Tag Archives: sales

CEOs THAT SELL

Why Startup CEOs Still Have to Make Sales Calls

by Howard Tullman

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It’s not your strength, or maybe not even what you enjoy doing. But being there to close the deal isn’t something you can simply hand off to the sales team.

At what point can a CEO turn sales over to professional salespeople?  Before that can happen, the company has to achieve two foundational milestones:

  • You need to know exactly what you’re selling—by doing it over and over again (and not as a one-off).
  • You need to know for certain that others can sell it consistently.

That only comes with the maturity of your product/service.  Until it reaches that point, stay in the field and keep selling.  Your product is still being developed on the fly and continually redesigned/reconfigured to better suit the real requirements and demands of customers.  The fact is, ultimately only you can make the critical design and development decisions and you’ll do a much better job of that if you are hearing it directly from the end users and not from a bunch of whiny salespeople.

I’m seeing more and more startup CEOs who discover way too soon that they don’t like the wear and tear, the travel, and the rejection that are all crucial parts of selling a new product or service.  So they retreat, thinking they can run their businesses while they’re sitting on their butts behind a desk back in the office. That’s not how this game works; that behavior is a formula for failure. You may not be an extrovert.  You may not even know the technology that underlies your business as well as half the other people in the company.  You are, however, the boss and today that fact alone means a lot, at least to the people who make the final purchasing decisions.

Remember—buyers are typically older than you, they grew up in strictly hierarchical systems where titles count, and they need to be made to feel important and respected if they’re gonna sign off on your deal. No offense to any of the members of your team, but customers don’t want to deal with the monkey—they need to see the organ grinder. That’s you. And they want you for all the obvious reasons:

  • People don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show up. It’s important.
  • Startup staffs are notoriously scattered and hurried—lacking focus and attention to detail. Customers want to know that you personally are connected, paying attention and directly engaged with their business, their concerns, and their problems.
  • Clients want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Not second hand. They want commitments and assurances from you. Everybody knows that the sales guys will say anything and promise them the world.  They need assurance that you will stand behind your product or service and make good on your promises. The buck always stops with you.

Product Maturity

Once your product/service reaches those critical milestones, it’s time to kick yourself upstairs and focus on other things. I encourage CEOs who find they spend too much effort selling to optimize their time.  I suggest that they find competent sales managers and others who can tee up just the right meetings for them—not opening meetings which are a dime a dozen, but closing meetings where the deals get done.

Finding sales meat-eaters to fill managerial roles isn’t easy; they are the hardest hires for any startup, but it’s absolutely critical to have them onboard if you’re going to build a viable business.

When your startup is hiring talent, you need to avoid certain categories of salespeople. For example, stay away from what I call empire builders.  There’s a whole generation or two of sales management types whose experience comes only from large organizations.  I have found fairly consistently that they are the wrongest guys possible for a startup because they grew up in a system where they measured their value and their success by the sheer number of people they managed rather than the results that those folks delivered. Nothing kills a young business faster than bloat and bureaucracy and having too many sales people sitting on their hands and not selling is the worst kind of poison. So be careful what you wish for and who you hire for this critical job.

There’s no more challenging job than being the CEO. You are responsible for the health of each part of the organization and the trajectory of the entire venture.  Stay in the sales loop until your product/service matures.  Then focus on closing deals.  Customers need you to be there—to say what you’ll do, and do what you say.

 

 Howard Tullman is the CEO of Chicago-based 1871, where 500 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V and Chicago High Tech Investors, both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council and Governor Bruce Rauner’s Innovate Illinois Advisory Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

@tullman

This article is an excerpt of one that appeared recently in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office, Howard Tullman

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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THE BIG LITTLE TRAP

by Scott M. Anderson

An investor, Sally, recently heard two pitches. The first was from A-Dot-Co, which will produce polka-dot jellybeans using a new patented process. The second was from BetterBean, will produce purple jellybeans using a trade secret method which improves existing manufacturing processes.

Having spent several years owning a candy company, Sally was interested in both opportunities.

Jellybean T

Sally knows that the jellybean market is large and well established. With a few regional exceptions, she knows the annual market growth has been 3% for many years.

sales projection MS Office

Accordingly, she was a bit surprised to see strong growth projections in the presentations from both A-Dot-Co and BetterBean. More diligence would be required.

