Texas Hold’Em offers some useful models for technology startups: pick the right table (competitors) and understand how your cards best combine with common cards (the status quo and adjacent possible)
I have learned the hard way whenever I wish for smarter prospects it means I need to improve my presentation, demo, or proposal: whatever it is that I have offered them that they didn’t understand, or believe, or decide to act on.
You can only capture a share of the value that you create if you want to create a sustainable business. While you need to assess the likely return on investment from your efforts and your probability of success, you also need to look at any deal from the other side of the table. It’s as important to minimize risk for you and your customer as it is to maximize value.
You may have been the smartest person in the room for a long time, but getting into a room with a customer changes that because a key knowledge domain of interest is the customer’s situation and needs. Here are some suggestions for how to keep learning instead of acting like the smartest person in the room.
A recent question from an office hours session on how to handle a prospect asking you to critique a competitor when both of you have new offerings in a new application area.
David Telleen-Lawton has more than two decades of customer development. This blog post on the nitty gritty of setting up customer discovery meetings is adapted from his presentation at the 2015 Lean Startup Conference.
In your early customer discovery conversations to assess demand for a new offering a wide range of customer needs and symptoms can trigger a leap to a solution, which just happens to be yours. Guard against this by probing to understand the root problem–have at least three questions that allow you to dig out the details–and consider questions that would disqualify your solution.
Only ask your customers for referrals, don’t jump the gun and ask prospects to recommend you, especially if they have not even had a chance to use your product.
Our November 2015 newsletter highlights referrals, which we define as an introduction inspired by your ability to help the prospect with a problem or need.
After every Great Demo! workshop we follow up with every participant to learn
- What results have you observed from applying the Great Demo! method so far?
- Do you have any success stories to report or share?
- Are there any questions you’d like to have addressed regarding the methods or concepts? Have you encountered situations where you’d like additional help or recommendations?
Abigail Miller, a Pre-Sales IT Consultant with Agfa Healthcare, a workshop in May of 2015 and wrote this email in reply:
Two key tasks we help early stage teams with are preparing for and executing successful negotiations of complex long-term business relationships. These early sales efforts must foster value co-creation with customers because both parties understanding of requirements will continue to evolve as the product is deployed and gains wider use.
- Honor what is valuable about the past and what is working now.
- Assess the current situation and system.
- Ascertain who is trusted and who people turn to for advice, and weave them into your network.
- Guide the change. Consider where global principles apply, and what can evolve locally.
- Design experiments in collaboration with people who are involved in the change.
These same rules are essential to making a complex sale. What follows are my notes on her talk.
My interview with Gabriel Weinberg was originally published Sep-8-2010. He was doing research for what became his fantastic book Traction. We talked for the better part of an hour and a half and I can remember he kept returning in different ways to what was needed to close your first dozen enterprise customers.
I have known Jennifer Berkley Jackson of The Insight Advantage for the better part of a decade. I met her at a Breakfast for Management Consultants and have stayed in touch ever since. She wrote a great blog post last year on “Win/Loss Analysis, Your Secret Weapon for Success” and we recently sat down to discuss win loss interviews in more detail. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Q: My software consultancy has reached the point of needing to hire someone to help manage the sales pipeline. I’ve hired all kinds of technical related folks, but never for sales.
Trust is built over repeated interactions between people. If your business requires long term relationships then you have to make sure that investments in automation are not deployed in a way that undercut your ability to have real conversations. Unfortunately, some uses of email automation tools are pushing sales conversations into the “Uncanny Valley” because they strive to simulate–but miss–a genuine personalized touch.
Q: I work at a SaaS company in the services team, we often team often finds that customers mistakenly believe that:
- Certain features are included in the product package they bought.
- Certain services projects are included in the services package they bought.
What are some ways to prevent this from happening?
Managing sales people is straightforward: you get what you reward.
Q: I struggle with the value proposition for our product. Either I am too abstract “we offer a positive return on time invested” or too vague “help increase your ability to manage critical challenges.” Do you have any suggestions for how to frame or formulate a value proposition?
Here a few questions that a value proposition normally addresses
Q: In your blog post “Four Presentation Traps to Avoid” (which drew on Mike Monteiro’s “13 Ways Designers Screw Up a Client Presentation” which I found overall to be very valuable) you highlighted his item 4 “Not setting the stage properly” which ends with “Start the meeting by thanking them for their time.”
I feel this puts you below the prospect or customer as a supplicant. Your time is just as valuable. It’s a minor thing but I suggest “I’m glad we could all find the time to meet today.” or something that puts you at least level with who you are presenting to in terms of the value of your time.
I took part in a great roundtable conversation at tonight’s PATCA meeting on “Low Cost Marketing and Advertising for Consultants” Here were a couple of suggestions that I made in response to situations or challenges that other consultants put on the table.