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This morning I am preparing to speak to Cisco channel managers, account managers, and channel marketing. The topic – Event Marketing. 

Challenging Presuppositions

Years ago Tim Ferriss, Author of The 4-Hour Work Week figured out how to accomplish more in a few hours than most of his sales colleagues could accomplish in an entire day.  How did he do it? After hours upon hours of unproductive cold calling he decided to step back and analyze the process.  The gatekeepers were always getting in his way – no one would let him speak to the decision makers.  So instead of making his calls during work hours, he simply moved to 8:00 AM, calling for 30 minutes, and then picking up again at 6 PM for another 30 minutes.  In no time he was closing more meetings than any of his peers. 

Tim shares a story in his book of how he won the Chinese kickboxing National Championship by studying the rules and changing the game to create an advantage.  He writes in his book, ” Sports evolve when sacred cows are killed, when basic assumptions are tested! The same is true in life and in lifestyle.” Tim’s process was revolutionary – but senior management has caught on, and in my recent CIO meetings I understand that they don’t want to hear from you before their administrative assistant shows up.  So now what?

Traditional Lunch & Learns

This past week I spoke with two different manufacturers about lunch & learns.  In both cases my clients – both resellers, were working on funding for events they are planning.  In both cases the vendor sponsor was skeptical about sponsoring me to speak. 

My events are different.  I counsel my reseller clients not to let vendors do the speaking, and I insist on inviting executives.  “That’s not the way we usually do it.”  Both companies made this statement…but what are the results of the typical event? 

It’s like Tim Ferriss’ cold calling.  Traditional lunch & learns are drawing small audiences of technical people, reporting high attrition rates (like 50% of those signing up never actually get there), and no measurable return on investment. The measure of success I hear all too often is, “How many attended?”  That’s like measuring sales by asking, “How many calls did you make?” – what does it matter.  If you don’t generate any gross profit, what’s the point?  And if you managed to make your entire quota on one call, why do you need to make 100 more calls?  A second call might get you to your accelerators (assuming your compensation plan has this feature built in.)

Changing the Rules

Why am I so stubborn about how the event happens?  Several years ago I started challenging the assumptions.  Why does the vendor have to speak?  Does it lead to more sales? Don’t get me wrong here,  I don’t care if they speak – but let’s not speak just to have a role in the event, or just to feel important.  The only question everyone should be asking is, “What is the purpose of having the event and are we achieving that purpose?”  From what I can tell, there are two reasons to have an event:

1. To reignite old buyer relationships.

2. To create new buyer relationships.

From the reseller’s perspective, these are the only two things that really matter.  Traditional cold calling doesn’t work – my clients all agree.  Tim Ferriss had a great idea, but it too has lost it’s savor.  Lunch & learn events with IT people have been around for ages, but they aren’t producing.  Why? Because technical people don’t have any money. 

So I started looking at the buying process.  The seller needs time in front of a decision maker, but there has to be a compelling reason for that meeting.  Decision makers are business people. They spend money for one of two reasons: to make more money, or to mitigate risk.  That’s it – simple, just two reasons.  Then I started looking at events in general.  What makes one event a major success, while another has almost no attendees?  Why do some events lead to 1000 people making major life changes, while other events lead to no measurable change at all?  It’s the speaker – and the motivation they provide to make a commitment, change something, or move in some direction.  It’s a conversion process, and there’s a simple formula to make it all happen.

So 10 years ago I joined the National Speakers Association and started studying great speakers.  It’s not the product they sell (Every motivational speaker worth their fee has a book or DVD set.)  If it was, they would simply set up an online store and go on vacation while the money rolled in.  They can’t do that. Most speakers sell their products at the conference or seminar.  Their book sales online are mostly unmeasurable.  But at the conference, they often sell enough product to double their speaker fee income.  It’s the speaker’s passion, combined with a life changing message, delivered to an audience that has the authority to make the commitment or accept the challenge. 

This morning I’ll be sharing the basic principles of event marketing success.  Why would anyone want to continue making dozens of unproductive cold calls five days a week when they can sell to 30 or 40 people at one time in one hour?  I have found that with the right message, at least 60%, and on average 75% of the audience will respond to the right message.  If the right conversion product (assessment or strategy session) is offered, they’ll sign up.  This leads to multiple meeting opportunities.  If you don’t close business after all of this, you can’t blame it on the event – but you are way ahead of where you would be on a cold call.

© 2013, David Stelzl

 

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This week I am out traveling the midwest – it’s 100 degrees and climbing,…meanwhile I am taking every moment I can in the evenings to work on several great business opportunities….here’s a peek.

1. My Making Money w/ Security Class has been revamped to include more managed services selling as well as the great security selling strategies that have always been the core of the class.  Managed offerings are a big focus for everyone I talk to, so it’s all in there now.  The next class is almost full, and scheduled for August…you can read more here: http://stelzlmmsv.eventbrite.com/ – I hope to announce more classes later this year.

