Archives For educational marketing

Made by Christine – My Niece

My son asked me the other day, “Daddy, what happens when you run out of people to call?”  What a great question for a 15 year old to be asking…this is the problem every sales person has at some point in their career.  That’s what marketing is for!  But how many companies really have their act together when it comes to marketing?  In most cases it is up to the sales person to generate new interest – it would be great if marketing and sales would get together on this…

There are three primary platforms for marketing consultative and high-tech solutions; customer events, one-on-one seminars, and social media.  But using any one of these platforms for something other than education builds distrust with the prospects you call on.  In other words, effective marketing (in B to B high tech sales) must be founded on education, not hype.

Its through this well-thought-out process that a continuous stream of new names will continue to come through your office giving you a growing source of new people to call.

While I have you here – I wanted to point out that the pizza on the left is one of the best homemade pizzas I’ve ever had!  This one comes from the Charlotte North Carolina area where the average pizza consumer is happy with Pizza Hut…however, if you’ve been following my pizza posts from all around the world, you know that I hate Pizza Hut.  Christine, one of nieces, was kind enough to make me this pizza last night since my family was traveling (meaning all of the cooks where out). Thanks Christine, it was a real treat!

© David Stelzl

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Day two of the RSA conference – what a great day.  I started off with breakfast in the Consierge lounge, meeting with RSA’s US Sales manager.  From there I navigated through a 5 minute hail storm on my way to deliver a keynote address to Cisco partners on ways to apply the concepts of educational marketing, assessments and discovery, as well as effective messaging in the security space (which was also accessible through Webex and recorded if you did not attend)o0. Spent a couple of hours working on some business in my room…

By the way, check out this room in the Marriott Marquis!  This is the place to set up a base camp.  I have a corner room overlooking the Expo center, that is about the size of  three rooms.  The hallway (a hallway in a hotel room!) pictured to the left heads down to my living room, bathroom on the right, and then out to a bar area with refrig and various entertainment accoutrements. Two giant flat screen TVs, three phones, and great service.  The only problem is, the internet service if very slow, so I’m using my Verizon 3G instead.

From there I attended a couple of receptions, most notably the Cisco reception, where I met with  security executives, gathered insights on product road maps for the coming 18 months, and reconnected with various clients, partners and manufactures.  A jam packed day and well worth being out here!

Here’s a shot of my living room…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2011, David Stelzl

How Did we Call on 100 Prospects at One Time?

With the right presentation you can sell to hundreds of people at one time.  Just this morning I met with nearly a hundred CIOs and executives in Charlotte, North Carolina.   Most sales calls target one company, and most lunch-and-learns can hardly be considered sales calls.  But in this case we are combining the two to create a more efficient sales effort.  How does it work?

First, lunch and learns are generally done by inviting existing IT-level clients.  This is a great way to express appreciation to your clients while providing technology updates with the hopes of discovering new projects within the group.  In my experience, most of these efforts produce immeasurable success and rarely lead to anything you wouldn’t have found just be staying in contact with your customer base; still, not a bad thing to do for your best customers.

Educational marketing is different.  It targets a group of buyers using educational presentation material relevant to the executive audience; people who can buy.  It’s like casting a wide net to capture a large group of potential buyers.  We market the event much like you would a wedding, including professional looking invitations with an RSVP.  It’s “invite only” in order to limit lower level attendance, and generally done over a meal to encourage a networking sort of event.  Creating a place for executives to network within their circle makes this type of event work.

The keynote I gave this morning was designed using the marketing concepts I teach and continue to talk and blog about; mainly, knowledge gaps, commitments, interruptions in thinking, and other, to create an Aha! moment.  I want my audience sitting their asking themselves, “Are we addressing these issues?”  If the issues I bring up are urgent and credible, I can move my audience to the point of believing, it would be foolish not to at least check!  Educational content that leads to urgency – followed by an investigation.  This process is then used as the discovery aspect of the sales process, which then creates opportunity for remediation or other project efforts.  In the case of liability issues, these sales lead to recurring revenue or annuity.  In many cases we will motivate seventy-five percent of our audience to move to an assessment, and many of my clients experience up to ninety percent of these moving to projects and managed services.

This is the power of presentation.  Every sales person should be capable of delivering this type of program, or perhaps putting this type of event together with an outside speaker and following up.  The results far out perform traditional selling efforts.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Here’s  a great question on Getting Your Message Out – becoming an Adviser, from this week’s Making Money with Security workshop (Virtual).

