Archives For decision maker

What Every Executive Needs

Every sales person must have in the forefront of their mind the impact / likelihood graph.  This is the final outcome of every discovery process.  What is the impact, and what is the likelihood of achieving gains or guarding against high-impact loss?  If you can show this in a compelling way, the chances of success go way up.

What Every Solution Provider Needs

Whether you consult, sell for a manufacturer, or resell products along with value-add services, every provider needs a strong value proposition that will precede the commodity product sale.  Once the product is in view, the value is gone.  Everything you know about the product is on Google, so demonstrate your value long before you get there.  This is done through the discovery process where value is shown in an advisory fashion.  The one who successfully demonstrates impact and likelihood wins.  Every executive needs an adviser.  In fact, they need many advisers.  You must be one of them to stay in the game.

© 2011, David Stelzl


By David Stelzl


© 2011, David Stelzl

Several companies I am working with right now are going through various assessment and discovery programs to create justification for larger projects.  This builds on the material presented online last week.

The problem is, most assessments are too technical.  A change is needed if justification is going to be found in your discovery/assessment process.  Here are some points to consider:

  • The assessment should be asset focused.  This means that the questions being asked focus on critical data and applications, rather than infrastructure.  This type of questioning process starts with asset owners who understand the value of their data and how it is used to generate company profits.
  • Business driven.  The discovery process is conducted with business people first.   Questions deal with the business, the data used in the business, and the processes used to conduct business.  Keep you client’s clients in mind, and you’ll be speaking their language.
  • Verified through technical discovery.  Once the business level discovery is complete, you the seller, should have a picture of how data is being created, but whom, and for what.  You will also have ideas on what this company could be doing to improve their situation.  What kinds of automation, risk mitigating strategies, and technology applications would make things more efficient or more secure.  Once you have this, send your technical people into the IT areas for see what is really going on technically.  Validate your hunches and figure out what they really need.
  • Recommendations are written at the asset owner level.  Putting together your findings is the next step, but more often than not, these findings are too technical and not meaningful or understandable by business level people; those who will ultimately approve budget.  Make concrete recommendations – recommendations your business level clients can visualize.
  • Back up recommendations with technical appendices.  I like to treat this as a separate document – something that can be handed to technical people.  The documents you hand to business people must be short, easily absorbed, and strategic. Technical people may have questions and will often not see value in strategic level writings, so having some technical diagrams, data collected, or other evidence that your technical people know what they are doing is a good idea.  This needs to be something that can be handed directly to IT.
  • Present to asset owners.  Your goal is the personally present your recommendations and justification to asset owners, helping them visualize what you are recommending and why.  I like to use the phrase, “What if we could do this or provide that to your customers by doing…?”  Going through several scenarios, I am looking for nodding heads or signs of interest.  There may be some things presented where they look puzzled or disinterested.  Either provide more detail to get buy-in or move on to the things they agree are important.  This is where you will focus your value proposition and proposals/agreements.
  • Have your technical people get with their technical people. Once you have buy-in, your technical people can work with theirs to make sure you have their complete agreement. Your technical people should have already developed this relationship before the discovery process takes place.  This paves the way for acceptance all around.

Remember to focus on the urgent issues – things with high impact, high likelihood.  Many of the things we deem important are not important to decision makers.  We can either work to educate them on why they really are important, or move on to the things they are concerned about.

© 2011, David Stelzl

I love Seth Godin’s book, Permission Marketing.  In my recent webinar on Gaining Access to Decision Makers, I recommended reading this in the context of demand generation events and selling with assessments.

Gaining permission requires demonstrating value.  In last week’s demand generation event we targeted business owners from the start (rather than going to IT).  Normally I recommend meeting with IT people to better understand the business before calling into higher level people…but in this case we set the stage to make this work.

We arranged for this event to be held at an upscale location, I was brought in as a speaker (Speaking on the trends of Data Security and Cybercrime), and a follow up program was designed to show business leaders in the local community what is going on with cybercrime and how local businesses are under fire.  Our goal was to show them, as reported recently in the Wall Street Journal, that security is no longer a custodial issue, but that companies must have someone at the executive level overseeing this and reporting right to the top!  This was a perfect segue into a business-level technology conversation.  No products,  no tech talk, and no Power Point slides discussing the hosting company’s profits, employees, or certifications.  Instead, we created a reason for attendees to meet us.  45 out of 50 signed up for an assessment…this is a powerful statement as to the value we delivered.

