Archives For selling to executives

business-mtgGetting Executive Buy-In Is Critical

If You Expect Your Clients to Take Action on Assessment Findings

Only about 15% of the risk assessments, from audience poles I conducted, are being acted on! Yet, over 95% of them show urgent issues, according to security experts I am in touch with.  There’s a major disconnect.$1 HC Book Ad

The Right Language Matters

One key reason I’ve observed, is the language being used to write the assessment reports. Not only are the reports too long to attract executive readers. Even if they did want to wade through the 50 page document, it would be like you or I wading through a technical journal to find out what to do about cancer risks. Chances are we would comprehend about 5% of it, giving up after the first few pages.

If you’ve worked in a large corporation, you know there’s a disconnect between IT and executive management. Don’t expect everyone to sit down to review your paper. In the small business the security expert doesn’t exist, and the small business owner is already running at top speed, trying to grow the business, manage cash flow, and build customer experience before their competition does. They don’t have time to sift through mounds of jargon.

Grabbing Their Attention Early

But the other issue is one of desire and priority. Does the business owner or executive see your report as urgent – must read now? If you have not involved them in the findings, chances are they don’t see it as urgent. If they have an IT group, they’ll delegate it. If they don’t it will sit on their desk (especially if you waved your fee – a common practice in the small business market).

All of this changes when you start your assessment at the Asset Owner level. (See my book, The House & the Cloud, Page 195).  Starting with those who have liability, with the goal of discovering their most important data as it relates to their business growth and profitability, is the best way to get them interested before you complete the assessment.

Find out what digital assets are most important to protect and why. Then look at who would want them. And based on how things are set up and who creates and uses this data, discover how unauthorized users might gain access. When you’re done, tie your findings to business issues. Leave out the technical jargon. And bring your report to the that executive with a short presentation on what it means to their business.

If your conversion rates on this process don’t go up to about 60% something is wrong. Consider reading through chapter 13 of The House & the Cloud – 2nd Edition, for ideas on how to convince your audience that this is important.

© 2016, David Stelzl

Advertisements
747 Frankfurt to Bangalore

747 Frankfurt to Bangalore

I arrived this morning at 2 AM in Bangalore India – I’ve spent the last 9 hours on the plane to the left, a 747 Lufthansa aircraft (traveling from Frankfurt to Bangalore).  Note, that’s after spending 9 hours traveling on a USAirways Airbus 330, Charlotte to Frankfurt.  Tomorrow I will be working with SEs from Cisco Systems on executive level conversations around information security…everything from global cybersecurity trends, to creating justification, to presentation skills required when engaging executive level audiences.

Two Wall Street Journal articles grabbed my attention while laying over in Frankfurt yesterday.  One on the importance of training your employees, the other on the need for better presentation skills when working with executives on information security issues.

The ROI on Training SEs to Sell

The article on training didn’t concern SEs – however it did say that today’s employees, especially those with more desirable skill-sets, are going to demand further training.  Everyone wants to grow, everyone wants to improve – at least those employees worth keeping.  It’s a sign of poor character to accept the status quo.  The writer went on to say that the promise of training is important when trying to attract the right people to new jobs, and that attrition is significantly reduced when training is regularly offered.  My focus on the SE is just an observation.  It’s been my experience that SEs tend to like sales training.  They get the technology – and of course they want to continue to grow that, but adding the ability to sell to their resume is a big boost to their value. The person who is both tech-savvy and knows how to sells is rare and desirable.

A seat with a view

A seat with a view

When I teach sales classes I find that SEs are often more attentive, and more serious about learning the content than any other group of people attending.  I’ve seen some very technical people become superstars overnight simply by learning how the sales process works, and how marketing science is almost exactly the opposite of the way an SE tends to approach a sale.  When a technical person’s eyes are open to the influence they can have, simply by changing a few things about the way they approach sales, a powerful transformation begins to take place.  Both resellers and manufacturers of technology would do well to invest more into their SE’s training programs – specifically on sales and marketing strategies.  In fact, I know of two very successful resellers who have grown significantly, without the addition of more sales people, simply by empowering their SEs through this type of training.

An added benefit is that it helps sales people work more closely with their SE team on the sales process.  When both parties understand where the conversation is going and what it will take to close the sale, they stop stepping on each other’s toes in the sales process.

Board Level Presentations Have to change.

The article on Board-Level Presentations was specific to information security – the topic we’ll be addressing over the next two days.  Really, this applies to all executive level management.  The bottom line was that executives and board members need to know about security.  However, when IT people, and even CIOs and CISOs  approach these discussions, they tend to go into too much detail (according to the article).  I was excited to see that the very graph I use in my book, The House & the  Cloud, was described in the article as “What they need to know”.  I’m talking about the “Impact vs. Likelihood” graph. In my Making Money w/ Security workshop, I refer to this graph as “The Most Important Part of The Assessment Deliverable”.  Almost nothing else is needed other than some basic descriptions of what goes on the X and Y Axis of this graph.  If the technical part of the organization (or more importantly – you) could figure out what assets belong on the X-Axis (the high-impact applications), and how high on the Y-Axis to put them (the measure of likelihood – how likely the organization is to experience a breech or loss of data), executives would know what decisions must be made.  Of course they will need to believe your data is correct – but that’s the definition of Trusted Adviser – trustworthy and able to advise – as stated in my more recent book, from Vendor to Adviser.

