LinkedIn and First Impressions

Steve Gutzman

By Steve Gutzman, ICN

If you’re a Millennial, you’ve no doubt had the parental talk about being careful with what you put on your Facebook page. After all, colleges and companies routinely include this as part of their admission screening, and one odd entry may give the wrong impression. And with online fraud costing banks and insurance companies a fortune, they too are analyzing people’s online behavior. If you post an entry for public consumption that says you’re on your way to Barbados for a much-needed two-week vacation and are burglarized the next day, do you have a claim?

On the business side of the fence there’s LinkedIn – the de facto social media page for business. Any “parental advice” needed here? Surely this group is meticulously prudent about what they post. Unfortunately, despite plenty of articles written about “social selling,” most dismiss it as a passing fad — for what else could explain why a “star” salesperson for an elite enterprise software vendor would feature a margarita in their profile picture?

The VP of sales of a software company recently shared with his sales team one of those mysterious “industry statistics,” claiming that 70 percent of their customers/prospects look at their profiles on LinkedIn. The only thing surprising about this comment is that the number is not closer to 100 percent. Why wouldn’t a buyer want to know as much as possible about the person hovering over them with a contract and pen? A little bit of research could serve up a welcoming icebreaker like this: “It appears that you have been with five software companies in the last eight years – tell me again why I should make a five-year commitment to you.”

Which begs the question: “What does your profile say about you if you are in sales?” Does it say you love your company, or does it say you’re looking for your next job? Does it say you’ve helped your clients achieve their goals, or does it say you’re a great closer? Does it say you’re a good listener and never presume to know all the answers, or does it say you’ve attended 10 straight 100-percent clubs?

The sales law of first impressions of the face-to-face kind states that you are probably not going to close a six-figure sale in under 90 seconds — but you can sure lose one. First impressions of the online kind can be just as discriminating.

Steve Gutzman is a senior advisor at ICN and a 32-year veteran of the high-tech industry. You may contact him at sgutzman@dobetterdeals.com.

http://DoBetterDeals.com

Advertisements

The Power of No

By Steve Gutzman

It is important to be comfortable saying “no” in a negotiation. Not all terms need to be agreed with, not all best and final prices are best and final, and not all deals need to be done. Unfortunately, many inexperienced negotiators think they must hang on at all costs until a deal is done. For them, saying no to a deal is like saying no to a free lottery ticket … it just might be the winner, and they can’t afford to pass up the jackpot.

From the buying side, preparing for a negotiation requires an understanding of the best “no deal.” The value put on the best no-deal option sets a limit that any agreement must not exceed in order for the buyer to agree. It becomes the point that the buyer will not go above. From the selling side, the best no deal becomes the level that the seller will not go below.

William Ury, in his best-selling book Getting to Yes, calls this the BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. According to Ury, “The BATNA is the only standard which can protect you from both accepting terms that are too unfavorable and from rejecting terms it would be in your interest to accept.” In its simplest form, this concept means that if the proposed agreement is better than the BATNA, accept it. If the agreement is not better than the BATNA, continue negotiating. If the agreement cannot be improved, consider withdrawing from the negotiations and pursuing an alternative proposal or walking away from the negotiations altogether. Each side typically knows its own limits, which must continually be assessed and reassessed as new information unfolds. The problem is that many negotiators have only a hazy sense of their own no-deal options or how to value them. At a very basic level, buyers are taught that unless they hear no at least once, they are leaving money on the table. It’s part of the process and can be an important tactic. But let’s explore the use of no from a strategic standpoint as well.

To finish reading this artcile, click here.
http://www.dobetterdeals.com/articles/tips-and-tactics/2013/009.htm

Steve Gutzman is a senior advisor at ICN and a 33-year veteran of the high-tech
industry.

Caveat Venditor

By Steve Gutzman

George Akerlof is perhaps best known for his article “The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism,” published in 1970 – the paper for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.  In short, it is an article about asymmetric information and the imbalance of negotiation leverage created when one side knows more about something than the other does.  Remember subprime mortgages?

An imbalance of information is exactly what characterized the technology industry for most of its recent history.  The knowledge and ultimately the negotiation leverage were clearly on the side of the vendor.  An IBM mainframe salesperson in the early ’70s described it as “having an 8th-degree black belt in a barroom brawl with a room full of drunks.”  Back then, if you wanted to know about speeds and feeds, connectivity, throughput, pricing, integration, compatibility, and support, all roads led back to the vendor sales office.  It’s no wonder that caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – became such a useful principle and that the perception of sales was aligned with adjectives such as sleazy, slick, greedy, manipulative, and unscrupulous.

