Monday, December 31, 2012

Memorizing or Knowing

I was driving to work the other morning and heard a replay of the Opie and Anthony Show on SiriusXM. In the segment I heard, they were talking to Donald Sutherland, who was promoting the movie “The Hunger Games”. During the talk, Jimmy Norton asked Sutherland an acting question about how he learned his lines.

Donald Sutherland

The response was pure sales gold, and something every salesperson show hear. He said, I don’t memorize my lines, I know them word for word. I know them. If you memorize, your words come out by rote. If you know them, then they sound natural. When you study the words, understand them and the meaning behind them, you can carry on a conversation, not just talk at someone.

Think about your sales presentation. Do you really know it or can you only deliver it well? Maybe not even that. Know and understand what your solution does. Know and understand how your solution does what it does. Know and understand why your solution does what it does. Now reread the previous sentences, but replace the words Know and Understand with the word memorize. You are basically left with a marketing blurb.

Know your stuff

If you want to have more engaging conversations with your prospects and move the process forward faster, learn the meaning of the words you are saying.

Friday, December 28, 2012

My 2013 New Year’s Resolution

My New Year’s Resolution, start writing my blog again.

Happy New Year 2013

I have been on hiatus while I moved across country and started my new job. While on my break, I discovered a couple of things. First, I missed writing. Second, I need to write. When I write I am able to empty some of the thoughts that bounce around my head before they cause serious damage.

We have all read time management books, listened to experts, even tried different “things”. The one thing I have learned, is some things are more important than others, and what makes them important is they keep me sane. Well more sane anyway. So no matter how full my plate is, I have to make room for the sanity savers.

Manage Time

I have settled into my new position and have a whole bunch of new fodder for my technical sales blogs. I look forward to getting them on pixels soon.

I hope you all have a great New Year and are able to fit the important things into it. 2013 is shaping up to be an exciting, productive and profitable year. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Big Mini Data

We hear about big data all the time. How big data is changing everything. If you don’t know what big data is, follow this link and get up to speed. When we read reports on Big data, they are generally Really Big Data, like Facebook adding 500 Terabytes a day. Well even your SMB clients with far less data, growing at a far smaller rate, feel like they have big data, and they are right.

Big Data

So how are you helping your mini big data users? Have you upgraded their backup and recovery options? Have you looked at their storage requirements and is it sufficient? Have you looked at the software they use to report on their data? The database they use to store their data? This is your job you know… Knowing what they need so you can sell it to them.

You may have clients who started populating an MS Access database several years ago and they have never done any real maintenance on that database. Maybe you should migrate them to MS SQL or MySQL, something with a little better performance. Are they using built in reporting tools? Maybe you need to get them using a more powerful tool set for reporting.

To quote Wikipedia Big Data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools. I think that is what I just pointed out above. So if your clients are using under powered tools to deal with larger databases, they have big data…for them.

Weak tools can break the system

Big data needs better tools and better planning. Planning for growth and performance. Better tools for working with and displaying the data. Don’t miss the big data boat with your clients, evaluate your clients data needs today.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Position Process

Wow, where have I been? Well starting a new position is time consuming. Maybe I should say it SHOULD be time consuming. If you expect to get up to speed in any new position by just putting in the “normal” amount of work hours, you are sadly mistaken. In the software sales industry, you have to expect to put in a lot of hours in a regular work week. When starting a new position in that industry, expect to add at least 25% more than the producers are putting in.

How Much Time?

I don’t know how this sounds to you, too much or too less, but it seems to be what works for me. Too many more hours than that and I start to lose my sharpness. Any fewer and I can’t do the daily load and learn the amount of information I need to to keep ramping up.

Again, I’m a technical sales resource, so I need to know all the nut’s and bolts. So how do I do it? Read, read a lot. It is amazing what you will learn if you read everything your company produces about your product. Marketing slicks, sales brochures, Web pages, technical manuals and release notes. Not just the most recent release notes, read them for at least a year back. This will help you find information that your competition uses against you based on old information, as well as helping existing customers know what they can gain if they upgrade.

You have to know what you need to know

While I’m reading, I’m watching. Watching others work. What do they say? What do they show? What do they make sure to point out? What are they sure to avoid? All of this is invaluable. Next, I talk to others about what I have read and seen. Coworkers, customers, prospects, anyone. Again, this will help refine what I know and how it is received and perceived.

