Archives For Jim Collins

It’s not often that I get to Chicago and the weather is just right – low 70’s, low humidity, clear skys, and best of all, no traffic to or from the airport!  It’s been a productive week.  Some lessons from this week’s strategy meeting are in order…

1. It’s never about the product.  We spent two full days on strategy, only naming product in passing, or by accident.  Marketing strategy that builds on features and functions is destined to fail.

2. Synergy among the leadership is so important.  We had this, and it showed…Jim Collins is right (of course), when he says, “Get the right people on the bus, others off, and make sure everyone is in the right seat before getting started with strategy.

3. Most of the resellers are competing on the same items – this makes everyone look the same, reduces margin across the business, and pushes up the cost of doing business.  There is a better way – in fact we discovered several.

4. Many of the things vendors are pushing VARs to do with MDF are useless…again, there are better ways to spend marketing dollars, and I believe we found some that will change the course of business over the coming months.

5. A clear vision of where the company needs to go is essential – it is the filter that everything else gets measured by.  We started here, taking the time to come up with a clear, concrete, unified vision, and it paid off through the two days.

PS. Note the photo taken from my window seat…down town Chicago.

 

© 2012, David Stelzl

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Your Fired!

April 4, 2011 — 2 Comments

My first exposure to a strong value proposition came on the heels of being fired from a great position.  As Vice President of a technology solutions firm I thought I had it made until one day, a number of bad things came together all at one time; the bomb was dropped right on my corner office desk!  While cleaning out my office I was plagued with the important question, “How do you find another one of these?”  No one advertises for such a position.

After the initial shock of being in this unbelievable situation, it occurred to me that I had bestseller material sitting right in front of me.  Our company had achieved some unbelievable success, so why not put together a short seminar on how to take your company from “Good to Great” (borrowing here from Jim Collins).  Rather than sifting through job ads and contacting headhunters, I went right to the phones.  I called every decision maker I could find in the Southeast and started setting up thirty minute meetings with presidents and CEOs of technology firms,… offering to share with them research on business performance, growth factors, inhibitors, etc.  The demand was strong and I found myself landing five and six meetings a week!

Rather than going in with a resume, begging people to buy “me”, I showed them undeniable value.  The presentation would often end with an agreement to explore further how we might work on such a strategy to grow their company.  Within a couple of weeks I was getting offers.  It was so much fun I wanted to do this full time – but of course no one was paying me.  Eventually I settled on a position similar to the one I had left.  It was just a few years later that I discovered a way to take my material to market on my own.

I relate this to selling technology.  The connection is easy, people need help with business growth and if someone appears to have answers, leaders will listen.  As you’re heading out this week, are you carrying with you lasting answers to your prospect’s biggest problems or are you begging them to buy another widget?

© 2011, David Stelzl

Our last session in the Making Money with Security Class (Online) is tomorrow.  I’ve had some great interaction with attendees over email and some phone this week, and value the questions and ideas that will improve both of us.  Yesterday  I was asked, “What should I be reading?”  Here is a short list of some of my favorite books:

First, before I mention a single book, every sales person should be reading The Wall Street Journal!  Not the whole thing, but anything having to do with technology.  Referencing this paper in a sales meeting with a relevant comment (don’t just do this to show off), can’t hurt.  Every “executive level” client subscribes so every rep should read.  Second, turn off your television – what a waste of time this is.  Rent an occasional movie with great content, and use your spare time to read great books and talk to great people.  Here’s the list…(of course it’s incomplete…but this is what is sitting on the self next to me)

Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath – The Heath brothers do an excellent job of explaining what makes a message stick.  If we could just apply a small portion of these ideas to our presentations I would be a lot happier sitting through sales calls!

Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play, Mahan Khalsa –  I have listened to this in audio-book format dozens of times!  Normally, once through is enough for me, but Khalsa’s advise on how to answer executives, determine budgets, and move through “sales politics” is unparalleled.

Solution Selling, Michael Bosworth – this book is older, and I’m not sure I really like the 9 box matrix Bosworth takes us through.  However, the ideas behind his questioning and discovery process are right on, and his treatment of Negotiations should be required reading for all sales reps!

E-Myth, Michael Gerber – if you sell to small business, Gerber’s book is a must!  Again, I did this on audio book, and that is what I recommend.  The way Gerber pronounces “pies”, as he weaves his story of Sarah building her pie business is like listening to old time radio.  But the concepts are what make this book a winner.  Talk to any small business owner and start sharing Gerber’s truths, and they will be offering you a job.  This comes from personal experience with client of mine who has done this.  Business owners constantly wish he would come work in their company at a strategic level – what more could you ask for.

Time Traps, Todd Duncan – for the rep who does not have time to wade through Stephen Covey, this is the book.  Short, simple, but very practical.  My favorite part of this books explains that most reps spend about 90 minutes each day actually selling.  What if they doubled that!

Consultative Selling, Mack Hanan – An old standby for anyone creating value.  I had the opportunity to dine with Mack in NYC a few years ago!  The author has a great deal of wisdom when it comes to demonstrating justifaction.

