Archives For john chambers

Downtown Grand Rapids

I’m Back from Grand Rapids and heading into a busy week, but not without some reflection on the benefits of last week’s educational event.  27 business leaders attended this event where I addressed the group on current security trends and threats specific to the SMB space.   Over half of them will be looking at their security issues in greater detail this week with the sponsoring solution provider, in the form of an assessment.  The majority of these companies are not currently engaged as clients, but are still receiving this assessment as a thanks for joining the meeting. This is a significant step in the right direction and a value to both the business owner and the consulting firm.

On Friday (the day after this event) I spent some time with a rep out in the north west (by phone), going through this type of event and what makes an event successful.  On the call, we discussed ways of attracting new clients, a question I have run into more and more over the past year. He mentioned that they have tried doing  lunch & learn events, like the one above, to demonstrate their value to the local firms – “But we can’t seem to get people to attend – why?”  “How do you continue to attract audiences, even in cities where there’s already of glut of these kinds of events?”, he asked. There are a couple of key issues to consider here:

1. People attend events that offer something they personally need and care about.  If I am in the market for a particular kind of tool or home improvement, I might attend a home show or head over the the Woodcraft store’s open house (a popular store for those engaged in fine woodworking).  I have a specific need and the above mentioned gatherings offer some insight.  If the thing I am buying is obvious, I don’t need to attend.  The problem here is, my lunch & learn at this point only appeals to a certain group of people who are currently shopping for something – it’s a small audience, and my chances of marketing to the right people are slim.

2. If I make this into a product pitch, I can still draw an audience.  Consider RSA – a product show that continues to draw thousands.  What’s the attraction?  There show is advertised to technical people…but the attraction comes with the speaker line-up.  Technologists convince their firms to fly them there and pay for lodging and food, to see John Chambers or Marc Benioff speak.  The problem with your lunch & learn at this point is, you don’t have a speaker that will draw an audience.  Stop saying, “People are too busy,” or “We have too many lunch & learns in our city,” the truth is you don’t have a show worth going to.

3. Too many companies are focused on the numbers.  My coaching client on Friday told me his sponsors only care about numbers in exchange for marketing dollars – meaning it doesn’t matter who shows up.  This is wrong thinking.  The vendor requires some re-education on the importance of converting attendees to buyers.  The percentage matters far more than the number of attendees when we are working with expensive solutions.  With this in mind, getting the large technical audience referenced in point number 2 is not really valid.  Based on the attendee list, I can almost predict the percentage that will sign up to do the assessment (or any other offering).  IT people will love the talk (if it has great content), but will pass on the assessment – why?  Two reasons, they have no liability, and they have no money.  The bottom line here is; setting up an educational event for technical people will buy some good will and demonstrate value to an existing customer base, however it generally will not produce new clients for a solution provider.

4. Content that will attract business leaders, must focus on the business leader and their business. What do they think about all day?  Obviously they hire advisers; legal, health, financial and investment, and more..what about technology?  The event mentioned above was specifically designed to help business leaders understand their risk and liability regarding data and intellectual capital that resides in their most important business applications and databases.  These attendees saw value, responded to a message aimed at reducing their risks of data loss, and followed up with value delivered through the sponsoring solution provider in the form of an assessment.

© 2012, David Stelzl



Who should speak at your next marketing event?  John Chambers, Steve Jobs, or Bruce Schneier would all be great choices, but chances are they won’t be able to fit you into their schedule this year.  You can go the other extreme and hire your own sales manager or perhaps convince a local channel manager, or worse, presales SE (Systems Engineer) to take the stage.  Both mindsets are wrong.  So who should speak?

Decision makers don’t want to leave the office for techno speak, and a product pitch is sure to put them to sleep.   But industry news with business relevance can be worth taking time out of a busy day.  Depending on the size companies you target, you will have variance here on the caliber of speaker you need.  But no matter who speaks, the person must understand the goal; “educating business leaders in our community.”  The speaker must be able to connect with the audience at the business level.   That means speaking in terms business people understand.  They must also understand how the marketing aspects of this event work.  Too analytical, and expect your audience to get bogged down in analysis paralysis or worse, fall asleep or leave.   Remember, sales are emotional, so we are looking for stories and events that solicit an emotional response.