The good news is that the tables have begun to turn in recent years, with buyers having access to more and more information.  This certainly applies to the technology industry, but think of all the other aspects of daily life in which information has become more transparent: buying a car, securing a loan, finding an electrician.  A few keystrokes on Edmunds, LendingTree, or Angie’s List can take the mystery out of what used to be a cumbersome and intimidating set of activities.  In fact, there is so much information available that the watchword is now caveat venditor – let the seller beware.

Some studies indicate that as much as half the traditional selling cycle is complete by the time a salesperson learns of a new opportunity.  Today the buyer can easily scope out product information, viable suppliers, sample RFPs, evaluation models, vendor scorecards, checklists, and service-level agreements from the internet with relative ease.  Conference calls with colleagues from other companies, user group meetings, and buyer conferences can also be on the menu to the more determined.  And all before the sales team is called – if they are called at all.  This “new reality,” as one Silicon Valley head of sales terms it, is forcing sales teams around the world to reevaluate how they engage with customers in everything from small-business marketing campaigns to key account sales management.  The selling strategies and tactics of just a few years ago are proving to be increasingly out of date.

However, while having access to more information may take away the specter of the lopsided barroom brawl, knowing what to do with that information is where the high-value payback occurs.  As one insurance industry executive described the rollout of their vendor management office, “This is where the heavy lifting takes place.”

The goal, however elusive, leads back to a principle that even the theoretical economist George Akerlof would agree has real-world value: “fully informed, rational actors making decisions in their best interest.”


Steve Gutzman is a senior advisor at ICN and a 33-year veteran of the high-tech industry.  You may contact him at sgutzman@dobetterdeals.com.

 

The Challenge with Buying Technology

By Steve Gutzman

  Technology – information or otherwise – has always been a tough subject to discuss, to explain, to comprehend, to predict, and most important, to buy.  Why is that?  One reason is that it is very difficult to predict its usefulness, longevity, or value over time.  Even the people who develop technology have a tough time with this.  Some examples …

“The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most.”  These are the words of an IBM executive in 1959 to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”  Such is a comment from Ken Olson, the president, chairman, and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., a manufacturer of big business mainframe computers, as he argued against the personal computer in 1977.

“There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.”  This was Thomas Craven, Federal Communications Commission member, in 1961.  The first commercial communications satellite went into service in 1965.
But there have been some predictions that proved to be pretty accurate and quite relevant to our industry.

Moore’s Law, which was coined by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965, states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 24 months.  It has been the guiding principle of the high-tech industry and explains why that sector has been able to consistently announce products that are smaller, more powerful, and less costly than their predecessors – a price-performance curve that other industries can’t come close to.  The interesting thing about Moore’s Law is that it is not a law of physics.  Rather, it is just an uncannily accurate observation on what engineers and computer scientists, when organized properly, can do with silicon.

Gilder’s Law, named after the visionary author George Gilder, states that bandwidth grows at least three times faster than computer power.  This means that if computer power doubles every 24 months, then communication power doubles every eight months.  The backbone bandwidth on a single cable is now a thousand times greater than the average monthly traffic exchange across the entire global Internet five years ago.

And finally, Metcalf’s Law, named after Robert Metcalf, an originator of Ethernet and the founder of 3Com, states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users; so, as a network grows, the value of being connected to it grows exponentially, while the cost per user remains the same or is even reduced.

Whether examined separately or collectively, these three laws are driving our industry to new heights.  But they also present some big challenges for those of us who are in the “buying trenches,” for we have to figure out how to put all this breakthrough technology to good use.

What we know about the world doubles every 10 years, and information technology is leading the way.  Magnetic nanodots will soon enable storage of over one billion pages of information in a chip that is one square inch in size.  This will be followed by imaginary interfaces, iMAX at home, content-centric networking, massively parallel cortical simulators, and quantum computers.  The pace of technology invention is accelerating exponentially, and how we buy it must keep pace.  And as we will see, not only is technology changing rapidly, but our vendors are also more sophisticated in how they bring their solutions to the marketplace and in the selling techniques they use.  Therefore, we cannot rely on the old tried-and-true buying techniques of yesteryear.  We must continually upgrade our buying skills, techniques, and processes.

Remember, if you don’t have a plan on how to buy technology, you will default to the vendors’ plan on how they sell technology.

