Archives For Strategy

virus blueWhy Urgent Issues On Your Security Assessment Report Don’t Sell The Next Step

Have you ever wondered why the client doesn’t jump on the chance to implement your recommendations when you complete an assessment?

One of the most frustrating things in the security business happens when you complete an assessment. It seems like at least 90% of the assessments I’ve been involved in or read the report from, have several urgent issues. Gartner and I both have stated that 80% of the security budget is spent on keeping people out, but in my book, The House & the Cloud, I make it clear that detection-response is the only strategy that works.  Yet, clients rarely implement the recommendations that come from these reports.  They pay to have them done, listen to your findings, and then move on to other things. Why?

What’s Really Urgent? Hint: It’s Not Old Equipment or Missing Patches

I was meeting with the President of a technology  reseller two weeks ago in a 6-Hats Strategy session, going over the assessement process.  This fall he’s signed up to do at least 15 assessments before year-end, but if they don’t convert to managed services contracts, he won’t be happy.  History shows us that only about 15% will convert to more business unless he changes something.MMS Blog Ad

As we went through the 6 Thinking Hats Brainstorming Session, his list included things like missing patches, open ports, and free or non-existant Anti-Virus software. These all sound urgent, but they’re not! Not unless you can tie these issues to something more concrete. For instance, if you’re assessment comes up with no Anti-Virus software (of course most companies today would have something for AV), but there’s no sign of malware, you’re going to have a hard time convincing the CFO or frugal business-owner to spend more money.  Same thing with outdated software or hardware. If there’s no sign of danger, they probably won’t move to remediate.

Assessment Sales Depend On Impact and Likelihood

If you want to sell the next step, you have to take the next step in the assessment process. This is clearly spelled out on page 194 – 199 in The House & The Cloud, 2nd Edition. The next step is looking for the issues that should exist when a company fails to do the right thing.  Symptoms are enough to get a response. You don’t need the deep dive technical  analysis on what a particular botware application is doing. If they have one, it’s bad even if a marketing company put it there. If the marketing company is able to install bots on a network, the bad guys can do it too. Don’t worry about what the bot is, just find it.

If the systems are missing security patches, look for evidence of tampering, foul play, or unauthorized activity.  Keep asking yourself, “So what” for each issue you find, and tie it to a business problem. Find evidence of that problem, and you’ll have justification.  Don’t just say – your port is open. No one cares.

© 2015, David Stelzl

P.S. If you want to sell larger security deals, click the ad above and see if you qualify for a free seat through one of the many hardware vendors who sponsor this training!

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Illustrated By David Stelzl

One of my first experiences with selling cars came early in my marriage when we decided to sell our Dodge van.  The vehicle was in great shape, no major problems, and well taken care of.  I listed it in the newspaper, and a few days later  received a call from a potential buyer.  He was a business owner, running a restaurant, and thought he might be able to use this van for his work.  After driving the van, he agreed it was in good shape, but then started complaining about modifications he would have to make before this van would really meet his need.

There’s an old Proverb that says, “It is good for nothing, cries the buyer.  But when he has gone his way, he boasts”.

The Strategy

In this case, the buyer gives hope that the sale is done, but then starts picking apart the product in an effort to bring the price down.  My car buyer had me believing I had made the sale.  Once he saw me mentally counting the money, he knew he had me.  Instead of paying me, he was looking for sympathy, adding up the costs of modifying the product to meet his needs. In the end, I gave in and sold him the vehicle for much less than it was worth. I felt taken once he left, and I am sure he was boasting on the way home.   I see this in business today.  Buyers will waver back and forth, moaning about changes or features that aren’t just right, looking for sympathy and price cuts.  The seller then feels bad and caves in.  Even the best sellers are taken by these tactics when the buyer plays his part well.

The Counter Strategy

1. First, it’s important that you know what your product is worth.  I knew the blue book values of my van…so I had this one covered.

2. Don’t try to shoe-horn your product or service into situations where it isn’t really a good fit.  In my case, I was not doing this – it was the buyer who called me, yet  I do see sales people trying to make their expensive products play in the SMB, while smaller companies accept projects that they are just unqualified to do.  In both cases, the pricing is often inconsistent with the real value of the project.

