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Just Because Your Message Is Poor Doesn’t Mean You Should be Selling Harder

What’s Your Value Proposition?

When I look at a reseller’s messaging, I ask myself, “So What?”

Is there a compelling reason to buy here? Will the CPA, doctor, lawyer, or business executive care? Or is this message designed for techies without a budget?

Great Marketing starts where someone is right now…

Then takes them to where you need them to go!

(Discover the Most Effective Security Value Proposition in my Book The House & The Cloud…Special offer)

There are Five Components of an Effective Value Proposition…

But before I get to how to build one, let me share with you one memorable experience where the sales rep was clueless and wasted over 3 hours of his day trying to convince my family to buy…

The Product Guy and His Value Proposition Mismatch

Our vacuum died…It was a bad day at the Stelzl house. 6 Kids (Now 7), all very young, full of energy, and making lots of messes…But it gets worse.

You see, I grew up in an “Electrolux” family…if you’re over 45 you might remember the original Electrolux brand (the current Electrolux is not the same). It was like a cult following…

As a boy, our family bought one vacuum and we used it forever. Electrolux was the Cadillac of vacuum cleaners. These high-end cleaning machines were only sold in-home. Stores didn’t carry them.  They were expensive. However, they lasted forever. In my mind there were no other options.

Jump ahead to life as a married man. Electrolux is not the same company. Having been acquired and cheapened, it’s nothing special…

I tried buying one of the newer models (a whole story in itself), but it just didn’t last like the original I knew as a boy.

With our dead vacuum in hand we needed something fast!

Skipping through all the shopping disappointments, one salesperson stands out, and that’s what I want to focus on here. He’s the Rainbow guy. A reseller of sorts selling high-end hardware.

Rainbow vacuum technology is compelling.   It’s the “Water Vacuum”. You can buy one for about $2000. A refurb might be $650.

Perhaps you’ve seen Rainbow’s demo in your home at some point. My wife came across this amazing water machine while researching healthier vacuuming options. If you’ve studied this out you know that there are some nasty microbes nesting in your rugs, on your beds, and even crawling on your skin.  Under a microscope everything looks like a Creature Double Feature. Yuk!

So the guy shows up…He’s the Product Guy w/ a Value Proposition

Immediately he launches into the technology. His system doesn’t use traditional filters It’s water based filtering technology. Even the smallest microscopic stuff is sucked up, defenseless against this thing.

And then he did the most amazing thing…

He took my vacuum, spread out some dirt on my rug, DISCONNECTED the vacuum hose from the machine, and vacuumed up the dirt! Did you catch that? The vacuum attachment wasn’t even connected!!!!!  But the dirt still disappeared.

His message was obvious. Our the traditional vacuum was just pushing the dirt into the rug to make it look clean. Hmmm. (Pretty cool sales strategy…you have to admit).

But there was just one problem. He didn’t understand us. Here we were, sitting in the living room of a two story house, with 6 kids (we have 7 now), all quite young at the time, and going crazy.

All we could do was try to keep up with everything including homeschooling all of the kids. With all the busyness, our kids did a lot of the cleaning, but we had toys, schools supplies, and stray sock everywhere (Legos and all kinds of tiny army men all over the floor).

So, when I asked him to let me pick this thing up, I found out it weighed a TO! “How are my kids going to transport this thing up and down the stairs?  It’s a daily occurrence that the vacuum is upstairs and there’s a spill in the kitchen.”

“Well,” he replied. “You might have to get it for them…”.

Then, what about emptying the water after vacuuming (something that must be done after each use)? “You just dump it in the woods,” was his answer.

Outside?  Who’s going to do that? And what about when it’s snowing or freezing outside?

“Well, you might have to do that too.” Whoa…

And then the final blow, “What about all the Legos and army men that are going to get sucked up into that monstor? What do we do about that?”

“Well, you could run the water through a stainer or something.”

Are you kidding? With all kinds of fuzz, hair balls, and food particles, you expect me to be out in a rain or ice storm,  straining toys out of dirty water? (Are you picturing this?)


