The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success

The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success

The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success by Jim Roddy features 31 underdog athletes who parlayed their college experience into habits that led to career success. Here's an excerpt that explains what drove Jim to write the book:

I published The Walk-On Method to share a life-changing lesson I learned the hard way – and to clarify a misunderstanding. In 2012, I published my first book, Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer, which offered team-building best practices from the perspective of a cancer-surviving executive (that would be me). I was 10 years cancer-free back then, but many of my business associates were unaware of my colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy because it’s not exactly the topic one weaves into a conference call.

Shortly after Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer was released, one of my industry friends told me, "Now I understand why you’re so driven and do everything with a purpose – you’re relentless about every challenge. Now that I know you had cancer, I get why you are the way you are." I politely thanked him, but I couldn’t agree with him. I didn’t wake up every day thinking about myself as a cancer survivor. Except for hiring-related presentations where I mentioned my book, I rarely thought of cancer, so it certainly wasn’t a catalyst in my daily life.

Upon reflection, I realized I attacked cancer the same way I approached my role as a basketball walk-on at Gannon University, a Division II powerhouse in my hometown of Erie, Pa., from 1988-92. My walk-on attitude also guided me to launch and publish my own sports magazine (1993-98) and then rise the ranks from Managing Editor to Operations Manager to company President/General Manager at IT publisher Jameson Publishing (1998-2016). The behavior pattern I established at Gannon through four years of extreme commitment, hard work, perseverance, and resiliency is the blueprint for professional success – mine and yours.

That concept was intriguing and enlightening to me, so I scratched on a sheet of scrap paper the core elements of my walk-on behavior, which I eventually crafted into the five-part Walk-On Method which I’ll illustrate throughout this book.

Immediately I wanted to tell others about this formula so they could apply it to their lives. But I didn’t think my walk-on and work stories would provide enough data to encourage others to change. They could point to what I did as an anomaly, the stars aligning, being in the right place at the right time. So, I decided to test my hypothesis: if I interviewed fellow former walk-ons about their college experience and their professional path, would I learn that The Walk-On Method paid uncommon dividends for them, too?

After five years of internet searches, outreaches via email, phone, and social media, and interviews with former walk-on student-athletes, the answer to that question was yes. An overwhelming yes. While each walk-on’s individual path was unique, the mindset, skills, and behaviors developed and the outcomes achieved after college were similarly remarkable. Ordinary people will accomplish extraordinary feats when their energy is properly channeled.

Our walk-ons applied The Walk-On Method first to college football, basketball, rowing, golf, or track & field, and then they parlayed that behavior pattern into success in business ownership, engineering, coaching, law, finance, broadcasting, medicine, insurance, film, management, education, banking, acting, and ministry. These former walk-ons were behaving subconsciously, unaware that scrambling to make a college sports team and fighting to keep their roster spot was foundational to their life’s work. Going the extra mile in their profession is second nature, and they wonder why others don’t take that same (and seemingly obvious) path.

Most people don’t realize they’re in control of their career trajectory. We’re advised by family and friends to play it safe, follow a well-worn path, or choose the most financially prudent option. We’re encouraged to seek immediate rewards for our efforts and “look out for number one” because nobody else will. When we read a media account of a successful person, their accomplishments are often painted as a one-in-a-billion anomaly, a lightning strike of genius or opportunity. This book destroys those myths one walk-on success story at a time and reveals this important reality: your professional success is within your control. Repeated (and bolded) for emphasis: Ordinary people will accomplish extraordinary feats when their energy is properly channeled.

The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success is available in paperback or e-book format.

Blog: 4 Crucial Customer Service Communication Skills for Resellers

4 Crucial Customer Service Communication Skills for Resellers

This is part 6 of our content series “Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers,” powered by Vend

Raise your hand if you want to improve the level of customer service your company provides. Okay, I’m guessing you didn’t actually lift one arm above your shoulders – nobody really does that when they’re reading an article to themselves – but in your mind I bet your hand shot straight up. I say that with confidence because I’ve engaged with leading resellers for 20+ years, and every one of them is constantly striving for improved customer service from their techs, help desk, administrative staff, and salespeople.

Changing the mindset of your team may be the first step to accomplish that goal, but skill building is where the rubber meets the road. I suggest you teach your team these four communication techniques to make progress on your customer service journey.

 

The 90:10 Ratio

Instruction for customer service communication usually focuses on asking the right questions, but you’re not going to hear any data from the customer unless you zip it occasionally. Follow The 90:10 Ratio. The customer should talk 90% of the time; you should talk about 10% of the time. (In reality, the actual conversation ends up closer to an 80:20 ratio, but you’ll achieve that only if you shoot for 90:10.)

Listen to each answer in full. Do not anticipate what the customer is going to say. When the customer stops talking, give them a verbal cue (such as “mm-hmm” or “yes”) that will suggest they keep talking. When you don’t talk, the customer often will start talking to fill the silence. This helps you gain more information and, when appropriate, can defuse a confrontational situation. Will some of the silence be awkward? Yep. But use it to your advantage. Don’t speak just because the silence becomes uncomfortable for you. Silence – even uncomfortable silence – can be beneficial if you want to:

Encourage the customer to talk more on the subject.

  • Encourage the customer to talk more on the subject.
  • Take some time to think.
  • Take additional notes.
  • Maintain emotional control.
  • Change the mood of the conversation from casual/fun to serious.

