Category Archives: “Foots in the door”

Sales tactics for establishing new customer relationships by starting small.

The Power of Testimonials

When you provide a proposal to a customer, or ask a decision maker to have that first meeting, do you leverage the power of testimonials? Everyone will tell a customer they can execute and fulfill all their hopes and dreams, but how does the customer know if you’ve got the goods? The best sales professionals have a plethora of testimonials on Linked In (if you don’t, you’d better catch up) — why not leverage those testimonials outside of Linked In to demonstrate your credibility? There’s no reason you can’t include a testimonial in a proposal or an email – why not make the most of these kind words. Take it a step further and include a “view my profile” button your customer can click on to see a real person’s profile on Linked In.  By doing a simple <print-screen> and a little cut and paste in microsoft paint (accessories), you can include a testimonial that looks like the below:

Note, it’s a good idea to give your testimonials a “heads up”, but my guess is they won’t mind since they’ve already provided the testimonial. One of the biggest components of converting a prospect to a customer is convincing them you can execute – these testimonials serve to that end.

Good Selling

Tom

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Sales Magnet

Here’s a trick, compliments of yours truly, to capture critical contacts with whom you can further your sales efforts.  Create a group on Linkedin out of thin air. I just created a group called “CIO Executive Assistants Network.” Before doing so, I went on to cooltext.com and slapped together the following logo in two minutes:

Next, I joined every Executive Admin/Assistant Group on Linkedin – some of which automatically accept me. The next step is to go onto these groups on Linkedin and promote my new group – targeted specifcally to EA’s that support CIO’s. This is a more specific niche than any other groups currently existing on Linkedin. Within hours, members have started to trickle in. I bet within a month I’ll have over 100 members.

Here’s the cool thing: Every time a member joins the group, it gets broadcasted to everyone in their network. Over time this creates a snowball like effect. I’ve executed this game plan successfully in the past with the NorVaya Linkedin BP Network (many who read this blog are a member).

Mind you, this isn’t a “trick”. In order to pull this off (and not betray the trust of these members) you’re going to have to use this group altruistically. This doesn’t mean you can’t also advance your cause by controlling the conversation and establishing yourself as a trusted figure.

So what’s the endgame? Access. As we all know, access to decision makers is half the battle. Using the above strategy, you can get very creative — sky’s the limit!

If you like ideas like this, follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/convergencesoup

Good Selling!

Tom

A “smart pill” for your business?

If you learned there was a pill that could improve your cognition, memory, intelligence, motivation,  and concentration — would you take it? In the movie Limitless, the character of Eddie Morra (played by Bradley Cooper) is confronted with precisely this dilemma when he runs into an old friend on the streets of New York. The friend claims to be working for a drug company about to bring such a pill to market. Eddie, a struggling author freshly dumped by his girlfriend and late on his rent, decides to take the magic pill called NZT-48 in a “what do I have to lose” moment.

As you may have guessed, the pill has profound effects on Eddie. He’s able to access virtually 100% of his brain allowing him to effortlessly write the first 90 pages of his book within hours to the amazement and awe of his editor. As he continues to take the drug, Eddie turns his life around overnight. With his newfound genius, Eddie can access and analyze diverse knowledge and data within his brain to write brilliant prose, speak foreign languages, play complex Chopin pieces, build a fortune by day-trading stocks and even woo beautiful women.

While this “clear pill” is a product of Hollywood fiction, it may interest you to know there is in fact an evolving genre of drugs and nutraceuticals referred to as nootropics or smart drugs. These drugs are thought to work by (a) altering the brain’s supply of neurochemicals; (b) improving the brain’s oxygen supply; and (c) stimulating nerve growth. According to NZT-48’s fictional (yet hilariously realistic) website, the “clear pill” elevates receptivity and synaptic sharing between the hippocampus, the amygdala and the striatum.

While the current or future efficacy of such a smart pill is debatable, I’d like to pose a different question. What if a “smart pill” existed for your business? What if your business was like Eddie Mora with many of the same problems: struggling to go to market with a new product, being dumped by customers, and struggling with cash flow?

