Thursday, February 28, 2008

Feed the World -- with RSS

Just a quick technical note.

We have added an RSS feed to the SMB Conference Calls.

So, if you missed some old shows, or are just too lazy to click over to to get you mp3, you can now add the SMB Conference Call to your RSS aggregator.

The RSS feed link is

And, at Vlad's suggestion, I have added this to iTunes. Not sure how long it takes to get going there.


Technical Note: If you are having trouble getting RSS to work properly in Outlook, Relax. It's not you.

RSS doesn't work properly in Outlook.

For best results, see my good friend Chris Rue's advice:


If you don't know about the SMB Conference Call, then read all about it here. Basically, we interview some Super Stars in the SMB community and give you the latest and greatest info on what's coming up.

If you would like a bit of advance notice about happenings in the SMB community, and a calendar of the major events of the year, please sign up for my email newsletter.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Seminar: Sell and Execute Perfect, Profitable Projects

If you can walk, fly, drive, or crawl to Texas, please join us!

Sell and Execute Perfect, Profitable Projects

A Great Seminar
Matt Makowicz and Karl Palachuk

April 17th
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas
(Irving, TX)

This is a Pre-Day Seminar for

SMB Summit

Register Now!

Sell and Execute Perfect, Profitable Projects
We'll Show You How

Growing your business is fun -- but it's also difficult.

One of the biggest challenges is maintaining profitability. That's particularly true with projects.

One- and Two-person shops have enough challenges with projects. As you grow, you have three more:

First, the sales people have to be in sync with the tech team. You need to make sure you're selling the right services and the right projects. That means you need a sales process. We'll show you how to get started.

Second, your sales people need to manage the project handoff to the tech team. All the promises need to be written down, measured, and delivered. Once again, a great process guarantees a perfect project!

Third, tech team members need to be able to work together without creating rework or dropping anything. And again, you're back to having the right process.

Matt Makowicz and Karl Palachuk have each sold and delivered millions of dollars worth to technical services and recurring revenue-based services.

Now they're teaming up for a great seminar to bring you the most important information you need to stop losing money, start executing more profitable projects, increase the recurring revenue coming into your business, and increase the value of your company.

This is NOT just another seminar. You'll walk away with proven processes and procedures to make your company more profitable as you grow!

This is a four hour seminar.

The regular price for this information packed session is $399 per person.

Thanks to a special deal with our hosts, we are able to offer this show at an amazing price:

One Attendee: $149. Before March 15th: $99!
Second Attendee from the same company: $99
Third Attendee from the same company: $49
Up to five additional attendees from your company: FREE.


How much do you have to save on your project costs to pay for that? One hour? Two hours?

How about attendee #3? Half an hour?

You are GUARANTEED to learn secrets in this seminar that will save you at least $1,000 on your next server installation project.

Add that to your bottom line!

How? It's easy. Sell the right project in the first place. Deliver the right project and services after the sale.

And get paid for all the "unknown elements" that come up during the project and maximize your profits!

It's true!

Special Offer:

If you register by March 15th, 2008, receive $100 off the cost of registration for the SMB Summit!

That makes this seminar too good to pass up!

Wait. There's more!

Everyone who brings at least two attendees will receive a FREE month membership of Ambition Mission Community and a free copy of Karl's book Relax, Focus Succeed: A Guide to Balancing Your Personal and Professional Lives and Becoming More Successful in Both.

That's $129 in additional take-aways just for bringing a co-worker.

There are a limited number of seats for this seminar.

Act Now to secure your seat(s) at this seminar!

Register Now!

And pass this information along to a colleague who can use it!

Register Now!

----- ----- ----- ----- -----

Money Back Guarantee:
If you are not 100% satisfied with this seminar, and convinced that you will be able to increase your profitability immediately, you may return all seminar materials for a complete refund of your registration fees.

----- ----- ----- ----- -----

How Do I Get the Most Out of Zenith Infotech?

SMB Conference Call

February 27th
9:00 AM Pacific Time

with Zenith InfoTech

Raymond Vrabel
Maurice Saluan

How Do I Get the Most Out of Zenith Infotech?

I've mentioned several times in my blog that it's really important to use your tools once you buy them (or sign up).

So you might be wondering, HOW do you get the most out of Zenith Infotech once you sign up? How do you communicate and coordinate your tech support with their tech support? How do you complete the feedback loop? How do you turn over important jobs to them?

And if you're thinking about signing with Zenith, this should be a great insight into what you can expect.

Join us on February 27th. We'll be joined by

- Raymond Vrabel, Sr. Manager of Service Operations for Zenith Infotech.


- Maurice Saluan, Director of Channel Operations for Zenith Infotech.

They'll talk about how Zenith's tech support is organized. And they'll give some tips on How to get the most out of Zenith Infotech.

Email me your questions and I'll try to get them all in.

This will be a great call!

Mark Your Calendar Today!

Free to the first 300 callers. Others are out of luck!

Call info is here:

Join us.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Monday Morning Quiz

Every few weeks, we have a quiz at KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist). It has the following questions. Everyone in the office has to answer these, from the President to the newest employee. Administrative assistants, technicians, office manager. Everyone.

The quiz is very simple:

1. What does KPEnterprises do?

2. All work is done . . . [fill in the blank]

3. Managed Services covers . . . [fill in the blank]

4. How are Service Requests worked?

The answers are:

1. "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."

Acceptable alternatives are "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks for Small and Medium Size businesses" and "We design, build, and support Networks for Small Size businesses."

2. All work is done from a service request.

3. Managed Services covers the maintenance of the operating system and software.

4. Service Requests are worked from highest to lowest priority and from oldest to newest.


We take this quiz again and again and again. Why? Because every single person in our company is responsible for knowing these answer exactly. The wording is chosen carefully. There can be lengthy explanations and discussions about each of these points. But you may never get to the lengthy discussion. So it is critical that the first response be exactly what we want it to be.

[ed. note: If you haven't read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, go do that right now.]

Let's look at these one at a time.

1. "So what does your company do?"

"We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."

Clear, concise, to the point. Now, I can't claim that this is unique, ground-breaking, or profound. But I can tell you that the message is 100% consistent. We don't have stumbling responses about being techno-goobers and gurus and specialists in this or that.