2. I’ve had my web  team set up a private forum for the mentor alumni group…so if you have been through my private mentor program (that would not include group coaching packages that are sometimes sold on the back of a training class), you will soon have access to this resource no matter how long ago you were in the coaching program – and it’s free.  I’ve opened it up to my mastermind group already – so we are adding content as we speak.

3. Which brings up my new mastermind program – not formally announced, but more coming on that.  I have one group in full swing right now (5 business owners), and other groups will be announced at some point later this year.  This is an opportunity to collaborate with the best and the brightest – people in similar positions working on the same things, where I will personally facilitate, help set goals and direction, and work with the team to develop new strategies for profit and client acquisition… as well as offerings and anything else that contributes to the long term success of that group’s business.

4. I am continuing on with some of the free educational webinars I started late last year.  For the third time, and by request, I am offering “Accelerating Managed Services Sales” in July on the 10th.  If you have not been to this, I highly recommend it.  You can sign up right here: http://stelzlms.eventbrite.com/  Other topics are coming.  If you have a particular topic you would like for me to cover, send it to me for consideration.

5. Finally, many have purchased the 5 Essential Topics for Moving from Vendor to Adviser… this has been a very popular audio series for those who have attended the Making Money w/ Security Workshops.   I have another series coming, building from the same book, From Vendor to Adviser, but covering 5 more essential topics.  These audio programs turn your car into a classroom…they should be out before year end, so stay tuned right here, and follow me on twitter at dstelzl and you’ll be one of the first to know.

© 2012, David Stelzl

From Vendor to Adviser Quote:

The discovery process is exactly the place to reposition you and your organization as advisers.  I’ve talked about various kinds of assessments; penetration tests, vulnerability studies, optimization studies, risk analysis, proof of concept, etc.  It doesn’t matter what you call it, the point is; you have access, so use it.  In the end, it’s marketing, not technology.  And, though the highly technical mind aims to turn this into a scientific analysis, you the sales person, know that if you fail to persuade the client to act, you have done a disservice to the client.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Illustrations by David Stelzl

When I say educational marketing, I mean that the presentations, collateral, blog posts, etc. shed new light on subjects your prospects are interested in.  One of the first educational events I personally attended (as a prospect), was just after having received great news, “Your wife is going to have a baby!”  It was our first of seven, and what an exciting time it was.  In the process of signing up for things,  buying at baby stores, and perhaps visiting the doctor, we ended up on the marketing call list for Baby Tenda-care, a company that manufactured and sold a multi-purpose contraption for babies.  It served as a height chair, porta-crib, and several other things.  As you can imagine, anything that looks like a porta-crib, can’t easily turn into a height chair, but they claimed it did.  Our first introduction to this amazing device was through an invitation to attend a free dinner at a low-end buffet steak house; a place where you pay about seven dollars for steak, sides, and desert.  (Another sign that this wasn’t going to be good).  While the speaker did spend time on educating us, most of the talk was high-pressured sales.  It was distasteful and aggravating.  I told my wife about ten minutes into it that we were absolutely not buying anything.  We didn’t buy that night, but it was uncomfortable not to.  Many did, and the guy signing up new customers did his best to make the husband feel like he was cheating his wife out of a great, time saving tool that was almost guaranteed to take the work out of parenting.  As far as I can tell, this product is no longer on the market, and I know why.  This can’t be your approach to educational marketing if you plan to succeed.

© 2011, David Stelzl

My favorite marketing platform is local events.  My first major lunch & learn came on the heels of moving from an IT position to a presales support role in the wide area networking (WAN) space.  A major manufacturer sponsored our meeting, the marketing was taken care of by our in-house marketing person, sales people were charged with getting clients and prospects to the meeting, and I was offered an opportunity to be one of the speakers in our half-day event.  I hadn’t done much speaking at this point in my career, outside of a local Toastmasters club I had joined and some oral reports I did in school, so I labored over my presentation material wanting it to be just right.  As a presales guy, I wasn’t involved in the logistics of this event, just responsible for great content.  I had no working knowledge or experience with marketing, demand generation, follow up, or anything, other than articulating what various technologies could do (all from a speeds and feeds mentality.)

Finally that day came when I would present.  It was the first time I had seen an attendance list.  I had dreamed about presenting to 50 or 75 people, maybe even 100 would show up to hear my presentation! There were 6 on the list. Six!  I couldn’t imagine presenting to an audience of six.  Do you actually stand to do this, or just sit at a round table?  We decided to go forward given we had some pretty good names on our list.   You’ve probably guessed this already, but as I’ve come to learn, attrition is the biggest enemy of any event, and only two showed up.  I thought six was bad; two is horrible.  I think I would have rather had one and made it a sales call.  We had two companies with completely different business needs.  It was a total flop.

