Insights Is Over, Now What Do I Do?

Insights 2010 is over. So much great information. So many informative sessions, Hands On Work Shops, keynotes, got to see old friends and make new ones. Now that I’m back in (You Fill In The Blank) what do I do first to make my business better?

It’s been a week and some of the “feel good” is getting up and going. While I was away, the business continued on, customers called, prospects were wondering why I wasn’t calling, it’s time to get back at it. But what’s the first thing that I should do?

I’ve read that it’s usually the second to fourth week after a conference that attendees completely forget everything that they learned and then they’re back doing the same thing(s) prior to going.

I want to learn more about this thing called The Cloud, but Mrs. Smith is calling with a problem, my sales manager wasn’t selling or managing while I was in Denver. His golf handicap mysteriously went down 3 strokes. I’m in Denver and his handicap goes down, coincidence? I think not.

Mr. Brown is calling because he’s heard about this Social Media thing and wants to bend my ear about what’s the best approach for his business. Of course he wants me to set it up for him, but he doesn’t want to pay. I then remember what Ed Kless was saying about Pricing On Purpose. I want to put Mr. Brown on a Access Level Agreement but I don’t know how to accomplish that. I should call Ed but I don’t know him. I have kept track of all the time that Mr. Brown has usurped from my available time and the number is astounding. I’ve essentially worked for free for him with no hope of ever making him an “A” customer.  I need to start putting a price on my Knowledge because  my knowledge is all I have left to offer. I’ve let customers like Mr. Brown get it for free and I’ve given them the unwritten permission to do so. Not any more! I’m not a commodity!

I run the risk of losing him as a customer, but what kind of a customer is he? He doesn’t respect me or my staff, my staff doesn’t like working with him because he’s abusive and refuses to deal with anyone but me. I heard at Insights that when customers like Mr. Brown leave they’re better off with another VAR and my business will get more productive. I understand that it will take time but I believe that I’m willing to take that step. I met a partner from Knoxville who lost 50% of his customers when he made the switch but his business has continued to grow and flourish as a result of taking that leap of faith.

I want to read Rob Johnson’s book Kick Your Own Ass, because I’ve attended the 5 day Sales Academy and got a lot from it but I don’t have the time right now because Mr. Brown is on the phone again. I know that I need to make my business more lean and mean.

I want to blog because I’ve heard that blogging can work together with a well thought out Social Media plan for my business. I also heard that it’s another way of building a network. I see a lot of people blogging sporadically but there are some partners who provide a valuable message in their blogs. The first name that comes to mind is Wayne Schulz, I think he’s in Connecticut but I don’t him either.

How do the successful VAR’s operate? How do they seem to be at the top of the heap year in and year out? I have no clue because I don’t run my business any longer, it runs me.

What about this LinkedIn Group? Someone was talking about it, well actually a lot of people were talking about it. Should I join? Will I learn anything? Will I build a bigger and better network? By the way, the answer is “yes” to the prior questions. Then I heard that to get the most out of it I need to participate in discussions, etc. I don’t have the time, remember? Crap, Mr. Brown is calling again. Instead of picking up the phone I do something differently this time, I ask my assistant to tell Mr. Brown that I’m in a meeting and won’t be available for a few hours. Hey, that felt pretty good.

I think what I will do is look at my business from the “outside.” I need to look at it realistically, it’s important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses are. Then and only then can I start to make well informed business decisions. Then I need to make those decisions and stick by them. I don’t want my business to continue running me any longer, I think that I might connect with some of the Sage Power Houses and pick their collective brains to see what they’re doing that I’m not. I want to be successful, I want to be recognized as a leader and someone that other people come to when they have questions, but I’ve let my business run me around like a mouse on a hamster wheel.

So here’s what I’m going to do and my new Mantra;

ANALYZE, STRATEGIZE AND UTILIZE

  • Set objectives
  • Generate alternative strategies
  • Evaluate alternative strategies
  • Monitor results
  • Start to enjoy being a Sage VAR again
  • See you all next year!

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    Insights 2010

    Tammy Mathews, Bill Kizer & some short guy at Sage Insights 2010 ~ Denver, Colorado

    Photograph Taken By Wayne Schulz

    Like a lot of other Sage Partners, Employees & Exhibitors I just returned home from Sage’s Annual Partner Conference. It was held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver and I’m happy to report that I think this was the best Insights that I’ve attended.  It was refreshing, positive and had the feel of a large family reunion without the drunk uncle.

    My only negative was the size of that damned convention center. I made the mistake of wearing new shoes to walk endlessly throughout the monolithic Center. It seemed to me that the halls were about 6 miles long and of course sessions covered every square foot available. At the end of the first day my feet were killing me, I developed blisters and I promise that I will never scoff at another woman when they complain about walking in heels. I think that I was the only person there who actually missed the Gaylord hotels, especially the Nashville property where everyone gets lost at least once and when you get lost in the Orlando Gaylord at least you had the alligators to keep you distracted while you wandered aimlessly. If my calculations are correct I walked a total of 493 miles in 4 days! Not really but it seemed that way.