My seat for 9 hours

My seat for 9 hours

On Friday this will be the topic of discussion in our SE workshop.  We’ll learn how to take the raw data and put in into this format – and then, more importantly, how to present it.  This is something every company that specializes in cybersecurity offerings should be doing.

© 2013, David Stelzl

Remember my posts on solution selling and the Harvard Business Review article?  They’ve been making their way through the Internet as people search out HBR and land on my page. Well, here it is again.  This morning’s Wall Street Journal CIO Report  features the article – “CIOs Need to Take on Customer-Facing Projects to be Successful” (You probably need the paid subscription to read this). In this article, reporter Rachael King describes what makes a CIO successful – taking on projects that impact the business’s bottom line by focusing on their end-customer.  A slightly different angle, but with tremendous application.

Pressure to Perform

In a recent interview with a Fortune 2000 CIO, I clearly heard him say, “I am under tremendous pressure to cut costs, find strategic solutions, and keep our company out in front with technology.”  Calling on the CIO only makes sense when you are prepared to deliver something that will help them succeed.  In the Article, King cites three great examples; “Dawn Lepore, former CIO of Charles Schwab, Robert Carter, CIO at FedEx and Max Hopper, former senior vice president of information technology at American Airlines.”  All three took on projects that drastically increased efficiencies such as Carter and his re-engineering of the Fedex package tracking system, centralized access to all travel information as in the Sabre system used by American Airline (note: We are ready for another overhaul here),  and direct control for end-customers over their trading activities.  What we are seeing here is a direct connection to what I have termed in my book, From Vendor to Adviser, The Four Things Buyers Buy.  These are simply, Operational Efficiency, Competitive Advantage, Risk Mitigation, and ROI.  These are the things that CIOs must target, if they aim to remain employed.

As a sales person or marketing professional, your target market is quickly changing from CIOs and IT, to CIOs and asset owners (A term I coined in my book, The House & the Cloud).  Asset owners are the people with profit-generating responsibilities, that are looking to the CIO to provide greater automation, mobility, security, and reliability of applications and data.  They need faster real-time reporting for  decision making and the ability to analyze trends by combining data from different systems. The strategic CIO must provide his customers (asset owners) with the tools they need to  focus their efforts based on data analysis, enhance customer service, and by measuring the affects of their daily decisions.

Sales Approach

You, the seller, have an opportunity.  In another recent interview, I was told by a CIO that he and his colleagues are finding it difficult to stay on top of technology trends.  He also said, it is hard to find technology providers that really know what they’re talking about!  Two questions stand out:

  • Is your firm able to deliver against the demands of the CIO?
  • Can you find a way to demonstrate value in the midst of a crowded market of unreliable solution providers?

Some things to help you get there:

  • Constantly ask your executive-level contacts what they are reading.
  • Spend time coming up with great questions for executives.  You should keep a list handy – and add to it.
  • Study the needs of these executives – pressures change with the times, so don’t assume you already know.
  • Look for ways to help your CIO contacts be successful.  Have you ever thought about interviewing some of the customer service people in one of your accounts to see what their customers are saying?

© 2012, David Stelzl

 

 

Photo taken by David Stelzl

For some reason, discussing money is the major hurdle.  Yesterday I had several sales calls with potential buyers.  One example stands out… We had discussed the need, talked about options, come to a conclusion on next steps, and even picked dates to begin.  My prospect then said, “Send me a proposal with some options and pricing.”

I was tempted to agree, but then that little voice reminded me of Mahan Kalsa’s book, Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play (which I highly recommend). Why would we wait for the proposal to agree on options and pricing.  Paper doesn’t sell, I do.  We have verbal agreement on the vision, but no specifics.  Why waste time and possibly ruin the opportunity by putting the wrong thing down on paper?

Instead I simply said, “Let’s review some options right now and make sure we are in agreement on how to proceed.”  I verbally gave him my interpretation of what we were planning to do, offered a couple of options, restated the value, and then offered a fixed fee.  I then said, “How does that sound to you?”  He said, “That sounds great.”  Now I can write the proposal, which is now really an agreement, with confidence.  I converted it to a PDF, attached it to an email, and wrote, “Here is exactly what we agreed to.”  The likelihood of closing this kind of agreement is much higher than the elusive agreements made in most sales meetings.  Meetings end without any real commitment, and the request for proposal is often just a polite way of ending the meeting.  There is no agreement, and there are no specifics from which to craft the proposal.  In the end, this type of proposal goes nowhere, leaving the sales person to forecast at 50%.  In other words, I have no idea…

© 2011, David Stelzl