurb might be $650.

Perhaps you’ve seen Rainbow’s demo in your home at some point. My wife came across this amazing water machine while researching healthier vacuuming options. If you’ve studied this out you know that there are some nasty microbes nesting in your rugs, on your beds, and even crawling on your skin.  Under a microscope everything looks like a Creature Double Feature. Yuk!

So the guy shows up…He’s the Product Guy w/ a Value Proposition

Immediately he launches into the technology. His system doesn’t use traditional filters It’s water based filtering technology. Even the smallest microscopic stuff is sucked up, defenseless against this thing.

And then he did the most amazing thing…

He took my vacuum, spread out some dirt on my rug, DISCONNECTED the vacuum hose from the machine, and vacuumed up the dirt! Did you catch that? The vacuum attachment wasn’t even connected!!!!!  But the dirt still disappeared.

His message was obvious. Our the traditional vacuum was just pushing the dirt into the rug to make it look clean. Hmmm. (Pretty cool sales strategy…you have to admit).

But there was just one problem. He didn’t understand us. Here we were, sitting in the living room of a two story house, with 6 kids (we have 7 now), all quite young at the time, and going crazy.

All we could do was try to keep up with everything including homeschooling all of the kids. With all the busyness, our kids did a lot of the cleaning, but we had toys, schools supplies, and stray sock everywhere (Legos and all kinds of tiny army men all over the floor).

So, when I asked him to let me pick this thing up, I found out it weighed a TO! “How are my kids going to transport this thing up and down the stairs?  It’s a daily occurrence that the vacuum is upstairs and there’s a spill in the kitchen.”

“Well,” he replied. “You might have to get it for them…”.

Then, what about emptying the water after vacuuming (something that must be done after each use)? “You just dump it in the woods,” was his answer.

Outside?  Who’s going to do that? And what about when it’s snowing or freezing outside?

“Well, you might have to do that too.” Whoa…

And then the final blow, “What about all the Legos and army men that are going to get sucked up into that monstor? What do we do about that?”

“Well, you could run the water through a stainer or something.”

Are you kidding? With all kinds of fuzz, hair balls, and food particles, you expect me to be out in a rain or ice storm,  straining toys out of dirty water? (Are you picturing this?)


You see the problem here. His technology is great. But for a family with a bunch of little ones, homeschooling, etc., operational efficiency is what’s important. Not than getting dust mites out of carpeting (Even if the rep things otherwise.)

What was my wife thinking? Did this sales guy have a clue?

Where were we (mentally) at the moment he came through our door? We were busy, stressed out, needing relief. The Rainbow guy probably should have greeted us, observed the chaos, and admitted, “This is not a great solution for a family like ours,” and moved on.

On the other hand, the wiser rep would have approached our home, not with cleaning technology, but with ease of use.

Operational efficiency is one of the 4 THINGS BUYERS BUY (from my book, From Vendor to Adviser). And then (knowing there are hundreds of lightweight vacuums) he might have focused on longevity, knowing we can’t afford for this thing to be out of commission for even one day with all of these kids. And from there, moving to a risk mitigation sale…

You want your kids to be healthy, right? Vacuuming keeps the allergens down so your kids will be healthier! And families that have easy-to-use vacuums, vacuum…in fact, the kids will do it all, if you let them.

Here’s a Simple Strategy for Getting Your Value Proposition Together. It has 5 5Components.

1. Trends

Trends are like sound bites. They bring credibility. But remember, great marketing starts where someone is right now. So using the marketing Avatar I discussed a week ago, you are choosing trends and sound bites that matter to that person.

But, facts alone are NOT that interesting.

In fact, if you call on the CIO, he probably knows what’s going on in the news before you do. So, coming up with a news-bite that matter won’t be easy.

I talk more about Sound Bites and how to use them in my book, The House & the Cloud [Page 69]. READ it, DO what I’ve recommend, and people WILL see you as the expert! (That coveted TRUSTED ADVISOR status).

