Archives For solution selling

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

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How do Professional Speakers Improve?

Yesterday I compared professional speaking to selling…here is what the professionals focus on:

o Stories.  This topic deserves more later, but in short, stories are central to any great presentation.  Recall your favorite conferences and I bet the speaker had great stories.  And they were likely personal stories.  Practice them, write them out, record them, listen to them, tighten them up, and make them perfect.

o The Alpha.  The alpha is the opening – the point in the meeting when your listeners either tune in or check out.  Memorize it, rehearse it, know it, and speak it.  Every sales call is different, but contrary to popular opinion, your opening can be memorized and modified slightly to meet the need.  Assume you have about six seconds to grab their attention.

o Sound Bites.  Sound bites bring credibility, create interest, and build your case.   Don’t over do it, but be armed with well-rehearsed sound bites from credible sources; sources your target audience will recognize and believe.

o The Close.  Next steps are the key to moving the sales cycle forward.  Make sure you know where you are going and you have a compelling process to move your client forward.  Seth Godin, Author of Permission Marketing, writes about steps of permission that are gained along the way.  What is the next step needed in the permission chain.

Almost every time I speak, I record it.  Sometimes I have video; other times I just have audio.  Watching and listening to yourself will give you a whole new perspective. Is your presentation style high-impact, emotionally charged, exciting,… enthusiastic?  Is it credible and do you deliver concrete concepts that allow the listener to visualize the issues and proposed solutions?  If not, head back to the lab to rebuild.  Don’t expect this to be easy.  It’s like golf, every move matters, and lots of practice is required.  It also pays to take a lesson from someone who knows.  But just imagine doubling your effectiveness and cutting your sales cycle in half.  If there is one area that deserves some investment, it’s your message and delivery.

© 2011, David Stelzl

The Movie-Star Experience

January 17, 2011 — 3 Comments

Growing up, I thought like many young boys, that being a movie star meant they actually experienced what we see in movies.  In case you still think that, it’s far from true.  On my recent trip to Australia, I had another opportunity to watch a motion picture in the making.  If you’ve never done this, it’s incredibly boring.  The same simple scenes are shot over and over.  I was on my way to the harbor area when I stopped to watch a scene depicting two businessmen greeting each other in front of an office building.  An entire crew of extras sat on the sidewalks waiting for the producer’s call to action.  Once called, the “stars” would walk toward each other and shake hands while dozens of extras crossed the brick patio in a seemly-unarranged pattern.  But everything was choreographed, and it had to be perfect.  I stood there well over forty-five minutes as they executed the same steps over and over.  It all looked the same to me, but somehow it just wasn’t right.  After moving on, I returned to that same area over an hour later and guess what?  You’ve got it…they were still working on the same scene.  I didn’t bother hanging around this time.

The director knew what he was looking for, and when the film hits the theatres it must be perfect.  They only have one shot at profitability.  Presentations are similar; you often get just one shot at the top players.  If it’s not great, you won’t see a profit either.  So why are so many presentations thrown together at the last minute, or prepared in a vacuum by a marketing department that has no selling experience?  Busy slides are delivered to the sales team, and then brought to stage without any real critic or practice.  This is not the way to reach predictable success.

© 2011, David Stelzl

At the end of yesterday’s Making Money with Security Online class I mentioned the upcoming “Principles of an Effective Value Proposition” online program scheduled in April.  There is nothing worse than sitting through a terrible presentation or being stuck in boring meeting for several hours.  So why would we subject our prospects to this kind of torture?  To get us started, here are ten things that will absolutely kill a Power Point presentation… 

1.     Opening with an agenda slide – your first task is to grab the audience’s attention; the agenda slide is a sure way to lose everyone.

2.     Using the standard bullet point format in Power Point – this makes for boring slides with too many words.

3.     Showing slide after slide of meaningless numbers, statistics, financials, with values that are too big to comprehend.  The human brain needs a comparison when dealing with large numbers – a point of reference.  A slide or 2 is okay, but don’t go overboard on statistics and sound bites.

4.     Talking about “Self”.  Especially true when presenting to new prospects – no one cares about your company before there is a reason to do business.

5.     Bad colors and no graphics.  Most people are visual.  They want to see pictures – this is why people watch movies rather than listen to stories on the radio.  If you want your information to be memorable, use grabbing graphics!  The best way to do this is by changing the slide background to an image.

6.     Reading your slides – no! Look at the audience.  This requires that you know your material.

7.     Too many words on the slide.  If your audience can’t read the whole slide in a few seconds (5 or 6 words) you’ve lost them.   They will either listen to you or read the slide…most will read the slide and ignore you.

8.     No climax. A presentation must build.  If it’s flat people will lose interest quickly.

9.     Obvious.  Most sales presentations look exactly the same.  They discuss company background, offerings, features, a few client names, etc.  This is predictable, boring, and obvious.

