Archives For Technology Sales

I Just Interviewed Eric Kohl, VP of Advanced Services for Ingram Micro

Leading the Charge for Ingram’s 2019 Security Ramp-Up Initiatives…

Listen in as Eric Explains the importance of MSP providers getting on board with security – why it’s important, and what happens when they don’t.

© 2019, All Rights Reserved.

Trump Building

Trump Building

Last  week I spent several days interviewing security candidates in the mid west for a large security initiative.  They don’t teach interviewing in school, but they should.  It’s not easy to successfully move through the interviewing process, but you would think a sales person would be the most qualified person to do it.  Who else has experience meeting with senior managers, trying to sell them on a concept?  That really is what an interview is all about….some tips for those of you who might be changing places in the next year:

  • Don’t show up with a resume that uses language you don’t understand!  This should be common sense…if you’re in sales, certainly you’ve been called on the carpet at some point in your career.  When someone tells me they have sold HIPAA solutions, I’m going to stop them and ask what HIPAA is…I’ll also want to know if they can spell it.  Most of the time they can’t.  If you have TLAs on your resume, know what they stand for and be able to define them.
  • If you get asked to explain something on the white board – use the white board.  In a sales presentation, would you tell the decision maker in the room, “I’m not good at writing on the white board?”  Of course not, so don’t do it in an interview.  And when you get up there – definitely don’t say, “I’m not good at writing on the white board.”  Sales people should be expert presenters and exceptional on a white board.
  • If you were selling, you would have questions.  Showing up to an interview without good questions shows a lack of preparation.  It’s sales 101.  The person who doesn’t have any questions looks dumb. Why would a successful person move to a new company, “No questions asked?”
  • What about lying?  Would you lie to a customer?  If you would, I wouldn’t hire you – and no one should. Padding your resume with great sounding exaggerations is not a good idea.  Don’t do it.  If asked something you don’t know, simply say, “I don’t know but I can find out.”  Again, if you already have it on your resume, you should know all about it.  But you can’t be expected to know everything.
  • If you know the company you are calling on, or the area of focus for this position is collaboration, or security, or cloud – it would make sense to read up on these things if you’re not already an expert.  I’m not suggesting you lie and pretend to know more than you do, but in an area you hope to move into, look like you’re actually working to get there. The hiring manager should not have to push you in that direction.
  • In a sales scenario, a story is a powerful way to demonstrate to a client how your solution has helped others just like them.  It makes sense that you would show up to an interview with the same.
  • Prepare.  If you know your interviewer has written a book, you should read it. But at least know what’s on their website.  Show that you  cared before showing up.
  • Be on time.
  • Don’t show up with documents that belong to your current employer…but do be able to tell about what you’ve accomplished.  I appreciate one recent candidate who said, when asked if he has some written examples, “Everything I have belongs to my employer, so I was not able to bring it.”  Don’t bring other people’s work to show me – it will be obvious when I start asking you about it.

© 2013, David Stelzl

On StageIf you timed your events at the end of the year, you should be starting 2013 with new business in January.  I just got off the phone with one of my clients in the mid west who did just that.  At the end of November they held their executive facing event.  We worked on the invitation process, invited CIO level attendees – mostly new prospects, and came prepared with a compelling offering as a next step.

The meeting topic focused the CIOs on the future of IT, transformational technology, and what these technology leaders will need to look like if they are to remain relevant in the coming year.  The event was so successful that 100% of the attendees signed up for a follow up strategy session.  One new prospect went through the strategy session in December, signed off on several projects, and introduced the hosting reseller to several other firms where this same message will be presented in the coming weeks.   The sales cycle was about two weeks…not bad for a new prospect in the mid-market.

In summary here’s what we did…

1. Scheduled the event for a C-Level audience…it was invitation only.

2. We refined – but used the same presentation we’ve been using.  We’re perfecting, not reinventing the wheel.

3. Prepared the compelling offer – in this case a strategy session that was worth paying for- but offered it as a complementary meeting.  My client can do this because, when done well, it will lead to more business.