Additionally, silence prevents the customer service rep from leading the customer to an answer. This forces the customer to respond. In other words, wait as long as it takes to get a complete and accurate answer from the customer.

 

The 30-Second Rule

Lengthy questions or comments can undermine your ability to gain information. The 30-Second Rule is a guideline that you should talk for 30 seconds or less each time you speak. Otherwise, you jeopardize the effectiveness of the discussion. The 30-Second Rule improves communication and understanding between the customer service rep and the customer because it separates individual points, making them easier to digest and understand even in long, in-depth conversations. If you talk longer than 30 seconds at a time, you increase the likelihood that the customer will miss your point. This rule doesn’t always literally mean 30 seconds (put your stopwatch away), but it conveys a clear and memorable communication principle that you need to control your conversation with a customer.

To use the 30-Second Rule effectively, provide small pieces of information on the message you’re trying to convey to the customer. Follow up by asking a question or requesting feedback. Communication improves because you actively engage the customer in the conversation. While more complex topics require more explanation, the information will be more easily understood if you stop and ask for feedback during the explanation. Resist the tendency to keep talking until you exhaust the subject.

 

QACF – Question, Answer, Comment, Feedback

No, QACF is not the sound a duck makes when it’s trying to quack and eat at the same time. QACF is an acronym that represents the pattern your customer discussions should follow: Question, Answer, Comment, Feedback. You ask a question. The customer answers. You make a related comment, then ask/wait for feedback. This makes the discussion conversational and keeps customers from feeling like they’re being grilled or run through a survey.

More specifically:

Q & A is the process by which you ask a clear, succinct, probing question and the customer answers it. Q doesn’t always have to be a question. It can be a request or statement.

C is when you comment in response to the customer’s answer. The comment validates your understanding of the answer.

F is when the customer provides feedback that typically affirms or disputes that you understood the original answer.

A customer won’t want to interact with a rep whose continuous questioning creates a confrontational relationship. A good strategy to follow in order to learn the truth is to paraphrase the customer’s response to your question. It shows that you are listening. You conversation charted out might look something like QACF, QAQAQAQAQACF, QAQAQACF, etc.

Here are six tips for effective use of QACF:

  • Listen to customers’ answers and react naturally to their cues.
  • Don’t assume anything.
  • Let customers fully answer your questions. Don’t interrupt. Take notes to capture pertinent points that you want to come back to later in the conversation.
  • Engage customers. Talk about their experiences, not yours.
  • Have a good understanding of your questions. Prepare your questions in advance so you don’t fumble your way through the conversation.
  • Listen! Your Q and C should be succinct. The customer’s A and F should be more detailed.

 

What Could We Be Doing Better For You?

At a recent RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association) conference, keynote speaker Dr. Robert Bies of Georgetown University introduced the concept of “constructive impatience” to the reseller executives in attendance. Bies said the overarching mindset is, “We are doing very well, but we can do better.” This attitude will help you focus on continual improvement.

To customers you can ask, “What could we be doing better for you?” Notice how this is different from merely asking, “Is there anything we can do better for you?” which typically elicits a friendly “no” which doesn’t help the customer or the solution provider. Asking “What could we be doing better for you?” steers the customer towards a more open-ended answer – beyond “yes” or “no” – because it implies you have room for improvement.

If the customer responds with something to the effect of, “Nothing I can think of,” gently press them to share possible areas of improvement. Example:

  • You: “One more question I’d like to ask. What could we be doing better for you? How could we serve you better?”
  • Customer: “Hmmm. Nothing I can think of. You’re really good.”
  • You: “I appreciate that – thank you. But we’re always looking to get better or expand what we offer our customers. If you could wave a magic wand, what could we provide you or do better that would help you?”
  • Customer: “Okay. If I had a magic wand, what would really help me is …”

 

Developing these skills in your team will generate more than broader smiles from your customers. Enhanced communication will lead to a clearer exchange (and a greater volume) of data. This will help you align additional valuable products and services that meet each customer’s needs – increasing your sales and improving your bottom line. Raise your hand high if you desire that outcome.

 

Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers is powered by Vend. Used in over 25,000 stores around the world Vend is the point of sale of choice for inventory-based retailers. Through our reseller program, we partner with ISOs, dealers, agents and merchant level salespeople to help our partners and merchants sell more, save more and make more. Learn more about our program.

 

Adapt Part 1: 5 Fundamentals of POS Reseller Marketing

Adapt Part 2: Content Marketing Shortcuts for POS Resellers

Adapt Part 3: Your Best Salesperson Isn’t a Salesperson

Adapt Part 4: 5 Tactics to Ensure You Know Your Clients’ Goals

Adapt Part 5: A VAR’s Guide to Obsessing Over Customer Satisfaction

 

Channel Business Advisor Jim Roddy works with high-initiative, growth-oriented point of sale VARs, ISVs, and MSPs to help them uncover their blind spots with customers, employees, and business best practices. Then he applies his 25+ years of business management experience, executive leadership, and retail IT industry expertise to help them get better. Jim can be reached at jim@JimRoddyCBA.com.

Blog: A VAR’s Guide to Obsessing Over Customer Satisfaction

A VAR’s Guide to Obsessing Over Customer Satisfaction

This is part 5 of our content series “Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers,” powered by Vend

Most of my jobs during my teens and early 20s were customer-facing – guest services for a pro baseball team, guest services for my local zoo, and customer service for an employment agency – so customer satisfaction norms have been ingrained in me for decades. Among the lessons I’ve learned is that each industry has nuances about what works. Developing a system to keep ketchup bottles full at the concession stands was important at the Erie Zoo, but not so much at Career Concepts.