At some level, this speaker should also be entertaining.  Not a humorist, but certainly able to tell their story in a way that draws in the listener and provides a fun experience.  They must also speak with authority – again, with respect to the market they speak to.   Most free speakers are free for a reason; they don’t add any value to this event.  Some of the speakers I have used successfully have included FBI Cybercrime Investigators, Gartner Group Analysts, technical superstars that may have started a company or invented something, and industry speakers who have authorship or have earned a name through some association such as SANS.  A customer case study can work, however, make sure your customer really can speak to a group.  I’ve seen some disasters that were hard to recover from.

© 2011, David Stelzl

If you sell, you should be reading Wall Street…that is, if you want to call on decision makers.  This morning’s article on Cisco is important information if you resell Cisco, especially when your clients start asking, “Should we stay with Cisco?”  Statements like:

  • …shares languishing at 1998 levels
  • …the company’s problems run much deeper than a few disappointing quarters
  • …a byzantine management structure
  • Mr. Chambers…seems to be repeating mistakes.

These are tough accusations.  In Rolfe Winkler’s article he notes that most of Cisco’s revenue comes from core networking, and Juniper is taking market share.  Is the product bad?  I don’t think so – core networking is a commodity business and Cisco has been the long standing champion and has delivered strong networking technology – still does.  I can’t comment on the reasons why market share is slipping – perhaps Wall Street has a good handle on this.  However, my video recorded just about one hear ago – The History of the Channel stands out in all of this.  The reseller must have a value proposition that does more than point to a vendor’s product.  Recent Cisco acquisitions and their move away from security over the past decade (which I see is starting to rekindle) have put resellers in competition with their other vendors (like HP), but have not given them discontinuous innovation to take to market (such as Unified Communications eleven years ago).  This has placed the Cisco resellers in the middle of Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Life-Cycle, where margins are at their nadir, and competition – it’s zenith.  What is the solution?

Your value proposition must proceed the product sale.  Helping clients solve business problems is a business level sale.  Technology is used to help solve the problem, but only after the theory has been sold.  None of this depends on a vendor brand…their brand “stamps” stability on the solution once that phase of the project comes into play.  So what should resellers be selling?  Risk mitigation, ROI, Efficiency, competitive advantage…the same 4 things I’ve been writing about for years.  It’s your brand that matters at the start of the sale, and your position as an adviser will largely determine which product gets the budget.

I’d love to hear your comments on this article!

© 2011, David Stelzl

All Budgets Lie

November 5, 2010 — Leave a comment

No budget!  How many times have you heard these words?  “No one has budget, there’s no money to spend, we have to wait until next quarter…”  So just go back to the office and tell you sales manager to hold off on selling until Q1.  No problem, I’m sure they’ll understand.  Meanwhile, can you raise my base so I can live a few more months?

What if the doctor said, “You’re about to have a heart attack?”  Would you tell him, “This is a bad time – Christmas is approaching and you funds are tied up, or maybe the economy isn’t great so you’ll have to hold off on treatment?”  No way!  You’d be there, reallocating, taking money out of savings, or even taking money out of 401K with a penalty if you needed it to live on while recovering.  Remember, you’re on commission, so if you’re not selling, you’re not getting paid.  Insurance might cover some bills, but you’re going to need living money.  Yet, you still take care of the issue.  Why?  Because it’s urgent!  Because budgets lie.

Security is urgent.  There is no budget.  This is why I am always talking about selling security, or tying risk mitigation to product and project sales.  Would you believe I bought for security reasons?  That’s right, I was experiencing major problems with Act! and on the verge of losing my contact database.  After three corruptions I moved to a product used by major global companies, figuring that if Salesforce was experiencing problems, John Chambers would be on the phone pushing them toward a solution.  I bought is at a time when funds were low, but it didn’t matter.  I reallocated.

Find the urgency.  Every company is experiencing urgent threats, they just don’t realize it.  Be the one to show them the issues – but make sure you show the people that matter in a way they can understand it.  Then show them the solution.  If it’s as urgent as a heart attack, you’re in.  And for asset owners, losing 100 million credit card numbers borders on a heart attack.

© 2010, David Stelzl