    Now that I’ve whined about the walking, let’s get to the good stuff. The keynotes were succinct. As usual Himanshu was dynamite. Tom Miller held his own even though he had to follow Himanshu. I always enjoy listening to Laurie Schultz. I especially enjoyed Sue Swenson’s opening day keynote.

    The sessions that I attended seemed to be more relevant and timely. Ed Kless had a 3 part (that’s 3 straight hours) session titled “Firm Of The Future” and I don’t think that anyone left. There were more sessions on Social Media which seemed to be well attended. The Social Media Session that was moderated by Dennis Frahmann was phenomenal and I could have sat through another 2-3 hours. The panel was well picked and there were a lot of good questions. There were several hands on sessions that also looked packed.

    Rob Johnson was giving out signed copies of his new book Kick Your Own Ass. I wrote about my misadventures with the book on the group website http://www.sage-li-group.com.

    The difference in 2009 versus 2010 was papable, the chatter I heard was how far we’ve come as a company & how the future is looking brighter than ever. We’ve got a long ways to go, but it looks like we’re headed in the right direction.

    I’ve included some of the comments that were posted in the Discussions area of Sage LinkedIn Partners, Employees & Alumni Community: :

    Peter Wolf

      Peter Wolf, President at Azamba Consulting Group

      1. Content / conference itself: I’m finding that overall the mood is upbeat and positive. A lot of folks are seeing an uptick in prospect and client interest again – in some cases this is early stage proposals and in others this is signed orders.

      I feel that the Sage executives are an open, forthright group and they are keeping their committments to their three (?? is it more ??) key initiatives. Kudos to them all and to all the other Sage people that help make that possible.As anyone who has watched Seinfeld knows… anybody can MAKE committments – it’s keeping them… that’s the hard part. They seem to be doing a great job from what I can see. As always, it’s great to re-connect with people that we haven’t seen for a year and to put in some face time to all the new friends made via Social networking over the last 12 months. I tip my hat to Bill Kizer and crew for establishing this group – it really helps keep the conversations going (good and bad) throughout the year. 2. Venue / food / layout. These things never seem to bother me although I have found that they are typically a “common enemy” for a lot of people. 😉

      I have a booth (#520 – shameless plug) and appreciate that the booths are placed closer together than last year (where there was a football field separating one side from the other in any given row). It makes the flow seem more energetic which is great.

      John Hoyt

      John Hoyt, Partner, Hutchinson and Bloodgood LLP – Consulting Group Enterprise Solutions

      The Conference:
      Overall rating – Excellent.
      There was no special motivational speaker, which is great. They always have the same message, and the fact that we are at Insights means we are already motivated. Sage management motivating us is sufficient.The keynotes at all levels were concise and to the point, and I hope everyone else got the message as I did. The management team, at last, has a focus and are all on the same page. I support their efforts wholeheartedly!
      I took advantage of most of the sessions by Ed Kless, and these were invaluable to me. We cannot get too much of this information, but the interaction of the other people in these was key. I’m not convinced that updates on product roadmaps add much beyond the quarterly update presentations we get. I would like to see drilldown deeper into details that we cannot cover during those. I know there were sessions on BI and SQL, so these may be what I am looking for. The trade show was comprehensive, but I had a difficult time getting to everything. To exhibitors – I really don’t need gimmicks. Just present your product, so I can quickly understand what you have, and move on.The Venue:
      This layout and the logistics for me were far superior to the Gaylords. I want to escape to a separate hotel, where the facilities, food and drink are different, and probably better.

      I did not mind the food – it had more flavor and spice than in previous years. It’s never going to be haute cuisine, but that’s not why we’re here, and it is adequate. I would have liked champagne during the cocktail hours, but that’s just me!

      Wayne Schulz

      Wayne Schulz, Schulz Consulting http://www.s-consult.com

      I thought the numbers of people were down but those who attended were much more experienced and open about sharing.

      I’ve never been to a competitor’s conference but I’m pretty sure at those events that the regular folk like us don’t have a chance to talk to the top VP’s and President…… of course I couldn’t think of anything to actually talk to Jodi about other than how glad I was that we weren’t at the Gaylord Opryland this year (which was flooded in about 8 feet of water ) but I guess you have to start somewhere 😉

      Here’s what I’d like to see in future conferences:

      1. I guess we still need road map sessions – but it seems that new streets and highways get built faster than the maps can be updated …

      What I’d like to see is a session on “why we did this” where Sage product folks could explain the real rationale behind some of the product feature decisions.

      I saw a glimpse of this in the hands-on training classes and it was very helpful to understand the reason behind why a particular feature may or may not have been added.

      2. One Powerpoint Keynote/Session Rule…

      Sage Executives are best when they’re not on script. Skip the bulk of those Powerpoints — or mail them out after the conference.

      I realize you have to create some standard message type content for a keynote but I find myself listening most closely to the speaker when they’re not on a script.