Instead of just quoting day-old news, take your sound bite and add some INSIGHT to it. Matthew Dixon in his book, The  Challenger Customer, does a great job of explaining why insights are so powerful and how to use them in the sales process.

The bottom line , INSIGHT is what grabs a prospect’s attention.  For instance, the vacuum guy might have looked at our crazy home and quoted a statistic on how infrequently the average home is vacuumed and why that creates an overabundance of health issues. (Sound Bite).

His [insight] would then be, “That’s because most vacuums are so hard to use. Only the parents can vacuum and they don’t have time. But mine is so easy, even a child can operate it. In fact, most kids think vacuuming is fun. My kids wanted for toy vacuum for Christmas. So I give him a real one and now he cleans for us.” What mom would ignore an insight like that?

2. What I See (Further Insight)

What have you observed? Your client lives in a vacuum of sorts. They don’t get out much. So they don’t get to see what you see.

Failed IT projects, IT Budget overruns, poor IT decisions, major security disasters and system downtime,… the list goes on. If you’ve been in this industry any length of time (and have been taking notes) you have wisdom you are probably take for granted.

Think of yourself as the hub or portal of IT wisdom and insight.

(And if you are not that person, become him. You have everything you need to be the go-to source for IT strategy and chances are you competition isn’t doing anything with this knowledge.)

Note: CRN, MSP White Papers, and Continuum & Kaseya data sheets

are not a substitute for personal development.

So what are you seeing? A digital transformation is taking place without regard for real security. Malware is traveling surreptitiously through a global maze of routers and switches, undetected. And is hitting companies where they can’t see it until it’s too late.

3. My Concern (Great Place to Shed a Tear)

Are you concerned for your clients? This is where the Successful sales people stand out. They care…do you?

When your client senses that you actually care about their business, and that you are in fact passionate about helping them survive, it shows. The rep who is just after another product sale ($$$$) to make quota falls short here.

So, take a moment and consider why you are in this industry. If you believe you can help people, then start focusing on their problems and helping them find lasting solutions.

If the Rainbow guy really cared about us, he would not have told me to take point on transporting his dinosaur, and cleaning out filthy water in the middle of the night, in the snow, with a strainer (YUK!) Instead, he would have admitted that his product wasn’t a good fit for our situation.

4. What We Are Doing About It (Your Lab)

What you are doing is coming up with solutions. At least I hope you are.

Anyone can sell JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disk). But what about securing data and keeping people from cybertheft?

Is your company looking at the best ways to secure a small business? Or ways of providing security intelligence to a mid-market or enterprise account?

As a sales rep, it’s your responsibility to study. When I drive or fly I am constantly listening to audiobooks, podcasts, and recorded coaching sessions. That’s right. I do everything I tell my clients to do.

I offer monthly programs to keep my clients on top through webinars, podcasts, blogs, and training programs. But I also subscribe to several programs (Which I personally fund) for my own business to keep me moving in the right direction.

College never ended for me. I’m taking new classes every day! I hope you are.

5. Specific to You

Now it’s time to apply this to the client.

Here’s what I say. “As I see your company (Fill in something like, moving into the cloud or going through a digital transformation), I believe you will be at risk if you don’t take steps to ensure (Fill in something here such as assessing your risk levels with the impact vs. likelihood graph, another concept from The House & Cloud).”

At this point you should have the client’s interest and a proposed next step. In most cases you’ll move to an assessment or discovery process to validate your concern in their situation. (Impact vs. Likelihood).

Write It, Memorize It, Use It…

Your value proposition should be powerful and well rehearsed.

Only the “Specific to you” needs to be modified. The trends/insights are updated occasionally, and the “What we’re doing” changes slowly over time as your company’s solutions evolve.  Minor changes should be made as you observe your target market’s response.