Point of sale resellers have customer service nuances as well, and I’ve been collecting a list of the best based on my conversations with top-performing solution providers. The three principles and 10 tactics outlined below will increase your customer retention rates and lead to landing new customers based on your stellar reputation.

But don’t jump to the list just yet. Foundational is your role as a reseller leader obsessing over customer satisfaction. Your team should know through both your words and your daily actions that your company’s top priority is creating more value for your customers and helping them achieve their goals.

 

Speed Over Solution

1. Ensure a human being answers every phone call promptly. “Answer anytime.”

I’ve learned from conducting merchant surveys on behalf of VARs that the #1 end user frustration is calling during an IT crisis and running into voice mail. Forward your after-hours phone calls to an on-call technician, not an impersonal answering service, or you can leverage your vendor partners who provide 24/7 support. For peak times during typical business hours, route overflow calls to an administrative employee who can ensure the merchant their issue will be addressed ASAP.

2. Train admins to be technically efficient; solve common customer issues without rerouting the call.

Tying in with the first point, guide and train that admin to solve common, straightforward merchant problems. If you don’t have this information written down already, ask the admin to sit down with your techs to map out fundamental troubleshooting. This is another opportunity to lean on your vendor partners who can provide staff training or assistance when a problem needs escalated.

3. Move your most people-focused technician into a Customer Advocate role.

The Customer Advocate reaches out to your clients to uncover and solve problems while they’re still small. This will ultimately save you overhead because your tech team won’t need to dedicate hours to solve these issues when they become urgent and messy. One VAR who follows this practice described it as “poking the bear.” They find out what’s aggravating the client early – before they consider switching IT providers.

4. Utilize PSA software; auto-send a customer survey when a ticket is closed.

The brief survey generated by PSA (Professional Services Automation) software and automatically sent to your customers at the end of every project can help you uncover dissatisfied customers. VARs tell me 95% or more of the surveys they send don’t raise an issue, but what is revealed in the 1-out-of-20 is a life saver for that account. Don’t settle for 95% satisfaction; we’re obsessing here, remember?

 

Minimum Goal: Exceed Client Expectations
5. Give a copy of the book Raving Fans as a gift to new customers.

The gist of the book is that companies shouldn’t aim to merely satisfy customers; their goal should be to turn their customers into “raving fans” who will brag about your company to others. I know of only one VAR who distributes this book to their customers, but think of what a powerful message they’re sending. “We want you to be ecstatic with our service – not just happy – and we’re going to work our tails off to make sure that happens.”

6. Provide a “trainer” on-site for 2-4 full days after an install.

The goal of this is to stay with the customer as long as it takes to ensure they become proficient with your new system. Shadow the staff from open to close, working elbow-to-elbow with them to ensure the success of the implementation.

7. Call the customer three times after an installation to ensure everything is working properly.

Post-install emails are good, but personal outreaches are the best. Designate a staff member to call the customer immediately after the install is complete, two weeks after, and then two months after to ensure the customer is beyond satisfied. If your techs know this process will be executed after every install, they will be more conscientious with their work.

 

Ensure Everyone Continually Obsesses Over Client Satisfaction

8. Engage your entire team in KPIs and client success stories.

Imagine trying to coach a basketball game and your players don’t ever look at the scoreboard. That’s essentially what you’re doing if you don’t regularly distribute, review, and discuss client KPIs with your entire team. Successful resellers I’ve worked with share stats and stories at least monthly and many of them do it weekly.

9. Give your team access to a real-time messaging tool like Slack to reduce customer response time.

You know how long it can take to set up a meeting and how difficult it can be to communicate with several employees who are moving in different directions. Real-time messaging tools keep everyone on the same page. Instead of posing a question to individuals one at a time, hoping you’ll find the right person, the group messages are seen by all on their desktop and smartphone and can be responded to immediately.

10. The company leader should have frequent direct contact with customers.

I’ll get super specific with this one: Ensure your CEO visits at least two customers per month on-site. Ensure your CEO listens in on customer service calls periodically. Task your CEO to call five customers and mail two thank you cards per week. Your CEO should review the customer list at least once a month to understand who she hasn’t talked with in a while.

If you’ve read this far, you clearly care about customer satisfaction. Now go forth and obsess!

Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers is powered by Vend. Used in over 25,000 stores around the world Vend is the point of sale of choice for inventory-based retailers. Through our reseller program, we partner with ISOs, dealers, agents and merchant level salespeople to help our partners and merchants sell more, save more and make more. Learn more about our program.

Adapt Part 1: 5 Fundamentals of POS Reseller Marketing

Adapt Part 2: Content Marketing Shortcuts for POS Resellers

Adapt Part 3: Your Best Salesperson Isn’t a Salesperson

Adapt Part 4: 5 Tactics to Ensure You Know Your Clients’ Goals

Channel Business Advisor Jim Roddy works with high-initiative, growth-oriented point of sale VARs, ISVs, and MSPs to help them uncover their blind spots with customers, employees, and business best practices. Then he applies his 25+ years of business management experience, executive leadership, and retail IT industry expertise to help them get better. Jim can be reached at jim@JimRoddyCBA.com.