You see the problem here. His technology is great. But for a family with a bunch of little ones, homeschooling, etc., operational efficiency is what’s important. Not than getting dust mites out of carpeting (Even if the rep things otherwise.)

What was my wife thinking? Did this sales guy have a clue?

Where were we (mentally) at the moment he came through our door? We were busy, stressed out, needing relief. The Rainbow guy probably should have greeted us, observed the chaos, and admitted, “This is not a great solution for a family like ours,” and moved on.

On the other hand, the wiser rep would have approached our home, not with cleaning technology, but with ease of use.

Operational efficiency is one of the 4 THINGS BUYERS BUY (from my book, From Vendor to Adviser). And then (knowing there are hundreds of lightweight vacuums) he might have focused on longevity, knowing we can’t afford for this thing to be out of commission for even one day with all of these kids. And from there, moving to a risk mitigation sale…

You want your kids to be healthy, right? Vacuuming keeps the allergens down so your kids will be healthier! And families that have easy-to-use vacuums, vacuum…in fact, the kids will do it all, if you let them.

Here’s a Simple Strategy for Getting Your Value Proposition Together. It has 5 5Components.

1. Trends

Trends are like sound bites. They bring credibility. But remember, great marketing starts where someone is right now. So using the marketing Avatar I discussed a week ago, you are choosing trends and sound bites that matter to that person.

But, facts alone are NOT that interesting.

In fact, if you call on the CIO, he probably knows what’s going on in the news before you do. So, coming up with a news-bite that matter won’t be easy.

I talk more about Sound Bites and how to use them in my book, The House & the Cloud [Page 69]. READ it, DO what I’ve recommend, and people WILL see you as the expert! (That coveted TRUSTED ADVISOR status).

Instead of just quoting day-old news, take your sound bite and add some INSIGHT to it. Matthew Dixon in his book, The  Challenger Customer, does a great job of explaining why insights are so powerful and how to use them in the sales process.

The bottom line , INSIGHT is what grabs a prospect’s attention.  For instance, the vacuum guy might have looked at our crazy home and quoted a statistic on how infrequently the average home is vacuumed and why that creates an overabundance of health issues. (Sound Bite).

His [insight] would then be, “That’s because most vacuums are so hard to use. Only the parents can vacuum and they don’t have time. But mine is so easy, even a child can operate it. In fact, most kids think vacuuming is fun. My kids wanted for toy vacuum for Christmas. So I give him a real one and now he cleans for us.” What mom would ignore an insight like that?

2. What I See (Further Insight)

What have you observed? Your client lives in a vacuum of sorts. They don’t get out much. So they don’t get to see what you see.

Failed IT projects, IT Budget overruns, poor IT decisions, major security disasters and system downtime,… the list goes on. If you’ve been in this industry any length of time (and have been taking notes) you have wisdom you are probably take for granted.

Think of yourself as the hub or portal of IT wisdom and insight.

(And if you are not that person, become him. You have everything you need to be the go-to source for IT strategy and chances are you competition isn’t doing anything with this knowledge.)

Note: CRN, MSP White Papers, and Continuum & Kaseya data sheets

are not a substitute for personal development.

So what are you seeing? A digital transformation is taking place without regard for real security. Malware is traveling surreptitiously through a global maze of routers and switches, undetected. And is hitting companies where they can’t see it until it’s too late.

3. My Concern (Great Place to Shed a Tear)

Are you concerned for your clients? This is where the Successful sales people stand out. They care…do you?

When your client senses that you actually care about their business, and that you are in fact passionate about helping them survive, it shows. The rep who is just after another product sale ($$$$) to make quota falls short here.

So, take a moment and consider why you are in this industry. If you believe you can help people, then start focusing on their problems and helping them find lasting solutions.

If the Rainbow guy really cared about us, he would not have told me to take point on transporting his dinosaur, and cleaning out filthy water in the middle of the night, in the snow, with a strainer (YUK!) Instead, he would have admitted that his product wasn’t a good fit for our situation.