Effective selling demands a strong value proposition, not more brute-force selling. If you’re staring to sound like a used car sales person, it might be you just don’t have a great message and you are trying to make up for it with manipulating sales tactics.  Join us in the SVLC Insider’s Circle Facebook Group and let’s collaborate on your message for 2017!

© 2017, David Stelzl


moneyExpect Your IT Infrastructure Business To Shrink in the Second Half

Steve Norton, columnist for The Wall Street Journal, reported new shrinking IT spending numbers in this morning’s CIO Journal Report.

This is the third adjustment this year according to my notes. Earlier in the year Gartner was calling for a 1.3% decline, then in April 3.1%. Now they are saying we should expect 5.5% shrinkage!  These are some big changes.  What’s going on?

Date Center Is Over

Several years ago, when Cisco started really focusing on data center, I made a prediction. You might remember it – It’s in my latest version of The House & The Cloud, and From Vendor to Advisor, a book I published back in 2012.  I made a similar prediction in 2007, in the first House & The Cloud – however it was about VoIP.  These technologies commoditize quickly.  But data center is different.  It was already a commodity!  Cisco was developing what Geoffrey Moore called, in his book Inside the Tornado, a +1 technology.  Plus-One is like putting a popcorn button on the microwave oven.  It takes something that everyone already has and makes it better.  But there’s a problem….Blog Subscribe Ad

The Problem with Plus One Technology 

90% of the technology revenue is being sold today through the channel. If you look at Moore’s model, he shows how products enter the market as early adopter offerings, purchased by about 12.5% of the market. As the product matures, assuming that product enters the early and late majority markets, it enters the majority markets.  If the manufacture does things right, they might become the defacto standard as Moore’s Tornado (Inside the Tornado) heats up.  If that happens they will have 60% of the overall market just from their major market share, plus the earlier 12%; in other words, they’ll be dominating the market like we see Cisco doing right now in Route/Switch.

The problem is, that while the manufacturer is still holding the larger part of the available market share, their resellers don’t really make money on commodity sales. The margins get so thin in the late majority market, they face going out of business. Over the past 20 years we’ve seen technologies come and go. The new waves of technology fuel new resellers, or the reengineering of old resellers. Novell resellers became Microsoft LAN Integrators. The UNIX wave of the mid-nineties helped revitalize many companies that used to sell PCs or CAD-CAM software. And big server deals, including those UNIX systems drove endless storage sales and high-availability computing.  By 2000 there were countless resellers jumping on the  VoIP bandwagon.

In 2003 we saw a shift away from product.  The smaller integrators were all building managed services. Their customers were not candidates for big storage or server sales, so MSP became the goal of just about every reseller.  The consulting business was eroding, given the commoditization of products, so servers were moved to contractual recurring revenue. This was an excellent move for many – it gave stability to the reseller model that had historically struggled with fluctuating services utilization rates (Bench Time).

The larger companies, especially big Cisco integrators, turned to data center and big storage no available in a rack mounted Router chassis. But the plus-one technologies don’t revitalize the reseller for long because they are not what Moore called, discontinuous innovations. Rather, they are an attempt to eat away at existing market share. It’s just an upgrade from an existing commodity product – so competition is steep and margins are thin. The reseller is them left to make up their margin loss in volume. In the long run, this won’t work. The sales people I am working with, who are in this space are telling me their margins are too thin, and they can’t sell enough to make a decent living. They need something new.

The Problem With Managed Services

MSP doesn’t necessarily commoditize – its a different animal altogether. In a way, it’s already a commodity.  It’s really an offering to take on the management of commodity infrastructure.

Since the products involved in MSP offerings are a commodity, the only thing that had kept resellers from flooding the market with offerings was the cost of building the NOC (Network Operations Center). Without a NOC, it’s hard to have an offering. Enter appliances and the Cloud.