The original "Like"

I have done technical demos for my Wife and Mom before. Why? If I can’t make them understand complex technical software, I need to simplify my presentation. I always start with simple demos when showing a new product. Tell a story, paint a picture where people can see themselves using the solution, get them to want more, and be ready to do that.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Good Decision or Good Reaction

I have always wanted the people around me to be the type of people I can trust to make good decisions. I’m changing my mind. I now want to put my trust in people who can best deal with the aftermath of bad situations. Why the change? Well, let me explain.

Decisions Decisions...

First, everyone likes a winner. Everyone likes supporting winners. People, who make good decisions all the time, will be winners. So we like to support people who make good decisions. However, no one makes good decisions all the time. So if you are supporting someone who makes a bad decision, how do they react? How do you react?

Don't Freak out, Figure it out

It is possible to overreact, or become paralyzed, when someone who normally makes good decisions, makes a bad one. When things aren’t going your team’s way after a bad decision, it is possible to start playing the blame game. If members of your team do this, why, and what does it mean? To me, it shows that you are not a team, you are a group following a strong leader. When the leader stumbles, the group falls apart.

Stick together, but don't Sink together...

A team sticks together. But to be fair, so did the crew of the Titanic. So you have to do more than not blame each other when a bad decision puts you in a bad spot. You have to have someone in charge that can make the most happen out of that situation.

It isn’t if a bad decision is made, it is when. It isn’t if you have to scramble to make the most of a situation, it is when. So while I want to support someone who makes great decisions, I really want to support someone who doesn’t fall apart when it hits the fan.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Unified Communication

There were a couple of communication related stories today. Hotmail got a reboot, and looks very clean. It is now called and I logged in for the first time in 7+years. Yahoo email and messenger had some outages today, welcome Marissa Mayer. Twitter reinstated Guy Adams Twitter account. What do these three stories have in common? They show us what is good, bad, and ugly in communications.

Hotmail is now

First Hotmail may have been my 2nd or third email service and if I recall correctly I created it to log into Microsoft support sites… It was a mess. Typical email client where no thought was given to how the interface would be used by people. I remember how excited I was to get my early invite to Gmail and how clean the page looked. How…usable it was. Now, so is Hotmail umm, ah, This is the good. Taking something less usable and making it better.

Yahoo Email and Messenger

The bad. Yahoo. One of my friends posted today he didn’t know which was worse, not getting email from Yahoo, or admitting you still use Yahoo for email. It is showing the problem of the company as a whole. Something that doesn’t work that well, even if you wanted to you it. They have a lot of work to do to raise themselves to the level of a bad provider.

Twitter Killing themselves

The ugly. Twitter has again shown ways it can’t be trusted. Due to its business relationship with NBC, tweets were being monitored and when a Twitter user included an email of an NBC executive, the Twitter staff alerted NBC and suggested they file a complaint, which they did, causing the Twitter users account to be suspended. The problem? The email address is on NBC’s website, it is public. Another problem? Monitoring tweets for content. Enough of an issue was raised that Twitter reinstated the account and apologized, but not for why or how they disabled the account. They continue to state the post was a violation. This will be great the next time people start tweeting about the next uprising in the Middle East and Twitter shuts them down for the content of their tweets. Ugly.

We all learn every day and especially in the always on global social media pool. But whatever your platform, it has to be on, it has to be usable, and it has to be open or you might as well open a telegraph office.

Samuel Morse Telegraph

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Living Large, Lying, or Laughing

As many of you know I have taken a new position recently. Now I’m not going to use my blog here to tell you how amazing Axcient is from the top down, but I have never been so impressed with any group of people. Instead I’m going to share my thoughts and feelings of jumping into the shark tank.

Axcient has a fairly new partner that has just taken off doing a huge number of placements. They want to bring the entire sales and executive team up to speed to really drive these numbers. Guess who gets to present to them? That is right, yours truly.

Now this doesn’t present much of a problem for me for several different reasons.

  1. 1.       I love to present, I can’t wait to get started.
  2. 2.       I’m a geek, I have learned a lot about the product technically already.
  3. 3.       I came from the VAR space, I know the needs for Backup, Business Continuity, and Disaster Recovery.

