Yet Another (ex-)VC Blog

Cloud computing, startups, and venture capital

Posts Tagged ‘sales

Creativity in sales

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Everyone said it would be impossible for a startup—especially for a nonprofit with no experience working with the government—to beat established contractors who have spent decades winning contracts. But instead of competing with these contractors, the company realized it could leverage its nonprofit status to win, and signed a $0 contract that sidestepped the usual procurement process.

Source: The 2 Qualities That Make Every Entrepreneur Successful

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Written by John Gannon

July 19, 2016 at 2:40 pm

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How to get on a busy person’s calendar

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Let’s say you have the attention of someone who agrees to meet or do a phone call with you, but they’re just too busy to set it up right now.

The wrong thing to do in most cases is to wait some number of weeks or months to reconnect with the person and set up a meeting.

If you have the person’s attention, you should see if there is a way you can get on their calendar right then and there, even if the actual meeting or call will take place weeks or months out.

Here’s an example of how this might work in practice:

You: “Hi _____, I’m an MBA student who is tracking the Big Data market sector. I have come across some interesting companies looking for funding and was wondering if you might be interested in meeting me to discuss them during the 1st week of December. Also have some interest in working in VC and would love to discuss that career path as well. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks.”

Reply: “Hi Mary – thanks for the note. I would love to chat but I’m swamped for next month or so. Can you email me in the New Year and see if we can set up a time to speak? Thanks.”

You: “Hi _____ – would love to talk to you in the New Year. Would it be OK if we penciled in Feb 1 10-1030a Pacific for a phone chat and then change/move if needed? Thanks and please let me know if that works for you.”

Reply: “Hi Mary – sure, may have to reschedule it but let’s get it on calendar. I’ve copied my assistant who can get the logistics set up.”

Give it a try. It works.

Written by John Gannon

September 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

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4 awesome B2B startup sales tips from Steve Blank

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Lessons Learned

In complex B-to-B sales, multiple “Yes” votes are required to get an order.

A single “No” can kill the deal. Understanding the saboteurs in a complex sale is as important as understanding the recommenders and influencers

We needed a selling strategy that took all of this into account.

In a startup not losing is sometimes more important than winning.

via At times not losing is as important as winning « Steve Blank.

Written by John Gannon

August 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

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Pros and cons of Push and Pull product positioning and differentiation

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In my view, there are two types of product positioning and differentiation: Push and Pull.  Both have benefits and drawbacks.

Push

A Push positioning and differentiation strategy assumes that you understand the market and your customers well enough that you can come up with some positioning that sets you apart from the competition.  You have a vision and hypothesis about why you’re different and better, and you push that message to the masses, without extensive customer validation.

Pros: To develop this kind of positioning, all one has to do is look at the competition’s literature and come up with positioning that seems sufficiently different from the alternatives.  Potentially saves time because it can be done without speaking to customers.  Maybe a good first step in developing a go-to-market strategy.

Cons: The competition may have it all wrong and have no idea about what customers really want, so trying to work around the competition’s messaging may be pointless, since they all have it wrong anyways-and you probably do too since you haven’t spoken to any customers!

Pull

A Pull positioning and differentiation strategy implies that your customers tell you what features, functions, positioning, and messaging that they find most compelling.  You use these “pulled” items as the crux of your messaging and positioning versus a hypothesis about the messaging and positioning that will resonate with a customer.  This is how the Customer Development guys would argue that you should develop your messaging and positioning.

Pros: You’re using positioning and messaging that has been validated by numerous potential customers in your target market.  These are the reasons they see your solution as different…and who are you to argue with the people who have the money?

Cons:  Requires extensive customer interactions to identify the things that customers feel are the differentiated features of your product.  Easier said than done and may require several, iterative cycles of customer interaction.

What are your thoughts on Push vs. Pull?  Are there certain markets or types of products where one strategy is superior to the other?

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Written by John Gannon

February 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm

5 ways to recognize a good Startup Salesperson

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Over the last couple of years as I’ve been deeply involved in startups as an early stage investor and now operator, I’ve noticed that one of the most critical pieces to the puzzle is the 1st salesperson.  Startups in particular require a certain type of salesperson that has a set of key traits, and those traits can be very different than those desirable for salespeople selling into existing markets.