In 2003, companies like Nable lowered the barrier to entry by coming out with an appliance that would handle the SMB NOC needs. Of course it had it’s limitations. It didn’t really handle the security side of the equation. Since 2003, numerous offerings have emerged, basic security features have been added, and the SMB integrators all have one.

To make things worse, cloud now gives just about anyone the ability to offer a host of managed services.  I see resellers with just 2 or 3 employees offering services to hundreds of SMB companies, leveraging outsourced call centers and cloud based NOCs to handle just about everything but the initial sale.

MSP offerings are now just dollars/workstation sales. It’s a price sale, just like servers and storage.  There’s no margin left in it.

Back to The Four Things

In my book, From Vendor to Advisor, I make the case for focusing on one of four things. One of them is nearly impossible, so that leaves three. Two are in high demand. And Security has always been the most important of the four.  They are; ROI, Competitive Advantage (including Customer Experience), Operational Efficiency, and Risk Mitigation.  Competitive Advantage and Risk Mitigation are by far the best places to focus.  Some VAR owners will continue to offer all of the above, but like the medical field, the specialist always makes more money, and is always in greater demand.

© 2015, David Stelzl

We’re in the height of Cyber Monday – How Secure Is Your Data?

There’s One Big Mistake Almost Every Company Is Making – Do your clients know what it is?

If you’ve read my book, The House & the Cloud, you know what it is. This one concept alone has earned me more assessments than I can count. In fact, I just heard that my last lunch & learn meeting had nearly a 100% sign up – the average over the past 12 months is over 95%! How is this possible?

This Thursday I’ll be speaking on these things out in the Bay area – an educational session on what to expect over the next 12 months as people move more into cloud technology, BYOD, and other transformational technologies. Thanks to Solid Networks and Cisco Systems for sponsoring this event!

Have you ever considered how security actually works?

I mean, what makes something secure or not? Since data is so intangible, let’s look at a physical security example. Consider your house. You probably feel pretty safe in your house. If you didn’t you would be up all night keeping watch. Hopefully you’re not doing that.Blog Subscribe Ad

How is your house protected? All houses have doors. You probably lock yours at night and when you’re away, to keep neighbors and squatters out. You also have windows with locks, and might even have a safe inside to store valuables. Perhaps you have a dog, personal firearm, or an alarm just in case someone breaks in. If you were to make a list it might look like this:

Doors Alarm Firearm
Windows Motion Detection Dog
Lock Monitoring Police
Fence Neighbor Watch Insurance

It’s a simple list of 12 things that most of us look to for safety. But the fact is, these things are not what protects us. If I’m right, then what is it that actually makes your home safe? It’s actually a system at work behind the scenes. A system that sits behind every valid security model. It uses these components, but without the system, these components actually do very little to protect you.

Take your door for instance. Is there any doubt that a determined perpetrator could break through your front door? Your door probably has glass windows on the sides, and surely you’ve seen on TV how easy it is to kick in a door. So what is this system I am talking about?

It’s a system with three distinct stages: Protect, Detection, and Response. These headings sit on top of the three columns in the diagram above. The first column provides some level of proactive PROTECTION to keep people out. As I’ve pointed out, it will fail under the pressure of a determined attacker. At that point DETECTION takes over. An alarm sounds or you hear someone breaking in. If your system is built correctly, the DETECTION stage will kick off some form of response plan. That could be a dog trained to protect it’s owner, a home owner equipped to defend his castle, or law enforcement agents responding to a break-in. The key here is timed stages that predictably trigger the next, before it’s too late. If your alarm sounds and it takes the police 20 minutes to arrive, your plan might not be very effective.

Looking back at the three-stage model, all three columns are essential. Each stage must work with timed precision. However, one of these columns is more important than the other two. Can you guess which one it is?

In live training sessions I do for business owners I often take a pole. Is it column three, two, or one. As I go though them I ask for a raise of hands. Maybe 20% of my attendees will choose column three. 10% might choose column two. The rest will go with column one. But the answer is column two – DETECTION. Why?

