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.