So to sum it up, if you have knowledge, know how to apply it, and like doing it, you can’t miss. Do you take this approach when you sell? I say sell, because even though I’m talking to a partner, I’m selling them on selling us. Everything is sales. Now I didn’t feel this when I was a wet behind the ears technician trying to get all my errands run between service calls…but I learned…I learned.

As I have said before, sales is about confidence. If you have confidence in whatever you are selling, you have just made your sales process much easier. Hardware, software, or yourself.  If you don’t have confidence, why? Which of the elements are you missing?

Repeat after me, I have the knowledge about my solution, I know how my prospect will use it to solve their issues, I believe I will do my best for the client and my employer. If you can say that line without either laughing or lying, you’re living large.

If you aren’t running to get in front of the next new group to talk to, maybe you need to think about a career change…

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reviewing Movies

My wife and I were watching a movie the other night. I did as I normally do, pick at the flaws in the movie. More accurately, pick at the flaws in the writing, story, and character development by the writers, actors, and directors. My wife then did as she normally does, she tells me to keep it to myself.  She asked me why I feel the need to critique the movies we watch, it made me think, so I’m writing why in my blog.

Reason 1. Everyone knows that you never split up when walking through a spooky house. Every scary movie does it, we all yell at the screen “DON’T DO IT!”, and someone, or everyone dies. See, we told you. I’m a sales engineer, I’m all about seeing potential issues and avoiding them. If you ever find yourself in a spooky sales call, don’t split up. Your chance of survival has just grown exponentially.

"This isn't right. We should split up." From 'The Cabin in the Woods'

Reason 2. Unless you are watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, inconsistent characters are just annoying. Sometimes bold, sometimes wimpy, sometimes intelligent, sometimes dumb, etc. I don’t mean a character having a personality that shows emotion. I mean really bad over acting, trying to wring everything out of every scene and forgetting that each of these scenes will be seen consecutively, you know, like a movie… Your sales process should also be like a movie. A series of scenes some more intense than others, but a cohesive movie. Those crazy eyed sounding calls late in the quarter can really stand out, and may cost you an Oscar.

The Oscar

Reason 3. It is about the story. If a movie has a great story I forgive a lot and forget a lot. I will forgive some poor sets or background actors, because I’m focused on the great story. I also forget a lot like if the movie is a western, animated, black and white or even sub-titled. Do you have a great story to tell in your sales process or demo? If you can’t keep their attention with the story, they will notice the boom microphones shadow.

So why do I critique movies? I love movies, and I want them to be the best they can be. Why do I critique sales demos and processes? Same reason. And flaws in your sales process should be as obvious as those flaws in the movies. Summer blockbuster or B movie, it is your choice.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Go West young Man, Go West.

Horace Greeley is believed to have given this advice to the men of America in an editorial written in 1865, you can read more about it here. Greeley favored westward expansion. He saw the fertile farmland of the west as an ideal place for people willing to work hard for the opportunity to succeed. So do I.

Go West Young Man, Go West!

Those of you who know me, know how important it is for me to be a passionate advocate for the company and product I work for. I have been fortunate to have been in this position over the many years I have worked in the SMB space. The great news is I get to be in that position again.

I am pleased to announce that I have accepted a position with Axcient. For those of you who do not know them, Axcient is one of the leading providers of Data Backup, Business Continuity, and Disaster Recovery hardware and software. In my role there I will be assisting Axcient and their partners grow their businesses.


My position with Axcient may not be a big surprise to those of you who saw I was supporting them at the Autotask Community Live event this June in Orlando. One of the great things about being with the Axcient team in Orlando was getting to see so many people who were my partners with Autotask, are now my partners with Axcient. I expect those relationships to just continue to get better and better.

I am honored and excited to be working with Agent Less and the rest of the team at Axcient, and I’m looking forward to seeing and talking to all of you about them soon. So if you are a current Axcient Partner, please contact me and let me know why you love Axcient. Or if you are someone who should be an Axcient Partner because you need a Backup/ Business Continuity/ Disaster Recovery solution for your clients, please contact me and let me help you understand how Axcient can meet both your, and your client’s needs. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do you Sell like Football or Football?

