SQLBits London Agenda Announced

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 2 Comments

The next SQLBits agenda is out, and I’m particularly excited about one session in particular:

Cool Story, Bro: The DBAreactions Guide to SQL Server 2014

You’re hearing a lot about the new features in SQL Server, but you’re not hearing a lot about the drawbacks. Ever wonder why? Join Brent Ozar, the guy behind DBAreactions.com, for a sarcastic, funny look at SQL Server 2014’s features, bugs, and gotchas.

You’ll learn why Brent rarely deploys Hekaton, clustered columnstore indexes, Buffer Pool Extensions, Azure backups and secondaries, and even AlwaysOn Availability Groups. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and most importantly, you’ll learn real lessons to avoid pain in your own deployments.

Awwww yeah. We’re gonna have some fun in this one.

Oh sure, SQLbits has 10+ tracks of “real” sessions from “real” presenters like Argenis Fernandez using WireShark to gauge a query performance competitionBob Ward doing two hours on memory, and Adam Machanic explaining row goals (a concept most folks have never even heard of).

But this is also a conference that really gets how to have fun.

Just another evening at SQLbits.

Just another evening at SQLbits.

This year’s theme is superheroes, and of course, costumes are encouraged. I’m really torn – I can’t decide between Dr. Horrible or one of Bad Horse’s singing sidekicks. (Yeah, I know, they’re villains, but with all these superheroes around, don’t we need a few villains? And besides, I don’t have Captain Hammer’s body.)

Yes, I Actually Enjoyed Selling Consulting Services

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | Leave a comment

I bet you hate salespeople.

Yeah, for the most part, me too.

Bad news: if you start consulting, you’re gonna have to sell your time. You have to figure out how to talk people into signing a contract that says, “We’re going to do ___ for you, and you’re going to pay us $___.” Both of those blanks are completely up for negotiation, and frankly, your customers are in a better negotiating position than you.

Would you buy a slightly used consultant from this man?

Would you buy a slightly used consultant from this man?

Good news: if you put some work into your company from the start, the sales process doesn’t have to suck. It can even be enjoyable – not just for the salesperson, but for both sides. (Seriously, I’m enjoying it.)

Master marketers Christian Hasker and Andy Grant taught me that specialization is everything: you want to be known for solving one very specific pain. If you do everything, you compete with everybody, and you can’t win that game. But if you build up a reputation for being the experts on relieving ___ pains, then whenever someone has that pain, they’re going to call you first. You’re in the driver’s seat.

Building up a reputation means blogging, presenting, webcasting, building newsletters, etc. This is called inbound marketing: giving away material that’s so good that people ask for it by name. Later, when they’ve got money to spend, they’ll remember how good your free stuff was, and they’ll hopefully open up their wallet to get your personal help.

How Blogging Affects the Sales Process

When customers contact us to set up a meeting, they fall into two categories:

The Lifers: the ones who have followed us for months or years. When I start to introduce Brent Ozar Unlimited on those sales calls, they start laughing and tell me to shut up. However, usually not everyone on the call knows us – I still have to win over a manager or two, but it’s easy because their staff is already relying on us.

The Rest: the ones who just found us via Google in the last few hours or days. The fact that we showed up in their sales results helps immensely with the relationship-building process. I rarely get the question of, “How do we know you can actually fix this problem,” and when I do, I can answer with a list of related blog posts and webcasts about the topic.

When you have thousands of blog posts and hundreds of videos, the sales process is friendly and easy. I don’t have to be defensive or persuasive. I just listen to what the customer’s pain points are, talk about our public expertise on that topic, and describe our product.

How Our Personalities Affect the Sales Process

When Jeremiah, Kendra, and I designed the company’s brand, we wanted it to reflect us personally. We’re goofy, friendly, and down-to-earth. Sure, we work hard and we do crazy technical stuff with databases, but first and foremost, we wanted people to understand that we were fun to work with.

We even worked with Epipheo to build a 90-second video explaining how we work:

As a result, right when people hit the very first page of BrentOzar.com, they understand that we’re different. We’re not some big GinormoCorp company where you never know which stiff, boring suit you’ll be working with. You’re hiring real people with real personalities.

How Simplified Products Make Sales Easier, Too

We sell exactly one product to new customers: SQL Critical Care®, a 4-day engagement that gets to the root cause of their SQL Server performance or availability pains. I think of it as just one box that we keep on the shelf.

They also know that we're weird, and we like food.

They also know that we’re weird, and we like food.

Christian & Andy taught me that if you have as few products as possible, then you can make your marketing message as clear as possible. If you try to do everything, then you compete with everyone, and you don’t wanna compete with the people on Fiverr.