Personal Branding, Peter Montoya – There is no better book on personal branding, and personal branding is key to changing the way people perceive you.  If you want to know how famous people become famous, Peter explains it.  If you do nothing to change your personal brand, expect to be treated accordingly.

Good to Great, Jim Collins – there is no excuse for not reading this book!  Every executive has read it, so you should too.

Permission Marketing, Seth Godin – Did I say Marketing is key?  I did!  Seth Godin has a lot of wisdom in this area, and seems to understand the steps we need to take in order to get past the noise.  Thousands like you are calling on the same executives every week.  How will you get permission to continue calling on them?

The New Rules of Marketing, David Meerman Scott – Yes, there are new rules.  Scott has forever changed my view of marketing and social media. Every rep should take this book to heart and get moving on their marketing program.  Waiting on your marketing department will kill your business.

The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes – for his treatment of educational marketing.    He has some older ideas that are easily replaced with Scott’s book, but still worth reading to understand how he gains permission, building on Godin’s ideas.

PS. By all means, do read The House & the Cloud

© 2010, David Stelzl

 

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

I returned from DC last night, having spent the day with a solution provider in the software space.  One thing  that stands out and is worth repeating here is the discovery of a profit multiplier.  According to Jim Collins, every company should have an economic engine, and most resellers can put more on the bottom line if they figure out what the multiplier are and where profits are leaking out.  The comment that triggered our direction should be understood by all resellers, “Thinking your sales  team will double sales this year simply by working harder is tempting by unrealistic.”  I would add, that setting strong financial goals and then hoping to acheive them without a significant change to the way you do business is foolish thinking.

Once identified, we were able to come up with twenty ways to stop the leak.  Not all 20 will prove to be do-able or realistic short term fixes, but 4 or 5 of them stood out clearly as ways to multiply bottom line profits over the next several months.

Isn’t it worth taking some time out of the field to study the business model, identify the levers that multiply the business, and formulate a strategy to get them in motion?  This is what it means to work on the business rather than always working in the business.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Google Changes Everything

December 1, 2010 — 2 Comments

My educated started with school, ended with Google

I learned about Cobol programming, Fortran, 8-inch floppy drives, and outdated architectures at college.  I also learned how to cram for tests, gain the teachers favor, and correctly fill in scantron test sheets with a #2 pencil.  Eventually I graduated and needed a brain dump on relevant technology – at the time, Novell operating systems, ArcNet and Ethernet, PCs, and mainframe/PC connectivity.  The first part of my education came from professors lacking any relevant field experience, the second from sales people.  Sales people educated me, kept me up-to-date on product road maps, and even taught me how to address TCP/IP back when you did everything manually.  There was value in product knowledge, and other than some outdated bulletins our company subscribed to (at a very high price), I had few resources to turn to.  Even books were out of date by the time they hit the market; on demand publishing didn’t exist.

Google It

Enter Google.  Need to know how to cook something, understand a math formula, fix an engine problem, find a verse in the Bible, or learn about a technology?  Google it!  I used to be a central resource of knowledge, teaching my kids at home.  No more.  Now I just have one answer…Google it.  Just about every question that comes at me during the day can be answered on Google (well almost every answer).  We’re almost at the point where I don’t have to ask my wife what’s for dinner!  Chances are it’s on our family blog and all I have to do is Google the question.

They Can’t Google Your Expertise

So what is the sales person’s value?  It was about product knowledge, coming features, and compatibility.  Not any more.   It’s all on Google.   So where is your value?  It comes back to “improving the client’s position”.  What Google doesn’t have is your expertise and customer interaction.  You can find a million articles addressing someone else’s situation, but not one that exactly fits your client’s current situation right now, with the current market conditions, partners, employees, plans, and current technology.  This must become central to your value proposition and you must be able to communicate it with confidence.

They can’t Google Mine Either

In 2003 I was looking for something new.  My wife sat me down and said, figure out what you really love about the work you’ve done in the past, what you don’t like, where your passion is, what won’t commoditize in the next year, and create the perfect job.  Then, taking a note from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, I added the economic engine concept.  (Notice this type of decision process is not in Google).   Speaking, writing, teaching, mentoring…these are the things I love.  I do them at home in our homeschool program, I do them at Church,…why not do them for a living.  So on December 17, 2003 Stelzl Visionary Learning Concepts was formed.  I found my niche and have never looked back.  In fact, in the early days whenever difficult times would come, I would simply call up one of my buddies in product sales and ask him how things were going.  Their answers always validated my choice.  Whether or not I sold a product didn’t matter.  What did matter was that I offered something based on intellectual capital, something uniquely mine.  I don’t sell hours, skews, or discounts.  I sell IP (Intellectual Property).

Find your Niche and Sell it!

There are millions of things to specialize in, and for the engineer, products are included.  In sales, you must pick something you believe in, are passionate about, and something you can be the best at.  Then it must have an economic engine that works.  Take inventory of your intellectual capital.  What value can you provide which cannot be commoditized through Google or filled through your prospects everyday social contacts?  Hopefully you can come up with something your company can offer or support you in.  Then become the expert in it, and figure out how to take it to market. But don’t stop the learning process or the market will quickly pass you.  In 2011, Find your niche and go out and sell it!

© 2010, David Stelzl