In Puerto Vallarta having dinner with some friends who vend the beaches. They pay $2500 per year for a license to sell their goods, and they were just notified that they have to pay more this year for no apparent reason. Nonetheless they are happy to go to the beach everyday, live simply and appreciate everything they have. Lends some real perspective for those of us who commute in traffic and do our best to nurture our hustle in bustle in the valley.
Technorati Tags: startups
The Doug way to sell is very pragmatic, very consultative. This guy had a sales background, but was more strategic in his thinking than most sales people. He could see the forrest for the trees AND the trees for the forrest. He knew what questions to ask and how to ask them. As opposed to asking someone if they want to buy something, he would drive conversation that reaches that conclusion. The Doug way is a sales guy that can sell, but is more strategic than most. He knows how to shape interest alignment among constituents, which many can't move the ball forward on.
Interlude: More often than not, people don’t tend to have an appreciation for business development people. Part of it has to do with the fact that business development people work on things that aren’t as measured given the strategic nature. One business development guy might spend 4 months discerning a new vertical market place; while another creates an ecosystem of partnerships (technology, distribution, marketing, etc) to further enable the company; while another is just the first sales guy that is dubbed biz dev; while another is just a no-op that gets nothing done and always has a reason why (this is the most common biz dev guy you see). It’s a broad category that companies view differently. The other reason people don’t tend to have an appreciation for business development people, is that there aren’t that many good ones out there. So often business development is where a sales guy lands that can’t sell, or a marketing guy lands that can’t market, or an MBA grad lands for MBA sake, or a founder who couldn’t scale in his initial role.
The Raj way was that sort of mid level guy that has been carrying a bag in the field for a while, but fancies himself as more senior and strategic than others. He's not so senior such that he won't swing to take credit for every deal (note: the senior guys make their guys successful and that success reflects on them). He is relatively sharp though, and get get deals done at the C level. He's usually overly verbose, even after the order is in hand. (note: once you have the order, shut the F up and get out). Raj often thinks that being verbose serves him well because he'd rather provide his customers more information than less. Well, he misses the point. It's not about more or less, it's about what matters.
The Jack way is to do as little as possible but to cover his ass the whole way. You remember that guy that you had to work on a group project with in school? The guy that didn't do anything the whole time, but got the same grade you got? That's Jack. If the 4-Hour Work Week were out back then, he had read it. I'm sure he has by now. He somehow manages to work odd hours. He arrives before anyone else, but he makes it look like it's way before anyone else. He never knows the technical end of what he's selling. He's got a party line pitch he keeps, which is how he survives. He makes his problems your problems. Somehow, this guy makes his numbers just fine. He's a testament to the cliff notes version of a sales guy.
The Kevin way (the guy always asking "what problem are you trying to solve" but has no answers)
The Richard (Dick) way (the ultra diligent cheese ball)
The Tommy way (the remote office guy)
The Andy way (the charming, slick southern guy)
I could go on forever; hopefully I will.
Technorati Tags: sales guys
Every job you have yields key take-aways and learnings for your next job, which ultimately becomes the basis of a career. Some of these are by trial and error, some are by market circumstances, some are by execution ups and downs, some are just what they are. It's no different when you start a company. Here are some things I'll do differently the next time I start a company (granted some of these may not be right for you or the next guy, but for me in particular they'll be important):
Product: Must be a pain pill or a steroid, but certainly not a vitamin. You pee vitamins out most of the time. It can't have a variable cost structure that directly correlates to every action. It can't be something that every time you explain, you have to rationalize with major market trends. It must be obvious and descriptive in one line. The product must have instant gratification and continuous engagement. Usage should happen, not be pushed.
Marketing: Marketing spend would ideally be left to brand building and PR. Best to not have a fixed cost for every new customer. Ideally your product has an addictive element such that market spend is minimal.
Finance: Outsource it as long as you can. No need to have any non-strategic G&A types around. They ask too many questions anyway, and miss the forrest for the trees in many cases. If it's outsourced, it's diligent and everybody's ass is covered.
Business Development/Sales: I'm the guy for this, so I can't waste time trying to get anyone to "offload" me. A CEO in a start up ought to wear the hat of at least two key functions.
Operations: Rent it, don't own it. Don't even manage it if possible. Keep the burn ultra low and the company ultra lean. Take note from folks like Auttomatic who have a virtual company and work circles around their competition. Take note from folks like Socializr who keep lean enough to really nurture their product rather than force feed the marketplace.