It seems to me, there’s a lot of consilience between a brain and a business. Using the components that NZT-48 targets, we have the following divisions of the brain.

The hippocampus is responsible for forming, sorting and storing memories. Not only does it file and store memories, it connects related memories together to give them meaning. If we imagine your business is a brain, the hippocampus represents the information that is vital to your business.

The amygdala, located deep within the medial temporal lobes, is the engine that manages social interaction enabling integration and cooperation with others.. Interestingly, the size of the amygdala directly correlates to size and complexity of a person’s social networks.  Continuing the assumption that your business is a brain, the amygdala represents your interaction with associates, clients and vendors.

The striatum, the largest part of the basal ganglia, is largely responsible for automatic movements we make without thinking. In the context of a business, the striatum represents business processes.

If we set out to reverse engineer a smart pill for your business, we would have to unlock the maximum potential of all of your capital and assets (human and otherwise) by more effectively sharing information and resources.  In order to do this, your smart pill would have to do the following:

• Increase access to internal and external information
• Speed the delivery of this information so better decisions can be made in real time
• Allow fewer people to do more work by removing internal friction.
• Integrate business processes with lightening fast communication..

Of course, this magical pill doesn’t exist –yet another invention of Hollywood fiction. Or is it? As if I myself have just ingested the controversial transparent apothecary, I’m suddenly able to access obscure information deep inside my brain. In fact, it occurs to me that there is indeed a business-grade smart pill and it’s called Unified Communications.

If UC is a smart pill for enterprises and not all smart pills are created equal, then Avaya Unified Communications is the equivalent of NZT-48. Avaya’s Aura architecture speeds information delivery by allowing users to instantly lock into the quickest mode of communication for every situation via presence based, multi-mode communications. As a result, vital information travels through the business like electrical charges traveling at the speed of light through Eddie’s brain. With all of the right information accessed at the right time, line of business managers are able to make quick decisions in real time while mortal competition flounders with human latency and inefficiency.

Referring to the three divisions of the brain which NZT-48 targets, UC facilitates the rapid flow of vital information through social networks to enable better, faster decisions. But what about the striatum of your company: business processes? This is where Avaya Aura separates itself from garden variety nootropics.

If there was an easy way to integrate the flow of information not only through social networks, but also with business processes.. well, then we just might have the holy grail of smart drugs. If we had the ability to “plug in” communication actions to business processes, we could further take human latency out of the business by not letting people “get in the way” of what needs to be done based on real time changes in the business. It seems that this would require a sort of synapse that would transmit a signal resulting from information (events), directly to a business process flow which could choose the best mode of communication given the information at hand.

I know you won’t be surprised to learn that Avaya, through intense R&D, offers exactly this type of synapse, or rather an SDK (software developer kit) to rapidly integrate business applications with communication. This SDK is called ACE and it stands for Agile Communications Environment. It is the secret ingredient the boys in the kitchen baked into this NZT-48 and it can take your business to a level no other UC platform can.
By ingesting this technology, might not your business make better, faster decisions? Would it not unlock the full potential of all of your people, assets and information? Would you not be able to bring better products and services to market faster than your competition? Respond to changes in the market faster? Avert supply chain issues by instantly taking corrective action? In business as in life, what else is there?

“I don’t have delusions of grandeur. I have a recipe for grandeur.” – Eddie Morra

Unlike NZT-48, Avaya Aura UC can be purchased through an Avaya Business Partner near you. What you do with it is limitless.

-Tom Walker

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A New Spin on Teleworker ROI

Looking for a new way to justify the value of teleworking solutions that you sell (Avaya One-X, VPN Phones, Juniper VPN Gateways, Sipera UC Sec,  Aruba VBN, Call Accounting, etc)? This recent post on Lifehacker explains how each mile not traveled to work puts $795 per year back in an employee’s pocket. By helping your clients develop a secure, managed and measured teleworking program, you allow them to give their best employees a nice pay boost so they can keep them from fleeing to greener pasteurs. Will employees agree with this math? Probably not.. but you need to have a way to put a number on the value of teleworking to an employee and this is a good start.

