Hey there, my digital friends,

I took a break from educating myself to my detriment.  I’ll not call it a “resolution”, I came to this decision while breaking one of my more unrealistic of those “resolutions” of 2017.  I’ve resolved to do this nonetheless.  This is (in my universe) “The Year of the Dave”.  In my head every morning I see a  paper Chinese Restaurant menu, and on the colorful wheel of  years, sandwiched in between the caricatures of Monkey and Dog is a cartoon drawing of “Medium Dave” (halfway between “Fat Dave” & “Skinny Dave”). You can’t get better if you’re not getting better.  I’m trying not to waste any time – weekends, evenings, early mornings, I’m at my best when I’m constantly reading.  Podcasts in the car, articles saved on my iPhone and kindle, Fast Company or Forbes in my backpack for times when I have to wait or have a few minutes when I walk into a meeting.  You can fill your mind with some really good stuff if you’re not spending time commenting on recycled memes on the interwebs. 

But my best advice? Once you get that audience with your target? We’ve all heard the adage that “you have two ears and one mouth… listen twice as much as  you talk”?  Well, that’s true with one modification.  Listen 75%.  And the other 25%? No matter how much you think you know, make 75% of THAT 25% about asking probing or clarifying questions, and stating back a summary at the end.  Take good notes, capture the actions, confirm or clarify at the end, and follow-up.

Here are a few articles that have a couple of good concepts in them about making meetings their most valuable.

Scheduling Meetings

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-set-up-a-meeting-with-any-executive/

https://hbr.org/2011/03/scheduling-a-meeting-the-right

http://www.forbes.com/sites/homaycotte/2015/10/13/how-to-score-a-meeting-with-a-busy-executive/#358fecd33287

Preparing for a Meeting

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

Read about the company online. Look them up on Yahoo Finance (thanks Greg), look at their website’s “about” and “investors” sections, look at their Wikipedia page.  Social media stalk your prospect OR existing customer.  If a customer? You should AT LEAST follow them on LinkedIn.  If they have a blog or a podcast? Read or listen.  Learn about them, don’t be a creeper, but understand what they like.  And unless you get to know them personally and your politics or religion align? Both are fairly off limits. Use good judgement here.

http://www.salesengine.com/sales/prepare-for-a-sales-meeting/

– Build a meeting agenda,

– Make sure you have business cards

– Send an email confirming the meeting beforehand

– Do your research about the person with whom you’re meeting

– If you’re taking lunch in, confirm whether the group has any dietary restrictions

– If possible, make reservations, or if doing lunch onsite/having a working lunch, preorder. It helps to ask the customer which they would prefer, especially if you have any technical content or project documentation you have to review.

– If you’re taking someone with you, make sure you fill out a meeting template – they need to know who they’re meeting with, if and what they need to prepare for, and your objectives for the meeting.  Having something clearly documented, and having a pre-call, helps them help you.

– Make sure you verbally, never via email, tell them about any quirks the customer might have, or any behavior they don’t like.

– Know your customer’s dress expectations. When in doubt, business professional is almost never a bad thing.  Caveat – some customers HATE ties, and if you know it’s jeans day, and you can pull it off, jeans are ok as long as they’re nice and professional. I tend to always wear a sport coat or a nice sweater. Stay away from tennis shoes… unless, of course, you’re going to play tennis.

– If requesting a demo OR a presentation, state expectations clearly in an email, and get confirmation that the responsible parties know your asks and agree to deliver them. Never wait until the day before or the day of.

https://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/companysearch.htmlIf publicly traded, look up this free resource for company filings.  Research is easy with these “more than 21 million [company] filings”.

http://finance.yahoo.com/

http://www.linkedin.com

http://www.google.com/finance

Selling to Executives

On this one, you have busy executives right at your own company.  Ask THEM what THEY look for in vendors, and think about how you would sell your solution or services to them if you had to meet their objectives.  Ask your best customers about what THEY expect from vendors – ask them that early in the relationship, then KEEP asking them.  People love to provide coaching. It’s one of the very best ways of learning who they are, and what their real expectations are.  The visceral honesty that comes from opening up and being a teacher.  From talking about yourself.