When you talk to a tech, he says "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."
When you talk to the office manager, she says "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."
When you talk to the part-time assistant who puts price tags on cables, she says "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."

Phone conversations. Cocktail parties. Elevators. Baseball games. Rock concerts.

This message has to be learned and ingrained. It must become an automated response. What do you do? "We design, build, and support Microsoft Networks."

2. All work is done from a service request.

"As long as you're here, will you please [set up my printer] [look at my monitor] [help me with Outlook] [reprogram the Hubble telescope]?

It doesn't matter what the question is. "Right now, I'm working on a specific issue. All work is done from a service request. So, put a service request in the system. Since I'm here, I'll try to work through all the service requests in the system before I leave."

True Story: A little over a year ago, Manuel and Nicko were doing open heart surgery on a backup drive. They literally had the drive splayed open. Nicko was holding the drive parts and Manuel was meticulously working on the fine parts inside.

A client user walked into the computer room and asked "Can you help me with my printer?"

Nothing against her. This is a completely understandable action on the client's part. Her printer stopped working. The computer guys were onsite. So she walked into the computer room and asked for help.

Shoulder-tap tech support at its best.

In order to make your business profitable, and keep your rates reasonable, you need a system. In order to benefit from the fixed rate pricing of managed services, your clients need to learn and use the system.

A second example: The phone rings. In fact, every phone in the company rings. Finally, Client X gets ahold of someone. "I've been trying to contact your office. I've called every phone number and extension I know. I've sent emails. I'm not getting any response. I have a new employee starting on Monday and I need their computer set up."

"All work is done from a service request. Have you entered a Service Request?" No.

If Technician A is at Client B and his phone rings, he is not allowed to answer it. He has to give his time and talent to the job in front of him. After all, Client B is paying for that time.

If Client X enters a service request, the person monitoring the service board will be paged within seconds, evaluate the request, and contact Client X.

Even in an emergency, entering a Service Request is the absolute fastest way to get service. Period. No technician is going to spend one second of time on a problem without a service request. So even if the client gets a technician on the phone, the first thing he'll ask is "Did you enter a service request? If not, let's go ahead and do that now."

All work is done from a service request. Like it or not, this is a for-profit business based on the buying and selling of time, which is tracked through service requests.

3. Managed Services covers the maintenance of the operating system and software.

Maintenance. Maintaining. Keeping it going in the future as it goes today.

So, is the installation of new software covered? No. That's an add.

If outlook breaks, is that covered? Yes. Getting the system back to work as it worked before is covered.

Jan and Dean are switching offices. Is that covered? No. That's a move.

Service Pack 2 needs to be installed. Covered? Yes. That's maintenance.

So: maintenance means keeping the operating system and software working properly. That includes updates, patches, and fixes. It does not cover installation of new software. But once the new software is in and working properly, then it's covered.

If you get the argument that clients and technicians don't know what's covered and what's not, you need a simple rule that provides a common place to discuss the service.

Whatever the question, you can ask, "Does that fall under the definition of maintaining the operating system and software?"

Again, this is a profitability topic. You need a definition that allows you to have enough of a margin to pay your employees and keep the lights on. It has to be comprehensible to clients and technicians. In our case, this simple sentence helps us define a consistent product (service).

4. Service Requests are worked from highest to lowest priority and from oldest to newest.

This may sound like an obvious statement, but it is easy to lose track of in the day-to-day operation. Most business owners are interrupt-driven. And, in return, they are interrupt-drivers. In other words, they're in the habit of walking up to anyone in their business, interrupting that person, and asking for things. Their employees let them do this because . . . because they're the owner!

So business owners reduce their own company's profitability by not respecting the work their employees are doing. This, in turn, trains those employees to interrupt each other. And you.

When you're onsite, you should have a list of exactly what you're going to do. (All work is done from a service request, after all.) But if the owner interrupts you and says, "I have the newest, lowest-priority item on the service board. Can you take care of that now?" What do you do?

You train your clients to respect your time and use you efficiently so they can keep their costs down.

"Service Requests are worked from highest to lowest priority and from oldest to newest. I'm in the middle of something right now. When I finish here, I have A and B and C to do. Let's sit down and go through the SRs. We'll make sure they all have the right priorities assigned."

Note: Most bosses and owners are not used to being treated this way -- even when it's in their best interest. But our experience is that they react very positively if you treat them with respect.

Remember, you and the business owner are the only two people in the company who are motivated specifically to save tech support costs. Talk to the owner about this so there's a context for the inevitable discussion about priorities.


All of these quiz questions seem very easy. But they need to be absolutely ingrained. We tattoo them on the insides of our employees' eyelids. We give them audio tapes to listen to while they sleep.

Okay, we really just do the quiz thing.

But the point is: These are some of the Rules of Our Success. Knowing these things by rote memory makes us more profitable. Knowing them by heart makes it easier to talk about them casually with a client. Having the client know them allows the client to buy into a system that provides superior service at a reasonable price.

We have clients who have traded a $75,000/year in-house technician for a $25,000 contract with KPEnterprises. They don't want to give up shoulder-tap tech support. But in the big picture, working within our system saves them a boatload of cash.

Consider for your own business: What does your company do?

And what other two or three questions reveal the core procedures for your success?


For a good little blog post on Position Statements, see Trent's discussion at

Saturday, February 23, 2008

We're Opting Out of the Recession

You may have heard talk about a recession. Or a downturn. Or a slow-down.

A recession, according to the precise pointy-headed definition, is two or more consecutive quarters in which the Gross Domestic Product declines. In plain language, that means the economy is shrinking. There is only one fool-proof way to spot a recession: you have to look back and see if it happened.

"Everyone" says that, IF we have a recession, it will be a mild one. So, when Summer comes, we'll look back. We might find that there was a recession, or we might find that there wasn't a recession. But either way, it will be over when we look back.

Have you ever heard the term borrowing worry? Borrowing worry means to look ahead and worry about something that hasn't happened yet. And most of the time, that means worrying about something that never will happen. After all, our fertile human minds can concoct an unlimited number of scenarios. And we can worry about an unlimited number of things that will never happen.

Question: So, Will there be a recession?

Answer: Who cares?