3. Don’t mark your close probability at 100% until the deal is done.  When I get a verbal commitment, it’s 90% – if an economic buyer gives the verbal. A verbal from an IT person, representing a new client, should be considered 20%.  In the case of my van, I was thinking 100% when he said he liked it.  I became emotionally involved in the transaction and gave into his tactics.   Looking back I realize this buyer was a shrewd businessman.  He knew what he was doing.

4. Stand firm.  If the buyer starts whining, go back to success stories, or offer to provide additional consulting with additional fees.  Nothing really works out of the box in the IT world, so assume there is work to be done.  If he can’t afford it, offer some less expensive options.  Chances are he is just working you on price.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Stelzl Labor Day Picnic in the Rain!

More decisions are going to purchasing, even when budget seems to be approved!  This means more negotiating…

(Note: Here’s a mushroom picture from our Labor Day picnic in the mountains – forecast; 10 inches of rain.  Lucky for us we had a picnic shelter)

Strategy

Don’t be fooled into thinking you are just there to go through some read tape or that the questions are just part of an informal price discussion.  Large companies (and probably many mid-sized companies) are going to negotiation training – you go to sales training; they attend negotiation classes.  They also read sales books – probably more sales books than you read.

Your best weapon is found in understanding how negotiations work and what is being taught in negotiation school.  They read sales books in order to understand the tactics you use to get people to buy.  If they know what Sandler says to do, they know where you are headed, and will craft their strategy to counter you.  Most discounts are given at the end.  The old Pareto principle – 80 percent of your discounts are given in the last 20% of the sale, which is often driven by dates you must hit to meet quota, accelerators or company goals that affect stock prices.  Managers and purchasing officers are watching the clock, studying the landscape is order to better understand your sales cycles, and your need to close by a certain date.  Once understood, they control the deal.  Michael Bosworth illustrates this with the wringing of the washcloth, squeezing you along the way until the water stops coming.  Tom Hill, a presenter from a resent homeschool conference notes in his talk on negotiations, “If someone gives in once, the buyer knows he’ll give in at least one more time”.  How does it feel to have people know what you’re going to do?

Counter Strategy

How do you combat the year-end squeeze?  In just about every presentation I give at sales conferences and training seminars, I urge sales people to create urgency through the discovery process. Urgency is your best weapon against negotiations.  If something is urgent, there isn’t time to shop. That’s why I love security sales!  There just isn’t time.  But there are other things you can do…

1. Does your client have a deadline – or can the project be tied to some upcoming event?  If there is justification for the initiative, knowing the gains or safeguards your client is reaching for can really help.  If you know it’s costing them to wait, you have an advantage.  Find out – don’t just sell a project, understand why this was approved in the first place and lean on it.  Note, sometimes negotiators will give false information to create a cushion here.  Don’t take one person’s answer as the gospel, especially if they live in IT.

2. Keep your quota to yourself.  It’s none of your client’s business how or when you get paid.  Don’t share compensation plans. This sale should be customer focused – you are helping your customer achieve something, not trying to make your own number.  If they see you hurting for money, they’ll likely take advantage of you.  If they know sales are slow, expect them to push for higher discounts to close sooner.

3. Stand firm – be confident in your solution.  If you focus on the great advice you are giving – if you act as a trusted adviser, you will be less affected by their negotiation strategy.  If they sense nervousness, they’ll keep pushing. As long as you appear to be caving in, they know they can get more.  I was asked by one customer, “What if we don’t buy this?”  Not sure why they asked, but I simply said, “If you don’t buy, someone else will,” essentially I was saying, “Your loss, not mine.”  Any other attitude will give them the advantage.

4. Put away stress – along with the above, manage your stress outside the deal.  If they sense panic, “I must close this deal!” you’ll lose every time. Purchasing agents are looking for signs of panic, and in this economy there are a lot of people panicking.  You can’t afford to panic, so before you make calls or visit, encourage yourself and put aside the emotional effects of not making it.  You can’t negotiate from a position of fear.

5. Always remove value…you may have to bring down the price, but first assess what they need aside from price.  “Price aside, is this what you need?”  I love what Negotiation Expert Landy Chase says, “If they say yes, you know you’ve been selected.”  This puts you in a great position to negotiate, and once they see you are going to lessen the deal when you lessen the price, and are willing to walk from the deal, they’ll stop negotiating.  Do the reverse, and expect to go through this again, every time you sell them something.