I have been watching the European Football championships.  I like soccer, which is what we in America call what the rest of the world calls Football. Fun game, lots of setting up and them flashes of action when headed to the goal, trying to put the ball in the twine. 

I also like Football, by that I mean American Football which is a cross between rugby and rollerball. Football is a sport of plans and plays to drive the length of the field for a score with the pigskin. So when you sell, do you sell like Football, or Football?

Everyone has a sales style. Created or evolved, you have one. So is it more like Football (Soccer) or Football? Let me see if I can help you understand. Oh, I know these are not all inclusive and I’m taking a lot of license here… 

Soccer is a game that many Americans find boring, they miss the fluid strategy and on the fly decision making (often called being clever by announcers) that setup exciting scoring opportunities. One on one a goalie has little chance in stopping a striker from scoring. There are few times when the other 10 players on the pitch allow a one on one opportunity. In order to score, a player must use his teammates to move the ball into position, sometimes passing it backwards, giving up distance to get a better angle. All of this happens on the fly, no time to stop and make a plan. You have to really know your teammates to make it work.

Trying a Clever move...

Football is a game that gets an Americans blood pumping. Baseball may be America’s Pastime, Football is America’s Lust. In Football, Plans are made to move the ball forward. You know you have 4 attempts to move the ball at least 10 yards to get another set of 4 downs to keep moving the ball forward. It is less important to make decisions on the fly, if the right play was called against the defense. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to get done. Pound the ball up the middle, as Ohio State Football coach Woody Hayes said, 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Football is a team sport, if you don’t do your assigned task, the play fails and you might lose the game.

This is a tackle..

So is your sales process well defined and documented? Do you have a plan when you start? Know how you are going to leverage your team and what roles they need to play? Looking to move the process forward each time you have a prospect touch? Are you able to project sales from your pipeline? If so, your sales process is like American Football.

If your process didn’t match the one above, is it less defined? Is your process ad hoc? Does everyone do everything? Do your sales linger a long time? Do you shy away from “hard” questions? Do you have a hard time generating sales projections? If these match, you sell more like Soccer.

Now I’m not saying one is better than another, they are two different sports and two different sales processes. If you sell like Football, you will maximize your time with the prospects and allow you to handle more sales. If you sell like Soccer, you will win deals that the Football salesperson would have given up on or lost due to their style. 

The most important thing is to know your style and to make the most of it so you don’t end up in a Nil to Nil game.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Old Dutch Open

We have an event in my family started by my uncle Jim 32 years ago called the Old Dutch Open. The Old Dutch is a Frisbee Golf tournament that is held every spring on my Great Grandparents farm in Southern Ohio. Every spring around 20 participants gather, along with many additional family and extended family members, to celebrate life.

Old Dutch Beer
Official Sponsor of The ODO

I have learned many life lessons at this event, and as I often do, I’ll share some of them with you here and explain how they make sense to me.

The first lesson I learned was give everyone a chance to join. There are a lot of different kinds of people who play, and that makes it more enjoyable. Some of them are family that I have known all my life. Some, friends of the family that I’ve know my whole life as well. Some went to college with my Uncle, I have known them since the start of the tournament 32 years ago and are now like family. Then there is everyone else, friends of friends, one time players, school friends of the children of the players, work friends, it goes on and on.
Why was this important? When I started working with salespeople, I found them like players at the Old Dutch. Some I were closer to, some not so much, but I had to play with all of them. Not only play with them, but compete at a high level. Learning coping skills for different personalities helps a lot. Everyone in your organization needs to be given the chance to join in and win.

Frisbee Golf
17th Green

The second lesson is truly a life lesson. Sometimes you are leading, sometimes in last. Some days things come easy, some days not. Luck may be with you, or playing against you. Guess what? You still have to play. Grip your Frisbee, look where you want to throw it, wind up and let it go, watch it fly, keeping your eyes on it because it rarely lands exactly where you aimed. Walk to the Frisbee and do it all over again. Sometimes you don’t have a good throw, or a good option to make the next throw so you have to make the best shot you can, because you do have to throw.

Just like life. Make a decision, see the results, make the next decision based on your options. After the game is over you can look back at the bad decisions or missed opportunities, while you are playing you have to think about the next shot. I have seen salespeople struggle with this as well. You have to do what you can with what you have in the sales process. You can visualize the perfect sales process, but you have to sell in the one you have.