Of course, there’s plenty of studies that have debunked the myth that at home workers are less productive — in fact most studies show increased productivity. Often, time not spent commuting is spent working on your behalf. Given the option, most employees do whats in the best interest of their employer.

Happy Selling,

Tom

Innovative Cloud Angle

It occurred to me early on in the explosion of cloud services , that there could be  a real synergy for economic development agencies and commercial developers. Both are trying to attract businesses to locate in their communities in the face of cutt-throat competition. By partnering with economic development agencies and developers, you can help them brand their own cloud infrastructure which they can offer to prospective companies that are weighing where to relocate or expand their business.

The value to the corporation is that they acquire technology and services they need as a digestable opex instead of a massive capex. More than that, because the city or developer has greater economies of scale than any one company, the prospective company can get those services cheaper than if they were to acquire these services on their own (at least that’s the spin.)

The best part about this is you are finding opportunities at a much earlier stage in the CFO’s decision process. Instead of the CFO making geographic location and technology decisions independently, he’s exposed to a superior holistic value proposition that nobody else is offering — a value proposition that gives the economic development agency, developer and cloud provider (or private cloud builder) an unfair advantage.

Recently, I had an opportunity to pitch this idea to a friend of mine who is an economic development consultant (he works with cities and communities to attract new businesses) and so far, this has been received extremely well by the clients he’s suggested this to.  One particular opportunity is in the works with a very large developer to attract call centers.

This could go a lot of different directions, but the net/net is the cloud (whether private or public) gives enterprises access to economies of scale they can’t build independently. By cities and developers offering their own cloud services (through a partnership with you), they are able to change the conversation and make other cities and developers irrelevant.  It also gives them the opportunty to target specific clusters (vertical markets) that need the same type of foundations (services) to drive critical mass and referenceable success.

Want to kick this around more? Shoot holes in my strategy?  tom.walker@catalysttelecom.com

The Enterprise Exchange Carrier

If you want to differentiate yourself in the enterprise converged infrastructure space, I recommend adding this to your vernacular. Gosh, you might even try to trademark the term “EXC” or “Enterprise Exchange Carrier”.  I think these three simple words crystallize where technology is pushing your customers. As you know, a Local Exchange Carrier is what we refer to generically as the telephone company or service provider, whether it’s AT&T, Verizon, Windstream, CenturyLink, etc..

The value proposition that I am proposing innovative solution providers adopt is that of an elite solution architect who helps enterprises build a carrier-grade network. Why carrier grade you ask? First of all, you are focusing on the segment of the market that is willing to (and needs to) pay a premium for higher performance and resiliency. But the most important reason for a carrier-grade network is this: Whether your customers like it or not, recent explosive trends in the market and technology landscape are requiring them to assume the role and burden of a carrier.  For instance:

  • Consumer devices like iPhones, Android Phones, Tablets, not to mention laptops multiplying at exponential rates. Employees, Clients and Partners are bringing these devices into the enterprise and not only expect them to work, are more efficient and productive if they do work.
  • Service Providers are already capping, throttling back, or limiting consumer bandwidth consumption. Unlimited data plans are like ponzi schemes waiting to unravel. There just isn’t enough 3G and 4G bandwidth to go around.  This leaves device owners only one place to go, especially when they’re in the enterprise.
  • Enterprises hence become the defacto service provider (aka carrier) and can do so more efficiently via 802.11, BUT they have to be smart and secure in the way they do it.  This requirement penetrates almost the entirety of the network architecture and requires expertise beyond what a typical point-solution VAR offers.
  • Enterprises are needing to provide the lightening fast, ubiquitous  wired and wireless transport with QoS and security to support applications that increase efficiency and productivity. This trend is seeded with consumer apps like Skype and Facetime which users will expect to “just work.”
  • Increasingly, enterprises will face competitive pressure to scale access of the network while at the same time be burdened with necessity for control and security.  Downtime in almost any industry is not an option.
In the telephony world over the years, we’ve had a question that identifies whether a company has a call center: “Do you have people that call your company?” BAM! You have a call center! (even if you didn’t know it).  I think a similar question exists in the context of being an EXC.  “Do you have employees, patients, clients, partners who need to communicate while on your campus or in your enterprise?” Congratulations customer! You’ve just joined the exciting world of being an Enterprise Exchange Carrier! Now let’s turn this responsibility into an opportunity, not a threat to your organization.