Blog: 5 Tactics to Ensure You Know Your Clients’ Goals

5 Tactics to Ensure You Know Your Clients’ Goals

This is part 4 of our content series “Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers,” powered by Vend

Before we dive into knowing your customers’ goals, let me share something I know about you. You get bored quickly. You want to be informed but you also want to be entertained. Your primary goals for reading this post are (1) to learn new best practices related to sales and client service and (2) to not fall asleep halfway through because you’re getting drowned with tactical talk.

To help you accomplish those goals, I’m going to integrate my list of five tactics that will help resellers ensure they know their clients’ goals with a few customer-oriented quotes that you probably haven’t heard before. (We’re skipping over “The customer is always right” and “Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”)

These best practices are a result of leading resellers sharing with me what works for them – what helps them not only retain customers but upsell them. Ultimately, this article should help you understand your clients’ goals and problems well enough so you can adapt your business to provide indispensable products and services to your merchants. Not just good products and services. Not just highly-rated products and services. Indispensable products and services. The bar is high, but the rewards are great.

 

Tactic #1: Conduct regular 1-on-1 client meetings

This might be the #1 advantage locally-based resellers have over internet providers of technology. So why not exploit this? Successful VARs I’ve worked with meet with their customers on a regular basis – as frequently or infrequently as necessary – instead of only when the customer has a problem. One VAR I know blocks out extra time around his prospecting calls to make sure he also visits his customers in the area. Even if the meeting is a brief stop-by or a pre-scheduled 20-minute phone call, you give yourself the opportunity to learn more about your market and your customer’s up-to-date needs, and it shows them you care about them as an individual. Don’t leave these meetings to chance; track when you meet with each customer and review that report at least quarterly to see where you have gaps.

 “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” Henry Winkler

 

Tactic #2: Conduct QBRs (quarterly business reviews) with as many clients as reasonable

This best practice comes from a reseller who serves both multi-location and single-location retailers. The more complex the customer, the more likely (and beneficial) to conduct a quarterly business review with them. This VAR essentially treats those customers like a separate business unit, studying reports, meeting with the leadership team every three months, and looking for upsell opportunities. Your QBRs shouldn’t just rehash day-to-day issues from the past quarter. Have a strategic discussion that not only covers the customer’s current pain points but also their go-forward strategies. This is an opportunity for you to share the new products and services on your roadmap – and gather intel from the customer about which new offerings would suit their needs best.

“Spend a lot of time talking to customers face-to-face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.” Ross Perot

 

Tactic #3: With key clients, conduct an annual meeting after they’ve completed their yearly budget to discuss their goals

You can see these first three tactics require you to establish customer tiers. Who should have a regular 1-on-1 meeting? (Probably everyone.) Who should have a QBR? (Complex, high-dollar customers for sure.). And who should have a sit-down annual meeting? The answer to that is your most impactful clients. During this annual meeting, ask questions such as, “What are your top 3-4-5 projects your executive team has decided to pursue?” and “How can we help? How can we be prepared?” This might sound like the QBR meeting, but the QBR typically looks back and ahead a couple quarters. This meeting is a deep dive into your client’s next 12-18 months.

You might be thinking to yourself that I’m recommending a lot of meetings, but there are two reasons why these are best practices. First, proactively meeting with your customers is far more effective and actually less time consuming than trying to win them back after they drift to another provider. Second, there’s no substitute for getting closer to your customers. None.

“The Customer: Someone that indirectly pays for your food, clothes, and vacations. Be nice to them.” Gene Caballero

 

Tactic #4: Conduct an annual survey of all your clients

You can’t go to work on fixing your weaknesses if you have a blind spot to them. If you never uncover that blind spot, your frustrated customers will move to another provider when the opportunity presents itself. An annual customer survey enables you to uncover those aforementioned business blind spots. Be sure to give your customers the option to remain anonymous when completing your survey. That will ensure you’re hearing their unvarnished thoughts and feelings.

“Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants. If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work, and serve the customer!” Gene Buckley

 

Tactic #5: Embrace “Commercial Teaching”

This concept comes from the book The Challenger Sale and it’s been embraced by many leading VARs (and discussed at several channel conferences I’ve attended). The book defines Commercial Teaching as “teaching the customer something new about how their company can compete more effectively.” Merchants will say “I want!” or “I need!”, and you responding to them quickly is good customer service. But even more valuable is you proactively analyzing their business and showing how you can improve their outcomes. Teaching your clients and prospects how new technologies can grow their sales is supremely valuable to them.

“The more helpful you are, the more pleasant the customer is.” A.J. Saleem

 

Bonus Tactic and Bonus Quote! Almost always say “yes” to sponsoring any client charitable event and client-hosted conference. The successful VAR who shared this best practice with me said, “When you lose the relationship, you lose the client.”

Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers is powered by Vend. Used in over 25,000 stores around the world Vend is the point of sale of choice for inventory-based retailers. Through our reseller program, we partner with ISOs, dealers, agents and merchant level salespeople to help our partners and merchants sell more, save more and make more. Learn more about our program.

Adapt Part 1: 5 Fundamentals of POS Reseller Marketing

Adapt Part 2: Content Marketing Shortcuts for POS Resellers

Adapt Part 3: Your Best Salesperson Isn’t a Salesperson

Channel Business Advisor Jim Roddy works with high-initiative, growth-oriented point of sale VARs, ISVs, and MSPs to help them uncover their blind spots with customers, employees, and business best practices. Then he applies his 25+ years of business management experience, executive leadership, and retail IT industry expertise to help them get better. Jim can be reached at jim@JimRoddyCBA.com.