The third lesson I’ll share today is have fun, it is a game. This doesn’t mean don’t try, or don’t care, it means if trying and caring make you forget you are playing you need to reverse the order. I have been playing when I was near the top of the leader board and all of the sudden I get ultra-serious. The first thing that tends to happen when I do this is my game goes to hell. My shots get erratic. I then get even more serious and frustrated. I also stop having fun. If the game isn’t fun why are you playing?

Same with work. If it isn’t fun, why not? Why do it? Money is always the answer, but few of us have a position that pays so well we can’t get close to it doing something we like to do. Life should equal fun, if not, look at your life.

Frisbee Golf
So close...

So I’ll be throwing a Frisbee over the hills of Southern Ohio this week, having fun, with my extended family, hoping everyone else in the world gets to experience happiness like this.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Don’t Think of Myself as a Writer

I said these words to a couple of friend of mine who are writers. Richard Tubb and Karl Palachuk. You can follow the links to their blogs. Richard looked at me and said, “But you are, and you need to feel that way”. I know what he is saying, I write, people read my stuff, I’m a writer. So how does my attitude affect my writing? Does it make me less serious or professional about it?

Karl, Richard and Steve.
I don't know what we were laughing about!
I need to do some thinking on this, but I think that I view my writing as just something I do, I don’t work on it. I don’t practice my craft. So I might be limiting how good I can get.

Well Richards comments made me think about all of the people who read my blog and wonder what things they are that they don’t think they are? What things aren’t they getting better at?

Many of my readers are in the IT Service industry, an industry that is dominated by technical people. In order to grow their business they have to sell stuff. Themselves, services, software and hardware. But do they think they are salespeople? No, anything but, and I’m sure this effects their sales.

  • You are what you eat.
  • It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.
  • Birds of a feather flock together.

We have all heard these types of comments, most likely from our Mom, and she wasn’t wrong. We may be more than the sum of what we do, but we are at least that. I recommend you make a list of all the things you do in your business. Now next to each one, write down what you do to learn more about, or get better at that function. Do you have some gaps? Me too.

So now, where ever you have a gap, let’s fill it in. Sales training, a tax or accounting course, technical training, whatever you need, because if you do it, you should understand you are it, and should do it well…

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rude Dude

We have all heard horror stories of rude French waiters. When people found out my wife and I were planning a trip to Europe they all seemed to have a war story of rude that they, or someone they knew, had to endure. Armed with a blanket of protection made out of hearsay and fear, we proceeded. Guess what? Not a single rude encounter across 3 European cities including Paris.

As a student of human interaction, (a people watcher), I have discovered three things I think have led to the rude waiter syndrome.

I'm Rude

1.       Different customs were the first thing I noticed. In Paris, if a seat is open, you can sit there. You don’t need to ask or check, just sit. If you ask, the waiter may seem dismissive as they point towards the open seats, that isn’t rude, just annoyance because you didn’t understand the custom.
2.       Taking care of repeat customers. The hotel we stayed at was in a semi-residential neighborhood. There were a lot of regular customers in the restaurants who lived in the area. Did they get preferential service over the tourists? Of course, and rightly so. They are a recurring source of income for the business. Again, not rude, just smart business.
3.       Being left in peace. The number of times an American waitress at an Applebee’s will ask you if you need anything over the course of a 30 minute meal, 37. The number of times a waiter in Paris will ask if you need anything over a 2.5 hour meal, 3. If you need something, just get their attention and it will be taken care of, don’t expect them to chew your food for you.

As a student of sales, I connected the dots and wondered how many of us lose sales because we are not understanding our customers, or they are not understanding us. Do we think they are rude, do they think we are? Is that rudeness really just misunderstanding or priorities?

I'm Rude too...

How do we solve this? Set expectations. If you are selling, tell the client how your process normally goes. We have a meeting, a demo, I present a contract if it looks like there is a fit, we have another meeting to get the signed contract. If you state this to the client, they will not be looking for pricing right away, they may ask for it, but they won’t be expecting it. If buying, do the same. Set expectations. This is how we buy. We want a proposal, then a demo, then you can meet the stakeholders, then we will expect a hands on trial, then we buy. If the salesman doesn’t want to sell that way, he can pass, if he does want to sell, he will know not to call the CEO on day 3.