Steve Gutzman is a senior advisor at ICN and a 32-year veteran of  the high-tech industry.  You can contact him at
info@dobetterdeals.com .

Microsoft makes changes to Select Plus – Improves Discount and Software Assurance Rules

This is the 2nd of a two-part series (the first part was out on April 1st) :    The Select Plus volume licensing program received two updates that preserve discount levels and ease license tracking and management.

Two changes to Select Plus will benefit customers by helping to preserve discount levels and making license and Software Assurance purchases easier to manage

Part 2,  By John Cullen

Initial License and SA Purchase Term Alignment

The second Mar. 2011 change alters the rules for initial purchase of licenses with SA so that the SA renewal dates of multiple purchases fall on a single affiliate anniversary date. This helps organizations to keep track of their renewal dates.

In Select Plus, purchases are made by the affiliate, a business unit or department within the organization that signed the agreement and that is allowed to make independent purchases. An affiliate designates its affiliate anniversary as either the date that it first registered under a Select Plus Agreement or the date it began using a licensed product. Until now, for orders of licenses with SA (called L & SA purchases) in Select Plus, Microsoft ignored an affiliate’s anniversary date when setting the initial term for SA. Specifically, every order for L & SA was required to include a full 36 months of SA coverage. This resulted in multiple orders of L & SA purchases that ended on different dates, giving the affiliate a large number of renewal dates to track. Microsoft mitigated the problem by aligning all SA renewals after the initial 36 months to the affiliate anniversary. This meant that the term of the first SA renewal could be between 25 and 36 months. As a result, initial orders of L & SA had staggered end dates, but their corresponding renewals made within the same year were aligned.

Under the new policy, L & SA orders will be aligned to the next third-year affiliate anniversary from the date of purchase. Therefore, L & SA orders made at any point during a year will terminate simultaneously at the next third-year affiliate anniversary date, and thus they will run from 25 months (for purchases made just before the anniversary date) to 36 months (for purchases made just after). SA renewals are then aligned for a three-year period.

This change improves and simplifies the SA purchase process by avoiding L & SA orders with different end dates for renewal. L & SA orders will align at purchase instead of waiting for alignment upon SA renewal. Customers will still need to consider timing when buying SA for a particular product; however, internal recordkeeping and renewal date tracking should be simplified.

More Like Old Select

With these two incremental changes to how Select Plus operates, customers will have greater ability to retain their discount levels as well as simpler L & SA and SA renewal asset management and tracking. These changes also make Select Plus work more like the Select program that it replaces, which will give organizations currently on Select more reason to consider the newer program. Microsoft’s announcement of the changes is at https://partner.microsoft.com/US/licensing/licensingprograms/ltvolumelicensing/vlselectplus.

 

About the Author: John Cullen is a Research VP at Directions on Microsoft, an independent publisher of information about Microsoft technologies, product roadmaps and licensing rules and programs. For more information, visit www.DirectionsOnMicrosoft.com

Microsoft makes changes to Select Plus – Improves Discount and Software Assurance Rules

This is a 2 Part Series:    The Select Plus volume licensing program received two updates that preserve discount levels and ease license tracking and management.

Two changes to Select Plus will benefit customers by helping to preserve discount levels and making license and Software Assurance purchases easier to manage

Part 1,  By John Cullen

The Select Plus volume licensing program has improved incrementally with two updates effective in Mar. 2011. One enables more companies to carry over earned discounts from year to year, and another provides more favorable terms for purchases of licenses with Software Assurance (SA) coverage, which offers version upgrade rights and other benefits. The updates make Select Plus more similar to the Select “classic” program that it replaces, and they will offer most customers better discounts that are less sensitive to purchase timing and that provide easier SA tracking and management.

What Is Select Plus?

Under the Select Plus program, customers license products at discount pricing based on the number and type of licenses purchased. License purchases yield points that determine price levels for each of three product pools: systems (mainly Windows), applications (Office and similar PC products), and servers. Of the four discount levels, A through D, level D offers the greatest discount.

Select Plus is aimed at midsize and large organizations with 250 or more PCs that want transactional, pay-as-you-go license purchasing. Select Plus offers the widest spectrum of business software of Microsoft’s volume licensing programs. Furthermore, the purchase of SA is not required with Select Plus license purchases, compared to other programs such as the Enterprise Agreement. (SA is Microsoft’s subscription-based software maintenance plan that provides version upgrades and other subscription services.)