A recession is defined by the entire economy either growing or shrinking. That's trillions and trillions of dollars. That's more money than Microsoft and J.K. Rowling combined!

Your personal economy (or your small business economy) is a completely different story. You're not even a drop in the GDP bucket. You're a molecule in a drop.

All you have to worry about is your personal business.

Our plan for 2008 is to grow 25%. We're on track for that.

I don't care if there's a recession or not.

We don't need trillions of dollars. Or billions, even.

To avoid recession, we only need to do three things.

First, we need to keep our clients happy. That maintains our base. Period. Right there we've avoided a recession.

Second, we need to increase our base. We raised our rates on January First. As that increase makes its way through the client list, we'll see an increase in revenue.

Here's a rule for perpetual success: If you haven't raised your rates in two or three years, do so immediately. What other thing in your world costs the same as it did three years ago?

Third, we need to expand our base. That means adding new clients. We signed a deal last week. So that's moving in the right direction.

We have a clearly defined, written profile of our "ideal" client. We will add one such client each quarter. That might seem low, but our ideal client is nothing to sneeze at. We don't add just anyone who walks in the door as a client. We make friends we intend to keep for many years.

As for actions, we have a marketing calendar that goes through the end of September. We will sign three more ideal clients this year because we have a written step-by-step plan to do so.

So, you see, we have simply Opted Out of the Recession.

If you wish to have a recession, by all means do so. But we're not participating.

If people decide to shop at Walmart instead of Target for the next three months, that doesn't keep us from giving our clients excellent service.

If people travel less this Easter, we're still going to increase our base prices a bit.

If businesses resist hiring new people, our marketing plan will still get us new clients. In fact, the resistance to hire might help us out a bit.

You know the addage Keep It Simple. You don't have to do a lot of complicated stuff to avoid a recession. All you have to do is a few things very well.

Join us and opt out today!


Oh! And if we look back and there was no recession, that's okay too. The few simple things you need to focus on are the same things that made you successful in the first place.

Server Roadmap Continued

Last Time I proposed a division of servers between Biz Server Nano and SBS 2012.

Here's my rationale:

The world is evolving. But sometimes the best solution is not the latest, greatest, gaggle of features crammed into a smaller, faster, cooler box. Sometimes the best solution is just plain basic technology that just plain works.

Why does Blackberry kick so very much butt? Because it just works. (Okay, not last week. But 99.9999% of the time.) You're not forced to replace everything every three or four years. It does one thing and does it very well. No: You don't get rich calendar integration and Office attachments.

You just get something that's simple, fast, easy, and reliable.

My point is: We need to segregate out the primary functions for our clients. We need to match three variables:
- the technology,
- the support services, and
- the client.

If you haven't looked at "appliances," you should. You want a web server? Chunk. Here's a web server. You want a mail server? Chunk. Here's a mail server. Whether you sell them or not, you should have an appreciation for the fact that there's a certain elegance to a product that just does what needs to be done extremely competently.

Sometimes, when a technology can be put in place and just work, we need to back away from the whiz-bang solutions and go with the technology that just works.

So let's look at the small and very small business market. And let's look at right-sizing.

First, the Nano market. That's 1-10 users.

The technology is Biz Server Nano plus hosted web and exchange. Onsite server has simple, primary functions (file sharing, backup, virus scanning).

Support is provided by technicians who focus on this specific market. Primary skills revolve around basic server maintenance and all levels of desktop maintenance. Also need to either manage the hosted service relationship or provide hosted services.

This is clearly the largest client base. It is also the easiest to get into as a consultant. The number of clients is nearly unlimited. Support here is primarily provided by sole proprietors who do not wish to become larger shops.

Second, the Small Biz market. That's 11-50 users.

The technology is Small Business Server 2012. Again, web and exchange are offsite. Primary functions of sbs2012 are domain security, file sharing, remote access, sharepoint, backup, and patch management for all machines on the network.

That's a combination that can work well together on the same box, and be delivered very reliably.

Support is provided by consultants who focus on the specialized technology of SBS: Active directory, remote access and the network technologies related to it, sharepoint, and add-on technologies such as SQL and CRM. With luck, these last two will be installed on separate servers.

The client base in the 10-50 range is the second largest base of client in the world. They require a higher level of attention and are far more willing to sign a service agreement. And once you get more than about ten of these clients, you're sure to need some additional staff.

Again, with web and exchange offsite, a certain amount of maintenance is also gone. As a rule, these clients demand a higher level of reliability and uptime, so they are willing to commit a bit more and pay more.

Third, the medium biz market. That's 50-250 users.

The technology is the core windows servers. Web is more likely to be onsite, as is exchange. The "big" server is a beefy machine that actually hosts virtual machines for SQL, etc.

The natural progression is from one server to two servers. From two to three, from three to four.

Even today, these folks are very likely to be using virtual machines and terminal services quite widely.

Support is provided by a team of technicians who, taken together, can master all the various technologies onsite. Reliability and uptime are primary concerns. All clients sign agreements. All clients expect top-end support.

Remember, its 2012, so Windows Essential Business Server (centro) has come and gone. This world isn't much different from the 1-5 client world: They want individual systems that each do their job extremely well. But they have the advantage that virtualization reigns supreme, which makes upgrades and migrations much easier than they were in the past.


Right-sizing tech support will simply happen on it's own. If Microsoft doesn't provide the right combination of servers, someone else will.

There's a natural home for every kind of consultant and every kind of client.

I can't tell a great story about the lines between 10 and 11 desktops or 50 and 51 desktops. But the division provides a framework for understanding the client types that exist out there.

And that's a little something to chew on for your future.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Karl's Server Roadmap for Microsoft

I have a proposal for Microsoft regarding their low-end server line-up.

At least for the business world.

Most people haven't installed Cougar yet. But let me skip ahead to the next family of servers - due out in 2012.

By that time, I believe everyone will have come to grips with the fact that Exchange does not belong in the small office. As a consultant, your options are to become a hosting provider, become a hosting reseller, or simply find a hosting company for your clients' email.

With luck, we will also have come to grips with the fact that a public-facing web server shouldn't be in an office too small to handle an attack in real time. So that's hosted.

And let's all hope that bandwidth continues to increase while the prices decrease. So we'll all have two or three times the bandwidth we have today.

