Another Blog On How To Write a Blog?

Liver Cancer Pin

I enjoy writing, or in this case blogging. While getting readers is a factor it’s not my ultimate goal.

My goal is to write an informative blog that interests readers and makes them return to see my next blog.

Along the way I’ve picked up some tips that I think may be helpful to future writers and companies that are considering either writing their own blog or hiring a ghost writer.

1. Be patient, building readers and ultimately customers or prospects takes time. One of the first items I go over with a blog prospect is not to expect thousands or ever hundreds of readers overnight

2. Numbers aren’t everything: Blogging isn’t about the number of followers you have or how many fans. It’s about creating a conversation with your audience that will hopefully lead to the creation of loyal, repeat customers for your business.

3. Don’t get discouraged by your number of readers or one rude comment that someone makes. Focus on creating good content, establishing real relationships and being helpful.

4. Don’t rant; don’t use your blog as your personal “bitch” session, unless this is the format for your blog.  It isn’t a good business decision to constantly complain, especially if you’re not offering a positive solution.

5. Stay positive; you’ll always get and keep readers if people don’t think of you as a crazed dog.

See You All at Sage Summit 2013 at Gaylord National Resort; Washington D.C. July 21 – 26

Fathers  Day 2013 6

Bill Kizer is a Social Media Consultant based in San Diego, CA. He has spent many years as a Sage Software Value Added Re-Seller. Currently he works with Sage VAR’s to help them build a Social Media base for their companies. To contact Bill either e-mail; williamkizer52@gmail.com  / blog; http://billkizer.com / 760-518-2493  

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What Does A VAR Look Like To You?

Robert_Himanshu_Bill_Pascal @ Sage Summit 2011

What Do You Think A VAR Looks like?

Do they have integrity, passion, & honesty? Or do you have to check and re-check every invoice they send you knowing that you’re going to have a less than pleasant conversation with them about the “Holy Cow” additional costs that you hadn’t anticipated?

 Do you hear from them regularly to tell you about new updates, versions or maybe just an offer to go to lunch? Or, do they call just to remind you that your annual maintenance and support fees are due?

Is This What Your Re-Seller Looks Like?

 Do you recommend them to friends or business associates who are looking for ERP software? 

Or are they like your drunk Uncle Charley who shows up for every holiday, drinks too much, starts swearing like, well a drunken uncle. He then proceeds to pass out on your new couch which is when he chooses flatulence as his primary language. Upon awakening to the smell of something burning in the kitchen and the shrieking of the fire alarm do you realize that Drunken Uncle Charley has plans to stay the entire Holiday weekend at your place, which is when you whip out the plastic and book him a room at the furthest hotel from you with promises that he’ll pay you back.

If your “VAR” isn’t providing you with quality service like the ones that have been mentioned above then maybe what you have is a Re-Seller, not a VAR.

I was just reading  a social media post from a new Sage partner who wrote the following (paraphrased)

They wanted input from other partners because they wanted to know why Sage is better than Quick Books & another solution but they weren’t really sure as they have no experience in the usage of Sage or any other accounting program. Okay, fair enough we all have to learn sometime about the software that we represent but here’s where I was just dumbfounded. I went to their website, wait for it, and wait for it
This was what I read (paraphrased again)

At ____________ we specialize in the use of, and training in, Sage accounts, Payroll and HR programs. We offer good value and great service during training and, if you require it, maintenance.

Okay, so is there something that I’m missing?  So which classification does this partner fall into? They don’t appear to me to offer much beyond the ability to sell software so I’m going with Re-Seller. A Re-Seller doesn’t offer additional services, usually doesn’t have the resources to provide those services and generally has to charge you more because they have to pay an outside resource to provide those services.

I know what the Re-Seller looks like because I worked for one for a short period of time. Not only did they not have the in house resources to help their clients but they hadn’t bothered to have their IT person certified, why by the way is a requirement by Sage. What that means that even if we had a sale we couldn’t process it because our online Sage access had been shut off.  That’s called a red flag and a reason to find a real VAR who could provide those services.

Our clients deserve the best service that’s available. They trust that they’re getting the best service. It’s incumbent upon us to provide an extraordinary customer experience each and every time that we have a dialogue with them.  It’s time that our clients are treated as something other than a quick buck. If you’re losing more than your fair share of clients for “undetermined” reasons then it’s time to re-examine your business practices.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate why you’re in business & if it’s just to make money then you’re probably doing in business for the wrong reasons. However if providing an extraordinary customer experience for your clients is your number one goal, congratulations. You “get it” and not surprisingly so do your clients. Welcome to the World of VARs

All VAR’s Are Not Equal

Beats Me

All VAR’s are not equal nor are they the same. Some VAR’s shouldn’t be VAR’s which makes the exceptional VAR’s stand out even more, but gives the entire industry a Big Black Eye. This is just my opinion but some partners should close their doors and find their core competency and go do it.

Pre-2000 deals were flowing and everyone was happy, except for the customers. They were unhappy because they found that selling the solution was but a small part of the process and a lot of these customers were left out in the cold silently, and sometimes not so quietly cursing the entire industry. They were justified in their anger and disappointment.