10. When he presenter is not a speaker.  This is the final presentation killer.  If you’re going to stand up in front of a crowd, you had better be good.  This is not a genetic trait.  It’s simply a matter of learning the skill and practicing until you’re great at it.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo by David Stelzl

The purpose of a sales presentation is to sell; to convince the prospect that you have a solution to a problem that they in fact have, and that you are the best problem solver around.  The fee in turn, must be commensurate with the value delivered.

But here’s the problem:  First, 95% of the possible prospects in your territory don’t necessarily agree that they have a problem – or at least have a problem that you specialize in solving.  Second, most presentations are informational, offering no compelling value.  They are not centered on solving a known problem.   The other 5% of the people out there admit they have a problem, but have no reason to believe your solution is any better than the next guy.   In this case you lack differentiation.

Since most presentations look pretty much the same, the client’s propensity is to continue doing business with the known quantity unless in incumbent’s price is severely undercut.   Don’t overestimate your brand or uniqueness based on things everyone has, or at least say they have.  Start treating your presentation as a commercial, or perhaps an infomercial.  Put more time into making a great presentation and you’ll waste less time on unqualified meetings.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Vendor to Adviser

December 20, 2010 — 2 Comments

If you missed my teleseminar last week on moving from Vendor to Adviser…Here are some examples of how I’ve turned mundane deals into profit-rich, consultative relationships:

  • A firewall upgrade opportunity referred by a vendor/partner turned in large profit and product.  Rather than going in with quotes and features, I presented cybercrime trends to an executive VP, identified their mission critical applications, data, and some process, and showed them how current trends are attacking companies similar to theirs.  The meeting ended with an agreement to perform a simple assessment, which was then expanded to a $65,000 contract.  From there we spent over a year implementing security controls, locking down operating systems, and eventually signed a three year security management agreement.
  • A firewall replacement opportunity from a non-active client turned into a larger assessment and perimeter security initiative with dual-authentication and application security consulting.  In this case, the client wanted to review competitive quotes.  Rather than responding with numbers, we called a meeting with the VP of operations, reviewed mission critical applications, and discovered a need for stronger application security and authentication for users who are members but not employees of the organization.  We proposed a simple assessment which closed for $35,000, and demonstrated the need for two-factor authentication, intrusion detection with event correlation, and upgraded various components of the perimeter as well as website security for the application in question.
  • An intrusion detection opportunity with a newspaper company turned into a larger policy consulting project putting us in front of all major company stake holders.  Rather than responding with numbers we were able to show the need to identify company policy in order to properly place and managed intrusion technology.  This effort led to a portal based policy server, intrusion prevention technology along with managed event correlation.  Future projects were easier to win with our new executive level sponsorship.
  • A large network project was put on hold at a major southeast university.  Instead of giving up, I was able to convince them to conduct an operational efficiency and risk study on the need for new network equipment.  This allowed us to gain entrance to all major stake holders positioning us for future project business.
  • At an educators symposium I was offered a breakout session to speak for free.  I used that platform to present trends on cybercrime, approached being taken by large organizations, specifically in the education/university space, and was able to follow up with one of the attendees with economic buyer status.  Our team conducted an assessment for $125,000, and then leveraged that relationship for introductions throughout the southeast.  Similar projects followed in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, many of which required remediation efforts.
  • A similar speaking opportunity was given to me at a CLEC symposium for NC, SC, and VA.  Similar results followed the educator symposium.
  • A small staffing role was awarded to us to install some server technology in a large multimillion-dollar financial application project.  By researching their proposed plan we were able to show how their approach was not going to produce the results they were looking for.  At the risk of losing our position on the project, we proceeded with recommendation on how to change the program, putting us at the helm of a 3 million dollar initiative to role out a lending application nationwide.

You get the idea.  Taking existing product opportunities, free speeches, and by proposing contrarian approaches, a savvy sales person can move up.  One who has taken the time to stay on top of trends and developed consulting skills, can move to a consultative, and highly profitable position within the organizations they are already calling on.

© 2010, David Stelzl

The Numbers Game

December 17, 2010 — Leave a comment

Time and Material billing focuses on dollars for hours, methodology focuses on process, and features focus on product.  All of this leads to a price sale.  From there expect to be sent to purchasing, pressed for discounts, and pushed off to the end of the month.  I love Michael Bosworth’s explanation of negotiation.  Once you give in, he explains, they begin to squeeze you like a wet rag until there’s no more water left.  But as long as there are still drips coming out, the squeeze continues.  It’s hard not to get caught up in this, especially when it’s year end, your manager is breathing down your neck looking for numbers, and you’re being treated like it’s a numbers game.  And the point should be made, smart selling requires a proactive approach.  You can’t wait until month end to begin selling value.

I’d recommend starting 2011 with a different mindset.  Consider things you can be doing to create some focused expertise and stop being a traditional sales person.  Become a consultant that sells.

© 2010, David Stelzl