Consider the physical security around you. Look at your bank. Is the vault open in the daytime? It is! All day. Anyone can walk into a bank. So what keeps your money safe? It’s the bank’s ability to detect a perpetrator before they can get to the money and get away. At night the bank is locked up, but most physical bank robberies take place during the day. Why are they avoiding nighttime? It’s because they know, and the bank knows, that the safe can be compromised with tools and a torch. But they also know how long it takes to crack a safe and how long it will take the police to respond once the alarm sounds. It’s all timed and it works most of the time. The day is less predictable, and so if everything goes well for the crook, chances are better that they’ll get away.

So what is the one big mistake just about every company has made with their data security strategy? It’s the system above. Most information security programs are built on proactive PROTECTION. They rely on firewalls, passwords, and encryption. That’s what we’ve been taught to do by security product manufacturers. Only in the past few years has the story changed.

If you want your data to be safe, your security model has to change. You will have to move from a proactive protection model to one like I have pictured above. One where DETECTION is the primary focus and a well timed response plan follows. Once in place, the question will no longer be, “Can they get in?” They can. The new question is, “How long will it take for us to detect and respond? And is that fast enough?”

© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. For those waiting for the House & the Cloud Second Edition, we are done editing and just getting ready to send this off to the publisher!

Marketing Success is a Formula

Not an Event…

My last three posts were videos describing different aspects of Marketing Events and marketing success. This Thursday I will be speaking to Cisco partners on how to Turn Prospects into Customers. That’s exactly what a marketing event is.  If you sell Cisco, you can sign up and join us online right here: (CLICK). – Thursday, July 17th, 9:30 AM ET.

Also, make sure you have my latest Special Report on Turning Prospects Into Clients…this special report offers some great insights on reaching out to qualified buyers and offering them a message that will move them to buy. Click Here To Get Your Copy!

© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. You can check out the Making Money w/ Security Boot Camp Right Here! (Click)


Blog QR AdWe’re off to a busy week this week with a Cisco sponsored web event this afternoon, and kicking off my third Making Money w/ Security (and Managed Services) event tomorrow afternoon at 3 PM.  As part of today’s web – with over 200 people signed up, I pulled together some of the most important concepts from my Event Marketing eBook in a new product I call, The Idea Book (click to read more and order it) – a Quick Reference Demand Generation book with 19 easy to follow pages to take you through the major concepts. In addition, I have also put together a package that includes this quick reference along with the 100 page detailed guide, and over 6 hours of instruction on how to pull off the most successful marketing event you’ve ever held.

Check out the right hand sidebar for the new quick reference IDEA BOOK – priced like a phone app or iTunes download, it’s just $1.99.  If you want the full blown program, you can get it here with a 20% discount (for a limited time).  It’s time to get serious about marketing….

© 2013, David Stelzl

CiscoHere’s an opportunity to completely re-engineer your approach to lunch & learns and event marketing.  Cisco is sponsoring this program as a way to help resellers conduct more profitable lunch & learn events.

When: July 30, 2013 at 12 EDT.

Where: Webex – where ever you are!

If you are tired of pitching the same message to the same people, with the same response (or not much response at all), I’ll be presenting a 90 minute session next week, taking Cisco partners through Seven Secrets To Profitability Using Lunch & Learns.  If you are a Cisco reseller – join us by signing up here:  (CLICK).




This morning I am preparing to speak to Cisco channel managers, account managers, and channel marketing. The topic – Event Marketing. 

Challenging Presuppositions

Years ago Tim Ferriss, Author of The 4-Hour Work Week figured out how to accomplish more in a few hours than most of his sales colleagues could accomplish in an entire day.  How did he do it? After hours upon hours of unproductive cold calling he decided to step back and analyze the process.  The gatekeepers were always getting in his way – no one would let him speak to the decision makers.  So instead of making his calls during work hours, he simply moved to 8:00 AM, calling for 30 minutes, and then picking up again at 6 PM for another 30 minutes.  In no time he was closing more meetings than any of his peers. 