4. What We Are Doing About It (Your Lab)

What you are doing is coming up with solutions. At least I hope you are.

Anyone can sell JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disk). But what about securing data and keeping people from cybertheft?

Is your company looking at the best ways to secure a small business? Or ways of providing security intelligence to a mid-market or enterprise account?

As a sales rep, it’s your responsibility to study. When I drive or fly I am constantly listening to audiobooks, podcasts, and recorded coaching sessions. That’s right. I do everything I tell my clients to do.

I offer monthly programs to keep my clients on top through webinars, podcasts, blogs, and training programs. But I also subscribe to several programs (Which I personally fund) for my own business to keep me moving in the right direction.

College never ended for me. I’m taking new classes every day! I hope you are.

5. Specific to You

Now it’s time to apply this to the client.

Here’s what I say. “As I see your company (Fill in something like, moving into the cloud or going through a digital transformation), I believe you will be at risk if you don’t take steps to ensure (Fill in something here such as assessing your risk levels with the impact vs. likelihood graph, another concept from The House & Cloud).”

At this point you should have the client’s interest and a proposed next step. In most cases you’ll move to an assessment or discovery process to validate your concern in their situation. (Impact vs. Likelihood).

Write It, Memorize It, Use It…

Your value proposition should be powerful and well rehearsed.

Only the “Specific to you” needs to be modified. The trends/insights are updated occasionally, and the “What we’re doing” changes slowly over time as your company’s solutions evolve.  Minor changes should be made as you observe your target market’s response.

Effective selling demands a strong value proposition, not more brute-force selling. If you’re staring to sound like a used car sales person, it might be you just don’t have a great message and you are trying to make up for it with manipulating sales tactics.  Join us in the SVLC Insider’s Circle Facebook Group and let’s collaborate on your message for 2017!

© 2017, David Stelzl

executive-1Three Things You Can Do To Earn A Seat At The Table

Continuing from yesterday’s topic on, Things Sales People Do That CIOs Hate, last week’s keynote also covered three things CIOs really need…and can’t easily get internally.

  • Security Intelligence.  Intelligence is the new security buzzword. Not that it’s new. But for years people have talked about “Defense in Depth”, “Zero Day Response”, “Layered Security,” etc.  Recent WSJ reports are telling us that just about every board meeting agenda allots about 30 minutes to security.  What do the leaders of that meeting want to know? They want a measure of risk – “What are the odds our company will get hit this year?”  Who, besides you can give them that information?
  • Advice on leveraging new technologies. In the interview I referenced yesterday, the CISO I was meeting with talked about his need for advisors. He can’t know everything, and his team is heads down on support issues, project implementations, and daily operations. They don’t have time to keep up with technology the way you do.  So rather than showing up with your corporate presentation, show up with research and examples. Knowing what other “like” companies are doing to compete will go a long way.  In the Interview he mentioned compliance as an area they constantly need more advice on…can you advise your clients on HIPAA, GLBA, PCI, etc.compliancy group
  • Trust. Most of the sales people out there are just trying to sell. Is that you? Do you care whether your product actually works, or delivers a benefit this client needs? If you do, and I hope you really do, you’re a minority. The great thing about security is, just about everyone needs new security. As threats evolve, and IT moves toward new disruptive technologies, the security strategy is constantly evolving. It’s safe to say that, regardless of who they end up buying from, they do need security. Make sure you are doing the things that earn that trusted advisor status. Security is a great place to start.

Copyright, 2016 David Stelzl

PS. Check out what Compliancy Group has to offer resellers…compliance offerings without going back to school for four years.

I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany yesterday morning after a great lunch & learn with IOvations in Boston.  In Boston I was surrounded by 6 foot piles of snow – here the weather is perfect early spring, sunny, and beautiful.  A few pictures from my walk around town on Sunday…this afternoon I will be delivering a keynote speech to the BASF sales organization on how to build an amazing value proposition.  Later I have a breakout session on the importance of building character in your organization, and some practical steps on how to do it.