This makes the sales process really easy because by the time people talk to us, they already know:

  • Who we are
  • What we do
  • That we’re not fly-by-night

I get to just be myself on the call, ask which available date works for them, and sign contracts.

So hell yeah, I like sales. It’s awesome!

But We Still Need a Salesperson.

I’ve played sales guy for nearly four years now, and while I still love it, I’m the bottleneck holding our company back from growth. Because the incoming calls just keep coming in, I don’t bother calling back our past customers to figure out what they need next. Even worse, if someone does a sales call with us and doesn’t follow up with us asking for a contract, I usually drop that ball too.

It’s not that I don’t see those sales tasks as valuable – it’s just that I’m also wearing the consultant hat, and the co-founder hat, and the work/life balance hat, and there’s only so many hours in the day. As long as our consultants stay busy, is it really a problem that I’m letting more revenue slip through the cracks when folks are booked anyway?

Yes, actually, it is, because we want to hire more consultants. We’d like to hire another consultant or two in 2015, and again in 2016, but keeping those folks busy is going to be a full time job. It’s going to take building sales processes and following them.

So we’re hiring a salesperson so I can dedicate more time to building more inbound marketing material – or as you like to call it, blogs, scripts, webcasts, and user group presentations. With inbound marketing, everybody wins, whether you’re our paid customer or not.

Vacation in Mexico

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 4 Comments

Public Service Announcement: your company gives you vacation time for a reason.

Tulum beach at sunset

Tulum beach at sunset



Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

Tulum ruins

Tulum ruins

Dinnertime at Chimiko's

Dinnertime at Chimiko’s

Siesta on the beach

Siesta on the beach

Ernie flying home

Ernie flying home

Remember who you really work for. Schedule your 2015 vacations now.

Blog Posts I Couldn’t Write in 2014

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 5 Comments

Every year, I finish up by emptying out my list of blog post ideas. It’s a freeing feeling, letting go of these ideas that I just couldn’t find a way to flesh out, and lets me feel better about new ideas in 2015.

Here’s the ideas I just couldn’t hit Publish on in 2014:

Database Administrator Warning Labels – you know those big cigarette warning labels in black and white print? Wouldn’t it be cool if Books Online carried similar warnings on certain pages? WARNING: TRIGGERS MAY CAUSE LONG, PAINFUL TROUBLESHOOTING.

How to Publish Scripts – whenever you put a script online, include the author name, date, version number, URL to get the latest version, and the license. No, it’s not enough to say “open source” – that means different things to different people. ChooseALicense.com makes it easy.

Cool SQL Server Features – DBAs on other platforms sometimes ask me, “Why would you ever use Microsoft SQL Server?” I’d love to have a short list of some of the amazing stuff we can do that other platforms struggle with. Stack Overflow’s list of hidden T-SQL features is a good start.

SQL Server Cheat Codes – in the spirit of the Konami code, fake keystroke combinations that trigger SQL Server back doors. “If you need brief power-ups for urgent queries, go into SSMS and hit up up down down left right left right B A, and your query will be granted higher memory and CPU resources than other queries.”

Consulting Lines updates – these were my favorite blog posts, and I wanted to write a few more about lines I’ve seen other consultants use successfully.

Backups have nothing to do with high availability. If your failover plan involves human beings manually restoring a database or running setup.exe, that’s not a high availability plan – that’s a disaster recovery plan.

What’s Your Budget? – no, not your company’s budget, your own personal budget in investing in your skills. Who’s going to make sure you can get your next job or move up the corporate ladder? Most companies only pay lip service, not money, to this concept. You’re going to have to invest your own time and money every year in your skills. Put it down in writing and figure out what’ll get you the most ROI.

Insanity Wolf

Insanity Wolf

The Voices of SQL Server – I’ve long wanted to write a series of posts using a completely different voice, masquerading as a series of guest posts:

  • Weatherman – with a weather report about a 70% chance of high CPU, with a blocking storm rolling in from the west
  • Insanity Wolf – and if you don’t know who he is, he is not safe for work.
  • Policeman – “Do you know why I pulled your query over?”
  • Fire-and-brimstone preacher – “If you don’t change your indexing ways, you’re gonna burn in hell!”
  • Whiny kindergartener – “I don’t wanna share! I want my own machine!”
  • Sportscaster – a play-by-play announcement of two queries racing to the finish line, culminating in a deadlock
  • Feng Shui advisor – with guidance on how to arrange servers in your data racks for optimal flow and energy (which sounds like I’m making fun of them, but Erika’s been practicing at it for a few years now, and I’m actually really impressed with the results)
  • Game show host – running Press Your Luck, a game about dirty reads
  • Miss Cleo – because this woman surely knows why your database is slow:

If you enjoyed that, here’s the 2013, 2012, and 2011 equivalents.

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