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Trust – Fancy Website or Human Voice

11 Oct

A great comment from Barry Moltz:

“Many years ago small businesses wanted to appear large so customers would trust them. They produced fancy stationery and secured a respectable business address. This has all changed with the Internet, where customers value the human voice. Now every business wants to appear small and provide personal service to its customers.”

And I agree.  I was quite happy to stop the renewal order of new stationery and envelopes and instead spent it on a better website.  But still recognized that a website wasn’t enough, that customers expected a contact link that included phone and address.  It was acceptable that the address wasn’t local as long as there was a viable address.  More importantly was ensuring the phone was answered by a person instead of an automated system.  At my small companies, everyone was the receptionist because the call rang to everyone if the frontline people were otherwise engaged.

The next level of trust that customers are looking for includes customer ratings.  Think what eBay, Amazon and others started to ensure customer feedback is reflected back to prospects.  Having peer ratings for Inquisix referrals was a key point to the system.

To build trust in today’s market, make it easy for the customer to research and buy your offerings.  No more paper or offices but a well-designed website, a human answering the phone and trust ratings from customers are the new trust factors.

2011 New Year’s Resolution That I Kept

3 Jan

One of my 2011 new year’s resolutions was to find more time to read magazines that are either not focused just on my industry or not for pure entertainment. And it’s the one resolution I happily completed. The magazines I choose include The Economist, Fast Company and Wired. Each of them have been very enjoyable and enlightening to read and so I’ve renewed their subscriptions for 2012.

My measure of a good magazine was how many times I ripped out an article from the magazine to re-read or do more thinking on. Each of these magazines made that measure.

I picked The Economist for several reasons. Its reporting on world events is not from a pure US-based point of view, the articles tend to more in-depth and thought provoking than a Newsweek (for example), and they cover more of the non-English-speaking parts of the world.

I picked Fast Company because much of what they cover is what’s new – new companies, new technologies, new business leaders, new ideas. A breezier read than the Economist and only published once a month but I found myself also looking forward to their blog postings.

Lastly, I picked up Wired magazine. I had read it in the early 2000’s but it was so Internet-focused that I lost interest. However, recent issues have been much more interesting and I’ve found Wired to be similar to Fast Company in covering what’s new and yet there’s been very little overlap in their stories.

If you’re reading this blog soon after I posted it, you can take advantage of a Groupon for The Economist at $1/issue.

The two most interesting trends I have been eagerly reading about are social media and 3D printing. I’m quite tired hearing about what celebrity or athlete is tweeting or how many followers Ashton Kutcher and Oprah have. Nor do I care that much how companies are marketing their offerings to consumers. However, I’m fascinated by how social media has created social unrest to successfully challenge the governments of Egypt, Libya and lately, Russia.

3D printing may not be as mainstream as social media but for someone who worked for a 3D solid modeling software company, I’m quite interested in how people’s ideas can be modeled in software and then printed in 3D as easily as printing a letter is. The sophistication of the new 3D printers brings the ability for small businesses to design and manufacturer their own products in small batches and with high-quality. Imagine bringing manufacturing back to America not because of low-cost workers but because of the ability to easily manufacturer unique and high quality products in your own office.

What magazines are you enjoying reading?
What trends in 2012 will you be following?

Happy 2012!

Top Rules for business and starting your career

25 Oct

Today I thought I’d share the two top-10 rules that I have saved and posted in my office. One is from The Daily Beast on Steve Job’s rules for business. The other is a speech attributed to Bill Gates but was actually an op-ed letter by Charles J. Sykes written to college graduates.

Influitive – new spin on referrals and references

31 May

This spring, my dear colleague, Joanne Black, the author of No More Cold Calling, introduced me to Mark Organ of Influitive. Influitive has an interesting twist on the reputation-based referral process that Inquisix built our business on.

Inquisix was focused on helping fill the beginning of the funnel with qualified prospects who came to you, the sales person, based on a referral from someone the prospect trusted. At Inquisix, the network was the salesreps and executives who had high-value relationships with their customers and thus could refer them. Influitive looks at the sales cycle from the point of view of your happy reference customers. At Influitive, it’s these customers who expand their reputation network based on the products and solutions they embrace.

Influitive is in beta now and I encourage any VP of Sales or VP of Marketing who is using salesforce.com to take a look at them.

Happy Selling!

Entrepreneur Success Story – Why Not You?

23 Dec

This is a great story and inspiration to all that aspire to build their own product and company.  I’ve been following this story since I read about it in the Economist back in October.  2 friends came up with an idea, build it on the cheap using partners to quickly prototype the product and then raised over $100K from angel investors in a few weeks.  It’s now in production to popular reviews and available for purchase on-line.

What do I love about the story?

  • 2 friends with complimentary talents to turn an idea into a product
  • They came up with a great idea that they then EXECUTED on
  • They quickly (and cheaply) built the protype using outside help
  • They used KickStarter to find angel investors via the internet
  • They are selling direct on the internet so cost of sales is low

It’s easy to come up with a good idea.  Well, certainly easier than actually executing on the idea.  So my congratulations to these 2 friends who were able to build and launch a consumer product with minimal resources and in rapid time.

What is it?  It’s a tripod for your iPhone4.  Simple, elegant and handy.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?  Shouldn’t it be to execute on your idea?

