Sunday, 16 November 2014

Part 2 : Co-Founder as a Salesperson - Warm up | Gear Up | Sell

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In mid June'2014, I wrote a post on "Part 1 : Co-Founder as a Salesperson - Warm up | Gear Up | Sell where I spoke about my first introduction to sales.
We had just kicked off our enterprise sales efforts for ExtraaEdge - our sales & marketing cloud platform for educational institutes. Its been around 6 months since this and now we have few more insights from our few paid customers.
Was it easy? Hell No !! Was it fun? Helloo Yes? Is it repeatable? Well we hope & we will see soon..
In this Part 2 article I talk about the second act GEAR UP making to the doors of your customers & convincing them before the third and final act "SELL" becomes a natural outcome.
Being in distribution ( a generic term I will use for any Sales + Marketing + Supply Chain + Customer Satisfaction activity ) you end up playing many roles for your customer. Its funny in retrospect that you play these roles without realizing you are doing it literally. Each role brings you closer to your customer. It helps you as your company representative know them well, sketch out their persona, aspirations & needs.
Sales is a function of how successfully you play these roles with & for your customer during this cycle of distribution.
Jerry Maguire: Yeah, what, what, what can I do for you, Rod? You just tell me what can I do for you?
Rod Tidwell: It's a very personal, a very important thing. Hell, it's a family motto. Are you ready, Jerry?
Jerry Maguire: I'm ready.
Rod Tidwell: I wanna make sure you're ready, brother. Here it is: Show me the money. Oh-ho-ho! SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY!

1. Jerry Maguire - The Money Maker

Ok so for the folks who have not seen this epic Oscar winner flick Jerry Maguire need to go & watch it. The fading ball player Cuba Gooding says to his agent Jerry Maguire played by Tom Cruise that "HE NEEDS TO SHOW HIM THE MONEY"...In the mind of the customer your product/solution should be an agent and catalyst to make more money. Another version of this is your product/solution should directly help save more money. But, perhaps making sounds too convincing than saving for some starnge reasons.
The question is - is the value you create for your customer through your products & services helps them capture revenue/markets/customers effectively. If yes, you just landed on their revenue side of their balance sheet & subconscious.
Case in point HubSpot with its gigantic business model & whooping valuation enabling close more leads, make more business & money.Are you the Jerry Mcguire every Rod Tidwell wants ?

2. Consultant - The Expert

One of my mentors and sales expert Mohit Garg aptly puts it. Sales is changing and you just need not play role of a salesperson but also a consultant & expert in that area. Mind you, its expertise not only with your product/service but in their business areas. You need to know their pains, trails & tribulations like they are yours. Your words and thoughts should just make sense within your customers business. It requires research, experience, keen observation & some more research.
Its strange that art of hunting stuff & material to read on business is available in abundance however most folks are guilty of ignoring and trying stuff on the field. Which is an expensive way to learn.
If they think about that specific pain point e.g. admissions in educational institutes its your image/company's name should automatically pop-up in their minds. Case in point are likes of Eric Ries & Ash Maurya who have created models just by conducting seminars & workshops on Lean Parctices as Consultants & Experts across globe. Are you the best guy in you area the customers knows of? If not who's that guy?

3. Consigliere - The Advisor

Its like Tom Hagen played by excellent Robert Duval in the The Godfather who becomes the de-facto advisor of the Sicilian Mafia. This is the different from expertise, this is something more personal.
You now become an exclusive member in the trust network for your customer. Great opportunity to cross-sell & up-sell.
Think about a problem of training your new hires in a growing startup like AirBnB. A new enterprise gamification learning startup does a fantastic job training these very new hires using badges, medals & in a novel gamified environment. It was a great success. Now, the same AirBnb wants their Sales Guys to be trained - who do they go to? Even without thinking the gamification learning startup, as its what comes to their mind when they think about awesome learning experiences.What just happened is this gamification learning startup just ventured into a new area of lucrative sales training for enterprises OR they gave another fellow company who are experts in Sales training an opening at AirBnB winning browny points both from buyers & sellers. Fab :)They become their learning advisors.
Who does your customer go to if they have complimentary problem in the same business area ? Is it you if not who are those trusted guys/companies?