Frankie Says Relax

I know, in a confusing field of many strong wireless players, it’s hard to understand where each plays. For instance, what IS Avaya’s story? I’ve been trying to figure this out for awhile and I think I’ve finally succeeded.  To sell Avaya’s WLAN, you have to sell the Avaya architecture and here’s why:  Avaya is the only manufacturer besides Cisco who  sells an end to end network, voice and video solution with one unique difference: Avaya leverages a “split-plane” architecture which integrates control, management, security and guest management of the (a) wireless and (b) wired network on the same plane.

Don’t worry, I’m not smart enough to go into much more detail but the net/net is you aren’t managing two discrete networks. Also, Wireless traffic travels on the wired infrastructure without the need to terminate in wireless controllers.  This means greater speed and simplicity. While others tout a unified solution, they’re not mentioning the fact that their WLAN is really just bolted on, much like Frankie’s head.

My guess is you’ll see Juniper, who’s already getting great traction with Trapeze, take the same approach. In the scrappy world of nuanced WLAN value prop’s,  a truly integrated solution may help Avaya and Juniper make a quantum market share leap.

Lastly, I’ll just mention what I’m telling every partner I talk to: To my knowledge, WLAN is the fastest growing segment in Catalyst’s (and probably ScanSource’s) overall business. Right now, we have a perfect storm of circumstances that are causing enterprises to upgrade their wireless network. I can guarantee if you aren’t talking to your customers about WLAN,  your competition is. The numbers don’t lie.

Good Selling,

Tom

Table Stakes

We all know that IP Telephony and Unified Communications are going to see a continued decline in margin. Depending on your views of acceptable profit margin, you might consider these table stakes. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of buzz in the marketplace about CEBP (Communication Enabled Business Processes) and everyone seems to agree this is where the high margin pro services action will be in the future. The problem is wrapping your brain around HOW to build a successful CEBP practice. You know communications, but you don’t know the Business Processes. Thus, figuring out how to find CEBP opportunities is too much of a leap for most of us.

Given this challenge, why not work it the other direction. Instead of connecting the dots by starting with the communications, why not zero in on the business processes first?  If you wanted to build a robust CEBP business, why not compile a list of business process software applications. Figure out which leading software applications are focused on business processes. Google “business process”, “bpm software”,  “isv” and similar phrases. You could even go to ScanSource’s own SUMO portal to search thousands of niche ISV’s by vertical and applications.

Once you have your list, reach out to the companies (both software companies and software integrators) and explain the opportunity to hook communication, presence, resource identification and collaboration actions into business processes because of your very special, rare development expertise (no need to mention ACE, let that be our secret.)

Once you’ve done this, call on these organizations and invite them to participate in your very own CEBP roster. This type of partnership extends your reach into their customer base and gives you some hooks to keep your competition out of your prospects and accounts. My guess is many of these software companies will love the idea of further differentiating themselves with a new value proposition. Don’t worry about doing the development work on the front end. How can you since every engagement will be custom? Build it, market it and see what happens.  If you aren’t planning for this now, when?

Lastly, as it relates to wrapping your brain around CEBP – here’s a great blog post on UC Strategies by Marty Parker.

What say you?