Tim shares a story in his book of how he won the Chinese kickboxing National Championship by studying the rules and changing the game to create an advantage.  He writes in his book, ” Sports evolve when sacred cows are killed, when basic assumptions are tested! The same is true in life and in lifestyle.” Tim’s process was revolutionary – but senior management has caught on, and in my recent CIO meetings I understand that they don’t want to hear from you before their administrative assistant shows up.  So now what?

Traditional Lunch & Learns

This past week I spoke with two different manufacturers about lunch & learns.  In both cases my clients – both resellers, were working on funding for events they are planning.  In both cases the vendor sponsor was skeptical about sponsoring me to speak. 

My events are different.  I counsel my reseller clients not to let vendors do the speaking, and I insist on inviting executives.  “That’s not the way we usually do it.”  Both companies made this statement…but what are the results of the typical event? 

It’s like Tim Ferriss’ cold calling.  Traditional lunch & learns are drawing small audiences of technical people, reporting high attrition rates (like 50% of those signing up never actually get there), and no measurable return on investment. The measure of success I hear all too often is, “How many attended?”  That’s like measuring sales by asking, “How many calls did you make?” – what does it matter.  If you don’t generate any gross profit, what’s the point?  And if you managed to make your entire quota on one call, why do you need to make 100 more calls?  A second call might get you to your accelerators (assuming your compensation plan has this feature built in.)

Changing the Rules

Why am I so stubborn about how the event happens?  Several years ago I started challenging the assumptions.  Why does the vendor have to speak?  Does it lead to more sales? Don’t get me wrong here,  I don’t care if they speak – but let’s not speak just to have a role in the event, or just to feel important.  The only question everyone should be asking is, “What is the purpose of having the event and are we achieving that purpose?”  From what I can tell, there are two reasons to have an event:

1. To reignite old buyer relationships.

2. To create new buyer relationships.

From the reseller’s perspective, these are the only two things that really matter.  Traditional cold calling doesn’t work – my clients all agree.  Tim Ferriss had a great idea, but it too has lost it’s savor.  Lunch & learn events with IT people have been around for ages, but they aren’t producing.  Why? Because technical people don’t have any money. 

So I started looking at the buying process.  The seller needs time in front of a decision maker, but there has to be a compelling reason for that meeting.  Decision makers are business people. They spend money for one of two reasons: to make more money, or to mitigate risk.  That’s it – simple, just two reasons.  Then I started looking at events in general.  What makes one event a major success, while another has almost no attendees?  Why do some events lead to 1000 people making major life changes, while other events lead to no measurable change at all?  It’s the speaker – and the motivation they provide to make a commitment, change something, or move in some direction.  It’s a conversion process, and there’s a simple formula to make it all happen.

So 10 years ago I joined the National Speakers Association and started studying great speakers.  It’s not the product they sell (Every motivational speaker worth their fee has a book or DVD set.)  If it was, they would simply set up an online store and go on vacation while the money rolled in.  They can’t do that. Most speakers sell their products at the conference or seminar.  Their book sales online are mostly unmeasurable.  But at the conference, they often sell enough product to double their speaker fee income.  It’s the speaker’s passion, combined with a life changing message, delivered to an audience that has the authority to make the commitment or accept the challenge. 

This morning I’ll be sharing the basic principles of event marketing success.  Why would anyone want to continue making dozens of unproductive cold calls five days a week when they can sell to 30 or 40 people at one time in one hour?  I have found that with the right message, at least 60%, and on average 75% of the audience will respond to the right message.  If the right conversion product (assessment or strategy session) is offered, they’ll sign up.  This leads to multiple meeting opportunities.  If you don’t close business after all of this, you can’t blame it on the event – but you are way ahead of where you would be on a cold call.

© 2013, David Stelzl