Improving Sales: The Excuse Department is Closed

Posted on Feb 5, 2011 | 53 comments


This article originally appeared on TechCrunch.

Most technology startups seem to be funded by product people or business people.  Specifically what is often not in the DNA of founders are sales skills. Nor do they exist in the investors of early-stage companies.

The result is a lack of knowledge of the process and of sales people themselves.

My first startup was no different.  I had never had any sales training so everything we did for the first couple of years was instinctual.  While we did fine learning on the fly, it turned out that a lot of what we did was wrong.  I’ve started writing up some of those sales & marketing lessons and I plan to continue to build that section out over time.

As we grew into several millions of dollars of sales per year it was no longer acceptable to “wing it.”

So I did want any rational person who wants to improve does – I hired a coach.  We focused together on improving our sales methodology, our training and our comp plans. These days there are even startups like SalesCrunch to make this easier for all of us.  Back then it was a larger than life ex country manager from PTC named Kai Krickel.  He taught me much – most of it unconventional.  Most of it worked and his philosophies have proved enduring to me.

He called his business TEDIC.  The Excuse Departement is Closed. That mindset always stayed with me and even rung true at the time. Excuses. Whenever I heard why we didn’t feel a sales process at an important customer was going well (or if we lost) I would get involved myself. Invariably the reasons I was hearing why we weren’t well positioned versus my own perception were different.

I boil it down to this: sales people are sales people. They are the lifeblood of many companies yet they are different than the traditional technology startup DNA so the ways that you hire, motivate, compensate and assess performance of these individuals will be different. Obviously to understand a “class” of people you have to make broad generalizations. Here are mine.

Sales people:

  • Are motivated by cash. None of this namby pamby options stuff or “do it for the team – we’re all in this together” crap. Cash, cash, cash.
  • Are more mercenaries than missionaries. That doesn’t make them bad – it just means that they know that they are “hired guns” and they act accordingly
  • Many great ones don’t thrive in the early phase of a company where the sales is more consultative or evangelical. They like a solid product, well defined pricing, good references to sell against, a clear quota and well defined competitors. This is why I tell startups that most seasoned sales execs aren’t right for startups
  • They are as good at selling you as they are at selling your product to customers. That means if you don’t understand the way they work you’re susceptible to being blind sided.

Before reading my tongue-in-cheek post, please know that I love sales people.  I’ve talked many times on my blog about how they’re the lifeblood of most businesses – even those that pretend like they’re above it all. Treat them well and they’ll love working with you. Treat them like the rest of the company and you’ll struggle to hold on to them.

Here’s what I learned. It’s my guide to understanding when you’re being gamed.

1. Sales people often blame the product
Startups are the art of the possible.  By definition an MVP (minimum viable product) means there’s room for improvement. Your competitors will always highlight a feature here or a feature there that is better.  Features don’t win or lose sales – especially in nascent markets. People are buying YOU.  They’re buying trust that you’re going to do what you’re saying you’re going to do.

Customer also buy social proof because others are acting as strong references.  (there is a nascent industry to try and help you with this, too. The best thinker I met on the topic is Mark Organ who founded Influitive to solve this. They’re in beta). Customers buy solutions to solve their problems.  They give orders to people they like, which is why despite your best well reasoned non-sales ethos – you need to understand that sales people do need money to schmooze.

But what customers don’t do is buy features.  Don’t get my wrong – a great looking product can really help support a sale.

But customers use features as a rationalization for why they made the decision that they concluded for a complex set of other reasons that they probably don’t even understand. How can I be so sure? Ask yourself how they came to decide what features should they be making the decision upon. Who set in their mind what the “right” feature set was? If it wasn’t you, I guarantee you they were influenced by your competitor – either through their sales efforts or through marketing.

So know up front that many times sales people will blame the product when they lose or when they’re losing. It’s never them, their lack of effort or relationships.