© 2011, David Stelzl

How do you win – you need a strategy.

Yesterday I called customer service to have two warm-steam vaporizers replaced.  This is the 3rd or 4th time these units have had to be replaced over the past seven years – but they are lifetime warranty.  The problem is, they require a $25 dollar fee (each) to return them, plus it costs $10/each to ship them.  I’ve never paid the $25 fee, however they put us to the test yesterday.

I use these opportunities to teach my children how to negotiate, so earlier this week I had one of my daughters place the call.  They started asking all kinds of questions and insisting we were doing something wrong.  She wasn’t getting anywhere.  In the past, this group has been easy to deal with, but something has changed and it didn’t look like we were going to get our units replaced for free this time.   So how did we win?

The key to winning with this type of call is understanding how to escalate the call.  Getting angry never works – after all, they are not obligated to give me anything.  The call center people really have nothing to lose, and certainly no liability.  Gathering my kids around the speaker phone, I said, “Let’s see if we can win this one.”

I made the call, getting the tier one person on the phone.  She insisted on going through a set of  diagnostic questions, and in the end determined that we could in fact send them back, but the $25 dollar fee was firm.  I asked her if she was able to wave that and she said, “No.”  I understand that – her company has apparently not given her authority to take action, so I agreed with her and asked to speak with her direct supervisor.

Tom came on the line next.  He was also hardened..not very friendly.  His tact was to verify if this was actually a warranty issue.  In his opinion it was not.  I asked him if he could do it any way, and he said, “The Policy is…” and basically said, no.  Again, I agreed with him, understanding that he is not authorized to change the policy, but perhaps he could forward me to his manager, which he did.  I politely thanked him for his time.

Carlos was next.  he was genuinely polite, and seemed eager to help.  I explained my situation, which was well documented in his system.  I explained that the shipping fee for this type of item was high, and that the $25/each fee was out of my reach.  I asked if we could wave the fee.  Without question, Carlos said, “No problem, that is what we are here for.”  He is sending me a shipping label, sending me two new units, and will have my old units analyzed in order to report back why they are not working.

The outcome was predictable.  I was able to make this call on the speaker phone in front of my kids as a demonstration because I knew we would win this.  Staying calm, agreeing along the way once it is clear that the person I am dealing with is unable to make a change, and escalating each time, is the key.  This is great practice for selling.  Use these situations to practice dealing with difficult people and negotiations, and apply this to your selling efforts.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Selling installation services along with your product is not consultative.  Neither is training, RFP responses, fulfilling orders, or selling to those who already know what they need.  Most of these things are sold on price alone.  There may be a hint of existing customer loyalty, but in today’s economy, don’t expect that to last.  If you are dealing with purchasing, IT, or other procurement functions primarily, consider yourself a transactional product sales person.  This role is destined to be replaced by Google.  Now is the time to rethink your strategy…don’t give up, instead get a plan to transform your sales in 2011!

© 2010, David Stelzl

Growing up, on New Years Day, my father would always say, we’re starting at zero today.  In other words, last year’s revenue doesn’t matter, what matters is, how will our business do in 2010.  It’s often said, dwelling on past success sometimes leads to future failure.  However, if you’ve taken some of the advice I’ve given over the past several years, you’re not starting at zero today.

  • If you’re managed services business is thriving, you’re financial state should be healthy.
  • If you’ve invested in security, Wall Street again predicts this to be in high demand in the coming year.
  • If you’ve established your brand around the value you bring, rather than the product you sell, you have a firm foundation for success in 2010.
  • If your team understands how to present solutions and value, you’ll do well in the coming year.  Wall Street’s article on trends a few days ago not only mentioned security, but also stated the need for high tech professionals to be less geeky and more business relevant.  This has been a core focus of mine since I started this business and it’s true – sales people must learn to meet with business people and develop peer relationships at the top.
  • If you’ve taken time to plan and strategize, and your plans are sound, you’re ahead of your competition.
  • If you have a solid team (right people in the right places) you’re way ahead of your competition.
  • If you’re partnered with vendors who support you financially through marketing and lead generation, you have what you need to start building new business in 2010.

Let’s get started…

© David Stelzl, 2010

Welcome to the Morning Wake Up Call…What’s your plan for 2010?