Question:

You gave some excellent information on what to say and do when you are in front of the executives/asset owner…when communicating by email and by other electronic means…

You mentioned that sound bites alone are ineffective and how you throw most of your marketing mail away. I agree with both of these statements, so with that said, do you have any suggestions for what I can do to increase our chances of getting our marketing messages heard/read?

Answer:

Content is the key.  When your goal is to sell, people feel sold.  When your goal is to educate, people feel helped.  The key is in finding things that are helpful to the buyer – the asset owner.  Most asset owners are not technologists, so educating them on products, or anything technical, sounds like an opportunity for demotion.  Expect to be delegated back down to IT.

Sound bites, or statistical data may be somewhat interesting, however it must be presented from a source they care about.  If the Wall Street Journal publishes it in their daily paper, chances are it appeals to business people.  However, statistics, as we stated in class, lead to judgmental thinking, not emotional buying.  So while, sound bites do build credibility, don’t expect them to lead to a sale.  Use them as attention grabbers only.

In my book, The House & the Cloud, I talk about “Idea Emails”.  These are ideas that I present to prospects to create knowledge gaps.  “I have some ideas I’d like to share with you on how to make sure your employees are not stealing company secrets”.  Idea emails are one example of creating curiosity through a knowledge gap that potentially helps a client/prospect with something they would care about.  Other messaging might be “How to” posts on your blog – how to educate the organization on safe data handling or presenting “Seven things your employees need to know before traveling with company laptops”.  This type of education can be written to appeal to asset owners in a non-technical, business format.

In summary, create content, use knowledge gaps to generate interest, and then educate with your content.  This education should lead to action using services your firm provides.  As an example, my wife was reading a document on the harmful effects of amalgam fillings (dental).  The document began describing all kinds of symptoms people complain of every day.  The article went on to explain the importance of removing these fillings using a special process that prevents serious side effects including possible fatality from poisoning.  The doctor writing included several case studies showing how patients had been improperly diagnosed and treated for major diseases including MS.  He described the procedure for removal and then recommended using other synthetic metal-free materials.  Of course, both my wife and I had the metal removed from our mouths.  While we did not use the doctor who wrote the article, we would have, had he been local and had he called on us.

© 2010, David Stelzl

How will the next sales person be chosen?

So how are sales people chosen in today’s market?  It used to be  that a friendly, enthusiastic person, who was able to find common ground through activities and interests had it made.  Frank Bettger wrote a powerful book many years ago called, How I raised myself from failure to success in selling, focusing on these strengths; and they are still relevant today.  However, there are millions of sales people with enthusiasm, so there has to be more.  Here are the typical things I hear when I ask, “How were you chosen?”:

 

Word of Mouth.  This requires a reputation for results in a market driven by demand.  One or two opportunistic deals may come through word-of-mouth, but to rely on this method for new business requires a buzz in the market – meaning you are offering something in high demand and people are talking, and, you are fast becoming a leader in your space.  People talk, so make sure your reputation is above reproach.  Working higher up in the organization increases the effectiveness of this process as executives exchange ideas at social functions.  Few IT people ever interact with peers from other companies so don’t count on business growth through this channel.

Direct Reference. Trusted advisors are chosen by the buyer.  Gaining credibility in a crowded marketplace is not easy, but references can help.  Sales people that do a good job of collecting and farming references are way ahead if they use this information correctly.  When it comes to calling on clients, posting web content, or even sending a letter or datasheet, well placed quotes from recognizable companies can go a long way in establishing trust before work has been sold.  Sales people would be wise to take this into consideration on the heels of every  well executed engagement.

Vendor Affiliation. Established connections with other recognized organizations should not be underestimated.  This is particularly true when it comes to aligning with manufacturers.  I know many companies who live on leads from vendors they partner with.  That said, don’t be deceived into thinking that being a “Cisco Reseller” or any other brand reseller will help you.  It won’t unless the sales people on the street are aligned with you.  Channel programs rarely produce any reasonable leads – rather it is the sales people who are encouraged to push business to the channel that feed the reseller.  And they generally choose who they feed.

Personal contact. I generally steer away from selling to friends.  This is the problem with multi-level marketing; these people have no friends once they sign up.  They are encouraged to reach out to the neighborhood, selling to friends, church members, club members, and anyone in their immediate social circle.  It won’t be long before everyone is wary of spending time with this sort of sales person, knowing that every invitation or phone call is an underhanded attempt to sell something.  However, that said, personal contacts that are not used to overtly sell can be powerful, and establishing helpful relationships in the marketplace through LinkedIn and other business oriented networking tools or events can be powerful.  The key here is to become a valued resource to those around you.  One of the things that has worked well for me has been helping people who are actively seeking a new job or who have been displaced from a current position.   Pro bono, I offer to help them with resumes, interview skill, and contacts.  I don’t do this to overtly solicit their help in new business, but by being helpful.  The favor is often returned.  The idea is to become a valued contact rather than a leech, and as people observe your creativity and value, you’ll be remembered when they need help later in their efforts to succeed.  One word of caution, don’t keep score, just be helpful.