And as you build out your team and grow you realize that it’s always the other guys fault. It’s why leaders need to be respected, not loved or you’ll constantly be gamed. In a startup you soon learn that not only does the sales guys blame the product, but the product guys blame the marketing guys for giving them too many requirements.  The marketing guys blame the sales guys who can’t close their leads.  The sales guys in turn say that they didn’t get the Glengarry leads from marketing.

And they all secretly blame you. “It doesn’t look that tough to be a CEO. I’m doing all the hard work anyways.”

Stop the madness. You need to teach your sales team Objection Handling and make it clear that you don’t lose on features.  They can give you product input, customer requests and wish lists – sure. But the excuse department is closed.

2. Sales people will often blame your pricing
They lost the deal because your competitors dropped price. Customers seldom buy on price. They buy on perceived value. Sure, you need to be competitive on price. But a sales person needs to be able to demonstrate the business case of why using your product will deliver more total ROI than your competitors. Otherwise you need not keep building out great features – just always drop your price! Of course that’s not true.

If your team (and you) see a competitor massively undercut you on price you sure better be able to sell to your customer that the temporary offset in a cheaper price will be eroded by the much great benefit of working with you.

“Sure, they can sell at 50% of our price. Their customer support is much smaller and therefore won’t be able to respond to your needs as quickly. We have 12 developers and they have 3. That matters because over the next 12 months our product will continue to pull further away from them. That’s why we raised $5 million from top-tier VCs.

Please call our references. We worked with customer X who saved 38% of their costs in the first year and increased sales by 14%. The pay-back period on our product was 16 months. We have lots of cases of demonstrable business success.

If we just dropped prices to match our less funded competitors we wouldn’t be able to keep innovating and adding value for our clients. If short-term price is your primary drive then our competitor might actually might be a better fit for you. We’re definitely a premium product, which is why we don’t just drop prices to match their moves to “buy” business.

Or whatever. You need to justify value. And this has to be led by your sales teams and driven home through training.

Also, don’t give your sales teams too much authority on price negotiations. Given them small authority to discount, give the sales leader a slightly larger level and anything above that comes to your desk for negotiation. Too big of discount authority will lead to price drops because it’s easier for sales reps to drop price than to sell on value and do the hard business-case work. The excuse department is closed.

3. Sales people will often sell future development work
If your sales teams think that they can throw in some extra features that you’ll build to win the big contract they will.  I’ve seen it a thousand times. They feel like they need to show a customer that they’re flexible, listening to their needs and building features the customer perceives as important.

They’ll always lobby you to approve it.  ”They can’t win the deal without it!”  They’ll throw in extra storage, extra modules, extra freebies. Hold the line on any additional dev work. There will be times where you do need to commit. But find a way where the bonus program is adjusted for any work that has a higher COGS due to dev work and they’ll sell around it – I promise. Don’t let them sell futures.  The excuse department is closed.

4. Sales people will often exaggerate the strength of competitors
Sales people will always tell you how far ahead the competition is. It’s the easiest way to justify losing deals, put pressure on your to build the features they want and they always believe a competitors PR more than the reality they see inside your business.  Always make your own assessment of your competitors. Talk personally to customers. Encourage the sales teams to give you feedback but make it clear that it’s no excuse for losing. The excuse department is closed.

5. Sales people will always ask for more sales support
Sales people are bag carriers. That’s the most important thing in your business to get revenues up. They somehow always want junior bag carriers. The more, the better.

They want lots of post-sales support. They want junior staff to work on proposals for them. “It’s not efficient for me to do my own proposals.” They want technical sales to help with customer objections.  You’re a startup. That stuff is for Oracle or IBM. They need to be scrappy, rollup their sleeves, learn multiple functions.  When you hit scale you need to add staff.  And division of labor really will drive up productivity. For now? The excuse department is closed.