Here are 5 traits that I think are key to identifying good startup salespeople:

  1. Most or all of selling experience is within startups – A salesperson who has had great success for 20 years selling for big, established tech companies is probably not the right person to build your team around.  You need someone who knows how to sell the company vision AND who can close your first couple of deals to early adopters, even though your product is pre-release or newly GA.
  2. Wants a leveraged compensation plan – This person will be comfortable with a lower base as long as they have a package that is heavy on commission and equity.  They are motivated by cash but take the equity portion of the comp package very seriously, because they believe in the product and the company vision.
  3. Doesn’t need a big expense budget – Your startup barely has enough money to pay the employees, let alone pay for a couple of Morton’s steakhouse dinners every week.  Make sure your salesperson isn’t going to need to use expensive activities to generate prospects or sales.
  4. Can sell the product as spec’d – The startup salesperson should be able to find prospects who will buy what the development team has built.  This will be harder than finding prospects who will buy your product if you add a few additional features, but the benefit is that you’re not bloating your feature set and doing custom development to win every deal.   There are many startups that fall into this trap, and its hard to move from here into a repeatable scalable sales model.
  5. Shouldn’t be aVP of Sales’ type –  You will need a VP of Sales if you figure out a scalable, repeatable revenue and sales model and need someone to manage your growing sales team.  Until then, stick to the folks who are hunters, love selling startup company technology, and enjoy having a huge territory in which to sell.
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Written by John Gannon

February 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm

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Shrink Before You Grow and Sales 2.0

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This past Thursday I left the friendly confines of VMTurbo HQ and attended Highland Capital Partners‘ “Sales 2.0” conference in Cambridge, MA.    The conference was dedicated to sharing knowledge about the “low touch” sales model –  a sales model that does not depend on an army of direct sales representatives knocking on customer doors and doing face-to-face meetings.   Unlike the traditional sales model, the “low touch” model relies heavily on taking leads from the web and moving them through a drip marketing funnel, using inside sales teams to close business when the customer is ready to buy.  This model is gaining quite a bit of attention due to the success of companies like Solarwinds and LogMeIn, both of whom have had recent IPOs.

Every presentation and panel at the conference was great, although the most engaging one was from Joe Liemandt, the CEO and founder of Trilogy.  I remembered Trilogy from the late 90’s, when they were running splashy recruiting events at my alma mater.  Over time they have morphed into a holding company that buys struggling software companies for pennies on the dollar, restructures them, and then turns them profitable.  In his talk “Shrink Before You Grow,” Joe made many great observations and suggestions which came from his experience purchasing and restructuring these companies – and advice which I think is also applicable to software startups.

Here are a couple I thought were particularly interesting…

Field direct sales forces selling $100k-ish deals is a money losing proposition: The dirty little secret of enterprise software is that companies who sell with a field salesforce are typically losing money on each deal.  So, when Joe buys a company, he typically fires the entire field salesforce and moves to a low-touch model (inside sales).  He did say that they will retain one field sales team to chase big ($5MM+) deals, since those are deals that can be done profitably via a direct sales force (and would also be impossible to sell without sending someone onsite to meet senior management).

(My takeaway: use senior management as a direct sales team in the event the customer requires high touch in the sales process AND the deal is big enough to warrant that high touch)

Focus on attach rate and install base, not price: When Joe buys a struggling company, he looks at its product line and figures out which products are not seeing good attach rates with the installed base.  Then, he works hard (by listening to the base and by cutting prices) to get that attach rate up.  They also spend a good deal of resources on support, and do some unconventional but very customer friendly things.  For example, one of the companies they purchased was an accounting software company, and as part of the restructuring they hired CPAs for the support group.  When a user called support, they would not only be able to get software help, but could also get accounting help from a CPA!  Talk about a great way to cultivate a strong install base.

(My takeaway: In a low touch model, there is certainly an element of a volume game, where you are trying to fill your funnel with as many leads as possible, qualify them, and then move them through the funnel until they are ready to buy.  However, your existing base is going to be the best place to look for additional revenue opportunities, so make sure you’re not focusing only on building a massive leads database just for the sake of doing so.)

I’m spending alot of time these days analyzing and learning about the low touch sales 2.0 model, so if you have any good pointers or resources, please add them in the comments!

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Written by John Gannon

December 6, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Get crushed

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Image representing Mark LaRosa as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

NY entrepreneur Mark LaRosa has been writing some amazing stuff on his blog QuotaCrush.  Although the blog is focused on how to improve your selling abilities (with the net effect being that you will crush your quota), I have found the advice contained within it to be tremendously applicable to business development, venture capital, and life in general.  Not to mention that the whole concept of QuotaCrush is a great example of personal branding.

Here is a snippet from a recent post he made about transparency in the sales process:

Total transparancy is something that prospects will respect you for – and something that will build trust in you and your company.

Once you have that trust, you will find that in general, people like to help people. So, when you call and ask for that deal, and you are honest about why you want to close that deal by a certain time, prospects who trust and respect you will generally do what they can to make that happen. Its not a guarantee for a sale, but it certainly is something that may help you get the deal sooner.

(via QuotaCrush » Blog Archive » Transparancy with prospects.)

I also really liked this post about Mark’s daughter convincing him to let her have a snack before dinner, which was really a post about persistence in the sales process.

Anyways, this is just a sample of the kind of stuff you’ll find on QuotaCrush.

Highly worth checking out, even if you don’t think you’re in sales.

Which, by the way, you are!

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Written by John Gannon

May 7, 2009 at 8:20 pm

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