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My Worst Sales Call

February 12, 2014 — 2 Comments

What was your worst sales call?

Don't show up unprepared - i.e. Don't waste your prospects time.

Don’t show up unprepared – i.e. Don’t waste your prospect’s time.

I remember mine…

After working hard for months to gain access to the decision maker of a large healthcare company in South Florida, I finally had my chance…a meeting with the CIO.

My current contact, the IT Director, set up this meeting.  When I arrived it was just the two of them – the CIO and the IT Director.  After a brief intro, the CIO sort of turned the meeting over to me.  I immediately launched into a few exploratory questions – my version of the, “What keeps you up at night?” questions.

I didn’t get very far before he stopped me.  Looking at his IT colleague he mumbled, “I thought you said this guy had something important to meet about. So far all I’ve heard are a bunch of sales – open-ended questions.”

Imagine sitting there.

What do you do next?  The call went downhill from there, and of course, that was our last meeting.  There was just no recovery.  You might say this guy was just a jerk.  There was definitely some of that.  But looking back, I also realize that I didn’t come prepared with anything interesting to say.  After all, he hadn’t asked for the meeting, I did.  He wasn’t shopping for anything in particular, so it was up to me to come up with something to hold his interest – or to demonstrate some value.

This week we kicked off Day One of the Moving From Vendor to Adviser Sales training.  The sales person who just shows up for lunch meetings and golf outings is not longer of much value – it’s just not that interesting.  There has to be more – substance.  I call this predictable messaging. An understanding of a CIO’s major issues – predictable needs.

Today we set the foundation for making the move.

When you’re not prepared with the “Right Stuff”, meetings aren’t fun.  On the other hand, when you can show up with important information or a presentation that hits the mark, sales can be one of the most fulfilling jobs out there.  That’s the difference between the vendor and the adviser.  Whether you’re in the class or not, there are a few things sales people just need to be doing on a daily basis.


  • Never stop being a student – there’s always something to learn.  Right now there are significant changes taking place in the offices of the CIO and CISO.  If you don’t understand these changes, you might find your message is outdated in your next sales call.  Don’t let this happen. Don’t waste your prospect’s time.
  • Know the technology trends.  BYOD, Big Data, Cloud – these are just some of the big initiatives going on in just about every company.  You probably know this – but do you know how they are attacking these projects, who is driving them, and where failures are occurring?
  • Retailers are under attack.  Cybercriminals have found some significant weaknesses in our current credit card payment systems – the Chip and Pin technology issue.  You might also know that the PCI requirements were met by Target, yet they lost 40 million credit card numbers.  How can that be? Are you up to speed on what happened?
  • Know your people group – the people you are supposed to be calling on. Do you know who they are, what their most pressing needs are, how they think, how they buy…? Become a student of them and you’ll be way ahead of the competition.

Tomorrow we’ll be launching into Day Two…Looking at marketing concepts every sales person must know in order to persuade their prospects that they have what it takes to be the technology adviser.

© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. Keep up with the trends, as well as C-Level selling concepts in my Insider’s Circle Group.  (Click to learn more)


Brand New!

Now Available: From Vendor to Adviser (PreOrder for just 13.95)

The proof is in my hands – and you can now reserve a copy of From Vendor to Adviser at a discounted price of $13.95 through my online store: (normally $16.95).  I’ve been working on this book for almost a year, and I think you’ll find it answers a lot of questions about how to grow your business.  I discuss pricing, proposals, presentations, discovery and assessment, and a whole lot more – everything in this book is specific to selling technology!  Not too many books are that specific, but I believe our industry is unique and requires some special insight when dealing with IT people, commoditizing technology, resellers that depend on services business and who are building managed services practices, etc.  There’s a lot to consider in these sales…so whether you sell for a giant reseller, specialize in a certain area such as data center, security, collaboration, or some application area, or are working directly for the manufacturer in a direct or channel role, this book hits the mark.  Check it out…I look forward to your feedback once you read it.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Justifying your Fee

October 29, 2010 — 2 Comments

My son has never had pizza!  Can you believe it…you should know by now that I eat pizza at least once a week, and that’s a bad week for me.  Why have I deprived me son?  Be cause he is allergic to everything.  Gluten (which knocks out just about every restaurant bread), wheat, corn, dairy…that is, until yesterday.