Blog: Your Best Salesperson Isn’t a Salesperson

Your Best Salesperson Isn’t a Salesperson

This is part 3 of our content series “Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers,” powered by Vend

As a young cash register salesman, Lefty Monson did everything by the book. Every day he would put on a pressed suit, tighten his necktie, stand up straight, and walk into a merchant establishment confident about selling them a new machine. Problem was when the business owner spotted Lefty on the sidewalk, he or she would run to the office in the back of the store and slam the door shut. Nobody wants to get cornered by a salesperson, and they’ll climb through thorn bushes to escape from one.

Undeterred, Lefty kept trying. Unconvinced, owners kept running. Until one day some customers’ cash registers needed swapped out and a technician wasn’t available. The job fell to Lefty, so he put on his baseball cap, a collared shirt and jeans and headed to the merchant locations. This time, the owners didn’t run away – they actually greeted him with a smile and warm “hello!” Lefty, being the helpful, friendly, kind-hearted person he’s always been, struck up conversations with them. Many of the owners even agreed to a new product demonstration the next time Lefty was in the area.

Partway through that day, Lefty had an epiphany. What if he kept his suit and tie in the closet and dressed casually for all his calls so he would present like the helper he naturally was as opposed to a stereotypical sales rep? More conversations would lead to more sales, right? His theory proved correct. Lefty never took off his baseball cap, casual shirt, and jeans, and for decades until his recent retirement, he was considered the POS channel’s greatest salesperson and sales trainer. Lefty was inducted into the RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association) Hall of Fame in 2012 because of his stellar work and influence on others.

Lefty Monson is a one-of-a-kind person, but his dilemma and his solution are not an aberration. I’ve learned from leading resellers that the best salesperson isn’t the one with the most hair gel, the strongest vocal cords, the most confidence, or the most sales tricks.

It’s the person who can genuinely empathize with the merchant owner, understanding pain from their perspective before offering an appropriate solution. It’s the person who is primarily focused on solving customer problems, not on hitting their own Q3 sales quota. It’s the person who is perceived by the merchant as a partner, not a product pusher.

There are two main sources where you can find this talent. The first is to recruit managers from merchants in the vertical you want to sell into. For example, to increase your sales in specialty retail, seek to recruit a retail manager (who is likely stressed by long hours) and pitch them that they can have their evenings and weekends back in a role with your company.

Pitching a job directly can be awkward – you don’t know them well enough, them saying “no” immediately seems rude, them saying “yes” seems desperate – so, instead, present the opportunity in general terms. Say something like, “We have an opening in a business development role. We’re looking for a friendly person with retail experience who would enjoy helping merchants run their business better. Do you know anyone who might be a good fit for that?”

Also, your job board postings should change dramatically. Don’t list the opening in Sales looking for prospectors and closers. Post in the Retail Manager section with the message “Looking for a change?”, hoping to attract someone with retail management experience. Your listing should focus on normal working hours, reclaiming evenings and weekends, and collaborating with fellow retail managers. Those are likely to be the points your target audience cares about most.

The second source of talent is inside your own company. Many resellers I’ve worked with have found success when they transform a technician into a Sales Engineer role. Think how powerful their experience would be when talking with a merchant. Instead of requiring your salesperson to memorize second-hand anecdotes, the Sales Engineer can simply interject, “I’ve run into this before and here’s how we solved that …” You might have to invest time training a tech-turned-Sales Engineer on some finer points of communication, but that’s often more manageable than teaching a sales lifer how to connect with a merchant.

One of my favorite books on this subject is The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, and my favorite section in that book is Maister’s list of 22 traits trusted advisors have in common. Among those attributes are “they don’t try to force things on us, they help us think things through, they always seem to have our interests at heart, and they act like a real person, not someone in a role.”

Always be on the lookout for naturally helpful, friendly people who could contribute to your organization in business development. I know a company who was attending a college job fair with hopes of hiring a well-dressed business or econ major to fill a sales opening. When the company recruiter arrived on campus, she couldn’t find a local newspaper to purchase. Several students and faculty walked past her. But one student sensed she was lost, offered directions, and he walked with her to find a paper.

Since he was a graduating senior – and because he was so helpful – the recruiter offered him a chance to interview for the sales job, even though his only work experience was cleaning offices in the evening. That conscientious student got the job and turned out to be one of the company’s best-ever Account Executives. His unassuming, inquisitive, low-pressure approach to prospects was endearing and allowed him to gather facts that helped him make the sale.

Your best salesperson isn’t a salesperson. They’re just someone who’s trying to help.

Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers is powered by Vend. Used in over 25,000 stores around the world Vend is the point of sale of choice for inventory based retailers. Through our reseller program, we partner with ISOs, dealers, agents and merchant level salespeople to help our partners and merchants sell more, save more and make more. Learn more about our program.

Don’t forget to visit Vend at RetailNOW if you’re attending the conference later this month. They’re at booth #228, hosting a workshop on Hijacking Customer Success on Tuesday morning (July 30, 10:30am in Meeting Room 301), and one of their leaders Jake West will be joining a panel on VAR & ISV Secrets to Maximizing Your Vendor Partner Relationships on Wednesday (July 31, 10:40am in Meeting Room 302).