Sally asked both companies to submit detailed materials in support of the projections they presented. She was particularly focused on the factors responsible for revenue growth. Since the market is large and established, Sally knew that growth for a new entrant must come from either expansion of the overall market or from switching behavior (customers switching from established providers to new providers). She was hopeful that the detailed support material for each revenue projection, would reflect management’s understanding of these market dynamics.

 

A-Dot-Co

A-Dot-Co

Sally received the following support detail from A-Dot-Co:

A-Dot-Co Revenue

She knew from prior experience that the total candy market was very large and she was glad to see the jelly bean sub-market in excess of $2 billion. There would be plenty of upside for A-Dot-Co. She was also glad to see that in year 5, the founder did not expect to exceed 1.0% of the market. Any larger share percentage would require major resources and additional funding rounds.

However, before investing, Sally still needed more information on the detail behind the market share projections. She scheduled a follow-up call.

On the call, A-Dot-Co was very enthusiastic. It went like this:

Sally: “Thank you for your revenue detail. I have some follow up questions. How do you expect to land nearly $2 million in revenue in the first 2 years?”

Founder: “A-Dot-Co is well positioned to achieve our revenue goals. We have a seasoned team who formed many candy company startups in the past.”

Sally: “That’s great. But how do you intend to land $600K of sales in year 1?”

Founder: “My team has deep knowledge about the jelly bean market. We only need a mere 0.03% of the market to land the projected $600K! Surely there are enough polka-dot jelly bean eaters out there to achieve this projection!”

A-Dot-Co’s founder fell into The Big Little Trap.

trap MS Office

 

The Trap

The Big Little Trap occurs when a founder believes his future projections are achievable because the market is so big and the market share percentage is so little. Specifically, that the sales goal will be very easy to accomplish because the market goal is such a small percentage, such as 0.03% with A-Dot-Co. (“It’s so small that anyone can reach it…as easy as falling off a log!”) In fact, the Trap victim might further say that the percentage is so tiny, that it may take only a few customers to reach it, and “…clearly the market has more than just a few customers!”

The response to an enthusiastic Trap victim: “I’m glad you’re excited. Name the customers!”

 

BetterBean

BetterBean

BetterBean submitted the following detail to Sally:

BetterBean Revenue

 

As before, Sally was glad to see confirmation of the jelly bean market. (They must have used the same market study). But she was even happier to see customer detail behind the revenue projection.

target market MS Office

The detail reveals several important items:

  1. BetterBean knows his target customers and may already have relationships established with them.
  2. Knowing BetterBean’s target customers should lead to a more efficient operation by helping the company prioritize the company’s limited time with its important customers over less strategic prospects.
  3. BetterBean has applied the 80/20 rule—at least 80% of the revenue is derived from specific, identified customers. The remaining revenue will come from other customers, currently unknown. Forecasting is an inexact science and to communicate over-precision in the detail implies the founder may be taking his projections too seriously. BetterBean has not been overly precise.
  4. When—not if—BetterBean misses its projections, the detail will provide insight as to why the projections were missed. The “why” is more important for fixing future revenue projections.
  5. BetterBean is more transparent than A-Dot-Co. Specifically, BetterBean’s founder has shared his target customer list, perhaps with the hope that Sally may have contacts to be leveraged at those customer accounts. Conversely, A-Dot-Co has shared no customer detail, suggesting that its founder may not know who his customers will be. This is concerning if true.

 

Decision Time

Sally rejected the opportunity with A-Dot-Co. It fell into The Big Little Trap—and didn’t even realize it. The lack of transparency did not generate confidence in the company’s management team.

Sally proceeded with further diligence on BetterBean.

The Big Little Trap grabs victims all the time. Like Sally, an investor should consider the market size, but only in the context of the startup’s upside potential. As she observed, there’s, “…plenty of upside for A-Dot-Co.” However, market share is not the justification of year-to-year or month-to-month revenue goals. Market share is best seen as a byproduct of sales efforts.