Oh, the food and beer, were awesome…

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Business Travel Demo

Let’s say you are packing for a business trip and you can only take a carry-on. I can see the guys nodding yes and the girls wondering what they are going to do about shoes. Right away we can see a difference in how people pack. What you think is essential, I see as optional at best, and frivolous at worse. So what are the essentials? Well, it depends…

 What kind of meeting is it? Formal? Casual? Business casual? Where is it? In the South? North? West Coast? Winter? Summer? Every one of these items may effect what you pack. It is the same with your demos.

For every demo, there is a perfect combination of things we should show and things we shouldn’t. In 25 years of demoing, I’ve had that happen maybe a dozen times. These were the times the demo was packed just right. Most of the time I forget to pack something, or drag out that old sweater I never seem to need but can’t leave at home. Just because the demo isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, or even great.

What makes the difference between a demo that is perfect, great and good? Thinking about the demo and packing correctly. As I said before, packing perfectly is hard, but there is a trick you can use. When I pack for a business trip I always do two things. One, I travel in business attire, I have had airlines lose carry-on luggage before. When you land at midnight and have a seven o’clock presentation, I can tell you there are no stores open, and wearing a Black Sabbath tee shirt, shorts and flip flops will give you less credibility than you would think… Two, I pack an emergency kit. It is a little bag that has a little bit of everything in it. Safety pins, duct tape, eye glass screwdriver, couple of wire ties… lots of stuff… It has saved my trip, let it save your demo too.

Now maybe a wire tie will fix your demo, but what I have in my demo emergency kit are workflows. Smooth, slick, logical workflows. These workflows are generic enough to cover a lot of bases if your “custom” demo script missed the mark for some reason. You may have packed for San Fran and ended up going to San Antonio.

Plan your trip, check the weather, pack your bag and plan on something to go wrong and your trip will always be successful. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Small Business is Huge

As many of you know, my wife and I are new pet owners. We rescued a 7 week old puppy that is now nearly 5 months old. Through some of the trials and tribulations of being a parent to our furry family I have again seen why small business cannot be replaced.

Ben, our puppy, has developed a food allergy and we needed to change his food. (His blog is here: We looked for food that his vet recommended and the trainer recommended at some of the large national pet stores. I must say, I love taking Ben there. He visits everyone and has a great time. Prices are good, I get email coupons, people are friendly, but…

We stopped by our local pet store that I had forgotten was even there. It had just been purchased by a local business woman who owns another pet store. The staff was more than helpful as we found exactly what we needed. In addition, the prices were the same or cheaper than I was used to at the chains on most items.

We purchased a bag of food and were assured that if we had any issue, to bring it back, no problem. Only after I left, I realized that I didn’t get the sale price that was a couple of dollars less. Not really a big deal, but money is money. It was clear after a couple feedings that this food was not helping. I headed back to the store to exchange it, waiting for a hassle. It never happened.

I grabbed another bag of food and a couple of cans of canned food, so I expected to pay for the cans and still not get the sale price on the bag of food. The clerk said, the owner over charged you when you bought that bag yesterday, so you total is $.50. Yup, I’m a customer for life. I would never expected her to know that or remember, or care, she did. Would the people at the nation chain? I think not.

Funny how we will buy an eight dollar coffee from a national chain on our drive to another national chain to save a buck on an item we could have bought right up the street next to the local coffee place where we could have purchased a coffee for less money…

Small business is the backbone of the free enterprise system and I am proud to support them as they support me.

If you are in the Albany NY area, visit the Health Pet Center at their Troy or their Delmar location.

237 N Greenbush Rd Troy, NY 12180

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Subtitle, Does social media marketing pay?

I read about GM pulling their paid ads off of Facebook after marketing executives determined the ads had little impact on consumers. Here is a news flash GM, nether do your cars. OK, maybe that is harsh. But, it seems to me that a newly organized company who had a large (but not large enough) IPO would not release this information right before Facebook’s IPO.

GM is a company that needed a government bailout to stay afloat, and then has still not been able to raise their stock price to a point where the tax payers can break even. We need to be able to sell our stock at $43.67 and GM stock is at 21.42 today. So I don’t think I am going to listen too much to them talking down a profitable new media company like Facebook.