Let's assume that the micro businesses don't want a "home" server. So the first thing you do is scrape the label off with a razor blade and put on a label that says Biz Server Nano.

I imagine the market to be divided like this:

1) Biz Server Nano
- Core function is file sharing
- Cannot be joined to a domain
- No Active Directory
- Limited to 10 simultaneous users
- No additional CALs required or available
- No migration plans or procedures (after all, the most you'd have to do is create ten users)
- Backup capabilities, including tape backup
- Will not accept exchange, SQL, CRM, etc.
- Able to run a network-wide virus scanner
- Focused market is 1-5 users. Very happy with ten.
- Price range $400 (in today's dollars)

2) Small Business Server 2012
- Cougar-like
- Core functions are file sharing, remote access, sharepoint
- Limit one per network; must be "primary" domain controller
- 75 user limit
- Backup and imaging capabilities for all machines on the network
- Let's face it, the team got SBS2003 right. So it doesn't need to change much
- Patch management engine for the domain (something elegant like kaseya, not wsus)
- Focused market is 10-50 users
- Price range $600 plus $500 for 5 cals (in today's dollars)

I pondered here what a micro business needs in a server.

If you take Exchange and www out of the picture, it's pretty straight forward stuff. In fact, if the primary job is file sharing and backup, it's hard to justify a server for one or two people. I know that's heresy. Businesses just need servers.

So there should be a right-sized server for them.


I welcome any and all feedback on the concept of Biz Server Nano.

1) Do you believe we need a separate product for the micro business?

2) What features should it have?

Post your comments.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Wedge Addresses Three Great Weaknesses in Your Sales Technique

Last Time I talked about the powerful Wedge strategy for sales.

A lot of people have responded that they found it to be a very exciting idea.

The best thing about this technique for people who are not "trained" professional sales people is that it's easy to understand and easy to learn.

But there are three other reasons why the wedge technique is particularly good for the SMB Consultant. And they are probably the three great weaknesses in our sales technique.

1. It forces you to be prepared.

As a group, we're pretty lazy sales people. We think we're on a roll when we make ten phone calls.

We go into sales meetings with little or no preparation. After all, most of us have had moderate success by just meeting people and chatting about what we do.

We take our technology seriously, but we don't take our sales skills seriously.

Jim Collins (read Good to Great) makes an excellent point: "Good is the enemy of Great." Moderate success is the enemy of spectacular success!

Crafting a series of carefully worded questions requires us to be prepared for the sales meeting.

2. Practice Makes Perfect.

One of the behaviors of serious, successful sales people is role-playing. I think most adults who don't do any role-playing exercises are extremely reluctant to get started.

This is one of those situations where it is obvious what you need to do, but you don't do it.

It's not comfortable. It feels unnatural. If I can avoid it I will.

Somehow, I'm going to manage to be a serious, successful salesperson without doing one of the things that all serious, successful sales people do.

The wedge technique takes some practice. Even if you end up role-playing with your alter ego, you have to plan how you think the conversation will go.

3. Focus on Benefits, not Features.

I know you've heard this 1,000 times. But we tend to jump in with SharePoint and Remote Web Workplace. Feature, feature, feature.

The wedge requires you to take the focus off your product and place it on the client. Remember the format of the question is "When you the client do something you the client need to do for your business, are you the client getting what you the client need?"

And the response is "My consultant doesn't do that."

By it's nature, the wedge selling technique is completely focused on the client's needs.

After all, the goal is to get the client to realize "My needs aren't being met."

And when the prospect comes to this conclusion, you take him by the hand and promise to give him what is business needs to be successful.

The truth is, if the wedge didn't exist and you just somehow managed to completely eliminate any mention of features in your sales presentation, you would dramatically improve your sales.

The wedge is just nice because the formula forces you down that path.


And remember that this technique is also great with your existing clients.

Remember: Very often, your competition is your previous excellent service, or a product you sold them some time ago.

Two examples spring to mind right away.

1) Replacing old equipment.

2) Moving to Managed Service.

The Wedge technique can be used anytime someone says that they're happy where they are, getting what they're getting.

If you've been around long enough, you may recall the launch of Windows 2000. W2K server kicked moocho booty. But, Microsoft discovered, NT 4.0 was so good, and so rock solid, that people didn't see any reason to get rid of it. Their biggest competition was not alternative operating systems: It was their own previous version.

Honestly and sincerely, deep in your heart, you know SBS2003 is far superior to an old Server 2000 box. There's no debate. It's not close. I hope you see that staying on that old box is a disservice to the client.

But the client is happy. Their server works. It handles the print queue just fine. It serves up files just fine. It's rock solid and low maintenance. And it's on HP equipment, so it will run forever.

So you come up with some Wedge questions that get the client to realize that he's not getting some benefits that only come with the technology.

Now, truth is, you're going to be a lot more low-key and conversational with your existing clients. But don't start an old-school sales pitch.

Remember, your job here is to get your client to say "I'm not getting what I need from the current setup."


Special Offer

I was so impressed with this technique that I asked Robin if she could make this particular interview available to people who are not her members. As far as I know, she hasn't done that before. After all, it costs money to be in her mastermind group and (we) subscribers are paying for exclusive access to certain information.

But Robin agreed to give away a very limited number of these audio CDs. This is about 75 or 80 minutes of telephone interview. It's a great intro to the wedge technique, with lots of example questions.

To recieve one of the free CDs, you need to be one of the first 50 people to click on this link:

And thank you, Robin, for making this material available.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

SMB Conference Call with Harry Brelsford

Mark your calendars for tomorrow -- February 13 -- at 9:00 AM Pacific Time.

Harry Brelsford will join me on the SMB Conference Call.

Topics include

- What's up in the SMB space?

- SMB Nation news and events

- Response Point

- Books

- The Community

- And whatever else comes up.

NOTE: This call is limited to 300 attendees. We expect to fill the lines again. So put it on your calendar and don't forget!

Free, of course.

Full details are at:

Here's you conference info:

February 13th
9:00 AM Pacific Time Zone

- Dial (319) 279-1000 (U.S. phone number)

- Your participant passcode is 1024518.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Welcome to the Wedge

I want to publicly thank Robin Robins for constantly exposing me to great ideas.

I don't always do all the great things I know I should. But I love the exposure to new ideas.