Adapt Part 1: 5 Fundamentals of POS Reseller Marketing

Adapt Part 2: Content Marketing Shortcuts for POS Resellers

Channel Business Advisor Jim Roddy works with high-initiative, growth-oriented point of sale VARs, ISVs, and MSPs to help them uncover their blind spots with customers, employees, and business best practices. Then he applies his 25+ years of business management experience, executive leadership, and retail IT industry expertise to help them get better. Jim can be reached at jim@JimRoddyCBA.com.

Blog: Content Marketing Shortcuts for POS Resellers

Content Marketing Shortcuts for POS Resellers

This is part 2 of our content series “Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers,” powered by Vend

If I devoted the next 1,000 words in this post to talking only about me, myself, and I, would you keep reading past this sentence? I doubt it. The primary goal of B2B content is to help the reader learn more about a topic they care about which will, in turn, make them see you as a trusted resource. Unfortunately, too many resellers only create content that is self-promotional and self-serving – or they don’t produce any content at all – losing mindshare to competitors who have cracked the content marketing code.

I understand you’re always under time and resource constraints, so your content marketing efforts often fall by the wayside. But there are ways to create quality content that will advance your sales and marketing goals without requiring you to ditch your day job to become J.K. Rowling. When planning content, also consider how you’ll get it in front of your existing and prospective merchants. An email newsletter is great for your customers because it’s easy for them to share with their network, giving you a referral channel. Other core content can be used as leave behinds when you visit a new or prospective merchant in store. Whether it’s a cheat sheet that helps make their day easier (maybe a store opening or closing checklist) or a white paper on best practices, make sure it’s useful and impactful for the merchant.

Let’s say your target audience of current customers and prospects are independent retailers. The time-consuming way to create content for them would be to stare at a blank sheet of paper and wax philosophical about the retail industry. Ugh – that would be painful to execute once or twice let alone long-term. Instead, embrace these three tactics that will put you on the fast track to quality content.

Shortcut #1: Link Journalism. That’s a modern-day term for creating a “news roundup” blog post summarizing online stories your audience cares about. Sticking with the retailer example, you can conduct a Google News search for “independent retailer” to see a collection of recent stories on that topic. Pick the two or three best, write an introductory paragraph (100-200 words), and then provide links and brief article summaries (50-75 words each) in the body of your blog post.

When I conducted that “independent retailer” news search just now, I immediately found a few on-topic stories that would make for an interesting news roundup post:

Legal notice: Summarize original articles and link back to them; don’t copy-and-paste any article (or significant portions of it) on your website or you will be violating the source’s copyright.

Link journalism is similar to emailing a group of like-minded friends saying, “I thought you might find this interesting.” Engage in this practice with enough frequency (2-3 times per month), and your audience will understand your company cares about the same issues they do.

Shortcut #2: Outsource. The gig economy – the growing trend of utilizing independent contractors for projects instead of hiring employees – is thriving in the content industry. Because authors can write anytime and anywhere, talented content creators around the world are available to help you generate quality blog posts, eBooks, lists, and white papers at very reasonable prices. I’ve personally used Upwork, but a Google search for “freelancer writers” will introduce you to multiple platforms that enable you to access experienced content creators who may even specialize in your industry. Additionally, you should reach out to friends and industry colleagues to ask if they know writers you could potentially partner with.

Set up an arrangement with a freelancer where you regularly share story ideas with them (via email or phone) before they conduct research and craft that information into a readable piece. In time, the writer will learn your company and industry in detail and will be able to create pieces on their own without you having to lift a finger. Understand you may have to churn through a few writers before you find the best fit, but it’s worth the investment. You’ll generate quality original content without having to budget a significant amount of cash or invest hours of administrative overhead.

Shortcut #3: Create (Then Disaggregate) Core Content. I saved this for last because I could have scared you off earlier throwing around the phrase “content disaggregation.” That’s a fancy way of saying you can maximize the impact of one central piece of content by repurposing it multiple times in different formats. For example, let’s say you hire a freelancer to create a 2,000-word white paper that you plan to email to prospects as a PDF attachment. You can then disaggregate the white paper to produce several spin-off pieces:

  • Create a lead generation tool; post the white paper on your website behind a gate that requires visitors to share their name and email to access the piece
  • Excerpt sections of the white paper to create two or three blog posts
  • Pull key points and graphics from the white paper to create a webinar you can record and post to YouTube (and embed on your website)
  • Post the slide deck from that webinar on LinkedIn’s SlideShare to gain exposure to more prospects
  • Write, post, and distribute a press release that details key findings from the white paper
  • Submit an article based on the white paper to your industry association(s) and/or community association(s) for them to include on their website
  • Host an in-person lunch-and-learn in your community to share highlights of the content
  • Pitch a content session to your local business association or regional organization where you can present your findings
  • Pull key points and graphics from the white paper to create several social media posts linking back to the gated white paper (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
  • Create a podcast episode by recording audio of two of your employees discussing the content
  • Print a one-page handout that includes the URL for the white paper
  • Create a series of emails that share nuggets from the white paper

Those 12 ideas will help you generate new content essentially year-round just by repurposing portions of that one white paper. And don’t get me started if you choose to produce two, three, or dare I say four white papers in a year. You’ll have more content than you know what to do with. Once you have multiple pieces, you can start to embed the content into your existing activity to amplify their impact. If you typically obtain new customers through referrals, ask your current customers to share your content with their neighborhood. If you’re visiting merchants on-site, bring some physical copies to leave in-store and maybe even drop by neighboring stores. Helpful and interesting content can make for a more meaningful follow-up after a meeting, and an even stronger “reason to reach out” on a lead that may have gone cold.

