Archives For IT

By David Stelzl

 

© 2011, David Stelzl

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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

How will you get to the right people?  This is the question every sales person should be asking and it seems to be the focus of just about every sales training program or methodology.  Several years ago I had been working to get a meeting with a large healthcare organization in the southeast.  Our team had successfully met with the IT people several times and had established fairly good rapport; however, sales were slow in coming and budget seemed to be our primary obstacle.

Our strategy was to land a meeting higher in the organization where perceived business value might move some budget our way.  Finally, I was granted a meeting with the Vice President of Operations.  This person had the authority to approve money and would certainly be central to a successful proof of concept or pilot type project.  Our meeting started with the Vice President showing up late, but we were ready with our list of promising questions and discovery skills.

After an initial greeting and introduction, I launched into my “solution selling discovery process.” Giving me just enough rope to hang myself, our VP prospect answered the first question.  But as soon as I began presenting my follow-up question, he looked over at our IT advocate and roared, “I thought you said these guys had something important to share with us.  So far all I’ve heard are a bunch of open-ended sales questions.  What is the purpose of this meeting?”  How do you recover from that?

There are all kinds of tricks and strategies for getting that meeting at the top. However, in my experience, this is not the real challenge.  The real challenge, which is not adequately addressed in most sales books, is that of building peer level relationships at the executive level.  We have all gotten the “Big” meeting at some point in our lives, but how many are consistently staying at this level after the first meeting?

© 2011, David Stelzl

Demotion!

March 15, 2011 — Leave a comment

Influencers may be buying features, but budgets are being approved to buy one of the four things.  When sales training programs urge sales to call high, they are asking them to talk business-to-business people, and these four things should be central to the discussion.  When they’re not, the discussion is short, often hijacked by a technical influencer, and leads to repositioning you and your sales team at the influencer level, long term.  It’s simply a demotion.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Illustrated by David Stelzl

When do you use Power Point? As far as sales calls go, I am not a Power Point Fan.  While PowerPoint is a powerful tool when used incorrectly it can put an audience to sleep, kill discussion, and alienate your audience.  On the positive side it gives a sales person the ability to display diagrams and process, as well as photographs of products with bright colorful images and flare.   As a speaker, I can communicate to a larger audience where dialogue is not expected, and imaged help people track through the points I am making.

That said, once the lights dim, the propensity to slip off into dreamland grows with each slide unless I can hold the audience’s attention.  On the other hand, slide shows  have a tendency to distance the smaller audience and come off as canned (such as in a board room) – one size fits all.   I remember an incident years ago while working as an IT manager in a large bank.  The local sales rep of a prominent networking company called on me.  His objective was to convince me to move from my current network operating system to his.  We had met before, but he was persistent and charged with breaking into this lucrative account.  As an IT person I was only an influencer, so his tact should have been to educate me on more technical things, helping me expand my own expertise.  When he arrived I even coached him on my need – to know more about network operating systems.  Instead he pulled out his projector.  I pleaded with him to put it away, hoping to use our meeting time to address particular questions.  While I wasn’t about to change operating systems, education would have been the key to my heart.  Instead, he proceeded with his own agenda.  He promised all of my questions would be addressed in his slide show.

Thirty minutes later I was out of time.  None of my questions had been answered because his slides addressed things outside of my core interests.  It was a total waste of time, except to be used as an example of what not to do.  He left that afternoon, having had his last sales call with my department.

© 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

The fastest way to inculcate the concepts from our Making Money with Security Class is to try it.  Last week I had opportunity to interact with one person attending the 3-day virtual class currently in process…

He writes, “I thought I would try to apply some of the nuggets I have learned this week, in a meeting I had earlier this morning.  It went really well!  I met with a CISO and we discussed assets and started applying the likelihood vs. impact philosophy.  As I was doing this, my customer said the biggest problem he has is understanding likelihood.”

…This is predictable.  As I stated in last Thursday’s session, everyone seems to focus on the impact side of the security equation, but CISO’s and asset owners are already well aware of this, and continue to hear the same ROI and Insurance sales pitches almost daily from your competition.  By taking the “Likelihood” approach, a new discussion evolves.

He continues with a great question, “Based on this approach, is determining likelihood done through risk assessment or are there more dimensions to consider?”

If you’re in the class, you know we have one more session to cover, and this is where we will address this in detail, …but, this is the right question to be asking…how do we move this conversation forward to create business?  Here is a portion of my reply:

“…it means starting with executives rather than IT, and interviewing them to understand the assets; how they’re used, who uses them, who can’t use them…etc.  Then, armed with a complete understanding of the data (the assets), the technical side of the assessment should be used to discover how the necessary security is being achieved, or how to reduce the likelihood to an acceptable level of risk.  The ‘’Impact vs. likelihood” graph from by book, The House & the Cloud becomes our primary deliverable, backed by data from the assessment.

His final comment: “Application to real world is the best way to learn… I personally missed focusing on the asset and pitched it more towards the vulnerability discovery.  The asset that has the vulnerability determines the impact and the level of the vulnerability determines the likelihood.  Starting to add up.’’

This is exactly right and leads to the justification this sales person needs to create new business.

© 2011, David Stelzl