6. Sales people will always tell you their quotas are too high
And my favorite. The quota. It’s always too high. It’s always unachievable. They were always above quota at every other company they’ve ever worked for. It’s all your fault. And when you get their forecasts they’re always sandbagged. And they know that you play games back. Management always sets sales budgets that roll up to a number beyond the actual board budget.

Sales people are smart – they know this. That’s where the sandbagging comes. They know you’re going to play games and ask for more so they need to leave room for you to do so. It’s the game everybody plays, everybody says they wish nobody played and yet it’s human nature. Just accept it and play the game.

Seriously, you DO need to be careful about not setting unattainable quotas. But as a general rule – the excuse department is closed.

And finally

OK, so if any sales people reading this took it in good enough humor for the broad generalizations that I made  - I would say two things to management:

1. Treat your sales people well. Train them, arm them with a great product and sales collateral. Get out there with them – no hiding in the ivory tower. Customers want to see you. It’s the hardest job in the company. They sink or swim on their results. And as a result they’re the best paid people in the company. If they start sucking – they’re out. They know this.

2. Don’t do silly things like cap bonus payments. Make their pay-for-performance unlimited, but well structured. They are supposed to be the best paid people in the company. That’s why they endure the jobs that they have and the constant pressure to deliver results. Don’t hire sales people if you expect to be over-the-top cheap on T&E.  They need some money for schmoozing. You can book them at budget hotels – but don’t go too far. Treat them with utmost respect or their next interview is right around the corner.

  • Josh Webb

    Reading your descriptions of these folks brings back a flood of memories. What these people do, day in and day out, is like magic to the rest of us.

    I think there exists a fundamental and ideological line between the sales organization and the rest of the operations. Neither side can work in a vacuum but the fireworks come out big time if either side oversteps.

  • philsugar

    Just well said….

    Best Regards.

  • Sean Austin

    Mark,

    I'm currently running a start-up in the mobile applications industry that is focusing on emerging technologies as a business model versus the next novelty, one-hit-wonder app.

    After reading your discussion on improving sales, I'd love to see how you'd apply this to the miniaturized (time used, virtual, reduced functionality, etc.) markets of mobile applications. Though this is a direct line to the customer in a uniquely, intimate device it becomes apparent that the process of having hundreds of thousands of applications creates a fundamentally non-intimate sales dialogue.

    Given trends in social media, as a 21-year-old, I'm looking at harnessing this as the new outlet for growth. Since GRP Partners looks at mobile content distribution, I was curious what your take is on this dilemma.

    Best,

    Sean

  • SteveD-

    Hi Mark, Love reading your sales related posts. You've mentioned that an evangelical style sales person is best for an early stage startup. In a previous article you talked about Journeymen, Mavericks, and Superstars. Is a Maverick the same as an Evangelical Sales Person in your view? Thanks.

  • Russ Dollinger

    If you have a start-up with an mvp, partially finished sales materials, limited social proof, and even more limited cash, how can you tell whether the excuses of the sales person really do have merit, or if you just need to get people that don't make excuses?

  • http://twitter.com/jpp123 John P

    The cash motivation thing can't be stressed enough. Sales people will figure out the way to maximize their income with the minimum amount of work (this is not a bad thing, you hire them to be smart withe numbers) – if the commission/bonus structure does that in a way that's detrimental to the company they really won't care. Beware steps and discontinuities in the commission formula they will bite you.

    Or as one shipping manger who worked for me put it “Our sales people are the best in the world, they can close an entire months order on the last day of the month, what would happen if they worked all month” (We actually experimented with staggered commission schemes by region and it did even out the end of month shipping rush).

  • http://www.brekiri.com/ Greg4

    I'm not a guru by any means, but in my opinion at that stage a founder should be doing the selling. You need direct customer feedback, you need to be fine-tuning the value proposition based on what you hear (and writing the sales materials yourself), and you need to give early adopters the warm and fuzzy feeling that only collaborating with the entrepreneur gives them. There's no way all that information is retained if there's a salesperson as a go-between.

  • Saul_Lieberman

    Brilliant! Thank you very much for writing this post.