Business leaders don’t have time for sales pitches, product slinging sales calls, or interruption type marketing campaigns.  They do have time to hear about trends that affect their business, and education relevant to the success of their company.  This requires permission, and permission requires demonstrable value.

© 2011, David Stelzl

In just 60 minutes of presentation, these attendees were willing to stay and talk.  They received books, signed up for assessments, and looked forward to our next visit, a visit that would take place in their office, with a focus on their risks.  They wanted to know how to ensure that global cyber thieves would not victimize their businesses.    In fact, we gained permission to see them three times!  The first meeting was at the luncheon.  From there they agreed to invite us to their office, and finally, we had permission to see them a third time to deliver our findings from the promised assessment.  If a sales person can’t close business with three executive meetings and compelling justification from an assessment, a new sales person is needed.

Custodians are important.  Imagine how your office would look if no one ever cleaned up, took out the trash, vacuumed, or wiped off tables after an all day board meeting.  It would be disgusting.  Things would get so bad after just one week that you would probably move your office back home.

Influencers in the sales process are like custodians.  In fact, in the CISSP study guide, security administrators are referred to as data custodians.  They manage the data, keep systems up and running, and provide maintenance type activities on the systems that house and process data.  All of this is important.

But let’s not confuse these important custodial responsibilities with strategic decision-making and liability.  While it may be easy and even informative to meet with custodians, it does not lead to big business deals in most cases.  Stop positioning yourself as a peer to custodians, and start thinking of yourself as an adviser to those leading the business.  If you don’t have what it takes to advise, get on a program to change.  Become an adviser.

© 2011, David Stelzl

I reallocated!

April 20, 2010 — Leave a comment

Great messaging demands reallocation not budget.  Why did I spend a significant amount of unbudgeted money yesterday!  Here’s why…(this same goes for your prospects)

Here’s how a dentist I didn’t know made a sale to someone who rarely spends money on unbudgeted items or services:

1. This dentist invested time in research and began educating people like my wife (someone with a keen interest in health issues) on the detrimental effects of mercury in fillings.  Education is the key word here – notice I did not say, “blasted us with marketing, advertising, and spam.”  He used sound bites, attraction stories, and trends to create the credibility required to move to the next step of “Buyer permission.”

2. He then offers an assessment.  In his case there is a cost, however he willingly provided some  complementary phone consultation to validate his educational process.  The fee for assessment was low, but the deliverable very informative.  Through the process of examination, photos, x-ray, and inspection he determines the condition of the original fillings, the dangers in leaving things as they are, and the side effects of mercury toxicity to show how it may be effecting the patient (in this case me).  This is all done in a non-technical way, directly with the asset owner – the person with the teeth.

3. Options…clients like options vs. “take it or leave it” recommendations.  This puts the buyer in control at some level, without losing control of the sale.  At the end of this process I did not choose the most expensive option, however I did opt to do more than the minimum.  Why?  Because I felt like  I was receiving honest, informative advisement.  So in the end, my adviser didn’t recommend the most expensive option, he just offered it.  He directed me to an affordable option that covered the most important issues.

4. Closing the deal…once I understood the options, he gained verbal commitment based on prices and services we had agreed on.  An agreement was presented and I signed.

This is a near perfect example of educational marketing – the kind of marketing today’s businesses demand if they are to part with their money.  Even budgeted money is not an easy sale; it still requires justification and buyer level approval before it can be spent.  If you’re in sales, you are also in the educational marketing and advisory business.  If you’re not, your selling days are limited.  Find out more about educational marketing and what I am doing to help sales people master this at

© David Stelzl 2010

  • Proposals don’t sell solutions – they state what’s already been agreed to. Don’t use your proposal to state your value proposition.
  • When you change your selling process based on a company’s protocol for bidding, you turn your value proposition into a commodity. It was your proclaimed ability to create differentiation that got you in your current job position; don’t agree to sell on a “so-called” level playing field.
  • The RFP process was created by government to prevent corruption – of course it’s been a failure. Instead, it has taken every provider’s differentiation out of the decision making process. In fact, the decision is most often made before the RFP is written.
  • When gatekeepers claim that decision makers don’t have time to see you, you should be asking if these same people have time to live with their current condition vs. the few minutes you’re asking for.
  • Before you can propose, you have to come to an agreement on value. Without such an agreement, there can’t be a fair evaluation of price.