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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!

You lose when you show your prospects that they’re wrong

28 Apr

Part of the sales process will inevitably include time spent showing the customer why your solution is better than your competitor’s solution. However, that’s often a delicate dance because while you want to show them that you have the right solution, you need to be careful not to tell them that they’re wrong to want another solution. Especially if the customer has chosen your competitor and is thus the incumbent in the account.

An interesting article in Fast Company discusses how the “birthers” advocates, who believe that President Obama was born outside of the US, still don’t believe he was born in Hawaii despite the recent evidence of his Hawaiian birth certificate. The Fast Company article quotes Psychologist Leon Festinger, who wrote, “”A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” So despite the clear evidence of President Obama’s place of birth, many birthers still cling to their claim.

Do you find birthers in your accounts? Maybe you call them the old-guard or the technology bigots. Maybe you ignore them and hope your internal champion is stronger politically. No matter what you call them, how do you change their minds? Would analyst reports and customer references really get them to admit they were wrong? Instead, the Fast Company article felt that you need to give the naysayers a way to save face before they would back down.

Often in sales, we decide to go around these groups after we’ve shown them that they’re wrong and they still refuse to concede. Most often this leads to a lost sale. Next time, try a different approach to gently convert them to your side.

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.

Your Prospect Tells You How to Sell to Them

30 Nov

Not often that your C-level prospect will tell you how to sell to them.  They’ll hide behind email spam filters and executive assistants but won’t take the time to tell you what you’re doing wrong.  Until this CEO opened up with their automated email reply telling you to do more than just call the vendor hotline at purchasing – a voice mail no one ever picks up.

Top ways to get noticed:

  • Let your prospect find you – ie Inbound Marketing
  • Get introduced by someone they trust – ie Referrals

Top ways to annoy:

  • Constant cold-calls
  • Mass emails to entire executive team
  • Trying to connect via social media

Thanks to Hubspot for the full article.

Learning from Previous Mistakes

19 Oct

Fabulous article about Hulu from Fast Company magazine. Great lessons for every entrepreneur, every growing company or company wishing they could grow.

Can Hulu Save Traditional TV?

Lessons to be learned for all on:

  • Improving user experience
  • Using analytics to figure out what users want instead of asking them (because they don’t tell you – think Edsel)
  • “Dinosaur” TV networks learning from a lesson (missing out on YouTube) and taking the appropriate steps.   RIAA needs to do the same
  • How to build revenue and market share.  Amen!

Yes, I know this blog post is not about referrals. But I’ve been reading Fast Company a lot lately and find so many of them to be well written and insightful.  Their articles should be required reading for anyone looking to grow in the new economy.  Maybe that’s why it’s called, “Fast Company”

hulu fastcompany

Free Up Your Time to Do the Important Stuff

10 Oct

2 great tips for freeing up a bunch of your time – from the in-box and out-box side of your desk.  First tip is from the out-box side on how to decide whether to respond to an RFP or not.  It’s tricky to tell if it’s a real RFP because they can just take SOOO much time.  What’s worse, coming in second or not having it awarded?  The second tip has really freed up my day to tackle my to-do list instead of read and respond to trivial stuff.

  • How To Avoid Deals Where No Vendor Wins – Really enjoyed this post from Geoffrey. In discussions with other sales reps in various industries, there seems to be an uptick in RFPs being issued but two items stand out –
    * RFP decisions are pushed out out out. The company wants the RFP response back in 2 weeks but the decision drags drags drags. Hence the timeliness of Geoffrey’s post
    * RFPs in purgatory. In addition to new RFPs being issued, old ones are getting dusted off and sent out again. When you ask, “Why” the answer boils down to, “We’re getting ready JUST IN CASE…”
    Always a challege for a small company responding to an RFP from a F500 company when there’s no real good understanding (or belief) in whether the RFP’s really real or not.
  • Improve Your Connect Rates – Absolutely spot on commentary. Emails are so easy and cheap to send that readers are bombarded by them. Therefore, they don’t read them or at best, scan thru them. I’ve even set up my BB to only accept emails from people who are already in my address book as all other emails get saved on my PC. Guess how many of them are read on my PC?

    Jim’s critical point – call & leave a message pointing out the details in your email. I’ve had a much higher connect rate when I both call (leave a message) and send an email. And as he says, “Persistence is key.”