  • http://www.canvera.com Dhiraj Kacker

    Mark as usual great content. I would like to add a strong recommendation for Mark Leslie's “Sales Learning Curve” (http://www.amazon.com/Sales-Le…) – Mark grew Veritas from some 1o-odd people to 5000-ish and I found this to be the #1 actionable THEORY I've come across on the sales front. It is a simple framework which lets you think about issues faced at the early stages of the company through late stages and what kind of an impact that has on the type of sales people you hire at different stages (Renaissance salesperson in the beginning to the coin operated as the product and delivery matures).

    We saved a ton of heartache and investment $$s in following this framework.

  • damonoldcorn

    Yes but where are all those well trained killer salespeople these days? Certainly very thin on the ground in London, all the graduates seem to want to be in Marketing, Business development and any other thing that does not have a hard clearly defined target. With very few exceptions seems nobody under 40 has been through that bootcamp for sales. Finding a person who can evangelise for a start up and close those first few reference sales and then go on to run the sales programme is like gold dust. As you said even if they did exist the founders with an engineering tech basis would not know how to run them anyway.

  • CliffElam

    I once had an outbound telemarketing group (small, 6 guys) and they just weren't performing – even though we'd upped their comp about 20% when we'd hired them. Lots of experience, and lots of excuses. So I cut their base and gave them a $25/$50/$100 SPIF *daily* for each sale.

    I had to make a deal with the bank, but they went next door at 10am and got cash in hand for the previous days sales that closed. It was a PITA, but the effect was electrifying.

    Which taught me that it wasn't just the comp, but the pressure of the comp.

    When we got bought the new owners changed the comp-plan and performance immediately dropped and they quit one-by-one.

    -XC

  • CliffElam

    Agree 100%. These “beach head” sales require founders. It's not for every customer, but that startup romance is your sales pheromone.

  • Victor

    It looks like it's available for free online @ http://www.signallake.com/inno

  • http://twitter.com/Sirachm Sirach Mendes

    Awesome article…Mark
    Could totally relate to the article. Another big difference is the hard sale and soft sale w.r.t to products.
    Working in TV sales prior and then moving to start up sales is whole new ball game and yes its sad but Blame game dynamic happens in many companies…(as its easy to pass a buck)
    But at the end of the day…there is no excuses in life !

    Early stage company sales is the most challenging but always runs around trust and relationships from experience. Always good to have a well networked sales rep in a particular industry area at times

    PS – just saw the new blog layout and was not sure if I was on your blog :)

  • Dave Rubinstein

    Mark,

    Agree with your point that most seasoned sales execs aren't right for startups. Evangelical/Consultantive are essential for early sales success, but not necessarily fast success. Many startups don't have the luxury of long sales cycles. Many of the most consultative folks don't start with the right relationships of the seasoned sales executives. They may offer more long term upside, but how do you reconcile that with company's short term revenue need?

    Thanks,
    Dave

  • http://twitter.com/CamiloALopez Camilo Lopez

    Great article, I would like to add the obvious but sometimes overlooked; CEO's should not expect MIRACLES from sales people!

    The product development team should come up with a product that is actually wanted by customers. Otherwise not even the best sales guy will be successful at selling it!

    Like you said, you “wing” the sales process before working with Kai Krickel. Wing it the sales process worked because you had a product that was solving the customers problem and its value was loud and clear.

    What I am wondering is how do you define the MVP (minimum viable product) of a product where there is a lot of fragmented competition and everybody is claiming the same value proposition. My company is developing a new rendering engine accelerated with GPUs and it is entering a market with strong stablished competitors and a plethora of new entrants.

    In such a competitive market how do you define a MVP where you give a chance to the sales people to be successful?

    Enjoy Superbowl Sunday everybody!

    -Camilo

  • http://twitter.com/williampietri William Pietri

    Great article, Mark. Between this and your previous article, I finally feel like I've got a reasonable model of how sales fits into startups.

