Startup Spark: Don’t forget you need customers

I read a short post on Startup Spark about making sure that entrepreneurs don’t forget that they need to find customers for their new ventures.

Ah – how true… and who makes that happen?  The sales team.

Sales for start-ups is not easy and its certainly not for everyone.  You are building your product and your market at the same time you are trying to build a customer base.  But, when you can convince those companies to give your start-up a chance, its one of the most rewarding feelings for a sales person.

Hmm…Why do you ask?

Salespeople love to talk.  Its a common theme at QuotaCrush.  I’ve recently done two posts on it: Never Vomit on your Customers, and Two Ears, One Mouth.   Expanding on this topic…salespeople need to make sure that whenever they answer questions in a sales pitch, that they need to understand why the question was asked.

The natural tendency when someone asks you a question is to give an immediate answer to that question.  However, unless you understand the motivation behind the question, the chance is that you will answer the question with information that is not relavant or with information that will not move the deal closer to the sale.  And, you will have lost a perfect opportunity to learn more about the customer.

Shiny Rocks

Yesterday at breakfast, I started what turned into a lively and quite humorous discussion with my fellow attendees at the National Angel Organization annual summit in Halifax.

My observation is that humans have not progressed much since caveman days.

Oooh... shiny rocks!

Everything that we do revolves around shiny rocks.

  • We base our wealth on who has the biggest pile of shiny rocks
  • We store shiny rocks in vaults and print money based on how many we have
  • Monetary policy is based on how to trade shiny rocks.

My favorite article on the crisis

I’ve been consuming entirely too much information on the economic crisis, yet I’ve remained quite optimistic about America’s future.  Maybe that’s because my parents raised me to be an optimist, and maybe its just because I refuse to think that this amazing country can’s overcome anything we throw at it.

My favorite optimistic article on the current crisis and why America will come out of the other sied of this as an even stronger nation is one I read on Seeking Alpha today.  The article is the 10 reasons the author is glad he is doing business in America, and I agree with all 10 of the reasons.

Web 2.0 is dead… Long Live Revenue 2.0

As the U.S. settles into what some predict is Depression 2.0, we are at the end of Web 2.0.  Not Web 2.0 the technology – that’s still just at its beginning – but the term Web 2.0 because I think it will be forever tied to the idea of a second wave of companies with no way of making money.  Web 2.0 means much more than “free web sites” as many people out of the industry believe.  It encompasses user generated content, using the web as a platform, collaborative software, web sites communicating with each other (mashups and more), etc.   I hope that as we start to take the web to the next phase, we forget catchy names… lets just worry about the one thing that businesses have worried about since the beginning of commerce…revenue.

You get no points for getting to the 1 yard line

In football, it goes without saying that unless the ball makes it to the endzone, in your hands, then you don’t get any points.  In sales, we have to remember that we also cannot celebrate until the sale is done.

It takes a lot of effort to prospect, pitch, and ultimately get someone to agree to buy your software.  It often takes a significant amount of more time to get through the contract negotiations.  But – none of this is a sale.  A sale is only a sale once the money is in the bank.

“Doc… It’s Marty… You gotta get me back to 1985!”

1985 was a great year for me.

  • I started high school
  • I met my wife (although we didn’t start dating until 11 years later)
  • I was tapped by the Superintendent of Schools to design and build a computer system to run the schools grades, scheduling, rank, attendance, etc.
  • I started my first real entrepreneurial endeavor of some random computer consulting, training, and repair for some side dollars
  • Became one of the lead drummers in the school drum-core.

Why companies should smile when they pay commissions

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about compensation plans as I start to get ready for 2009.

As I’ve been planning all of this, I’ve been watching the chaos unfold on Wall Street and I’ve seen these articles blaming much of it on highly paid people in Wall Street firms.  Its always been my opinion that if a compensation package is designed correctly, then if the salespeople or executives are making a lot of money – well then the company must be doing well.  Simply saying that “compensation is top heavy” doesn’t always tell the whole story.   It is true that a poorly designed compensation plan can pay out too much money relative to effort, but I’ve been wondering if this was the case for many of the firms that have gone bust lately.

Tuck in your shirt

At the risk of sounding old again, I’m going to rant on another “new way of doing business” topic that has been irking me, and one which I think has implications for salespeople.

I see a lot of entrepreneurs starting companies because I work with all of the investors that fund them:  VC’s and Angel Investors.

What boggles my mind, is that I see decent entrepreneurs who get their big chance to pitch in front of the best VC’s, or give a presentation in front of thousands of people.  Its their chance to make the best impression they can as to why someone should believe in them and why someone might give them millions of dollars.

Fear is a four letter word

Someone asked me recently what I thought was the biggest impediment to sales.

I thought for quite some time on this.  Would I say, bad presentation?  Would I say selling to the wrong people?  What about not asking for the sale – I’ve blogged on that..?  Or even something out of the sales persons control like price or packaging or branding…

After much thought, I came down to one common theme on what I think kills a sale and also kills a salesperson:


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