And Holy Smokes, Batman, here's a great one. On a recent mastermind call-in, Robin interviewed Randy Schwantz, author of How to Get Your Competition Fired. Go buy that book. Now. Today.

Here's the gist of the "Wedge" sales technique:

The Premise

- Almost all of your prospects already have a consultant.

- Generally speaking, a prospect is happy with her consultant . . .

- Because she's "settled" or

- She doesn't know how great you are.

The Strategy

You need to drive a wedge between your prospect and their current consultant. BUT you can't bad-mouth your competition. That puts the prospect on the defense.

Remember: Inertia is your enemy. It is easier to make no change than to make some change.

Your goal, then, is to get the prospect to see and desire your superior service. Once they do this, they will choose to hire you. But it will be their idea and their decision.

The Technique

The basic "Wedge" technique is to ask a series of carefully crafted questions, the answer to which is "My consultant doesn't do that."

The format for the questions is simple and easy to learn:

[ Preamble that describes a service ] +
[ Question that assumes client is receiving this service ] +
[ Shut up and let the client talk themselves out of their current provider ]


Here are some examples I came up with of how you would use this technique for an I.T. business:

"At the end of the year, when your technology consultant copies all of your network documentation, scans it to a CD, and gives it to you to store with your offsite backups, is this data in a format that's easy for you to access? Is there an extra charge for this?"

"My consultant doesn't do that."

Note: The prospect might even say (dismissively), "We don't need that."

Okay. No problem. Can I ask you another question?

"Every month when your technical service provider emails you a report of the overall health of your computers with security patch information, does that report include disc space usage for all machines?"

"My consultant doesn't do that."

Uhhh. Maybe they don't need that either.

"When your users log onto the web-based support site for your technology consultant, do they each have their own logon so they can track the status of their own service tickets, or do you all share one logon? Is there are charge for multiple logons?"

"My consultant doesn't do that."

Get it?

After awhile, the prospect is asking herself "What does my consultant do? What am I paying for?"


This is a sales technique that takes some practice and some polish. But it's an awesome strategy. You can even see how it can work with existing clients, too.

So go buy that book.

And post your example questions!

I welcome your feedback.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

SMBTN Summit, Zenith, and More

You may not have noticed, but I have trouble with quick blog posts. So we're gonna try that and see how it goes.

Three quick notes:

1) If you don't receive my email newletter, I think you should. I try not to cross-post stuff between the email and the blog. So that means you may not be getting information on upcoming conferences, seminars, and other events in the SMB space.

When we fired up the 300-line phone call with Matt last Wednesday, I mentioned that people should sign up for my newsletter if they weren't already. Ding ding ding. Six new sign-ups happened immediately. I'm not sure how they found the SMB Conference Call, but they did.

Any, try it. You can always un-subscribe.

2) Meet Mike Iem

My guest for the February 20th SMB Conference Call is Mike Iem. Mike is what you call a VBG -- Very Busy Guy. User group leaders know Mike because he coordinates the user group interface for Microsoft. He is the font of all knowledge about the Partner Group tour and forwards all kinds of information and offers our way so they can be distributed to the group.

For the last couple of years Mike has also been organizing SMBTN's SMB Summit. See

So mark your calendar for this SMB Conference Call. Mike will give us the low-down on programs for Centro, Cougar, growing your business, handling employees, making sales, etc., etc.

3) Getting the Most Out of Zenith Infotech

I mentioned several times in this blog that it's really important to use Zenith once you sign up. And I mentioned how much we like Zenith over Microsoft's horrible front-line tech support. Search for Zenith in the little search box above.

Anyway, I've gotten a lot of emails from people who want specifics. HOW do we use Zenith. How do we force them to give us great tech support? How do complete the feedback loop? How do we turn over important jobs to them.

So on February 27th Raymond Vrabel, Sr. Manager of Service Operations for Zenith Infotech will join us. And the topic is exactly what you've asked for: How can I use Zenith most effectively?

Email me your questions and I'll try to get them all in.

Be there.


Ah, shoot. That wasn't very short. ;-)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lamborghini vs. Yugo

Go check out Mr. Vlad. He makes an excellent point.

There are very few truths in the universe.

But one of them is (and I quote Mr. Vlad):

You can be the best.


You can be the cheapest.

Whichistosay . . . You haven't got many options when it comes to marketing.

You can say "I'm awesome," but you better be able to back that up.

or you can say "Hey, I'm cheaper."

In which case, you should seriously consider mastering the technique of flipping the fry basket without getting droplets of burning grease on your arms.


There might be a recession on in the US of A. We won't know for several months. But KPEnterprises just raised our rates. We're higher than the competition. We're higher than the norm. And Intel just laid off a boatload of employees who will become "consultants" in the next few months.

But guess what? The first person that calls us this year doesn't even ask the price. They just want to schedule work.

"You understand we're $200/hr."


Not a pause. Not a second thought. They're not buying some commodity that can be bought by the lowest bidder.

They didn't go on the internet and click-click-click until they found the cheapest Schmoe around.

In fact, they called only KPEnterprises and didn't get an outside bid. Why? They needed the best for the job they had in mind.

It is what it is. It costs what it costs. "We need zero tolerance for failure."


So you can't call Cousin Larrys' Pretty Good Computer Consulting and Janitorial Service.

You dont' have any choice. 100% uptime means KPEnterprises. It doesn't matter what it costs.


Step back and look at your clients. There are really two types.

1) Gotta have the best. Period.

2) Gotta have the cheapest.

Some shop at Nordstrom's. Some shop at Costco.

Here's the difference in how you differentiate your company:

-- If you want to "be" the Nordstrom of the SMB community, you have to work on being spectacular and providing an experience the client can look forward to.

-- If you want to compete with the Costcos of the SMB community, you need to focus on providing "just enough" service at a cheaper price.

When you go to work on Monday, what do you want to focus on? Do you want to work on being the best or work on being the cheapest?

One of these leads to long-term success.

The other leads to grease splatters on your arms.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Matt and Harry on the SMB Conference Call

We had a great SMB Conference Call with Matt Makowicz yesterday.

Stay tuned to for the mp3 download.

There you'll also find links to Matt's Ambition Mission, his email, etc.