    In the future, I'd love to see you write about salespeople in executive roles, especially CEOs. My grandfather was a master salesman in his day. He was on a first-name basis with every man, woman, child, and dog in a 20-mile radius. But he wasn't nearly as good at running a business. It seemed like his ability to persuade people of a shining vision and his short-term hunger to get the commission got in the way of longer-term, more considered success. The vision made it hard to see and accept some of the realities of the situation, and the quick wins could wreck larger plans.

    Given your experience with and fondness for salespeople, have you noticed a pattern like that? And if so, how have you seen salespeople get past that?

  • http://analytikainc.com/blog/ John R. Sedivy

    I'm happy to hear that you're building out this section of the blog. The way I originally found your site was while searching for an answer to a sales related question I had, which your article answered perfectly – I have been an avid reader ever since.

  • petegrif

    good piece

  • Timothy

    @Mark

    In reference to #3 about “Sales people will often sell future development work”

    You absolutely cannot let this happen for a very important reason you didn't mention.

    It's Revenue Recognition.

    Some of the largest tech companies in the Valley have all nearly tanked because they sold futures and no longer do so as a result.

    Accounting standards in the US (GAAP) do not allow a company to recognize revenue today if a promised feature/functionality will be delivered with the product tomorrow.

    (Do you really want to wait on recognizing that revenue the 12+ months it will take your development team to create said feature? I don't think so).

  • philsugar

    Actually if you are selling a discrete item, and there is any negotiation on price (and by definition if you have salespeople there is, otherwise you wouldn't have salespeople) this is totally normal because of the buyers not the sellers.

    Buyers will hold out until the end of a cycle and they know that is the end of the month, quarter, year.

    Not the fault of sales.

  • http://twitter.com/mobilesymmetry Jim Patterson

    Sean – I ran 4 separate sales forces over the past 15 years, and am now in the applications business as well. There are several options. I would avoid the carriers if you expect a short cash cycle, and they tend to suffer from attention deficit disorder. They also think they can build your app better than you can. However, for enterprises, they can be helpful. On consumer, there are several interesting distribution angles through the GetJars and others in the like businesses. Depending on your app, a direct salesforce might not make sense. Glad to help if you want it @mobilesymmetry.

  • Richard Koffler

    This says everything: “Most technology startups seem to be funded by product people or business people. Specifically what is often not in the DNA of founders are sales skills. Nor do they exist in the investors of early-stage companies.” The rest of the post is (very valuable and well written) commentary.

    High-tech entrepreneurs need infinitely more guidance on sales and biz dev, and much less on side trips like financial engineering, term-sheet noodling, and presentation theater.

    Suggested topic: when to hire a vp of sales and when not to. And when you do, how to recruit, nurture and oversee the right person lest s/he runs you into the hole.

    And you MUST add a parallel topic track on customer-centric product management, please. I'll be glad to help.

  • http://www.missi.com/ Peter Beddows

    Not sure of the etiquette when it comes to taking a comment I've added to one posted copy of a blog article, such as this blog that has been posted on TechCrunch, and repeating the comment here on this copy of the blog. So I hope I am not doing something inappropriate here by adding my thoughts from the TC post because a) this is a different audience and b) I have not changed my very clear impressions regarding the selection/definition of those who, in my opinion and experience, make effective sales people for a startup.

    Very well stated Mark. Very thoughtful and well presented outline of the issues involved in sales of any kind never mind those faced just for bringing success to a startup. Many good comments have also been added in this thread and I've clicked Like respectively and as appropriate.

    There is no question that a startup presents its own unique set of challenges for accomplishing sales. Not the least of these is presented when sales is asked to go out and close sales on what, at that point, may be a very Minimally Viable Product with many of the real intended features still in development. The other factor may be driven by a sense of urgency to quickly bring in some revenue to support the cash drain of development thus requiring far quicker turn around sales cycle than would be normal for the type of product or service.