Take your best sales executive to as many meetings as they will give you time to do.  Learn from them directly as much as you can.  When they can’t go with you, or you need someone with a different skillset, use whatever Subject Matter Experts you have at your disposal. I PROMISE you that key executives that care about company sales performance shouldn’t be upset with you for asking them to go to a quality, qualified meeting (and neither will your SMEs) If they are? Sorry, friend, you’re working at the wrong company.  They can’t go to all of them, but it never hurts to ask.  Just be clear about what kind of a meeting it is, who/roles that will attend, their titles and your key objectives. Then make sure you control what you can.

Meeting checklist

– At the beginning of the meeting, right after introductions, review your meeting objectives/agenda and ask for their objectives & expectations.  Make note of them.

– During the meeting, make sure you both prioritize their asks (unless they’re totally irrelevant, then schedule something else as a follow-up to address those items), and captured (and addressed) any questions and actions that come up during the dialog).

– At the end of the meeting, clarify with the customer that you’ve hit the mark. 

– Develop hand signals, kicks under the table, or tic looking winks for those aggravating times when someone starts babbling on and on about a solution that your customer told you on your precall they think is full of holes.

– Stay off your computer or your phone.  Unless you’re taking notes with it (and they know it) or they’ve asked you to look something up, pay attention, even if you’re not the primary presenter. You might just learn something. Oh, and your customer might just know you actually DO care about solving for their challenges…

– If you didn’t get to something you had on the agenda, either in your summary wrap up, or in your follow-up email, ask them if you need to hit those items.

– At the end of the meeting, review the action items and give them a realistic follow-up action time.  Pad that by at least 20% if not more.  For example, if you intend to send your follow-up email by EOB today? You should tell them, “you’ll have your follow-up email by EOB tomorrow at the latest”. And then? Make SURE you send it today before your head hits the pillow.  In the immortal words of the elusive Steve Barone, “Promise a Neon, Deliver a Porsche” or maybe update that with “Promise a Hyundai, deliver a BMW” for those of you that don’t remember Dodge Neons.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/276330

https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2014/02/selling-to-c-level-executives.html

http://www.rainsalestraining.com/blog/5-to-dos-when-selling-to-senior-executives

Following up on meetings

It sounds so basic, obvious and academic, but how often are we at our best in meeting follow-up? The more I do what I say I’m going to do, the more success I’m going to have. The more I FOLLOW UP the more I’m going to SELL UP. Treat every meeting as gold. If you’re not required to be there, and if you add or receive no value from it? Remove yourself.  If you have to or need to be in the meeting? Treat it with seriousness and respect.  Maintain attention, don’t get distracted, TAKE NOTES, and if you have an action? Follow-up on it as SOON as you can prioritize it.  The longer you wait to follow-up on it, the more of the essence of what you’re supposed to do you lose.

https://www.hubspot.com/sales/follow-up-email-after-meeting-networking

https://hbr.org/2015/11/two-things-to-do-after-every-meeting – Great advice on follow-ups, persistence and sense of urgency!

http://www.salesengine.com/discipline/5-things-you-must-do-the-day-after-meeting-with-a-prospect/

Meeting Note TemplatesBuild a SYSTEM of follow-ups for internal and external meetings.  Here are some interesting ones from the web.  You can use an Excel sheet that you customize and print, or have printed in a binder, OR just make a process for it and follow it.

https://weekdone.com/resources/templates/meeting-minutes-spreadsheet-template

http://www.brighthubpm.com/monitoring-projects/14642-keeping-track-of-your-projects-action-items-in-excel/ – For more complex projects

http://analysistabs.com/excel-templates/mom-minute-meeting-free-download/Think of how our customers would perceive us to be if we sent out transparent and consistent follow-ups in the same format, the same process, every time?

Follow- up, be your best you.

Even the best, most seasoned reps and executives are arguably up to 10x more efficient if they follow a system.  That doesn’t make it boring, it makes you efficient.  I PROMISE you’ll get more done if you do.   

Oh, and find yourself some heroes and some mentors.  Learn from them.  People love to coach. Copy what they do with their business relationships.  Imitation is the best form of flattery. Then think about how you could adapt their success to your style.  THAT’s how you win.

 But I digress.  This was supposed to be me posting a couple of cool links I found.  I could go on about this forever, and likely did. Have a great sales week!

