Archives For Value Proposition


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


Who Do You Call On? What Do They Really Need?

This Is Where Your Value Proposition Begins…And Trump Provides Some Great Examples.

When I ask a sales rep what they think is top of mind for their target prospect, most answer in terms of their product set or technology. 

No thought is given to them as a person. 

2016-12-23_07-12-02Do IT people really think about storage and servers all day? Is the CIO pondering security most of his day? What about the small business owner? When he wakes up this morning will uptime or managed services be his first thought as he pours his cup of coffee?  Probably not!

There’s a simple process you can go through to put some definition to your target customer.

And it starts by thinking of them as a real person rather than a chatbot or some predictable automata. Set aside your products and services for just a minute and consider who you call on.

When I think of target customers I am thinking about 4 key areas. These four areas profile the person I want to call on (Yes I know, profiling is a bad word in our day and age but if you want to grow sales…). They include:

  • Demographics – the basics. Include things like gender, marital status, income bracket, education level, etc. Set aside any politically correct thinking here. You’re looking for averages across your target market. Every detail matters.
  • Business Goals – what the company or an owner is working toward to be successful in their current company role. Note that the IT Director is going to look much different than the CIO or Small Business Owner.
  • Personal Aspirations – This gets personal. For instance, most CIOs are near 50 and probably thinking about retirement, and having enough in the bank to retire well. They may also have kids coming out of college with an aspiration to help them launch a successful career.
  • Fears – Everyone has fears. But there are common fears. For instance, Napoleon Hill, Author of Think and Grow Rich cites the top most common fears among men. Poverty is number one. What are your prospects most common fears. Perhaps Hill’s list will work for your market as well.

You really want to know three things. Their profile, where they hang out. And what they care about…

Today we only have time to discuss profile.  Trump, and several well known celebrities provide solid examples. Ready?

It’s tempting to be general. To try being all things to all people. This is a mistake.

Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Dan Kennedy (a well known copywriter), their success proves show that it pays to take hardline positions when connecting with your target market.

Trump won the presidential election by doing this very thing. He was abrupt, pointed, insensitive, but focused. Perhaps you hated watching him in the debates, or thought you would do a better job. None of that matters. He won.

He knew he needed to target swing states with blue collar workers in the rust belt for instance. He was after the electoral votes, not the popular votes. He knew how to win – or at least his marketing team did.

His digital marketing team didn’t focus on conservative white collar business men. He had that locked up long before winning a spot on the republican ticket. His message was brilliant. Make America Great Again. It’s an active message targeting those who are sick of the status quo. He focused on those who had lost faith in people who tout government experience and political savvy. And like it or not, he won.

Take one of your target prospect titles.  Small business owner for instance. Draw an X on your paper and use the four categories I’ve listed on the 4 quadrants.

Now start listing bullets to define the four areas. Be as specific as you can. If you don’t know the average income for small business owners, find out. If you know small business owners are in the 100K range, tend to have small savings, but average 50 years old. You know they have about 15 years to save enough to retire. Maybe 20. If they run into major health issues like a heart condition, it will put a major kink in their savings program.  You should know this. Chances are they spend more time thinking about their personal finances than they do Microsoft’s next upgrade.

As you meet with prospects in your target market start asking more questions that fill in these quadrants. When you start you might be thinking you call on all small business owners. However, as you continue your research and look at past successes, you just might find that certain personalities, backgrounds, and verticals work much better than others. Each person relates to different people groups differently. And while you might excel with one profile, you might not with others.

It might also prove true that your favorite profile is not politically correct to announce – which was probably true for Trump. But that really doesn’t matter. Keep it to yourself and start winning.

© 2016, David Stelzl


salesWhen You Sell, Are You Lying?

Last week I wrote about “5 Things Not to Say” as a reseller…you need a better value proposition but you can’t afford to lie about it. You’ll be found out and it will destroy your business. A good name is hard to establish. It’s harder to recover.  What’s your value proposition? Why should I buy from you? Some common lies…


We’re Better Than Everyone Else

If you resell technology and provide managed IT, it’s common to think you’re better than everyone else out there.