4. Delivered enough value to earn an immediate contract and a referral – actually, several referrals.

Make sure you have a marketing plan in place for 2013!  If you’ve not read my book on Event Marketing, you can get it right here!

© David Stelzl

Tonight I will be kicking off our weekend Planning & Strategy event in Charlotte NC.  We have just over 31 days left this year to get ready for next – so if you’re not attending, at least set aside time to plan in the coming weeks.  Three times a year I head out of my office and find a quiet spot to review my plan.  Most won’t even do this one time in a year!

Refining the Mission

Money is not a goal – it’s a measurement.  Plan in hand, I look back at my mission to see if I am accomplishing it.  Most mission statements are meaningless wordsmithed phrases that do nothing for your company.  My mission refocuses me on the people I am serving through my business.  It’s built on the needs I’ve observed in those companies I work with, and is designed to keep me moving in the right direction.  When someone asks me to get involved in something that doesn’t fit my mission, I refer them to someone else and move on.  It also pushes me to learn more.  It pushes me to become a student of the work I do, and a student of the people I work for.  I want to understand their root problems, and find lasting solutions.  If my business is straying from the mission, it’s time to course-correct.

Resetting the Vision, Measuring the Progress

A vision is something you aim to achieve over time.  Every person in your company should understand the vision, and should be responsible for some aspect of it.  Simon Sinek, in his book, “Start With WHY”, explains that the leader of the business has a passion – it’s his WHY, and it drives the company in a particular direction.  His or her direct reports focus on the HOW.  They figure out how to get where their company needs to go.  In my business, I have to do both.  Those on the front lines then carry out the WHAT associated with the HOW.  In my planning process, I look to see where I have come from, and where I am going.  Money is not the vision.  In other words, it doesn’t make sense to have a vision that says, “To make millions of dollars this year.”  Money comes as I achieve my mission and approach my vision.  Once reached, a new vision will be set.

Looking at the Rest of the Plan

This weekend we’ll start with mission and vision, but then we’ll need to dive into the tactical day to day components of a healthy business.  We’ll need to look at strategies being used to develop and deliver solutions, sell projects, market, etc. And we’ll need to associate metrics with each.  Many of these metrics will be tried to numbers on the financials.  For instance, your managed services program might be running with a particular monthly recurring revenue, and by tweaking the sales process, we may be  able to grow it by a percentage.  The goals will be associated with the processes we outline – the money will measure it’s success or failure.  Here are several strategies I recommend you look at in the coming weeks, before 2013 hits:

  • Solution Strategy – Are you addressing your clients’ root problems?  Are your customer satisfaction numbers in line with the principles of your company?  Are your projects profitable?  Consider your product selection, methodology, delivery team, and project management process.
  • Marketing Strategy – do you have an effective way to reach out to new clients.  I was speaking on a webinar this morning and the other speaker talked about farming in a sense I had not considered.  Rather than referring to a named account, he talked about working a list of SMB companies over a period of time to win their business.  An approach to reach a large group of businesses, with the expectation of bringing in a percentage of them over time.  There’s some wisdom here if you can figure out a way to apply it.
  • Sales Strategy – Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, encourages building a process and refining it.  Most sales people haphazardly go about prospecting without any plan.  This leads to thrashing – inefficiently pushing through the day making calls and responding to emails, but not necessarily on the most qualified contacts.  Big Data Analytics may give us a more efficient calling process in the future, but for now, the sales person really has to do some planning.  Your business plan should provide some direction here on how your company aims to go to market in the coming 12 months.
  • Metrics – each of the above should include metrics that allow you to constantly gauge were you are, and how well you are doing.  Consider things like margin, utilization of billable resources, average bill rates, estimated vs. actual on project estimates, etc.

This weekend I am working with several reseller business owners to build their plans – but I won’t have time to do mine…so in two weeks, I will be heading out of the office, checking vmail and email occasionally, and giving the better part of my day to the 2013 plan.  I hope you will do the same!