That was over twenty years ago, and since then I have learned that this really is a great way to market.  However it doesn’t just happen.  It takes a strategy, commitment from sales and marketing, and contribution from every person on the team.  When done right, it is an excellent investment, done wrong it can be a very costly mistake.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo taken by David Stelzl

A couple of attendees emailed questions regarding competitive advantage…following Wednesday’s Cisco sponsored webinar.  I thought it might be helpful to address this here:

(Q) Why is Operational Efficiency or Risk Mitigation easier to sell than Competitive advantage?

First, it’s important to note, I did not say you can’t sell using competitive advantage as your value proposition, but rather, operational efficiency and risk mitigation are preferable; at least to the average sales person.  Here’s why…

Companies can use technology to compete, however this type of advantage is often short lived unless the company deploys some type of unique patented technology; something their competition can’t go out and buy tomorrow.  More often than not, technology driven competitive advantage is really an operational efficiency gained by the perfection or automation of some process.  So in the end, it’s really an operational efficiency sale, that in-part, delivers competitive advantage, in addition to delivering cost efficiencies (which their competition will either adopt or find another way to accomplish).  The technology sales person’s ability to foresee such an advantage in a complex manufacturing situation (for instance) is not so likely.  (Again, speaking of the average rep calling across many verticals).

True competitive advantages are seen when a larger company has more buying power, putting others out of business by squeezing their margins such as is the case with the Home Depot stores competing with smaller hardware stores.  Wal*Mart does this by putting highly efficient distribution processes in place that are unaffordable by the average mom and pop store in your local area.  While Wal*Mart may have some unique applications in place, their infrastructure isn’t really unique, just unaffordable to smaller companies.  The process itself is key, and unique as it is cost prohibitive to the smaller company.

Operational efficiency in itself may offer competitive advantage as seen above, and the seller can use this to gain momentum on the purchase, but the efficiency is more easily articulated by the seller.  To go down the competitive advantage road with technology sales may require a deep understanding of the vertical’s market pressures.  Perhaps if the sales person has come out of that industry, they’ll have success with this.

Competitive advantages not tied to operational efficiency, which stand alone as a true advantage that cannot be duplicated, may come in the form of location such as the best corner owned by McDonalds, exclusive distribution of a product, or patented technology such as the iPad and Mac OS.  These advantages are not easily matched.  Will Dell come out with a better laptop than Mac?  Probably not (in my opinion), however they certainly have a less expensive one.   Note how first to market has earned Apple 90% of the market on tablet computers!  This won’t be easy to steal.  This is hard to match when selling commodity goods which are largely over distributed in the VAR/Reseller world.

© 2011, David Stelzl

In 1995 Geoffrey Moore brought us ground-breaking information in his book entitled, Inside the Tornado.  This book was required reading for many technology manufacturers, including HP, a strategic partner of my employer at the time.  Using a standard marketing normal distribution curve, Moore showed us how market adoption changes when you start talking about technology.  It takes years for, what he refers to as discontinuous innovation, to catch on when talking about cars, phones, or air travel. But when speaking of today’s hot technology innovations, suddenly adoption is taking place in months.  Why is that important?

Well, to the technology manufacturers, Moore showed how products met the first inflection point of that model where early-adopters transitioned to early majority, a new audience of buyers.  He explains in his book that this audience is a bit more conservative than the first, and unwilling to work with technology that is bleeding edge!  This group represents people who might be risk adverse or, like many information technology professionals, goaled and paid on up-time, not innovation.  The first group however, representing those who will take a risk on new technology, is likely in the camp of profit center managers, looking for technology that puts them out in front of the competition.  This is further explained in Bosworth’s book, Customer Centric Selling, as he applies the model in a slightly different way to various kinds of buyers.

Manufacturers studied these models with profit and adoption in mind.  Moore’s point was that, manufacturers needed a way to enter the larger markets of early majority and late majority (possibly representing 33% and 33% of the possible market for each) if they were to enter the larger majority markets with their products.  The first one there would be given the greatest opportunity to become the market’s defacto standard.  Once there, the channel was established to meet the accelerating demand for their products, which Moore termed, The Tornado, thus the title, Inside the Tornado.  This is where the manufacturer views the channel, but this is not necessarily where the profits are for the channel partner.  The problem is, most resellers (VARs) are positioned exactly in the middle of Moore’s Model; perhaps the most unprofitable position possible for a reseller, which in turn, hurts both the reseller and the manufacturer – the company depending on their partners to bring in more and more of their business.  This is a problem.

(You’re probably wondering what this has to do with the red hydrant…nothing, it’s just a fun picture I took while photo shooting with my daughter).

© 2011, David Stelzl