Many people are too cautious in sales processes and as a result when they present their solutions they end up sounding milquetoast and undifferentiated from anybody else in the market. In this post I advocate taking a harder stand on where your product or solution differentiates in the market – even if it means you lose some deals as a result.
I recently wrote about the three rules of sales
1. Why Buy Anything?
2. Why Buy Me?
3. Why Buy Now?
The first of question is about qualifying your potential customers aka leads. Many sales organizations or inexperienced startup CEOs spend their time with leads who either aren’t a good fit for their solution, aren’t decisions makers in their organization or don’t have budget and therefore they aren’t likely to buy. I call these NINAs (no influence, no authority).
Inexperienced CEOs do this because often NINAs will give you lots time even if they don’t plan to buy – I guess you could call them window shoppers. And it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you have a buyer when they spend lots of time with you and it’s certainly easier to be with people who seemingly want to spend time with you, but it takes away valuable time from people with real credit cards in their pockets.
That’s why anybody with real sales experience will tell you the three cardinal rules of sales, “qualify, qualify and qualify” your leads. I boil this process down to “
The Fourth of July. The day we celebrate American independence. It’s more about our celebrating what we love about our country than it is about winning a war.
Like many who live here I’m proudly American. It is the country that welcomed my forebears when others wouldn’t. My story is different from yours, but the same. We all came from different economic means by relatives willing to risk their lives and their livelihoods to stake out a new beginning in a foreign land that was often not immediately welcoming to people who were “different.”
My family is Jewish.
On my mom’s side they came from Poland and Lithuania and similar such places. They arrived through New York and eventually found their way to St. Louis, then Philadelphia and ultimately to Sacramento, CA. The turn of the last century wasn’t kind to Eastern European Jews so I guess the sacrifices of the pilgrimage were worth it. America wasn’t originally welcoming to Jews either. Even in the recent past we were excluded from many golf courses, country clubs and even universities and jobs.
when a technology startup, its investors or the market believe in robust growth rates writ large
“the ecommerce company gained fauxmentum by raising artificially high amounts of venture capital and spent lavishly on customer acquisition despite long payback periods and questionable LTV”
We live in heady times. Startup companies continue to grow at unprecedented rates, raise enormous amounts of venture capital and achieve valuations that imply that they will continue to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future.
We can see in the market the telltale signs of a rapidly expanding market: wage inflation, high staff turn-over, rapidly increasing rents with scarcity of space and booming real estate market with prices and rents for homes unaffordable for many. I don’t meet many rational investors (VCs or LPs) who believe this will last but of course nobody knows whether we have 6 weeks, 6 months or 2 years.
Every year around the holidays journalists and bloggers around the world publish “top ten” lists or “annual buyer’s guides” or similar. And every year I think about doing the same. But it’s the holidays and I usually can’t be bothered. Plus, after reading everybody else’s list it feels pedestrian to publish mine.
So I thought now would be a sensible time – with six months on either side of the holidays. I’m not trying to say my picks are great and other products aren’t and I’ll certainly forget some. But this is just a reflection midway in June 2015 of the some of the products I love, enjoy or use frequently, and am not an investor in.
1. Twitter – Say what you want about Twitter “losing its way,” “not engaging new users well enough,” “not targeting ads well enough.” Twitter is the most fundamentally profound application I have used over the past decade. I love it. I will continue to love it. I sure hope nobody buys it. As an individual I’m just fine with its level of innovation. World leaders use it to break news. Comedians use it to hone their art.
Reid Hoffman (founder) and Jeff Weiner (CEO) of LinkedIn are amongst the most famous pair of founder / CEOs to buck the stereotypes that:
The only person who can take your company to it’s final destination or IPO if the founder
That the founder must leave the company if a new CEO comes on board
In fact, Reid wrote the definitive piece on the topic.
Many people don’t know that I actually became Chairman of my first company and relinquishing the CEO role before the company was sold. It’s a topic I’m well versed in personally and I understand the difficult emotional decision of whether to hand the reigns to someone else of the baby you’ve struggled so hard to launch into the world. Will they treat it with the same seriousness that you did through your years of blood, sweat and tears?
Some founders make great CEOs until the end, some don’t. And some (like me) love the first 5 years, first $30-50 million in revenue, leading the first 150 employees but don’t love the role after that point.