What does it mean? Well there are two points. Does the marketing work, and why go public.

Does social media marketing work? Yes and no. Remember Social Media marketing is still marketing, and some marketing is good, and some, not so good. Think Super Bowl ads. Some are catchy, well designed ads that actually talk about the product or service. Some are funny, with no connection to a product or service I can see, and some just suck. So some of these are good marketing decisions and some are not, but you can’t say placing an ad during the Super Bowl is just good, or just bad.

I believe Social Media marketing works when you can generate a buzz about a product or service. Getting spikes and having something go viral is key to social media. It is hard to get enough people to get so excited about a car that this process can happen. How many people that use facebook have an Apple product versus a GM product? I think that is the issue.

The why go public? Attention. Trying to create the viral effect I mentioned above, in and with the media they know, old media. Simple as that.

The real winners will be companies who understand how to add social media into their existing marketing strategy effectively. Not a company that can’t track an increase in sales to click ads in a social media platform.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Commoditization Commode

What makes you or your company unique? What services or products do you provide that are really different? Have you added products and services just because the other guy has them? What makes you stand out from the herd?

I have noticed a trend in the IT Services/Managed Services space that I find disturbing. Not disturbing like childhood obesity, disturbing like we are making it harder for the consumer to tell us apart. It is a bad case of the me toos… You do that? Me too! You sell that? Me too! You have a widget? Me too!

I understand that imitation is the highest form of flattery and if something is working for one vendor in the industry, it should work for another, however... If you are adding a marketing plan, Facebook page, Google+ page, Pinterest, training, or anything else because the other guy is doing it, you need to stop, take a breath, and make a good business decision for your own business.

Maybe following the herd leaders isn’t the right thing to do, and maybe is. They may have discovered the tried and proven path to market. If so, still try and be unique. Do not become a commodity. When you buy milk, do you always buy the same brand? 2%, organic, in a paper carton, but whose? I don’t generally care, and that is their fault for not making me care, or telling me why their milk is better and worth the extra 45 cents a gallon.

So what is the real issue here? Money. It is easy to extract higher profit from a client when you wrap products and services together is an easy to pay subscription model. Unless, brand X seems just like yours and it is 15% less… Once you are perceived as a commodity you will be shopped.

This is the huge trend in IT Services and the rush of products moving into the cloud only makes it easier. Bad news, all the major players are spending millions marketing their solution to your clients via mass media. Your solution is being compared to what they think Microsoft, Cisco, Apple and Google can offer them, how are you different? Better? You better have an answer when your prospects ask you.

Don’t allow you and your company to be flushed with the other companies acting like commodities out there. Know your clients, know your products, know your services, know your costs, and know your uniqueness.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mowing Sales

As those of you who read my blog regularly know, my blog ideas can come from anywhere. Today it came from mowing the grass. I’m an efficient, conservative, effective worker. Some, like my wife, might say lazy. So I mow my yard in the easiest way for me, which is having the longest straight lines possible. That is diagonal in the front and horizontal in the back.

While paying attention to cutting the grass, I realized I like to sell like I like to mow. NO, not lazy… And they call me a smart aleck… I was thinking efficient. Taking the longest path possible before I have to stop or turn. That makes the process efficient with less stops and starts.

While this is fairly easy with your yard and the mower, how can you see the “grass” you have to cut in your sales process? Ask. When you are doing your evaluation, needs analysis, checklist, whatever you call it, ask about their process. Don’t be surprised if they lie or omit some of the truth. Based on what you have discovered about the prospect, based on what you know about customers who use the product or service you are selling, and based on your experience, you should be able to have a good idea on the long path.

Sometimes it is top down, sometimes bottom up, sometimes it starts with a demo, and sometimes never showing the product. Whatever the longest path to the nearest obstruction is, take it.

Self-propelled, push, riding, reel, rotary, mulching or bagging, take the longest path you can to get done the quickest you can. Oh, and watch out for the gnome…

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why BYOD Security Matters

I was reading a story by Ian Paul on PCWorld on the Android Trojan NotCompatible. You can read it here. There is one reason this Trojan was written, to exploit BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). As Ian states, ”…it is not a threat if you use common sense..”. Every IT security expert can now sleep easy knowing their end users always behave this way, oh wait…they don’t.