Aspirin vs Vitamins

9 Nov

As a follow-on to my last post about why customers say they’ll buy early-stage solutions but do not, “You love me but you won’t buy”, I read an article in a recent Fast Company that discussed the same issue. Written by Dan and Chip Heath, co-authors of, “Made to Stick”, they discussed the difference between a product considered a vitamin, a nice-to-have – versus an aspirin, a must-have. Some people will pay money for vitamins to stay healthy but everyone will pay for aspirin to cure a headache.

I encourage you to read the article.  Too bad there’s not a recipe for turning your vitamin into an aspirin but they have several examples that can help you brainstorm how to turn your own product into a must-have.

Same old story, “You love me but you won’t buy…”

20 Oct

In two recent meetings with startup executives, the same issue came up.  It was a challenge for us at Inquisix and at many of the startups I’ve talked with.

The issue is that many people SAY they love your idea, your product, your solution and would buy it IF it were only ready.  And of course they tell you to build it, that they have the decision making authority and budget to buy it.  Yes, I’m talking about products sold to businesses but this issue is often true for consumers.

At Inquisix, we had multiple VPs of Sales tell us that they loved the product and could see rolling it out to their sales team.  At an information security company where I was first sales hunter in, the customer literally drooled at the prospect of using our software to monitor employee computer habits.  One the startups I recently met with said that they had paid betas with multiple Fortune 500 accounts.  The other startup had customers saying they loved their medical device and would buy it, all in the first meeting.  And yet each company struggled once the product was delivered.  And why?  Because your prospects, customers, partners and confidents will all encourage you even if they’re not being completely honest with you (and maybe even themselves) on why they won’t (or can’t) ultimately purchase.

At Inquisix, the VPs loved the idea of their reps getting referrals but ultimately struggled with letting them give referrals in return.  At the information security company, the senior execs would not accept a product that screamed, “We don’t trust our employees,” and thus no enterprise purchase.  And the company with the paid betas had trouble getting the betas to move to production because while they solved a problem, it wasn’t a painful problem needing solving right away.  Same with the medical device company as everyone but the patient saw the need for the device but the patient ultimately made the decision to use it or not.

So the challenge is to find a problem that needs solving NOW and is budgeted where your product’s positioning can be changed to be that problem’s solution.  At the information security company, the big pain point for many of the betas was that they had regulatory requirements to monitor applications.  So we positioned the solution to monitor applications, not people.  Thus the senior execs could say that the government required them to do the monitoring and there was a big compliance budget to solve the problem.  The new positioning led to me closing a $1M deal 6 months after the product was released.  At Inquisix, we tuned the product so that companies with business development deals between them could share referrals in a closed system.  We also partnered with in-person networking groups to use Inquisix as their group’s SFA system.  The medical device company is working with companies and organizations that require the patient to use the device or not receive reimbursement for their care.

Then how do you change your positioning?  Often your customers and prospects will tell you what you need to tell them that suddenly makes them open up their wallets.  The challenge is to differentiate between their wishful thinking and what will really make them open their wallets.

Happy Selling!

Michael

We Want To Sell thru Inbound Marketing

14 Oct

I met with a technology startup recently. The founders are entrepreneurs with one successful exit already and are building their next company. They live in Europe but are considering moving their fledgling company to the US because they feel the majority of the customers are found here. When I asked them how they wanted to go to market, they replied, “We want to sell through inbound marketing….because cold calling does not work anymore.”

Leaving aside the thought that I don’t agree that cold calling doesn’t work anymore (me, who’s been writing about referrals all the time!?!), there’s still the discussion of what inbound marketing means and how to do it.

There are a bunch of great books and products out there to help you do inbound marketing. One of the popular ones is from Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the co-founders of HubSpot. Their book is “Inbound Marketing” and I recommended the book to these founders. We white-boarded the salient points of the book.

Inbound Marketing:

  • Create remarkable content
  • Optimize content (for search, RSS, social media)
  • Publish content (and not just on your site)
  • Market content thru social media and blogs
  • Measure what’s working and what’s not working

The real hard part here, which made the entrepreneurs look at each other to see who was volunteering, is “create remarkable content.”  Anyone can create content (see, I’m doing it right now) but is the content remarkable?  Remarkable gets found.  Unremarkable gets buried.

Blogs:

  • Visitors come to blogs to learn
  • Write remarkable content and allow guest bloggers
  • Allow content without approving it first
  • Read and comment on other’s blogs and link back to your blog
  • Track what’s working and what’s not

Search:

  • Visitors are looking for content
  • You must consider paid search (pay-per-click) vs organic (free) search
  • Look at your website for what’s searchable (links, tags, inbound links)
  • Most importantly – what’s the trigger event that’s causing your visitors to search for you

Social:

  • Visitors are looking to interact with you and colleagues
  • Top social sites include LinkedIn Answers & Groups, Twitter, YouTube, Digg

So most everything you need to do for inbound marketing can be found in this easy-to-read book.  And the authors’ company helps you measure what’s working and what’s not working.  The challenge remains, “Who’s going to write the remarkable content?”

Starting Up Again

12 Oct

Welcome to my new site for discussions on referral based selling and more. I hope many of you will follow me from the Inquisix blog to this new site despite the long quiet period in between postings.

The goals of this site are:

  • Continue the discussions on referral-based selling
  • Include new topics especially around entrepreneurs and start-ups
  • Interesting articles that I’ve read that I hope you’ll find interesting

All of the articles that I wrote at the Inquisix blog are included at this site.  I’ve also included some of articles written by guest authors, including Joanne Black and Shiera O’Brien, that were so popular at the Inquisix blog.

Happy Selling!

Michael Kreppein

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