But is that really true?

No one knows. How can you measure the best reseller? Unless you’ve worked for both companies there’s really know way to know. If you’re both on Amazon in the form of a book there will be ratings and comparisons. But your business isn’t a book or gadget. So don’t say, “We’re the best.”

Instead, consider some alternatives:

  • Our customer satisfaction ratings are 5 star! Chances are you competition didn’t bother the poll their clients. Set yourself apart!
  • We have CISSPs on staff. Chances of smaller resellers carrying this level of certification are low. SANS.Org certs are equally impressive.
  • We provide a 100% money back guarantee. So there’s no risk. Can you say  that?
  • Show them customer testimonials expounding on how great you are.  Your customer can say “You’re the best,” you can’t.

The Price is $X. Is It Really?

Are you discounting when the pressure’s on?

Telling your prospect the price is $1000/month and then cutting it in half to get the deal is dishonest. If the price is $1000, it is. If it’s $500, then say so. Cutting your price to get the deal leaves your prospect wondering if they now have the best price.

Instead, consider these alternatives:

  • The price is too high, so cut the scope or change the payment options.
  • Add something to the deal pro-bono to prove your quality (but don’t add a monthly feature). For instance, waving your fee for an assessment lowers the up front price, but is not technically a discount.
  • If in the end the competition has better pricing, remind your prospect that low-ball pricing either means the competition is desperate and can’t deliver the same quality for the price they’ve quoted or they have less expensive people, which also means lower quality.
  • If your prospect chooses the low price provider ask to reconnect in a year to see how things are going. If the other company really can deliver the same quality at a lower price your prospect has made a wise choice…but it’s unlikely. There are no “apples to apples” comparisons when dealing with people, culture, and personality.

You Provide Security and Disaster Recovery Services

Do you really? Selling firewalls and providing security are not the same thing. Offering backup and recovery is not disaster recovery.  Yet I see these claims all the time on reseller websites.

Learn what your customers really need and then study out the fine lines that distinguish different offerings and descriptions.

For instance, pen tests and vulnerability assessments are often sold as risk assessments. But if risk is not quantified in the report the client is left without a measure of risk. When I explain this difference using the impact vs. likelihood graph in my book, The House & The Cloud (Pg. 194) the response is predictable. It’s an ah-ha moment for the client. One that often leads to conversion.

In the coming weeks I’ll be showing you have to create compelling message  that is truthful and high-impact…stay tuned!

©2016, David Stelzl

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.

IMG_2996 IMG_2997 IMG_2998 IMG_2993

IMG_2104What’s your value proposition?

How many times have you been asked, “What do you do?”

It’s a simple question. But the answer may prove more complex than you imagine.  Following is a excerpt from my House & the Cloud Update, where I eventually answer this important question.


Consider the following scenario:

You’re attending an association meeting, social gathering, or group event. You meet someone new—perhaps an executive with a large manufacturing company in town. After striking up a conversation, an event organizer indicates he’s ready to begin the meeting, and everyone is asked to be seated. Your new acquaintance quickly asks what your company does. You have only one minute before heading to your seat.

What do you tell him?

Take a moment to write your answer on a sheet of paper. Underneath your answer, write a second sentence that explains the value your organization brings to prospective clients like the one you hypothetically met.

Every day, you meet. But how many of these interactions actually turn into long-term profitable relationships? How often do you have a value proposition that resonates so strongly that your prospect wants to formally meet with you or schedule subsequent meetings? If you’re a manufacturer with significant market share, you may have a brand that gets you in. For resellers, it’s  a different story.

What Makes Your Brand Stand Out?

As a reseller, brand is associated with your product offerings. Perhaps you sell Dell, HP, Cisco or some other globally recognized technology. But in the eyes of a CIO, there are thousands of companies just like yours. When this happens, price becomes your differentiation—and it will eventually destroy your company if your business model was built like those of most resellers: high-touch salespeople supported by highly trained presales engineers or consultants. It’s an expensive model to run, unless you have a way to leverage all of that high-touch talent to close complex, margin-rich deals.