Quick sales tips & reminders

2 Oct

There were a bunch of quick and valuable reminders and tips on the web this week on improving your sales process.

  • Making You Suprisingly Unforgettable To Your Customers – Loved this post – in these days of too many competitors and too many choices offered to our prospects, here’s some great tips make yourself unforgettable. How many of you think of Nat & Natalie Cole when you hear the word, “Unforgettable” like I do?
  • Three Tiny Changes That Drive Success – Nice reminders to help get you out of a sales rut. Don’t forget Dale Carnegie’s, “21 Days to Making it a Habit” as you try these changes. Assuming you don’t do them already!
  • Quiz: How To Bypass a Gatekeeper – Real good quiz on bypassing the Gatekeeper when you just can’t get in. Interesting decision by Geoffrey on which department you should call into to ask for the transfer. Other ways:
    – try Jigsaw for direct dial # of executive
    – try Inquisix for a referral to the executive by someone they know.

Geoffrey’s idea is manipulative but sometimes you just have to try it. But only after you can’t get an Inquisix referral or JigSaw is not coughing up the direct dial numbe

Dig It's Great Quote of the Week

18 Sep

“You can’t have a better tomorrow if you’re thinking about yesterday.” — Charles Kettering

Quote of the Week – Great quote that should strike a chord in any sales rep, manager or business owner bemoaning their poor 2009 sales attainment. Sales people are usually very good at moving on whether the last month was a win or a dud but for anyone needing a reminder, read and internalize this quote. Now go get them!

Boston-area VC funding for startups – where is it?

9 Sep

Since many Inquisix members are also entrepreneurs and business owners (like us), perhaps you’ll find these articles as interesting as we do.  The first article caused a big commotion and discussion amongst the Boston startup crowd.  Isn’t that what good articles do?

  • Why Waltham Doesn’t Matter – Finding early stage funding is always challenging for startups and the chances of getting a, “No thanks” are close to 99%. So when a noted Boston Globe business columnist calls the VCs on the carpet, everyone in our community takes notice. I was at a TechCocktail networking event last week and the VCs I spoke to all had lots of comments and head shaking. One was upset that they weren’t mentioned with the “good guys” in Boston. So if Scott was looking to stir the pot, he accomplished it in spades!
  • Hey, Boston-area VCs, angels: Loosen up and connect with startups – To continue the commentary from Scott on Waltham VCs and lack of Series A fundings, one of the Angels that rec’d kudos from Scott is offering his suggestions. It’s one all Inquisix members believe in – the referral. “If you can’t/won’t do the deal then referral them to someone you think will.”

Follow Salesforce.com's path to the top & other thoughts

4 Sep

The blog articles I read this week worth commenting on and sharing:

  • 111 Successful Plays That Led Salesforce.com from an Idea to $1 Billion in 10 Years – The company (and the man) that made the hosted-elsewhere software applications (whether you call it SaaS, Cloud Computing, ASP, etc) a non-issue with big business. Before <a href=”http://salesforce.com”>salesforce.com</a&gt; there were too many concerns about security, up-time, bandwidth and more. After Salesforce.com paved the way, look how many sites are now in the clouds, including Google Mail, Quicken & TurboTax along with photo sharing and desktop hard-disk backups. You can put your customer data, every email, financial data and tax data all online and not think twice about it. Thanks to Marc and Salesforce.com
  • Tips From @ChrisBrogan on How to Beat Dunbar’s Number – I’ve heard (and repeated the item myself) that the limit of real social relationships is 150. Even mentioned it during the BTR show with Jon Hansen last week. A fact I had not verified before but thanks to HubSpot’s blog and a link to Wikipedia, the source of 150 can be attributed to Robin Dunbar.
  • Have you met your competitor yet? Maybe you should. – Great article about the reasons why you should meet your competitor. Back when I was at Sybase, we were taught to hate our version of the Evil Empire, Oracle. Well, we all know how that battle turned out and many of my Sybase colleagues ended up working at Oracle. They didn’t suddenly become evil although we were both more careful about sharing war stories. Similarily, I’ve always been impressed at the end of hockey games when both teams line up and shake each other’s hands. Geoffrey’s reasons for meeting your competitor:
    1) Learn more about how they sell
    2) Use that knowledge to build credibility with your customer
    3) Never know when you’ll be looking for a new job

For those of you in the US & Canada, enjoy the long weekend!