© 2013 David Stelzl

 

 

 

Back from South Dakota – we had about 70 attendees last night, mostly business owners and leaders from the local community.  About 90% of the companies represented signed up to have their security assessed…why?

Because the event was focused on their business and a growing need every attendee had in common.  This event had nothing to do with products, or the WHAT Golden West Technologies (The sponsoring VAR) sells.  It had everything to do with educating those who have worked hard to build businesses, and who want to keep those businesses going in the future.

This is the time to be talking about security…just this week government representatives and consultants have made statements in the Wall Street Journal saying things like, “Consider every one of our networks to be compromised”, “All we can do now is focus on preserving the data”, “We are losing the war with cyber criminals.”  I also read in Wall Street this week that business leaders tend to shy away from knowing too much…but with a compelling campaign encouraging them to take action, we had over 70 responses in just a couple of weeks.  5 or 6 had to cancel, but consider some of the average attrition rates at lunch & learn programs and you’ll see numbers like 50 and 60 percent.  This was a great event and more are needed just like it.  The business leaders need the education, and the solution providers need to take a more active role in helping business leaders understand the issues and why they need to be involved personally.  Last night was a perfect example of this in action.

© 2012, David Stelzl

 

Sales seem to be building for some companies – perhaps business will grow this year.  But will it be profitable?  I was talking with a client yesterday about this – their sales are growing, and their company’s reputation is strong; however, despite a long history being “in the black”, they admit, it’s getting harder.

I expect to see more resellers pulling out of the market this year.  After a couple of down years, those who have failed to build recurring revenue, cash in on higher level consulting business, and who have continued to partner with the low margin, big iron companies, may not have the cash to continue.  You can’t simply sell your way out of this one.

If you are in sales management, or better yet, running the company, make sure you are applying wise financial principles to your sales organization.

  1. First, make sure you keep your top sellers.  Raising the bar on the entire team, in order to make up for lackluster sales reps, is not the answer.  I’d rather have 4 top performers than 8 mixed performers;  4 on the verge of bankruptcy, while the other four are considering a move to the competition.  It’s a hard job, but an obvious solution.
  2. Jack Eckerd wrote an interesting book back in 1994 called, Why America Doesn’t Work.  Amazon shows 5 stars but only 7 readers rated it.  People in leadership should read this book – have you noticed a lack of diligence among your team?  Read this and find out why – it has a lot to do with acknowledging achievements and compensation; but it’s never just a matter of raising everyone’s pay.
  3. Are you watching and reporting on sales?  Big mistake for the small / medium sized reseller.  GP should be top of mind at all times.  Who cares about revenue when margins threaten to creep into the single digits?  Fix this – start watching monthly GP, compensating on GP, and pushing higher GP projects.  This may require some retooling of the team; those that continues to look at big iron with no services, but are lacking in sales.  Also, take note, GP on services means that you understand your burden rates and are calculating the hours used on each project.  What many call GP based compensation, is actually paying based on sales in disguise.
  4. What about recurring revenue?  There was a time people would pay a multiple of a reseller’s sales to acquire them.  I don’t see that coming back any time soon.  Valuation requires recurring revenue – too many acquisitions have ended with the newly acquired people heading for the exit sign.  If you don’t build your recurring revenue, your valuation is likely low.
  5. Evaluate your customers.  There are customers and their are leeches.  Customers understand the balance of fair pricing and profit.  They know that your services will be better if you are making a profit.  Those that pay late, shop your prices, and stretch payments out are not your friends.  Fire them!  At the same time, look for ways to constantly improve customer service for your customers.

Sales may flatten or decline while making some of these changes, especially if you are making a new move into managed services.  That’s great, sales are secondary.  Build your profits, save your cash, and look for ways to grow through improved marketing programs and by building more profitable adjacent markets.  2012 has great potential as we focus on the right things.

© 2012, David Stelzl