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If you have hospitals, doctors offices, anyone that has a need to protect PHI (protected health information) or ePHI on your account list, this is a really good, concise discussion that I found valuable.  
https://podfanatic.com/podcast/security-insider-podcast-edition/episode/hipaa-hitrust-security-and-their-relationships

Have a great week, happy selling!

Sales is very seldom an event, it’s a process. Build relationships. Create and deliver value.

The greatest way to become disciplined, is to get around disciplined people…

 If you’re not winning, how do you change the paradigm and win?

-Kyle Wilson

Podcast from Ziglar.com

To get on a soapbox for a second, podcasts are free.  They contain real facts, real opinions from real people.  Practitioners in the field. Sure, podcasts are governed by less stringent practices than mainstream media – so may not be as factually correct, and sometimes take bigger liberties, but you actually get more of what people really think.  I’m re-challenging myself to take some of the time that I spend on junk TV, music at the gym (if I ever get there), on listening to talk radio on the commute, to background noise on a flight, and turn it into time spent listening to (and watching) podcasts.  You can find podcasts on just about anything. Time well spent (although be discerning… the fact that anyone CAN have a podcast, means that there is definitely quite a bit of junk to wade through). /RantOff

FYI, this post is about technology sales, although I’m certain that many people can relate to it.

A great guy that I know, Martin Fisher, Twitter @armorguy, is one of the hosts of the Southern Fried Security podcast at http://www.southernfriedsecurity.com.

Yesterday I listened to Episode 176, called “Money Changes Everything” found here http://www.southernfriedsecurity.com/176/.  It’s about getting your internal information security and risk management projects funded.  I think it’s also a must listen as a technology sales person.  Martin is joined by Andy Willingham, @andywillingham, Yvette Johnson @JetSetYvette, and Steve Ragan, @SteveD3.

Here are some of the things that I picked up from listening to this episode:

In this installment, Martin brings up the adage from Glengarry Glen Ross of “Always Be Closing” in the context that it’s important to know what the business is reading about, is concerned about and align it with internal projects, and more importantly align technology with that business need.  Need to understand what the technology your stakeholders are hearing about does.  Real understanding.  Then, “Don’t talk about stuff that doesn’t matter”.

Have multiple “elevator” pitches prepared –  get to know how to best present you and your company to your customers and prospects, to everyone from the influencer, to the decision maker, to the person in charge of purchasing.  Have them handy for engaging with vendor field reps, for vendor SEs.

Pay attention to what Forbes, Business Week and the WSJ has to say about InfoSec (or whatever it is that you’re selling).  If you don’t know what they’re saying, you’re misinformed.  Make the connections, know how to tie technology into business challenge.

Don’t just look at trade news (CRN, CSOOnline, Gartner), look at industry news, business news.  At a macro level, Forbes, Business Week, NYT, WSJ, all of those are great.  But find the vertical publications too – what are financial institution CEOs reading, what do hospital administrators turn to for news and information about how to run a successful hospital?  While they may not talk about phishing, or malware per se, they talk about the business problem.  Whether you’re a salesperson or an executive that is working to “sell” into your customer, or within your organization; your job is to understand how technology can be used to protect your organization against those problems. Those threats. The fact that mainstream media has picked up on this significantly means that it’s a more widely known problem… more pervasive… and it doesn’t just matter to technologists now, this is a problem that people are aware of throughout organizations.   Data Threats are not going away, and this is a unique time to be able to help your customers or your organization protect what’s most important to them.

They also talked about which departments need the solution, and get their support.  This led me to think harder about that one – what if we actually knew for sure the following info, do you think we would make more sales? Better sales?

 

  • Know which departments need the solution
  • Know the impact on the department
  • Know if the department shares the funding burden

 

Think about it – the more departmental support we have, the more we know where the budget comes from, the easier the budget

 

No matter who our primary contact is, we have to stop trying to sell to IT, and start selling to the business.  That’s a game changer.  If you have a customer that has no interest in understanding what the business needs? If they’re reluctant to change their way of thinking? We can help educate them and  build value for them within the organization.  If we can help grow them, great, if not, we’re there to recognize opportunities. Another Glengarry Glen Ross borrow for the phases of the sales process:

Attention – Something bad happened.
Interest – How well are we protected?  How do we prevent this from happening to us?Decision – What should we do?
Action – Validation of investments you’ve already made, or getting the go-ahead to fill the gap.