We announced two super deals in this call.

First, Matt and I are putting on a couple of awesome seminars this spring. Find out more at

The first awesome seminar is a pre-day event for SMBTN's amazing SMB Summit in Texas.

This deal is really too good to pass up.

You pay $99 for the seminar and you get $100 off the cost of SMB Summit! Really.

So, in addition to a seminar that is Guaranteed to make your business more profitable, you get a major discount on one of the hottest conferences of the year.

Check it out.

The Second deal is a great combo deal with Matt's Book, A Guide to SELLING Managed Services Faster, Easier, & for Greater Profit.

Matt has produced a Nine Hour MP3 that includes the entire book, plus additional stories and other material. This nine-hour audio program normally sells for $129. Matt's book normally sells for $99.

We've got the combo package right now for only $149.95. We ship the book and you download the MP3. Find out more at


Next up: Harry Brelsford!

Our next SMB Conference Call will be on Wednesday, February 13th with Harry Brelsford.

You all know Harry. Founder of SMB Nation, author of (14?) books for the SMB space. Conference organizer. Publisher. And on and on.

Harry will talk about what's new, what's next, and whatever comes up.

Our primary topic is the SMB Nation Conferences coming up in New York/New Jersey, Toronto, and Europe. We'll also discuss Response Point, which is central to the New York conference.

We'll have no problem filling an hour with this guy.

Join us. Find out more at

Mark you calendars!

Desktops and Managed Service Revisited

In this post we talked about the objections to signing up for desktop support.

So last time we talked about the killer objection.

Just for background, let's look at why desktops are different from the rest of the environment.


When we had a "cafeteria plan" of flat fee services, the pattern was very clear. Clients want server maintenance.

Server maintenance is clearly important. It's a server, so they can't do it themselves. It's got active directory (which no one can possibly understand) and it's the brain center of the known universe. So that's worth $350/month.

And the network is important. Networks include routers and switches and printers (oh my!). They involve dealing with ISPs and VPNs and VOIPs. There are 802.11's and RJ45's involved. ISO has seven layers, like a cake from the Claim Jumper.

In other words, no one understands a network, so you have to be a genius to support it. That's worth $350/month.


But no one wants to support the desktop.

No one thinks desktops are worth paying a flat fee for. There are two primary reasons for this.

1) Clients actually believe they understand their desktop.
After all, they live with it every day. When you're not around, they figure things out and make it work. They talk to other tech support people (Apple, Dell, Sprint, Adobe, Microsoft) in the middle of the night. They "learn stuff" from someone other than you.

They realize that pimple-faced teenagers and people who don't speaking English very much good can figure out how to make a computer work. They might do it "wrong," but it works.

In other words, anyone out there with a mouse can figure out this stuff. So they don't need you.

They don't think about the fact that the 47 people they employ don't have any interest in figuring out any of this stuff. They've been hired to do data entry, manage prospects, do sales, process words, print files, spell check, etc.

These people think the "hard drive" is 30 inches tall and sits under their desk. They call you when the power is out to ask why the computers don't work.

These people do their job very well, but they don't give a rat's rear end about computers. To them, a computer guru is any genius who can replace a toner cartridge on the esoteric HP line of printers.

2) Clients don't have any idea how complicated they make their own desktops.

My favorite pain-in-the-butt client was a law firm filled with prima donnas. Six line of business applications. Each must be at exactly the right patch level because otherwise they wouldn't work together. Every update must be done simultaneously on fifteen machines. Every desktop must be identical after the update to what it looked like before.

It literally took five hours of labor to do a new PC install.

But the guy signing the checks says, "I don't understand. You take it out of the box. You connect it to the network. And it works. Why are we being charged for five hours?"

I'm sorry. What you want takes five hours. Period. End of story. Should I work this for FREE because you understand the technology? [Answer: no]

I can write a pretty good service agreement. But the lawyer wants to charge to check it over. So I pay. Why? Because I didn't graduate from law school. I know the limits of what I know.

I know what I don't know.


The bottom line is: The desktop is the most important connection between the human being worker and the network. The client understands the value of the network, but they don't get the value of the desktop.

We live in a world of confusing facts.

As I mentioned last time, telling the client that they don't understand is not a good sales strategy.


So where are you? Let's recap.

You have a client who thinks they're getting what they need because they're happy enough.

You've been given the Killer Objection (we're getting what we need) and you've provided a series of differentiating responses to make it clear that managing the desktops is very different from doing break/fix work.

At this point, one of two things can happen.

1) The client signs a Managed Service Agreement

2) The client stands firm and says they really don't care about the desktops.

You only have one trick left: Price your MSA offering like Cable TV.

In the U.S. we have a stupid cable TV pricing system. Cable companies have to make available a "basic" cable offering that is so horrible that no one will ever buy it no matter what. Then, in order to add any watchable channels like HBO, you have to add "advanced cable."

The result? In a country of 350 million people, there are now approximately seven people subscribing to Cable Basic. And almost no one is subscibing to Advanced Cable by itself. People only subscribe to advanced cable so they can get HBO, the NBA package, the World Cup Package, etc.

Basic. Advanced. Package.
Silver. Gold. Platinum.


The real, long-term answer is to work on a package that makes sense to clients. Eventually, you'll save them from some disaster and the value of preventive maintenance will be clear. In the meantime, you need to make sure you provide visible value.

You also need to be personally convinced -- and passionate -- about the value of desktop support. If you're stammering and apologetic, the client will pick up on that.

Differentiate the product. Only speak in terms of the unique benefits of desktop managed service.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Killer Objection

Last time we talked about the objections to signing up for desktop support.

I'm not sure why desktops are different, but they are. We'll talk next time about why desktops are so different. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, let's look at the Killer Objection.

First, Here's the truth that you know and your client doesn't: They need someone to manage their desktops just as much as they need someone to manage their server and network.

The client thinks they understand their technology needs, but they don't.

And, take it from me, telling the client that they don't understand is not a good sales strategy.

So you push the brave new world of managed service.

And you get the The Killer Objection - "We're getting what we need right now."

Remember: What the client believes is true to him. You can't say, "No you're not."

If there's a key to success, it's this: Don't argue about all the things that are the SAME.

The hardest sale in the world is to say that you're exactly like the competition only better.