Why did I bring up BYOD? BYOD is a hot trend that solves a lot of issues for IT directors and end users, and creates a lot of additional issues for companies that embrace BYOD without addressing the security requirements. What are the base level security measures needed for networked equipment? The devices need to be checked for viruses, malicious code, software exploits, and user rights.

This is hard enough to do if you have control of every device on your network, patch all the operating systems, keep the virus definitions up to date, keep all the other software patched (Adobe Acrobat, Office, Flash, Java, Etc.), control the users access to data and potential sites with malicious code, and stopping the end user from being the security hole by writing down passwords or sharing them.

Once you start allowing your end users to connect their personal devices to your business network, you have lost most of that ability. Without implementing proper security to handle these “un-managed” devices, you may lose control of your network and vital customer and business data.

Is BYOD bad? No, it is inevitable. So just like security measures had to be taken to make Wireless networks secure, measures need to be taken to make you employee’s devices safe to connect to your network. Don’t shortcut the process, horse and then cart. Security and then BYOD.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Sport of Sales

Is Sales a game? Is it a sport? If so, does it have rules? All major sports have 3 distinctive things. Opposing sides, rules, and referees. Oh, and as I learned later in life, a sport has to allow the other team to be able to prevent you from winning, otherwise it is a competition. Hockey has a goaltender to stop the other team from scoring (it is a sport), Golf does not have holetenders (it is a competition). So I ask you again, is sales a sport?

My answer is Yes, it is a sport.
There are competitors. Often more than one team at a time, but there is definitely competition.   
There are rules. These rules are set by the prospect (also the referee), most of the time. In the absence of these rules the game is governed by “common law rules”. Common law rules include things like being ethical and honest, you know, like the golden rule. Sell like you would like to be sold to. There is obviously a lot of gray area here as you know. Never be surprised if the referee, posing as a prospect, throws a flag when you get into the gray area.
If you present right, you can even block an opponent’s shot. By placing your solution between the opposition and the goal, you have the ability to block their attempt. Positioning can be everything.

If you are playing sales like a sport while others are playing like a competition, you have a huge advantage. However, if you play overly aggressive, break, or bend the rules, you may be penalized. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monkey in the Middle

Imagine a monkey with a bunch of bananas. Now imagine a monkey with a bunch of bananas trying to defend them from another monkey. I’m sure he would put the bananas behind him and keep his eyes on the other monkey trying to steal his bananas. Well now imagine a monkey with a bunch of bananas and some other monkey friends helping him to try to defend the bananas from another monkey. The first monkey has his eyes on the monkey trying to steal the bananas, but who is watching the monkey friends? This is the problem with IT network security.

I saw an article today written about a security survey provided by Bit9. You can read the story here. There were a lot of interesting numbers in the survey that stuck out to me. Most interesting to me? Nearly 2/3rds of IT security professionals worldwide think Anonymous or another hacktivist group will attack them in the next 6 months, but only 1/3rd of the same people feel an employee is a likely threat.

It seems to me we are watching the wrong monkeys. Not that we can ignore the “professional hacker”, of course we have to secure the network. Firewalls, NAC, VPNs, all play a part, but later in the article it is reported that only 11% of the security professionals worry about the common attack methods used by hactivist groups. The biggest fear of attack by 62% of the IT security professionals surveyed is targeted attacks. Targeted attacks are things like malware and Phishing attacks.

So unless an IT department is installing Malware, it seems to me that this is being loaded by the end user. So while watching the monkey trying to steal our bananas, and trying to keep our company off the evening news, we let the other monkeys steal our bananas, and put our company on the evening news.

Ford Motor Company used to have a motto in the 80s, “Quality is job one”. Today all companies should have the motto, “Security is job one”. Security is everyone’s job, not just the security division of the IT department. What do you secure? The PCs? The servers? Hardware? Software? I say the data. We live in a world of always on, always connected, always working.

So however we access the data, wherever we access the data, whoever accesses the data, we have to secure the data. Everyone has the secure the data, from the CEO to the janitorial staff. More sensitive data is viewed inappropriately because of passwords on sticky notes or non-shredded business documents than hactivist attacks.

Watch the bananas Monkey, watch the bananas…