Good comment – “Cautionary tales are wonderful, but FUD is the devil”. – Don’t make the cautionary tale worse than it is by exaggerating “Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt”, or over-promising what the solution you’re selling will deliver.

Tangible things that people forget about that they can use to get positive attention:

  • Using audit – especially external findings / assessment findings.  Audit findings, non-conformances, observations & negative findings are business risks. Companies, especially publically traded businesses, really care about that.
  • Evolving compliance standards – PCI – DSS is continually getting updated, HIPAA rules are becoming reinterpreted, almost every compliance standard goes through being re-defined and re-evolved.

Interest is all built on relationships.  Early in a customer engagement, relationships on our side are built on expertise power (knowing or thinking that we have superior knowledge in an area).

I don’t want to give you the whole thing – listen to the podcast.  It’s worth it. By the way, I highly suggest subscribing to this podcast and making it a regular listen. If you don’t do that, you’re cheating yourself by not at LEAST listening to this episode.

Sample Podcast Lists

Information Security Podcast Lists

http://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/off-topic/information-security-podcast-roundup-mid-2015-edition/
http://resources.infosecinstitute.com/best-security-podcasts/
https://player.fm/featured/security
https://isc.sans.edu/podcast.html – SANS “StormCasts” & ISC Podcast

General Podcasts

http://www.techinsider.io/38-best-podcasts-in-the-world-2016-3
http://www.buzzfeed.com/scottybryan/podcasts-you-love-2016#.bm25jW8LW
http://www.stitcher.com/stitcher-list/all-podcasts-top-shows
http://www.geekwrapped.com/posts/the-20-best-science-podcasts

I also suggest going to ItunesU and Itunes and check out the educational material and podcasts available there.

 

What podcasts do you listen to? What blogs do you read?

The opinions stated here are my own.  Not endorsed or paid for by any company or government entity.  No animals were harmed in the making of this blog post.  No trees either.  THAT MEANS DON’T PRINT IT.

Being a frequent traveller, (and often travelling to new places, and places that are served by multiple airports) I was looking for a site that would help me figure out the closest airport to the city I was travelling to.  I found a really great site in travelmath.com.

If you travel for business OR pleasure, this is a site that you should DEFINITELY add to your travel favorites both for long-term planning, and short term reference.

From their website description:

“This site provides an online travel calculator to help you find answers quickly.  If you’re planning a trip, you can measure things like travel distance and travel time. To keep your travel budget under control, use the travel cost tools.

You can also browse information on flights including the distance and flight time.  Or use the section on driving to compare the distance by car, or the length of your road trip.

Finally, use the map below or the links on the lower right to lookup an airport, hotel, city, state, country, or zip code. You can use the bookmark button at the top to save any page, or try searching for your exact destination.”

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Happy New Year!  This time of year is the time when we all start off strong – hopefully with good, organized, written goals and a plan to execute on them.  What are your goals?  What are your top areas of focus for this year?  Most importantly, how will you make sure that you continue to execute on them?

I read a great blog yesterday on Creating a Personal Masterplan from personalmba.com that I thought was very insightful and concise.  Josh Kaufman talks about building and prioritizing your goals, states of being and habits and creating your own Masterplan.  I’d highly recommend reading it.

I am re-reading “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker.  It’s amazing to go back to a book first published in 1966 and recognize that, even with the tremendous technology advances we have made, the principles are still relevant and pertinent today.  There’s a quote in the first chapter that I highlighted, and really sums up my commitment to 2012.  “Knowledge work is not defined by quantity.  Neither is knowledge work defined by its costs.  Knowledge work is defined by its results.”

The best thing you can do to establish and maintain relevancy and build your personal value is by doing whatever it takes to deliver results.  Affect real change and real  results, and do it today.  Then do it every single day in your personal and professional life.  Start every day with a purpose and execute on it.  Then keep on executing, and don’t get lost in the analysis.

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”  – R. Buckminster Fuller

2012 for me is the year of results.  It’s going to be my best year yet – what about you?