    There are two things that I have found to be relevant to sales success for a startup and/or advanced technology based business throughout my own career on both sides of the Pond, much of which has involved a degree of “missionary” selling and marketing and circumstances not always responsive to the puppy dog sale approach:
    1) Nothing happens without sales ~ rather obvious but so often overlooked.
    2) Distinguishing between those who think, and claim, they are sales people and those who truly are gifted sales people ~ Not so easy or obvious at first glance and a résumé may not tell you the whole story and ego in sales people runs rampant ~ it has too.

    There are two general categories of sales types: At one end of the spectrum you have the relatively typical and most common type of sales people and then on the other end there are the much rarer true SALES PROFESSIONALS; radically different tools suited to quite different demands and purposes and it is not a bell-curve distribution.

    The former are typically “Order Takers”: Generally relatively unimaginative in the sale process, they need to be directed and work within tightly defined confines. In fact, having an imagination is what can make this type ill suited to working for a startup. This is the most frequently met type of sales person, apparently representing some 80% of those who think they are in sales and who claim to be sales people.

    Sales people of such limited scope can even often be quite dangerous for any startup because they are the type most likely to sell on price first and foremost and then are also prone to throwing in feature creep agreement to make the sale. They are not good at fielding objections and otherwise they fall back on excuses for not making a sale when the challenge goes beyond just taking a credit card and ringing up the sale. Nonetheless, they serve an invaluable service in many retail establishments but would not function happily in a typical startup

    On the other hand, the latter are the true “Sales Engineers”: Consumate professional sales people; those who really know how to elicit and understand the prospects pain point. They intimately understand the product or service being offered and focus upon understanding the issue against which they are offering the prospect a solution such that they can paint the benefits of their solution in language that speaks directly to the prospect's issue. We all tend to buy emotionally and justify logically.

    The top-flight sales people are successful sales people because they also innately understand how to turn objections into steps towards a Yes. They are also those who understand that in many cases there is not just a single buyer but possibly a multiplicity of buyers – if you are doing B2B sales – and they establish who is whom in that pecking order in order to satisfy all of the decision makers in that buying chain.

    These kinds of people are worth their weight in gold, hard to find and bring on board ~ you have to be your own sales pro to convince them ~ and they should be compensated accordingly because “nothing happens without sales”! In fact, rejoice if they are earning more money than anyone else as long as your revenue and your margins are growing accordingly: More important than increasing market share which, in and of itself alone, may have no value add to your bottom line unless there is profit attached.

  • http://www.terametric.com Taariq Lewis

    Thanks for the post, Mark

    However, I think we missed one point: Sales Training

    Sales Training should be part of the startup sales organization. Startups should invest in solid sales training that aligns with their customer development cycle. Everyone should have some exposure to sales training to understand the buyer cycle and the buyer process. Give me 5 sales folks I can train vs. 2 sales superstars who blow and blow out within a year.

    Cheers,
    Taariq

  • http://johngannonblog.com John Gannon

    If you're a pre-revenue B2B startup, and your prospects are asking for references, you're targeting the wrong prospects!

    Target the EarlyVangelists (hat tip to Steve Blank) who have the burning pain, can acquire the budget, can't find a comparable solution elsewhere, and don't care about references.

    The 'trade' (for not asking for / needing any references) is that the EarlyVangelist will have a strong voice in what features are built into the product, and how the roadmap should evolve.