Team: I will build to order rather than build for optics. So often current and future investors, partners, press, etc, have a superficial perception of the management team. Big names, big logos....big headaches. Seriously. If you're not careful, you'll have a VP of everything. While some might intuitively consider that strength, there's another perspective... The big VPs are expensive to find, pay, manage, keep and extract value. They tend to build silos and do anything to defend their territory. A little healthy tension is positive, but that's not what happens. Before too long these expensive big shots are not only negatively impacting your burn and taking up your time groussing about each other, but they are contributing to a culture that may be what you had in mind. Their teams rally together which is good, but it becomes an us vs. them thing across the board. ONLY HIRE PEOPLE YOU REALLY NEED, AND DON'T APPLY TOO MUCH STRUCTURE UNTIL THE BUSINESS CALLS FOR IT. (MUST BE DILIGENT ABOUT THIS).
Funding: If you've been fund raising for 5 months and seen half of Sand Hill Rd, stop, fold that tent and pitch a new one. You don't want money from the firms that were on the bottom of your xls list; otherwise you'll always be building for them and not the business.
Technorati Tags: startups
There are infinite ways to sell in Sales. Those ways attach to people and personalities and become Sales Types. I might be a Sales Type of one breed and you of another. One isn't necessarily better than the other, it's all about what works.
Here are some Sales Types I met and learned from at my first job out of school as an inside sales guy:
Barry was the VP of sales and was your typical Bill Branski type. You’ve seen him in airport bars and the 19th hole drinking Glenlivet on the rocks. Classic as they come, he was a red faced drinking, heavy traveling, fast driving, sharp dressing and deal making machine. The Barry way was to have ultimate style and control all while driving by the seat of your pants. He was good at taking a bad situation and driving it toward a better outcome, yet make everyone involved feel good. He had presence and strong leadership. He was crazy and cut corners from time to time, but always with good intentions. He was effective, and that’s what trumps all. It may sound petty, but I actually answer my phone, to this day the way Barry did. I say my full name, sound busy, determined, in control, yet earnest. In fact, his loud in your face personality is something I still once and a while try and emulate depending on who I’m dealing with. These things all play into the tempo you take into a business setting. If you can start yourself off with an advantageous tempo, then you might be able to riff on it and find a groove.
Ron was a Bay Area outside sales guy; the Ron way was the diligent hustle. He was on top of everything, wrote everything down on paper in order to follow up. And he would follow up relentlessly. Ron counseled me that so many people always focus on SAVING MONEY, when he said we have an opportunity to focus on the opposite: EARNING MORE MONEY. Ron also broke negotiating down into simple terms: ‘I’m here and you’re over there, and in order for us to transact we need to meet somewhere in the middle. What do I need to do to bring you more my way than you are?’
Bill was a Southwest outside sales guy, based in Dallas; the Bill way was to not write much down, to focus on the relationship sales approach. Whether it was drinks, dinners, golf, nude bars, or plain dialing for dollars, Bill was a pro at it. Bill essentially taught me to ALWAYS leave a voice mail when calling someone, even if it’s the 2nd or 3rd time you’re calling. That way the customer knows how much you care, and that you’re not going away anytime soon. Bill had such good rapport with his customers, he could get an order with a phone call. It was your classic ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” There is some risk in doing this too much though... Let’s face it, your customer’s first loyalty is to their company, so with enough pattern recognition, they’re going to notice that you call the last day of the month every month. So why not leverage that for extra points off the deal? And then there’s the ability to return the product within 30 days. I’ve seen companies and individuals get pulled to the pavement for getting carried away with these tactics. Bill always seemed to succeed unscathed.
Guy was a Midwest outside sales guy, out of Chicago; the Guy way was to tap into the finer things in life, to buy customers gifts, send flowers to their wives on behalf of the company, etc. He was a relationship guy and was as smooth as they come. He would stress about things but not let on that he’s stressed. He was sharp, diligent and mentored Ron quite a bit.
Jeff was the acting 3-day a week CEO; the Jeff way was to arm chair quarterback. He was parachuted in by the venture guys to look after the company. I’ll never forget, I was working a multi million dollar deal I’d sourced. I can’t remember how big the deal was, but I do remember it being something bigger than anyone in the history of the company had ever worked on. For the first time in my life I could envision making enough money to absolve all my debts. It was a real long shot though. Lots of stars needed to align in order for it to come together. It had to do with a new graphics production company expand nationally or something. Anyway, I had bounced some ideas off Ron here and there to get his input. I had tapped into every angle there was in order to push the deal forward. Until one day, Jeff paced over to my cube to ask me about the deal: “Michael, have you considered making them a deal?” If The Office camera crew were there, I would have given one of those looks at the camera.
I'll share more Sales Types soon.