The jellybean example is fictitious, but the Trap is very real. Watch for The Big Little Trap at your next pitch session. See if the founder falls into it!

 

About the Author

Scott M. Anderson is a principal at Anderson Financial Services, LLC and has been performing cash projections for decades as an investment banker, a workout specialist, and recently, as an advisor to investors and startups. He can be reached at scott@andersonfsllc.com

Graphics from MS Office

 

This article appeared in NEWS FROM HEARTLAND

NEWS FROM HEARTLAND – The Journal of the Heartland Angels is published tri-annually for its members. We encourage reproduction and quotation of articles, if done with with attribution. Copyright © 2017 Heartland Angels. John Jonelis, Editor – John@HeartlandAngels.com

FOR MEMBERSHIP IN THE HEARTLAND ANGELS, contact Ron Kirschner Ron@HeartlandAngels.com

FOR FUNDING, apply online. Go to www.HeartlandAngels.com

NEWSLETTER SITE – View past and present editions at News.HeartlandAngels.com

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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THE HIDDEN DANGER IN YOUR DATA

Howard Tullman B&Wby Howard Tullman

From the Journal of the Heartland Angels

Today, entrepreneurs have tools and technologies to collect, monitor, and document more data than ever before. You’re likely swimming in data, since customers leave a trail of it everywhere to be captured and analyzed in real time. As I’ve often said, in business, what gets measured (and acknowledged and rewarded) is what gets done. I haven’t changed my belief about that, but I have come to see that we are putting too much emphasis strictly on the numbers. Numbers don’t lie, but they never tell the whole story. They can only take you so far before they top out and you need something qualitative and experiential to get to the right conclusions.

Pie Chart Hesitation

Peter Drucker’s dictum “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has created a whole generation of leaders so focused on perfecting their company’s processes that they lose sight of the company’s purpose. I hear managers all the time talking about the need to get more work out of their people when they should be trying to get the best work out of them. Optimizing (not maximizing) the team’s output is what matters most to the ultimate success of a business. Working smarter and more effectively—not necessarily longer or harder—is how you ultimately move ahead of the competition.

You need to be exceedingly careful these days that you don’t let the ease of access and the ubiquity of massive amounts of quantitative performance data cause you to over-emphasize the math and measurements—and thereby lose sight of the far more important qualitative attributes of what’s going on. Not everything is easy to measure or quantify, but that doesn’t make these things less important; it just makes your job as manager tougher. But when you get so wrapped up in the measurement process that it becomes the goal itself, it loses its effectiveness. It’s easy to confuse movement with progress, but not all motion is forward. And lots of activities that run up the numbers aren’t remotely productive. Measuring is easy; measuring better is tough.

When you let the numbers drive the train, you give up two important advantages that are critical to your success. First, the goal isn’t to be the thermometer; it’s to be the thermostat. It’s not about measuring the heat; it’s about generating and controlling the heat. You don’t want the analytics to lead you; they’re a useful benchmark and a guide for course corrections, but it’s your job to set the direction and move the business forward. Second, when you get so focused on specific and concrete financial results (sales targets, growth rates, etc.) and you direct all your team’s energies toward getting as close to achieving those numbers as possible, you actually limit your ultimate upside because you lose the ability to think and see beyond those immediate goals. When a game-changing opportunity arises or a quantum shift occurs in your sales prospects, your team will likely be so heads-down chasing those numbers that someone else will come along and grab the new brass ring.

Black Hole of Data

Here are three principles that have helped me resist the temptation to get too caught up in the numbers—and focus on what truly matters at my company:

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Elaboration is a form of pollution

Tell your team to keep it simple. No one gets paid by the page, and shorter is almost always better. I’ve found that when people expand and extend their plans, proposals, and presentations, there’s a high degree of likelihood that they’re concerned about the value of their pitch, so they try to bury it in a boatload of facts, figures, charts, citations, and everything else that just hides the hard truth. It’s better for everyone when your people put things right out there—front and center—and take their medicine if that’s what’s called for. If you torture the numbers long enough, they’ll say whatever you like, but that’s not any way to get to the truth or the right result.