Rollover Points for Discount Levels

The Select Plus rules for accumulating points from purchases have changed to enable customers to roll over points from year to year, which will lead to more favorable discounts and make customers less dependent on purchase timing.

At each Select Plus agreement anniversary, a compliance check is done by Microsoft to determine whether the annual points earned for each product pool still qualify the customer for their current price discount level. If the points are not sufficient, the discount level is adjusted downward by a maximum of one level (for instance, from Level B to Level A pricing).

Until now, points have not been carried over to the following year. Each customer’s agreement year began with zero points earned. For example, a Select Plus Level A customer who earned 600 points in year one (100 points more than the minimum threshold for Level A) would stay at Level A for year two and would need to earn another 500 points in year two to maintain Level A for year three. The excess 100 points earned in year one do not carry over to year two and are not applied against the 500-point minimum requirement for Level A pricing in that year.

Under the policy introduced in Mar. 2011, after an annual compliance check, points in excess of the minimum threshold for a specific price level (for example, Level A requires 500 annual points) are considered “rollover” points. These are carried over to the next agreement year. At each anniversary, the compliance check will account for any rollover points to determine whether the minimum threshold for the current price level of each product pool has been met. The Select Plus Level A customer cited above would need to earn only 400 points in the second year to maintain that price level, not 500, because the customer would benefit from 100 rollover points earned in the first year.

Unlike frequent flyer points, rollover points cannot be used whenever the customer chooses. Rollover points are always applied to the following year. Rollover points do not expire: If a customer does not select a year to use them, the points can carry over for a number of years. They will assist customers in retaining their current discount levels, thereby saving them money on license costs. This will also make discounts less sensitive to purchase timing. A customer who has already met a given discount level for the year will have no incentive to postpone additional purchases until the following year to help maintain the discount level for that year.

  Part 2 will be out early next week.

About the Author: John Cullen is a Research VP at Directions on Microsoft, an independent publisher of information about Microsoft technologies, product roadmaps and licensing rules and programs. For more information, visit www.DirectionsOnMicrosoft.com

7 Habits of Highly Effective Brains

The United States Senate has engaged me to deliver a professional development workshop to the Senate staff later this month. This article is a brief overview of that planned presentation.

Recent research of the human brain has surprised the neuroscience community by revealing that our brains can change, and be improved, at any age in our life cycle. By developing simple habits, you can help ensure that your brain remains healthy and operating with improved efficiency for the rest of your life. People of any age can benefit from developing these 7 simple habits – listed in order of importance with the 7th habit being the most valuable:

  1. Have a Nutritious Diet. Eat a low glycemic diet with lots of nutrients. Omega-3 essential fatty acids have been shown to support brain health in countless studies. By the way, surprisingly blueberries are also an excellent food for your brain.
  2. Focus Sequentially – Don’t Multitask. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, calculates that a person attempting to multitask takes up to 50% longer and makes up to 50% more mistakes that the person performing tasks sequentially!

Be Physically Active. You don’t need to be overly athletic for your brain to benefit. Studies show that 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like walking, three times a week is all you need to confer a wealth of benefits to your brain. In addition, such simple changes in lifestyle as taking the stairs at work, instead of the elevator, can help your brain stay healthy.

  1. Participate Socially. People who are active socially tend to experience far less mental decline than people who are socially isolated. So look up an old friend, or get together with that aunt or uncle you haven’t spoken to in some time.

Sleep Well – And Long Enough. If you’ve been awake for 17 hours straight your performance is equivalent to having a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%! A sleep-deprived brain works harder, but accomplishes much less than a rested brain.

Challenge Yourself Mentally. When you learn new things, or even think new thoughts, your brain restructures itself. The more you exercise your brain, the better it performs. To really super charge your brain, take a class in a new language, or in computer programming, or practice learning a musical instrument.

  1. Have a Positive Attitude – And Laugh Often. Attitude changes everything, including your brain. Research shows people who maintain a positive outlook on life are better equipped to cope with even serious brain disorders. Accept what you have, let go of anger and resentment, and move towards joy.

By making these 7 habits part of your daily routine, you’re taking steps to ensure that your brain stays healthy and efficient for a lifetime.

About the author: Jonathan Jordan, a member of the prestigious Society for Neuroscience, is an entrepreneur, Certified Business & Executive Coach and international speaker.  You can contact him through International Computer Negotiations, Inc at 407-740-0700 or via e-mail at Jonathan@MindfullyChange.com or via phone at (321) 214-5824. For more information visit http://www.MindfullyChange.com