Before you race out to execute on these ideas, I want to repeat for emphasis what I wrote in part 1 of our series: Your content will be most effective if it provides insights into issues your target audience cares about the most, challenges they’re facing, and uncovers their blind spots. Whatever form of content you create, the topic must be of paramount importance to your target audience. As they consume your content, the prospect will think to themselves, “They get it. This company understands me and my challenges. I think they can help me.”

Now go help yourself and embrace these content marketing shortcuts.

Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers is powered by Vend. Used in over 25,000 stores around the world Vend is the point of sale of choice for inventory based retailers. Through our reseller program, we partner with ISOs, dealers, agents and merchant level salespeople to help our partners and merchants sell more, save more and make more. Learn more about our program.

Channel Business Advisor Jim Roddy works with high-initiative, growth-oriented point of sale VARs, ISVs, and MSPs to help them uncover their blind spots with customers, employees, and business best practices. Then he applies his 25+ years of business management experience, executive leadership, and retail IT industry expertise to help them get better. Jim can be reached at jim@JimRoddyCBA.com

Blog: 5 Fundamentals of POS Reseller Marketing

5 Fundamentals of POS Reseller Marketing

This is part 1 of our content series “Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers,” powered by Vend

Many tasks for POS resellers are clear-cut and tangible. Meet a prospect. Learn about their business. Propose a solution. Get them activated. Answer a merchant’s question. But marketing? That’s far more abstract, so it’s difficult for resellers to wrap their arms (and brains) around.

Let’s get concrete about marketing here and highlight five best practices POS resellers can adopt to accelerate their sales growth. These are based on my experiences over the past 20+ years working with leading retail IT VARs and managed services providers.

Determine and understand your target audience. Marketing isn’t about you, your company, your products, or your services. It’s all about the audience you want to purchase what you offer. What issues do they care about most? What challenges are they facing? Where are their blind spots? When defining your target audience, be as specific as possible in terms of their vertical market, geography, number of stores, number of lanes, decision makers, etc. The clearer you define your audience, the sharper your marketing messages will be. Get as detailed as MCC codes (merchant category codes) to help you focus. If you stay broad and attempt to appeal to everyone, your messages likely won’t resonate with your target audience.

There are two (seemingly opposite) approaches to building your target market.

  • Look at the mix of solutions and services you’re selling – who are the merchants that will benefit most from this mix? Oftentimes your vendors and partners will be able to help you with these definitions. Find where the target market for your solution mix overlap, and there is your target market.
  • Consider the verticals, niches, or geographies you’ve had success in before – focus here first by finding solutions and services that can help these merchants succeed.

Determine your truly unique value proposition for your target audience. I say “truly unique” because too often resellers promote aspects of their business they think are unique but actually make them sound like every other provider. I just scanned a few websites and found language such as “our employees are honest”, “we stand by our clients”, and “we have the experience you are looking for.” That’s akin to a restaurant advertising “we provide ice water with every meal!”

Think right now about what you offer that’s different from your competition and is of value to your target audience. If possible, make it quantifiable: how do you save time for a merchant or help them make money? For example, are you the point of sale expert in your area? Is a key to your value that you can visit your customers in person and that you understand your community’s unique needs? Think about what is difficult for your audience and how you make it easier or better. If you don’t know, ask your current merchant customers why you stand out. If both you and your merchants can’t articulate this, maybe you don’t have a marketing problem. You might need to pause on your marketing efforts and retool your business so you have something special to offer.

Craft messaging about your unique value prop that resonates with your target audience. Below are more examples for you; this time it’s those who are effectively communicating with their target audience. What they say will turn off prospects outside their niche, which is OK. You can’t be all things to all prospects.

  • We rent entire systems for seasonal needs or very large events requiring dozens or hundreds of units.
  • We can also help with your accounting operations.
  • Our training uses practical, real-world examples and is customized to suit the specific needs of you and your team.
  • To ensure you get the maximum amount of traffic through your eCommerce “doors,” we can provide SEO tailored for your website.
  • We provide custom software development in the cloud, leveraging and extending existing services wherever possible.

And this one from Growthwise in Australia might be my favorite: “We are not your average pen-pushing, number-crunching, sit-behind-a-desk accounting nerds. We have one clear goal: to help you think, learn, grow & Kick-Arse. Trust our superheroes to help you take control.” Isn’t that light years more compelling than “we stand by our clients”?

Promote your messages, starting with content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute says, “Marketing is impossible without great content,” and to that I respond, “Amen!” If you haven’t created compelling content that your target audience finds helpful, what are you going to market to them? Pictures of your building? Product specs? Discounts? More photos of your building? Your content will be most effective if it provides insights into:

  • Issues your target audience cares about the most
  • Challenges they’re facing
  • Uncovering their blind spots

Yes, that’s the same list I detailed in the section on understanding your target audience, and I didn’t repeat it because I’m lazy. Whatever form of content you create – blog posts, white papers, eBooks, handouts, mailers, podcasts, videos, webinars – the topic must be of paramount importance to your target audience. As they consume your content, the prospect will think to themselves, “They get it. This company understands me and my challenges. I think they can help me.”