    TEDIC!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/rkillgo Russell Killgo

    Mark… How do you sell something that is free? I know if you get the users, the money will follow. Let's say you make a free app that gets 100k downloads in 2 months like Instagram. If you have a revenue model in mind that can be implemented when more users come on board, but not yet, how can you set a valuation and try to raise money now? Does the number of current users directly correlate to how much an online startup is worth or is it tied more in line with new user sign-up rate? Is there a general rule of thumb that VC's usually go by? My startup is still in the development stage and about 3 weeks away from launch. We are going to pitch it right before launch to get someone in before what is hopefully a very successful launch. But at what price? — Russell

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    As leaders we need to find ways to integrate sales organizations and product organizations. That said, the beginning of building a cohesive team is understanding that the make-up of the people of these groups is fundamentally different.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Seam,
    Jim Patterson said it best below. And he should know given his background. So much depends on whether you're consumer vs. business and the nature of the app you're selling. That said, my view is that the future (in 3-5 years) will be more about HTML5 than “apps” so eventually today's framework will change.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    they are kind of apples & oranges.

    A maverick can work in a startup OR a more established company. And evangelical sales person is somebody who can work with a lack of a well defined product or market. They have to evangelize the benefits to customers and they have to be consultative in sales process.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    in your scenario I think I'd make sure I was on the front lines selling myself. Then you'd really know.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Exactly!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Perfect, perfect comment. Thank you. And I loved the quote from the shipping manager!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I will pick it up. Thank you for the recommendation!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    great story. comp is such a complicated and difficult topic. but unlock comp & performance as you did and you see the results instantly. and to anybody who tells me that either sales people aren't motivated by cash or that sales people aren't different from product people read Cliff's comments above. cash is king.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    new blog layout? don't think anything changed. maybe you were accidentally logged on to the mobile version?

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I guess I would hope you could find somebody with a healthy dose of consultative sales & relationships. But I get your point. The best seasoned sales execs often have the most senior relationships and therefore can sometimes ring the cash register on relationship alone.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Camilo,

    It's obviously hard to assess without knowing the product or market. I would say this – my first company was in document management. We rebuilt every feature that our predecessors had built.

    At my second company – also doc mgmt – my head of products said, “we simply can't build a great product by replicating everything everybody else has done. we need to build the iPod version of our product – a few great features beautifully executed.”

    What we produced was less – but magic. And surprisingly differentiated.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    It's true that some amazing sales people don't make great CEO's. My mom was like your grandfather. When she switched from running her own businesses to being a sales leader only she really shined

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Yes, I lived through this one myself.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Richard. Re: customer-centric PM – it seems that topic is so well done by Steve Blank and Eric Ries that I haven't really touched it.

  • Richard Koffler

    Ahem. You are deferring to someone else? Who can do it better than vous?

    Where do I find Blank and Ries?

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Peter, no etiquette required. You're always welcome to put your comments here – especially those that are so well thought through. Thank you.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Agreed. I didn't cover here mostly because I covered it in a previous post. But sales training is vital.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Hey John. The only difference is once you start scaling a bit you come into customers who want to talk with references and, frankly, even if they don't I want them to! (provided you have strong EarlyVangelists). But in the earliest days you – and Steve – are obviously spot on.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Price is set only by how much the investors believe in your team, the market and the product you've built. And … importantly … the perceived competition to fund you!

  • Bbattles

    Mark – do you have any referrals for a 'Kai Krickel' sort of guy on the west coast/calif.?

    Thanks
    bbattles@ecorebates.com

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Good post. IMHO, a CEO w/sales experience is better. Amazing how many seem to think the product sells itself.

  • http://twitter.com/Sirachm Sirach Mendes

    ooppss i think that did happen – got a mobile version layout ! (refreshed and back to normal layout )

  • http://www.missi.com/ Peter Beddows

    Thank you Mark.

    Always a valuable insightful, learning and interesting experience reading your posts and the exchanges that your ideas and experiences generate wherever your articles may be located.

    For that reason, we've included a link to “bothsidesofthetable” on our own web site under Actions->Resource Look-Up->Information-> Suggested Blogs ~ placing your blog in good company with those of others such as Brad Feld, Fred Wilson, Chris Dixon and Eric Ries amongst others of high repute in the field of business adventure experts.

    Looking forward to meeting you in person when you come down here to the upcoming Tech-Founders meetup in San Diego on Thursday, March 31, 2011 being organized by @brantcooper