4. The Eternal - Loyal Friend

You gotta make sure they like you as a representative of your company. Well its not always possible if you see, but then its an art a suave distribution guy masters over time.
I do not know a successful guy/gal in distribution who is not a sheer pleasure to talk to & discuss things. They all have a broad smile & deep insights.
Sales IMHO is still a very emotional decision, they have to first buy you as an expert, advisor with a great product/service which helps them make/save more money.You can feel it if that connection is established with your point of contact in your customer's company. Its a great way to make friends with the influencer who help you at the right time with the right information to get things going.Repeat customers is a function of this kind of relationship you have with your customer. So do you socialize, meet your customers in seminars, workshops of common business interest? If not then where does your customer spends their time in business and why you are not there? Think about it.

5. The ready to go - Team Man

I have hear stories of YC startups building their products sitting with their customers, in their office & taking end-user inputs then & there itself. Its an extension of Steve Blanks "Get out of the building" construct. There at times should be no virtual difference between your customer's team who uses your products/service & your team who handles distribution.
You should be cohesive as one unit to achieve a focused business goal.
An excellent example are the offshore developments teams who work for their customers spanning geographies. Imp post-sales service & customer support is outsourced and they work very closely with SME's & vendors. Its a great service models on which fantastic service companies like TCS, Infosys etc have been built.
So question is does your product/service compliment the capabilities of your customer's team? If not then how do you fit in their working models seamlessly without too much change?

6. The Quintessential - Evangelist

As former Apple's Chief Evangelist & author Guy Kawasaki put it :-
“Evangelist” isn’t a job title. It’s a way of life. It means that evangelists must love what they evangelize. No matter how great the person, if he doesn’t love the cause, he cannot be a good evangelist for it. If you don’t love it, don’t evangelize it....
Do you as a distribution guy really love the business you are in? Are you really passionate about the problem you are solving for your customer.
The thing about enthusiasm & passion is that it is really infectious. As an evangelist you send a message and vibe to your customer that you care, it matters that you constantly look for improvements & listen to them intently.Their aspirations, needs, goals & metrics are yours and you will do whatever it takes to make them successful through your products & services.
Do you think your approach & your team's is inclined to make your customers successful through your products/services? Like there's an "Apple Way" what is your company's way?

7. The Broker - Mining Customer GOODWILL

91% of the customers say they will give referrals. Only 11% of salespeople ask for referrals. - Dale Carnegie
Just imagine if you have played all the above roles with perfection, sales happens, customer is happy & you get them as repeats too. But did you ask for a referral? The thing is that bad news travels fastly, but good news reaches out to the small trusted networks plagued with same pains.
As Denzel Washington once said that "Helping & recommending someone is the most selfish deeds, as the gratification you get out of the value creation is a real high...."
Are you the Broker who mines qualified leads & testimonials from your customer to acquire another customer within the same channel of trust?

Final Thoughts

Peter Thiel says in his book Zero to One...
Distribution is vastly underestimated among startup success factors. Build it and they will not come. CLV > CAC (Customer Life Time Value > Customer Acquisition Cost )
But for whatever reason, people do not get distribution. They tend to overlook it. It is the single topic whose importance people understand least. Even if you have an incredibly fantastic product, you still have to get it out to people. The engineering bias blinds people to this simple fact. The conventional thinking is that great products sell themselves; if you have great product, it will inevitably reach consumers. This is plain wrong and path to failure.
Distribution & the Art of Gearing up for Selling is imperative for a startups success or failure. As a Co-Founder even if you are a techie/ops guy doing sales you need to learn to play these roles. There are no shortcuts, well there are some simple heuristics but the customer's office is your playground and your ability to wear these multiple hats is your weapon.So embrace Distribution & kick ass !!
The author acknowledges the works & thoughts of:
  1. Peter Thiel - Zero To One
  2. Mohit Garg - Chief Customer Officer @ MindTickle
  3. Ratnali Mundada - Sales Guru & Trainer

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