What they found, much to their dismay was that not all VAR’s had their best interest in mind. This reminds me of Ben Franklin’s quote which was written more than 200 years ago;

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Deloitte and Touche did a study a few years back. They asked first and multiple time purchasers of Accounting Software what their #1 criteria was for choosing a system. (See Results Below)

Top 10 Criteria for Selecting Accounting Software

Rank                            Reason

Price of Software

Ease of Implementation

Ease of Use

Software’s ability to fit the business

Functionality of software

Software works with existing hardware

Growth potential of software

Level of support provided by local firm

Quality of documentation

Developers track record of performance

2nd Time Buyers

Rank                          Reason

Level of support provided by local firm
Developers track record
Software’s ability to fit the business
Growth potential of software
Price of software
Quality of documentation
Functionality of software
Ease of use
Ease of implementation
Software works with existing software

Take a look at the top 5 in the second group. The level of support provided by the local VAR was #1. I have shared this study with many prospects over the years, 50% took a look at it and still decided that price was the most important and paid the price. I’ve had many calls from prospects who chose price over substance asking us to clean up the mess from the partner they chose. The other 50% bought the right solution from the right partner and lived happily ever after! I recently ran into a Sage Software distributor who doesn’t have any in house resources to implement MAS products and yet call themselves a VAR. Apparently they’re unaware that VAR is the acronym for VALUE ADDED RESELLER intimating that the reseller provides Value. They can sell and they can provide support for the customer. If there are any potential customers reading this please don’t make the mistake that many others have made by choosing your Solution Provider on price alone.

  1. a. Ask them for 3 – 5 reference able happy and satisfied clients.
    b. Ask them what their implementation methodology is. All successful VAR’s should have this ready to send to prospects.
    c. Ask them how long they’ve been in business as a Sage VAR.
    d. Ask them if their staff is certified. If they can’t provide you with any of the above then you’re probably not dealing with a VAR, you’re dealing with a distributor; and anyone can distribute software.This is your time to ask questions and you should expect answers to your questions.Being a VAR requires a healthy investment and there are companies out there who are looking for shortcuts to this process. The Sage Software distributor that I mentioned earlier didn’t even have up to date certifications for their IT guy to do implementations. Really? Yet, they call themselves a VAR. Its people like this who give the industry a bad rap and unfortunately the rest of the industry has to answer for these companies.

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!

    New Technology vs. Long Term Relationship

    Just in case you haven’t noticed, there is a new normal in doing business, however, the basis of sales is still asking questions & actively listening, your client or prospect will tell you what they want or don’t want.

    I was talking to a partner recently & he was bragging about new technologies he was employing within his practice. But, his core business had not improved & so I suggested to him that he should be asking himself  “Have I adapted my new technologies to better fit my clients?” He replied, “Technology adapted strategically by small and mid size businesses can really make the difference.” 

    Frankly I don’t care if my employer has developed any new technologies. (That’s if I had an employer)

    Do I disagree with him? You bet I do.

    People don’t business with technology, they do business with people, so you can have all of the new technology, solutions & resources at your finger tips, but if you can’t build long term relationships with your prospects & customers all your technology will just gather dust.

    Here’s a good example of this: 3-4 years ago a company thought they needed MAS500. They were absolutely convinced by a VAR  that nothing less robust than MAS500 was going to fit their long term needs.

    We did our MAS500 product presentation, but at the end of the day I knew that they didn’t need MAS500 & I wasn’t comfortable with trying to jam MAS500 down their throats just because

    a) We needed the sale

    b) Our MAS500 consultant needed the work

    c) We needed the sale to maintain our tier.

    Lest I forget, they didn’t have the budget for MAS500.

    Notice that I said that we opened up with a product presentation because we let a customer dictate our sales methodology. I don’t let this happen but I was brought into the process after it started and I was squirming through the entire presentation. They hadn’t been asked any hard hitting qualification questions other than the budget  question, so the VAR that I was with ran with what he thought they were willing to pay.

    A couple of weeks later I took the controller out to lunch and told him that after spending some time with him and completing a Needs Analysis that the product he should be looking was MAS200. The difference in cost was about $75K with all the bells & whistles. 

    Later that week the CFO got fired & the project went cold. Now fast forward a few years, he’s the CFO at another company, we have lunch at least once a month & because we’re both baseball fans; we have gone to a San Diego Padres game & plan on going to more this season. He has sent me pictures of his 7 month old baby & keeps me up to date with what’s happening at his company.

    See a trend developing? It’s called building a relationship. 

    About 2-3 weeks ago he called to let me know that they now have a firm purchase date for a Sage product & guess who is going to get the sale? That’s right me.

    As the controller told me once, that they had 4 VARs come in initially and I was the only one who had bothered to stay in touch. I haven’t stayed in touch with him because I thought there was an imminent sale on the horizon, When they finally purchase a solution this May it will have been 4-5 years since our initial meeting. I do it because I enjoy his company & we have similar interests like baseball.

    Did we dazzle them with technology? Not even. I simply asked questions and then actively listened to what he had to say. I was just doing what was he & I together felt was best for him and the future of his company. 

    More importantly I have never tried to peddle software. I’ve been there when he’s had questions.  

    Try it, I guarantee you that not only will your pipeline be full of quality prospects, but you’ll have happier clients because they know that you have their interest in mind and that you will be there no matter what. 

    Happy 2010

    Who Can You Trust?

    Since MIS Group closed it’s doors last week there has been alot of conversation given to how does something like this happen to a VAR that was just the Overall Partner of The Year. While it leaves me shaking my head in wonderment I’m going to leave that question to be answered by those who are more capable.

    No one has called me to find out what I believe did or didn’t happen. I had no financial interests in the MIS Group. I’m just an observer to the parade as it goes by.

    I’m looking at Google.com & see 8 entries for other VAR’s to “help” customers who have been left in the lurch by the sudden closure. I’ve gotten off my high horse & determined that these orphans are going to need the help that a VAR can bring. Initially I thought that it seemed like a pack of buzzards were circling ready to move in. Business is business & someone is going to have to make some tough business decisions. Continue reading