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Not everything is worth doing well

Tell your team that everyone’s always on the clock. There’s an opportunity cost associated with everything you do, so choosing what not to do (and how extensively to do the things you need to do) is critical in any startup which has scarce resources and time. Some things just don’t warrant the full-court press, and it’s important to make sure that everyone knows that that’s okay with you. Other things shouldn’t be done at all, and you should never try to do things cheaply that just aren’t worth doing. It’s never easy to turn people down or say, “No,” to marginal choices, but it’s part of the job.

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No one’s ever measured how much the heart can hold

Ultimately, the value of the critical connections your people make every day with your clients and customers can only be roughly approximated by even the best math. But it’s those daily personal and emotional interactions with your empowered employees that build crucial engagement as well as the lifetime value of those buyers for your business. You need to give your team permission to do what’s best for the customer in the moment that the opportunity arises. If they need to consult a rule book or have a calculator handy to do the math, they’ll lose the value of the moment every time. The best businesses don’t worry about the number or sheer volume of moments–they work to make each moment matter.

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Howard Tullman is a philosopher, investor, and Chicago entrepreneur.   For more from Howard, go to

http://tullman.blogspot.com

www.1871.com/

Read his bio: http://tullman.com/resume.asp

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This article appeared in the following publicatons:

News From Heartland  http://news.HeartlandAngels.com

INC Magazine  http://www.inc.com/

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Graphics: Getty Images, MS Office, H Tullman

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE GIRL WITH THE BLACK LEATHER PANTS

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2111-3001by John Jonelis

This is a winner. You wanna wow the judges?  Win the crowd?  Get your game face on, kiddo!  Hit ’em with real passion, overflowing personality and a canon shot of enthusiasm.   State what you want to do with bravado.  With humor.  With intelligence.  With dazzle and power.  While you’re at it, throw in a pair of fitted black leather pants so they’ll sit up and bark.  It never hurts to be feminine and smart.  By the way, she’s an award-winning mathematician from MIT.  Really!

This is Joy Tang and she’s pitching InstanTagThe Social Fashion Network at the Funding Feeding Frenzy in Chicago—a private equity arena with no speed limit in an industry dominated by sweaty men.  Men pack the judging panel.  Men pack the audience.  That doesn’t stop her.

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At FFF

Tang moves forward with authority, hitting every detail and point required of a superb private equity pitch. She plucks an orchestra of human emotions and plays each to her favor.  Curiosity, Compassion. Avarice. Anxiety. Hope—lots of Hope..

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2128-500

She isn’t tall, isn’t boardroom, and speaks in somewhat broken English.  You think that slows her down?  Guess again buddy!  Tang is stunning, smart, and rivets your attention.  We know nothing about her but make no mistake—she steals the show.  Everyone falls in love with her sizzling energy and she backs it up with a complete business story for as nice a package as I’ve seen in a long while.  She’s not asking for your money, Mr. Investor.  No—she’s demonstrating an opportunity, and she’s ready to sail.

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2127-500So I’m thinking, Another social media play?  But this is different—it’s all about fashion—and she’s holding the judges between two dainty fingers.  You think, just maybe she might pull this off?  Yup.  I’m betting Tang will turn a successful business no matter how many times she pivots in this or that ballroom.

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2132-300Between pitches, the leadership of three angel groups ask me what companies I like. I like Nano Gas Technologies.  I like Team Interval.  I like Geek Bar.  But most of all, I like InstanTag’s Joy Tang.  Turns out, she’s already at the top of those three lists.

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2157-500

At BNC

Two weeks later at Business Network Chicago, it’s a reunion of FFF FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2136B-200speakers. And in a roomful of sweaty men, there’s Tang in her black leather pants, asking the tough business questions—pinning down the speaker and making him squirm—but with such consideration and aplomb!  As the lyrics to the song go, “Don’t change baby, please don’t change.”

And Mr. Investor—catch this boat before it sails. This is the time to bet on the captain, not the ship.

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Contact

InstanTag – The Social Fashion Network

Joy Tang, CEO & Co-Founder   jtang@instantag.com

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FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2117-200Nano Gas Technologies

Team Interval

Geek Bar

Funding Feeding Frenzy

Business Network Chicago


Photography Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis

Lyrics from the song Bella Donna as performed by Grace Slick

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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