Educational Marketing.  One of the most effective means of winning new business in today’s market is education.  Consumers want knowledge, and those who establish themselves as educational resources become the advisors of the future.  Add trust to this equation and you may find yourself being chosen as the next “trusted adviser”.  Blogs, articles, events, and even sales calls that center around education rather than widget sales go a long way in establishing value.  They also create business where none existed.  Become the best educator you can be.  This is where your efforts should be spent…read, listen, learn,…teach.

* Advertisement.  I’ve purposely placed these last two items, well,… last.  Advertising in a crowded marketplace is generally a waste of time.  By this I mean, high-involvement selling such as programming, designing, integration, security, etc.  Print ads target masses of people who have no interest in hopes of finding that needle in the haystack.  Years ago this worked, but junk mail has taken over the US Post Office and they are non-profit.  No one looks forward to visiting their mail box any more.  When was the last time you received a personal letter in your mail box?    And email has followed.  Spam is a problem, don’t add to it.

* RFP Response. Here’s another waste of time.  Unless you are in the account, writing the RFP (Request for Proposal), chances are you’re wasting your time.  Some companies are required to do this (for instance, Government offices), however, when commercial companies do it, they are wasting your time.  The purpose of the RFP is to create a level playing ground.  Is that what you want?  Does it make sense to strip a company of their value, selling skills, creativity, etc. when looking for an advisor or solution provider?  No!  If you are making tons of money on RFPs, more power to you; feel free to keep going.  If you are like most, this is a losing game, one you would be better off avoiding.  If sales are lower than expected, choose to educate as stated above and build your pipeline accordingly.  Don’t mistake busy work for opportunity.

© 2010, David Stelzl

Illustrations by David Stelzl

Do you create business or just fulfill it?  Look at your pipeline…where do your deals mostly come from?  Referrals?  Referrals are good, however, there just aren’t enough of them.  When the economy is weak, companies cut back on expansion, decision making moves higher up the ladder, and sales cycles lengthen.  Only those who are able to create business can experience long term success in this type of market.

The 5% Rule

Michael Bosworth, back in 1995, wrote, “Assume 5% of the people you might call on are in the market for some new thing (in our case,  new technology), the remaining 95% don’t perceive they have a need” (Paraphrased of course).  But they do have needs, they just don’t know what they are, or feel they are impossible to solve right now.  The average sales person is going after that 5% group, and it’s crowded!  The competition is fierce.

Creating business

Creating business means, going after the 95%.  The creative sales person gains access to buyers who don’t know they have a need, and then demonstrates that need with compelling justification and a track record to prove they can fulfill what they’re talking about.  Security is just one area that is predictably needed in every account.  Most companies are doing the wrong things, and security issues are going unaddressed.  But how do you find these people, and what does it take to move them forward?

The Value Proposition

We’ve been lied to.  We’ve been lulled into thinking people want great technology features; the latest gadget (Unfortunately, the latest gadget sells for about $500 and is made by Apple, which you probably don’t sell).  But they don’t.  At least the economic buyers don’t (well, maybe they do want an iPad).  They want strong businesses, profitable businesses, efficient businesses, and secure businesses.  The “value proposition” must focus on real business value, and that means you’re addressing real business issues.  As you’re planning for next year, start thinking through your message, your selling strategy, and what you say in your meetings, especially those early meetings while introducing your company.  Is your message unique? Compelling? Interesting?  And are you getting in front of people who can make a decision?  Are you getting demoted back down to non-decision makers after a first meeting?  Be honest with yourself.  If you’re answers are, “Not very unique” and “Not associating with higher level managers”, your messaging and positing are likely central to the problem.  From there, you need a way to reach the 95%.  And that means getting the message out.  Events, social networking, educational presentations,…there are numerous ways to do it.  So, bottom line; first you must have a message built to stimulate action, then a means to take it to market.  This is the foundation of your 2011 sales strategy.

© 2010, David Stelzl

Listen in as Randy Sklar, president of Sklar Technology Partners and recent present of his regional VTN chapter interviews me – this clip was made specifically as a follow up to a very successful, decision maker level, educational seminar.  The event received strong sponsorship from companies such as Zenith Infotech – one of the only managed services companies I know of that financially supports this type of event.

© David Stelzl, 2010

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