"Our facial tissue is just like Kleenex only better, so you should pay more."

No, that really turns out like this: "Our facial tissue is just as good as Kleenex, but it costs less." Conclusion: If you say you're the same only better, then your create a commodity and you're forced to charge less.

Here's the most important six-syllable word in sales: differentiation.

The only way to overcome the Killer Objection is to differentiate yourself from the competition. Why? Because you can't tell the client that he's wrong -- that he's not getting what he needs.

You need to present something different enough that the client comes to this conclusion himself.

Don't talk about what you do. Or what you do better than everyone else.

To the untrained observer (Joe Client), we all look the same. We all do the same thing. Every consultant is the same and does the same. So if he's getting something, he's getting what he needs. Even if he's getting something from you.

If your competition is your competition, then you need to differentiate yourself from your competition.

If your competition is yourself, then you need to differentiate your break/fix business from your managed service.

And the key to differentiation is as obvious as it is difficult . . .

Don't mention anything that's the same. Focus 100% on what's different.
  • "With managed service, all security updates are applied automatically."

  • "With managed service, you'll get a monthly report that details . . ."

  • "With managed service, any work that's needed to fix the operating system and software on the desktop is included."

  • "With managed service, you get Exchange Defender email filtering at no additional cost."

  • "With managed service, your people can open as many service tickets as they want -- for no extra cost."

  • "With managed service, the first three hours of labor to set up a new machine is included."

  • "With managed service, you get free Roadmap meetings to plan your technology growth."

  • "With managed service, we'll come to your house, shampoo your car seats, buff the cat, and fluff your pillows."


Make a list.

List every little thing you include in your managed service offering. Well, everything that's different.

For each bullet point, you want the client to say "Okay, I'm not getting that."

Throw in a few stories.

Here's one we love. Remember in 2007 when Congress changed the date of the time change related to daylight savings time? Microsoft came out with a dire warning that the world would end. We went to a newish client and said, "Hey, on managed service, we can take care of this whole thing for no extra charge. When they paused, we said "Okay, we'll take care of it on 70 computers for $200."

They said yes. We scripted the whole fix in Kaseya and spent fifteen minutes on the job. But the client saw the power of what we could do with our managed service tools.

So they signed.

When you finally get to the point where you can talk about this logically, you'll have the chance to say that it takes about .5 hours per month -- on average -- to maintain the desktops. And your managed service offering comes out to about $60 per month. So the only real differences are:

1) You get your money in regular, predictable chunks. [The client gets regular, predictable costs.]
2) The client gets a higher level of service on all PCs beginning on day one.



The Killer Objection is "We're getting what we need right now."

The Killer response is to focus 100% on the benefits that the client is not getting with reactive, break/fix work.

You will never convince the client that he's not getting what he needs right now.

Only he can come to that conclusion himself.

But you can give him the tools he needs. :-)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

SMB Conference Call Wednesday - 9 AM Pacific

This is just a quick reminder: Our SMB Conference Call with Matt Makowicz is Wednesday at 9AM Pacific.

Plan to join us!

Find out more at

Tell all your friends and colleagues!

Last time we filled 100 lines. So this time we have 300!

You might want to dial in a few minutes before. We'll start right on time.

February 6th

with Matt Makowicz

Author, Speaker, Coach, and Sales Guru

Author, A Guide to SELLING Managed Services

One of the true "early adopters" of the managed service model, Matt is also the founder of Ambition Mission -- a site dedicated to your success.


ALSO: We'll have some great do-not-miss announcements on this call.


Here's your Conference Call information:

Date / Time
Wed. Feb. 6, 2008
9:00 AM Pacific Time

Dial Conference Bridge:
(319) 279-1000
(U.S. phone number)

Your participant passcode is 1024518.
This call is limited to the first 300 attendees.

Desktops and Managed Service

In response to "Managed Services in a Month - Part Seven"
(now part of Managed Services in a Month):

VinceT said . . .
    This has been a great series. Can you talk more about the value of desktop monitoring? I've had trouble selling customers on moving from hourly desktop support to unlimited remote support that includes monitoring. I'll show them that for a few bucks more per month per pc on average from what they are paying now, they'll get destkop patching, AV montioring, and system monitoring. Their answer is "We are getting what we need right now, why would we pay more?" It's just a few bucks per workstation. I have a feeling I'm not selling the value of it properly! Thanks.

Let's take this apart.

Here are the pieces I see:

- The value of desktop monitoring (plus patch management and remote support).

- Difficult sale to move from break/fix to unlimited managed service on desktop.

- The killer objection - "We're getting what we need right now."


As for value, you need to start with your own calculations. You need to convince yourself that the value is correct.

Consider, what do you charge for the desktop component? Let's start with a base of one hour's consulting service. Is your monthly desktop support equal to one hour? Half an hour? A quarter hour?

Think in terms of time. Talk to yourself in hours. How many hours of labor does it take support a desktop for a year? For a month?

We figure it takes about 1/2 hour per month to "manually" manage a desktop. That's six hours a year. If you charge $100/hr it's $600. If you charge $120, it's $720. For that you get all the fixes for Outlook, word, windows, adobe acrobat. You also get all the virus updates, virus scanner re-installs, miscellaneous updates, patches, fixes, and whatevertheheck.

You don't get automated patch management. We need to come in and do it. Nor automated fixes. We gotta do those. Same with service packs.

And there's no remote support. We gotta come in.

We charge [$720 a year / $60 a month] to cover everything, patch everything, monitor everything, and provide all remote support. You get a lot more, in a more timely manner, for nothing extra. After all, you get unlimited remote support!

If there's one "incident" on a desktop, the client sees the value.

Once you get excited about this perspective, and you believe it yourself, then you can sell it.


It is a difficult sale to move from break/fix to managed service.

To be honest, most very small businesses have a lot of trouble with this. They somehow think they're saving money by deferring an expenditure. And, to be honest, ROI (return on investment) arguments are lost on most small businesses. SMB owners tend to believe that discussions of ROI are just smoke and mirrors to take more of their money.

It actually takes a sophistocated buyer to start looking at the total cost of ownership (TCO) over a three year period.