Tom

Social Media and Alter Ego (aka Don’t be a blow-hard)

Let’s face it, nobody wants to read on facebook about your whiz-bang technology. Think about it. How interested are you in reading on facebook or twitter, your insurance agent’s opinions on sufficient life insurance? Or your plumber’s new 24 hour rooter service? Chances are, your bloviations on cloud technology and WAN acceleration are equally dull to your target audience.. at least in a social media setting.

This is a hotly debated discussion I often have with VARs: Does social media really “work” for our industry? Isn’t social media geared more towards consumer products like Apple, Zappos, Fat Tire Beer, and the like? 

My take is one of common sense. People put their eyeballs on social media, largely for some level of enjoyment. Do you think people really enjoy understanding how your SSL VPN has a lower TCO? They don’t. We’re all guilty of this. Heck, this very blog post may be guilty of it. I think there is yet another way to approach this — create an alter ego. Your company is Clark Kent — you need a Social Media Superman. Something that connects with your audience on a personal level.

This alter ego would be both a departure from your brand, but also have a connection to your brand. It would have a sort of theme or mantra.  Here’s some ideas:

Lifehacker is a popular website/blog because they include some really creative, counter-intuitive ideas, most of which can be implemented for little or no money. It demonstrates you’re not just trying to make money off the audience. You could include info on hacks to manage the network while you’re on vacation, free up bandwidth, tighten up security with freeware, get a better discount from carriers, you get the idea.

– Everybody cares about their career. If you focus content around how IT professionals can advance their careers and up their marketability, you’ve got an audience. People enjoy making more money and visualizing their ascent up the corporate ladder.

– Everybody likes to laugh. Sometimes, we really need to laugh. Sharing humor that is relevant to the industry strikes the perfect balance. There’s a lot of free tools out there like www.stripcreator.com to create free comic strips. Or you could create animation via goanimate. I know of one VAR  that makes fake onion-esque news articles that spread virally. Here’s an example of a comic strip I created.

It’s possible to do all of the above while at the same time creating a path back to you for a discussion that leads to more business.

Really, it’s just common sense. It shouldn’t be all about you or the junk you sell, rather it should be all about your audience. Not many VARs have cracked the code here which is good. You’ve got a great opportunity to make social media work for you while your competition languishes.

What do you think?

Tom

Cloudy With a Chance of Pain…

 

Pain for whom? Pain for YOU if you aren’t paying attention to the Cloud. Friday, I wrote about the idea of using Google Apps to short-circuit Microsoft’s plan for inter-stellar domination in the UC space.  Today, my proposed strategy received a worthy retort by early signs that Microsoft just may be getting it right with their Microsoft 365 solution (example.) Nonetheless, I think it’s safe to assume we have a battle royale on our hands between Microsoft and Google which will have far reaching impact on your business as a UC and/or infrastructure VAR. 

The real question isn’t which solution is better, but  how do both cloud migration scenarios play out in the context of your business? If your clients migrate to Google’s platform, how does that impact your ability to sell UC and/or infrastructure. Should you hasten that migration to block Microsoft from picking up the UC piece? Will customers trust business-critical, real-time voice and UC to the public cloud? How can you play in the context of customer’s migration to Office 365?

Or do you just continue to take a frontal, block and tackle approach on UC opportunities as they arise (I hope not)? What is your story? Where do you play? What’s your vision? What problems can you mitigate? What perils do your clients face with both Microsoft and Google? How can you squeeze money out of this situation? Why does anyone listen to Lady Ga Ga?

At the turn of the century, we saw Cisco stealthily gain UC marketshare by planting ISR’s (Integrated Services Routers) at branch locations right under out noses, only to turn up voice on said ISR’s while we were snoozing. What we are seeing now is very similar in that the choice they make now (or have already made) on messaging and collaboration will provide a path of least resistance to UC.

Have an opinion on this with your customers. Understand the advantages and perils of cloud vs premise, private cloud vs public cloud, google vs. microsoft. Find a way to (a) insert yourself in your customer’s migrations (see my post yesterday) and (b) direct them down a path that provides them flexibility and you account control.

This will be a hotly debated proposition for your customers. But,as they say: no pain, no gain.

Tom