Outspend your competition on marketing. Don’t freak out when you read the word “outspend.” This best practice isn’t about depleting your cash reserves to buy 25,000 koozies with your logo on it. More important is to commit employee time (including yours) to establishing your brand, refining your messaging, and determining the most effective way to communicate with your target audience. For growth-oriented resellers, marketing is not a one-time event or a task to be performed periodically. Schedule a regular meeting (at least monthly) with your appropriate team members to review the results of your marketing activities and to brainstorm new ideas to test-market with your target audience. And before you spend cash on marketing products or services, consult with your vendors and distributor partners to see if they have an MDF (marketing development fund) budget you can utilize.

Our last word on marketing fundamentals won’t come from me. This statement from a wise POS reseller encapsulates much of what I detailed in this article: “Your marketing needs to be designed for real people, not designed for marketing people. You have to have a little twist to get their attention, but you really need to speak the language of the people who are buying it.”

Adapt: Strong Advice for POS Resellers is powered by Vend. Used in over 25,000 stores around the world Vend is the point of sale of choice for inventory based retailers. Through our reseller program, we partner with ISOs, dealers, agents and merchant level salespeople to help our partners and merchants sell more, save more and make more. Learn more about our program.

Channel Business Advisor Jim Roddy works with high-initiative, growth-oriented point of sale VARs, ISVs, and MSPs to help them uncover their blind spots with customers, employees, and business best practices. Then he applies his 25+ years of business management experience, executive leadership, and retail IT industry expertise to help them get better. Jim can be reached at jim@JimRoddyCBA.com.

Blog: “Perpetual Recurring Revenue” and 17 More Insights from BlueStar’s Channel Conferences in Toronto

“Perpetual Recurring Revenue” and 17 More Insights from BlueStar’s Channel Conferences in Toronto

I grew up a baseball fan (I can still name the starting lineups for the 1976 Cincinnati Reds and 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates), and back then the only thing better than a baseball game was a doubleheader. I felt like a kid again May 9 when distributor BlueStar, in partnership with Software Executive Magazine, hosted two channel events in one day at the Eglinton West Gallery outside Toronto. The morning featured the ISV Connect Summit to help software developers launch and grow their reseller channel, while the afternoon and evening attracted nearly 200 VARs, ISVs, and vendors for BlueStar’s Innovative Solutions Tour.

There was lots of great content shared, but my favorite phrase was no doubt “perpetual recurring revenue.” It’s what every VAR needs and what every vendor should offer. I know that’s easier said than done, especially for hardware manufacturers, but significantly improving the business health of a reseller is the ultimate value-add. Here are more highlights from the two events:

  • “The ISVs who are really successful in the channel provide great support to their partners. It’s that day two support beyond the initial sale that makes the difference.” Dean Reverman, BlueStar
  • “When you’re building out a channel, you want to protect the revenue your partners are making.” Butch Langlois, Vend
  • “We’re three times more likely to close a deal if they (the customer) engage with our channel partner compared to if it’s only managed direct.” Dan Bowman, Carbonite
  • “We pick partners — we put effort into it. You have to work together to have an effective partner program.” Shannon Moyes, Volante Systems
  • “The easier your product is to sell, the more you’re going to sell. Don’t give your partners a million points of data. Make sure you let them know changes before you tell your customers.” Aner Shachar, 7shifts
  • “MDF (marketing development funds) is a sign that the vendor believes in you and is willing to invest in you.” Shachar
  • “Your partner relationship can’t just be what they’re going to do for you. If you’re going to build a channel, you have to manage them and support them day to day.” Langlois
  • “No effort, no reward. Engage with your partners regularly and understand what you can do to effectively to increase their profits and you’ll increase yours.” Bowman
  • VAR Paul Leduc of Globe POS on adding a new vendor: “I ask other partners who I know through the RSPA if they’re working with them. I ask my suppliers. I spend 4-5 months researching and talking with other resellers before I move forward with a new vendor.”
  • “If the ISV on their website doesn’t indicate they work with partners, I’m moving on to the next web page.” Leduc
  • “Trade shows are the most effective way to market to me. I’m mentally ready to look at new solutions and new features. I wear so many hats when I’m at the office. I go to RetailNOW every year and my (vendor and distributor) partners’ conferences most years.” Leduc
  • What can vendors do better for their VARs? “It’s always communication. That allows us to let our customers know what’s new and what’s available. Don’t send me an email with 75 topics in it. More targeted communication is very important to us.” Leduc
  • “If you help your resellers run their business, they’ll stay with you for the long term.” Abby Sorensen, Software Executive Magazine
  • “Status quo is not an option for anyone in this room. Do you think Amazon is going to quit innovating? I don’t think so. You need to be curious enough to understand what’s ahead. Please be curious enough to go back to your customers and ask, ‘What are you doing about ____?’” Michel Sirois, BlueStar Canada
  • “There’s a significant cost to not working on your business.” Sirois
  • “Retail in the U.S. and Canada is very strong but everyone isn’t winning equally. The retail apocalypse is a myth — there’s a transition in retail. There was as a net gain of new stores in the U.S. but the composition changed.”  Michael LeBlanc, Canadian retail expert
  • “Right now, AI is about as smart as a mouse. On a scale of 0 to 10, we’re about at a half (0.5).” LeBlanc

 

Channel Business Advisor Jim Roddy works with high-initiative, growth-oriented VARs, ISVs, and MSPs to help them uncover their blind spots with customers, employees, and business best practices. Jim has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.