After seeing numerous doctors, some local, some far away, we finally have the problem solved.  The local doctors offered him cortisone to treat skin rashes which covered his body head to toe when he was an infant.  My wife, believing the surface treatment was the wrong answer, began researching this.  She soon discovered the food allergy problem, which is actually the result of your body not properly digesting a food, which leads to a toxic substance in the body rather than properly digested food, which in turn must come out of the body, generally in the form of a rash.  Well, with a long list of allergy foods in hand, we were able to keep Tiny Tim (as I call him) somewhat free of rashes.  The problem is, that means Tiny Tim can only eat a hand full of boring foods while watching the rest of us enjoy pizza and ice cream.

Then a couple of months ago someone refers us to a doctor just three hours from my house.  Two visits, three weeks of treatment using natural products (no drugs), and he’s free to eat whatever.  Of course Insurance doesn’t pay for this type of treatment…it’s all out of pocket.  But do you think I questioned the fee?  Did I send out RFQs, collect three bids, push the doc for a 30% discount, count his hours?  No!  He solved a serious problem using his intellectual capital.  He earned the right to advise me, charge me, and convince me to call him the next time I have a medical need.  This is the essence of becoming the trusted adviser.  This is not a commodity.

PS.  Tiny Tim and I are having pizza tonight!

© 2010, David Stelzl

After working hard to reduce the size of my phone, I’ve taken a step back with the Blackberry.  My wife thinks it’s funny that my phone is as big as some laptops, but I just couldn’t pass up the apps.  So why am I telling you this…because there’s a great “trusted adviser” story behind this – one appropriate for anyone in sales.  Here’s what happened:

1. First, those who know me know I’ve been waiting for Verizon to support iPhone for the longest time.  Keep reading….

2. It all started when I called Verizon to get my sim chip enabled for my upcoming trip to Australia, India, and Singapore.  I keep this function disabled while working in the states as a prudent measure of cost containment.

3. Of course Verizon had to put me hold, so I was surfing around, minding my own business when an idea popped into my head.  I wonder if you can make overseas calls from Google phone for free, or some ridiculously low price.  Of course you can (and Skype works as well)…but it requires an app on a smart phone, which I did not have.

4. As the Verizon sales rep began unfolding the simple plan of 4.99/month plus just $2+ per minute, I was reading about $.02 charges using either Google or Skype on Blackberry or Droid phones.  The Droid seemed to be the obvious choice…I didn’t let on, but thanked them and hung up.

5. From there I was in the car on my way to buy a new phone.  If I spent just ten minutes per day, I was looking at a few hundred dollars in phone charges!  My contract at Verizon is up – so I knew I could probably have a smart phone for close to nothing.  The Droid 2 was a possible choice…lots of memory, lots of apps, and pretty good reviews.

6. At the store they  told me they didn’t have it in stock…bummer.  They started working on getting one to the store overnight when I asked, “Does this really sport global support?”  The said “Yes!” but I was asking the wrong question.  I should have asked, “Does this support GSM global communications?”  They didn’t know.  So I headed back home to find out.

7.  I was right.  It does not.  However, the Blackberry storm is one of the few that does; Droid is working on it.  So I headed back to the store, made the purchase, and here I am.

So here’s the Trusted Adviser issue, in case you missed it.

– Why did the sales person on the phone lead me down the $2+ / minute route?  Was this a money making deception or just plain ignorance?

– Why didn’t the rep in the store know about global networks?  What would have happened if I had bought the Droid with only 2 days to figure out I had the wrong phone?

Being a trusted adviser means knowing more than just the product.  It means having great advice and being an adviser.  It also requires integrity and trustworthiness.  One of the two was lacking with the first rep; I believe the second was just uninformed.

© 2010, David Stelzl