The only advice I have here is to plan for a marathon instead of a sprint. Tell these clients at every opportunity that 3/4 of the cost of owning a computer is in maintenance. Tell them at every opportunity that "this would be covered if you had a Platinum managed service plan." Beat it into them. Be a broken record. Again and again.

And be patient.

Someday disaster will strike. Tell them "It sucks to be you. If you'd had a managed service agreement . . .." :-)

Just keep repeating the mantra. Eventually they'll get it.

My favorite client is a guy named Hank. Hank never believed in the whole "managed" crap. He wasn't sure about licenses. He wasn't ready to just turn over his whole operation to us and back off. After years -- after NINE years -- he finally backed off, signed the deal, and let us take over.

We predicted a hard drive crash, moved him to a new server, and saved his business. He was 99.99999999999999999% sold.

Eight months later his server and all his other computers were stolen. We rebuilt it all in short order, and saved him THOUSANDS on software because he'd bought licenses! Yeah! Now he's 100% sold.

Mantra. Mantra. Mantra.

Managed Service. Managed Service. Managed Service.

Break/fix is always more expensive for the client and less profitable for you.


As for the The Killer Objection - "We're getting what we need right now" -

We'll deal with that next time.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Few Notes on the Value of Your Business

This is an open letter to SMB Consultants who are going through tough times. It's a bit of tough love, so don't be offended.


When your business is large, the "standard" rules for valuation apply. I suspect the larger you are, the more they apply.

But when you're small -- really small -- then the only rules are what the "buyer" is interested in.

I've had a couple of opportunities to buy up small consulting businesses. For me to do that, the circumstances would have to be just right. A deal in which my company writes a check and takes on your company: I don't think so.

First, I don't know about and don't want to know about your debts or personal stuff.

Second, I already have a business. That includes equipment. So I don't need your used servers, desktops, laptops, printers, etc. If they're absolutely brand new, then maybe there's something there at ten cents on the dollar.

So how do I value your company?

Remember: There's nothing personal here. It's all just business.

- I want to know what your recurring revenue is. That means signed contracts.

- Note, please, that I don't care much what's in your contract because it's going to be null and void, and we're starting over with my contract. I only care about your contracts because they represent people who believe in ongoing service agreements, have trusted you to take care of them, and have some probability of signing with us.

- Note, because of the previous item, that I don't care whether your agreements are for three years, or simply month to month. They represent clients who might sign a deal with us. Since we're not buying out your agreements, we don't care too much about the specifics.

- My assumption is that 50% of these people won't sign with my company.

- I don't care about your break/fix clients. We might do a dog and pony show, and try to get them. But if they wouldn't sign an agreement with you, they probably won't sign with us.

- If you have a spectacular employee, I might interview that person. But my company already has staff, and an ongoing company culture. So there really has to be a need and a fit it we're going to hire someone.

- Your role depends on whether you want to be in this business, want to work for my company, and can accept the fact that you're an employee here.

- The more personally involved you (the owner) are in the daily running of your business, the less value it has to an outsider.

Here's a sad truth for micro companies:
When you get hit by a bus, one of two things can happen.

1) The company goes on fine without you and your survivors just collect a monthly dividend.


2) The company literally ceases to exist because it's built around you as an individual and no one's left to take care of a million details that only you can do.

So what's the real bottom line?

- If you have a very successful business with lots of recurring revenue and very happy clients, then my chances of keeping those clients and making money goes way up. So the value of your company goes way up.

- If you're mostly break/fix with one good client, then your clients have no value to me.

- If you're a an S-Corp with a handful of employees -- and you're profitable -- then I'm willing to talk about transitioning your best clients to our care, in exchange for a fee.

- Bonus Round: If by some chance you have a substantial organization, everything works great, and you bring in a solid, stable, predictable profit every month without you doing all the work, then your company's worth buying outright.


In a perfect world, a buyer would like to see a purchase as an investment. If you have a profit of $X,000 per month and $Y,000 per year, then I know the ballpark of what that's worth. I can look at the stock market and speculate that I'll get 10% on my money in an S&P 500 index. Your business is a lot more risky and I'd need a bigger payoff. But at some point we just do the math.

Unfortunately, the average person looking to sell their business is doing so because they don't have a steady stream of revenue, they're going through a rough patch, and they need money fast. If you haven't structured your business so it has visible, measurable value to the outside world, then the chances that you've achieved that are very slim.

I don't mean to be a downer here.

But reality is what it is.

Assuming you want to have salable value in your company, you need to start working on that today.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Booty Clickin

Alternate title: Drawing More People To Your Blog.

I love statistics. Not just because I took stats classes in grad school and feel compelled to make something useful out of the experience.

I enjoy looking at trends and taking numbers apart.

So I like fiddling with my web stats to see what's there.

One of my favorite queries is to find out what people were searching for when they found me. See You are Who Google Says You Are.

In the true early days of the web (1993-1994), search engines didn't search. You submitted your pages and the engines either indexed them or not.

In those days, the evil porno kings started finding ways to trick the indexes. So, for example, they would enter thousands of words at the bottom of a landing page and make them the same color as the background. It looked blank to a human, but machines saw, and indexed, all the text.

And then the innocent searcher "found" this page by accident. Didn't matter what you searched for. "Left-handed lug nut 64 chrysler." Result:

Now search engines try to stop all that.

And, truth be told, most of us don't want irrelevant results. When I'm searching for copy editing, I don't want porn or home loans. In fact, I don't even want copy machines or term paper editing. And that's where it gets tough for the search engines.

Now comes the art of creating interesting titles for your blog post.

Last year I posted a report on the Microsoft's small biz day entitled WPC Small Biz Symposium Kicks Booty. Immediately, I started getting searches for big booty and small booty.

Then I posted an item called Indian Tech Support Kicks Booty. Now I get people searching for Indian booty.

I'm Confused

I understand interrupt advertising. I understand that, by whatever means a link shows up in front of someone's face, they might click on it.

But I don't understand why someone looking for booty (small, large, Indian, or a few other variations not discussed here) would click on my link.

It's not like the link says "Enlarge your body parts with good consulting practices." It clearly says WPC Small Biz Symposium Kicks Booty.

What possesses a booty-seeker to click on an article about a business symposium?

I'm happy to have the traffic. I hope they buy a book on project management or selling managed services.

But I just don't get it.