Selling Security

Selling Cybersecurity: What We Can Learn From The Ice Bucket Challenge

In July/August 2014 the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge changed forever how charities should have organised their fundraising efforts. Replacing the usual guilt-trip approach with something fun/’socially mandatory’ resulted in hundreds of millions being donated to a cause few people had even heard of, let alone cared about.

People gave to ALS not because it was more deserving than other charities, they gave because to NOT do so attracted negative social repercussions most of us could not ignore. This was more than a little hypocritical as I expounded upon here, but this is now the social media-driven world in which we live.

But it WAS also fun! To do and to watch.

That said, I seriously doubt 99 people out of 100 who did the challenge either gave to ALS charities subsequently, or remember now what ‘ALS‘ is even the acronym for. They may have known at the time, but the details are no longer important unless ALS has a direct impact on their lives or the lives of a loved one.

These are not bad people, they are you and me.

The fact is that the number of diseases affecting humans is in the tens of thousands, the number of charities ‘serving’ them in the millions. 99.9% of these charities do the exact same thing, and have done this since time immemorial; show you the effects of the disease on someone else and ask you to care.

Almost all charities are still ‘advertising’ in the same way, when it’s only the ones that truly stand out that get the lion’s share of our money, let alone our volunteer time.

The problem is that we are so inundated with requests to give that we don’t even see/hear them any more. We are immune to the very feelings of guilt/societal obligation/altruism the charities are relying on to get you reaching for your wallet.

But in the end; “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Though far less dramatic and controversial, people trying to sell cybersecurity are doing almost the exact same thing. The original title of this blog was actually “Selling Cybersecurity: Fear is WHY the Board Don’t Care!” as those who should be worrying about security are simply numb to the whole thing. They just don’t care any more, if they ever did in the first place.

Headlines abound with data breaches, fines levied, and CEO’s disgraced. The more of this we see, the less we give a damn. We have already become ‘snow-blind’ to the possible, even likely consequences.

This is our fault. As security professionals it is OUR job to talk to our prospective clients in THEIR language. WE have to understand that our clients probably don’t care about security, and probably never will. WE have to give them an ROI.

As an analogy, do you care about your car insurance? What would a car insurance salesman have to do for you to be anything other than dismissive, or even downright rude?

It’s actually OK that they don’t care. If you said that you cared about all human diseases I’d say you were full of %^$£. But if you want them to actually buy something from you you’d better be able to change the conversation to something of interest. Interest to THEM that is, because of course they care as little about your business as you care about theirs.

Not caring does NOT mean doing business without ethics or integrity, in fact it’s more honest if, and only if BOTH sides benefit.

From PCI, to PSD2, to GDPR, to every regulation that will ever come down the pike, vendors will scramble to find ANY motivator to get organisations to spend money. The only motivator that will ever gain traction is one that’s good for their business. Fear of breach/fines/reputation loss are nothing in the face of how spending money on security affects the bottom line.

So how do we change this conversation?

Frankly I have no idea, and anyone who can get even close the effectiveness of the Ice Bucket Challenge in cybersecurity sales will rule this little slice of the world. But what I’m NOT going to do is waste my time telling clients things they could not care less about and expect them to throw money at me. In fact, I’m going to question why they think they want my services in the first place. Because if it’s not for a reason that make sense to their business the project will fail and it WILL be my fault regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

There will of course never be an Ice Bucket Challenge for cybersecurity as a whole, but there CAN be an equivalent paradigm shift in each organisation you talk to. You’re there because they have to do security, not because they want to, nothing you say about security outside of a business-benefit context will matter to them.

You just have to find what that benefit is.

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