Selling commodity products does not offer a compelling differentiation story, unless it’s based on price and delivery—much the same way wholesale distribution is modeled. Consider the trends in nontechnical industries like supermarkets, hotel chains and bookstores. These industries are investing in experience to change the way people shop. Customers no longer want to shop in a basic grocery store. Instead, they demand cafés, prepared foods, banking services and a florist…

In Chapter One of My House & the Cloud Update I go on to show that…  Blog Subscribe Ad

Security has the power to transform your company’s offerings, if approached correctly. It’s not a product and everyone needs it…resellers who are spending their JMF money and other marketing funds on branding are wasting their money.  You’ll never have enough money to build the household name brand – unless you’re one of those rare multi-billion dollar resellers.  For the average reseller – focus on direct marketing efforts, and develop the intellectual capital to be great in your focus area. Market like crazy to attract the local businesses through direct marketing efforts, and demonstrate your expertise in the follow up process…

For more on this, look for my coming announcements when the book is finally in print!

© 2014, David Stelzl

While you are waiting – make sure you have my recently published special report on turning prospects into customers!

I’m heading to Singapore today to speak to technology sales people on Value Proposition and how to related to C-Level prospects…here’s a short clip to watch while I am flying for 14+ hours overseas…enjoy!



Staying in Touch w/ LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great tool as far as I am concerned.  It allows me to connect with old friends, people I’ve lost track of over the years, and to establish new contacts without having to remember to get cards from everyone.  When people leave a job, I know about it, and when I meet someone in a meeting, I can learn more about them online.  If you’re in sales, you need a LinkedIn account – but I think most people know that.  What you might not be thinking about is, what is your LinkedIn profile for  -who is your audience and who did you write for?  In other words, do you have the right message on your current profile?

New Job vs. New Client

The answer should vary.  There will be times when you need a new job.  If that’s the case, you probably want to rework your summary and job descriptions to match what an employer would be looking for.  However, that same information might not be the best value proposition for meeting new clients.  For instance, you do want your prospective employer to be reading about your sales achievements – but when talking to prospects, it’s better to highlight your ability to advise people on specific technology decisions and to communicate your value as an adviser to a client.

Is Your Profile a Resume?

Most of the LinkedIn profiles I review read like a resume – they tell a story of sales achievements.  I read things like, “Made presidents club, or achieved 2X of my quota.”  Something tells me that your prospective customer doesn’t care about that.  If you have a good job, change your LinkedIn profile – tell people what you are doing to meet needs.  Share areas of expertise, interest, and helpfulness.  State your customer facing mission, sound helpful, and communicate your core areas of expertise.  This is what your upcoming meeting participants want to know.

Also, remember that LinkedIn is searchable.  Using key words such as vendor product names and technology trends like “Big Data” can help others find you in an overcrowded marketplace.

How to Speak – Be Social

Speak in first person – since this is not a formal resume, don’t make it into one.  LinkedIn is social media, so be social.   Share what you are passionate about.  If you’re on your way to a meeting – chances are  people will be looking you up before you arrive.  What would you like them to know about you?  It’s always helpful to have some content out there that generates discussion.  Consider filling in your favorite books, activities, and other personal items that allow people to connect with you.  Of course you want to avoid giving out personal information, but if you’re in sales, you need enough to advertise yourself.

But don’t blow your own horn.  If you sound like a know-it-all, you’ll turn people off.  If you have done some great things, it will be evident in the stories you share – but constantly tooting your horn can be annoying.  If you have publications or credentials, you want to list them, but you don’t need to say, “I am the best”.  Everyone knows you wrote your own descriptions, so there is not use is write accolades in the third person.  When I read, “Bob is customer driven, responsive, and ….”.  I know Bob wrote it…so now I am thinking, wow, Bob really likes himself.  But, Bob also sounds like every other sales person.

I’d rather read something like, “I believe my client’s deserve my attention…I believe there are better ways to make this or that happen, etc.”  What do you believe, and how do you live it.  These core values may be some of the best value you can write about.  Write it, live it, prove it, and get your references to endorse it.

© 2013, David Stelzl