How To Pick A Winning Vertical With Harry Brelsford

Accelerating Sales to Scale your Business


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For small and midsize business (SMB) owners, choosing a vertical to focus on brings many challenges. But the benefits, in the long run, outweigh the uncertainty of niching down. The key here is to know how to pick the right vertical for you, and Harry Brelsford is here to guide us through it.

He is the founder of SMB Nation, author of 21 books on technology and business topics, and has 20 years of SMB technology experience. During our conversation, he shares his 12 rules model and the business plans that actually work.




03:07 – These are the problems Harry’s clients face. Growing pains of early stage markets.

05:01 – What defines an early stage vertical. Examples of how they define themselves.

08:58 – What is working well in strategic scaling? Depends on the industry.

12:19 – Sales techniques in new verticals. Culture and domain expertise.

15:28 – Key elements of a business plan. Finders, Minders and Grinder.

22:09 – What about startups? Have an investment thesis and stick to it.

25:57 – What are Harry’s 12 principles? An academic theory.

30:17 – You really need to have fun in business. Taking fun seriously.

35:02 – The Sales Deep Dive. Harry’s sales habits.


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Pros and cons of deep diving in a vertical

With emerging growth markets, there are politically and geographically limitations and restrictions. Harry, who’s now working on a new vertical in the cannabis technology space in the United States, paints a clear picture here: Right now, only 37 out of the 50 states and territories have some form of legalisation. On the other hand, when looking for the next great thing, it’s better to be early for dinner than late. All you have to do is be patient when you go into a new vertical.


Sales techniques in new verticals

Harry and his team did a focus group to lay out the best sales techniques in the cannabis market. As we all know, this market used to be illegal, and there’s still some paranoia around it, but the focus group brought back two things. 

Culture is key when working in this market. In banking, people wear suits and ties; in a cannabis shop, you could wear t-shirts and show off your tattoos. That’s part of the acceptance into the space. And your online presence is also as important. The second thing is domain expertise and specialization. You really have to know your stuff.


Key elements of a business plan

Any business plan is going to have the pillars of any business: Sales and marketing, accounting, finance, management, mission statement, and some other elements. But for Harry, you should pick two out of the three skills from the book Finders, Minders and Grinders. Finders are the hunters who seek out new business and relationships, the Minders are the project managers who keep the trains running on time, and the Grinders are the technically skilled staff. You need to decide which one are you and then hire around yourself.


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The Sales Deep Dive

What are the sales habits that help you accelerate your sales?

I had some anxiety, and I’m pretty open about it. So I’m engaging in mindfulness in the sense that I have a morning walk. My core residence is in the Texas hill country, so there’s a great little loop. So I just get focused first thing in the morning to get rid of those coffee jitters. And then, typically in the afternoon, after I conclude my day, I’m going to go to my afternoon workout, which is swimming or biking. So that’s where my head is sat: mindfulness.


What are some of the tech tools you use to accelerate your sales?

I would say Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM has really made a difference for me. I mean, it could be Salesforce; they’re basically the same. But as a Microsoft partner, we get a little discount with action packs and so on.


What’s the best source of leads for your business?

In the SMB MSP space, I’m getting two leads a week in the cannabis tech space. And they’re coming from both my outreach, my publishing and all that. But also my existing clients are referring. So right now, growth by referrals. We’re going to have to look into it because you can only scale so far by referrals, but I’ll take it for now.


What is one action that someone can take to 10 X their sales today?

I started SMB Nation as this cool little community. It was cool, but it was so organic, and I never really built SMB nation to be acquired. If you want to be acquired, you got to wake up in the morning and think about being acquired. I sit on the board of small private equity firms. So to 10 X, I would call it from day one, build your company to be acquired and you 10 X could very well be your exit. You could be without a salary for a year, but you’re a hundred thousand dollars in investing in me. And I got acquired for a million. Right. And that’s, that’s my free advice is built to sell.


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About Harry Brelsford

Harry Brelsford

Harry Brelsford is the founder of SMB Nation ( from Bainbridge Island, Wash.

He holds an MBA in Project Management from the University of Denver and is the author of 21 books on technology and business topics. His 20 years of SMB technology experience were supplemented by teaching 12+ years at night as an adjunct professor at Seattle Pacific University and other higher-learning institutions. He served as the Dean in the Graduate School of Technology at Aspen University.

Harry’s recent books include the “How to Be an MSP” and he has published over 400-articles in business (Washington CEO, Colorado Business, Alaska Business Monthly) and technology magazine (ChannelPro, Microsoft Certified Professional magazine, etc.).

An active entrepreneur, Harry is the force behind the Pocket MBA, Telephonation, Cloud Nation and His latest startup is 420MSP.


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