      I think both Ed and Rob do this for their “classes” — which are really more like learning events….. the last time I went to Ed’s session he announced that he had 30 minutes of presentation (thankfully usually only one PPT) and then the class could vote on what they’d like to talk about (it’s always related to the overall theme of the session).

      I think it works — at the Firm of the Future there had to be 60 people who sat through 3 concurrent sessions without leaving. As best I could tell just about every single person in the room participated….

      Oh and for some reason these sessions also product almost zero rants about policy and/or Sage — nearly all the discussion is about how to improve…. there’s a big lesson in these session formats imho.

      3. Let the product people get more involved in keynotes. Scott Zandenberg (sp) was great (loved his opening cartoon about change in the install base). The hands-on classroom was excellent when they went off-script and talked about why a change was or wasn’t made to the product.

      My feedback to everyone at Sage was that I think most people realize that product and technology related issues are tough to change. The one thing I am looking for Sage to work hard to improve is communication — providing us with the type of product and Sage communications that increase our enthusiasm and confidence for the products.

      Hugh Johnson

      Hugh Johnson, VP Sales & Marketing at Suntico

      As a first-timer I was delighted to meet so many great people from Sage and the Sage partner community in North America. There seems to be a strong cooperative spirit among many of the partners which is impressive. Almost everyone I spoke to commented about a pick-up in business or at least in sales enquiries in 2010 which is very encouraging.

      As an exhibitor I did not get to go to many of the sessions but that is OK. I thought the exhibitors were well looked after, and there was plenty of productive trade-show time.

      I learned an awfull lot, made some excellent contacts, received some very generous offers of assisitance and as a result I am refining my market entry strategy for the US.

      I loved Denver.

      Gary Feldman

      Gary Feldman, President at I-Business Network, LLC and Owner, I-Business Network, LLC

      Insights was and remains one of the best events of its kind, especially for a software company in the market Sage serves.
      1. The content was as informative and substantive as ever. I really appreciated the number and quality of the external experts (the CRM road ahead was especially good). The keynotes and other presenters are packing a lot of content (even Himansu) into a small amount of time. Tom Miller was a perfect example of too much information in too little time. The one area for improvement is the motivational aspect of the conference as a sales event. Sage could punch up the energy level with a master of ceremony that can ignite the energy at the begining of the conference. The painters and singers was an attempt at this. A truly dynamic presence could invigorate during the show and beyond.2. The Denver convention center is a fabulous facility. The Wells Fargo auditorium is really nice (although the seats are a little cramped). The tradeshow layout was good although I beleive the Sage booth should be in front of the door as the main attraction. I think half way between the narrow isles and football field seperation would allow for more traffic and better visibility.

      I do like the Gaylord combined facility and hotel as it allows you to go back to the room during short breaks. Not all Gaylords were equal and the DC facility was beautiful, but more cramped than the others. I hope we have the problem of too many people for the small hallways!

      Although the number of people was down, the quality of the conversations was up this year. Well worth the time to increase our knowledge and social capital. Continue reading

    So You’re Going To Your 1st Network Event

      
     If you’re heading to a networking event, make sure you know why you’re going. I believe in having objectives. What’s yours? Are you looking for a job? Are you looking for contacts or a mentor to provide guidance or are you “just going” because your employer wants you to?  

    You’ve arrived at the event. Now what do I do, you ask yourself. Do you head for the buffet table & stuff your face or do you head straight for the bar & get blitzed? No, remember you have an objective, now’s not the time to get distracted by food or drink.  

    Here’s some tips that may help you get through your very first networking event. 

    1. 1. Dress & act professionally. Shake hands firmly, make eye contact & show respect. A networking event can be a dress rehearsal for a job interview. 

    2.  2. Men & women remember only those who stand out from the crowd. Be assertive, not obnoxious, you want to project self assurance.  
    3. Bring cards. There’s nothing worse than establishing a good relationship with someone, not having any cards & having to scratch contact information on a cocktail napkin. Spend a few dollars for professional looking cards on quality stock & please remember this tip; even though your friends may know you as “Too Hot To Trot,” stick to a serious email address for business.  
    4. Don’t monopolize people’s time. People want to mingle at networking events. Understand the person you’re speaking with has a life that extends beyond you. 
    5. If someone says, “Sorry, we don’t have anything right now,” ask follow-up questions: “What’s the outlook for future possibilities? Do you know anyone else in the industry who might have something? Any thoughts on what my next step should be?” Persistence shows true interest on your part & may help the person you’re networking with come up with ideas he might otherwise overlook.   
    6. Send a follow-up email within 24 hours expressing your thanks for getting the opportunity to me them & spend a few minutes getting to know more about them & their business. Also, ask for the permission to call them from time to time. If your budget allows, ask them for lunch.  
    7. Don’t Lie. It’s tempting to say, “Bob gave me your name & told me to call.” It might get you a meeting, eventually Bill will learn that Bob didn’t tell you to call. You’ll have burned not 1, but 2 bridges. 
    8. Have a good time, enjoy yourself & remember not to take yourself too seriously.