I was gratified to be elected to the board of directors for the IEEE Consultants’ Network of Silicon Valley as an at-large director and chair of the marketing committee for 2015. My specific focus will be on initiatives to increase awareness of the CNSV Project Bank and to foster programs–including special interest group meetings, clinics, and workshops–that encourage and assist members to upgrade their on-line presence on the CNSV website, on LinkedIn, their consulting practice website, and other forums and sites that are appropriate for their specific skills and experience. The board has a strategic offsite planned at the end of February to finalize plans for 2015 and I will blog about programs that may also be of interest to bootstrapping entrepreneurs as they announced.
After every Great Demo! workshop we contact the attendees with a short E-Mail that reads in part:
I want to check-in to see how you have been doing using the ideas and skills we covered in our Great Demo! Workshop three months ago. Specifically, I’d like to hear:
- What have been the results so far?
- Do you have any success stories to report or share?
- Any questions or new situations you’d like to discuss?
What follows is a redacted e-mail from a real attendee at a recent Great Demo workshop. We have his permission to post it, but he asked that we remove identifying information because of his candor about his approach to demos before he came to the workshop.
I would like to tell you that your workshop has had a positive impact not only on my demos, but also on my customer meetings in general.
The key message I took away, “Do the last thing first,” has proven very effective at increasing customer engagement in our demos. Our product is a sophisticated one with a long history–what are prospects sometimes describe as “very complex” or “arcane” even “confusing.” We sometimes present modules that–in hindsight–were of no of interest to the customer. This can not only turn a demo into a waste of everyone’s time but also convert a hot prospect into a lukewarm one.
It’s seems obvious now, but getting right to the point and then working backwards based on the customer’s level of interest (“Peeling back the onion”) has triggered a lot more questions and demos that end in clearly defined next steps instead of “you’ve given us a lot to think about, please let us get back to you.”
The example that really punched me in the gut when I realized what I had been doing was your hyperkinetic impersonation of someone doing a demo of Microsoft Word. Your first answer to the question, “Can you print?” seemed reasonable: you opened the print dialog box and walked through all the print options in detail–portrait or landscape, single or double-sided printing; color or black and white, number of copies, print quality, etc…
But when you did the second take and said “Yes, would you like to see it?” and clicked the print icon I had this terrible sinking feeling.
“Holy Crap! My demos have too much detail,” I said to myself.
Change is hard, but the three of us who attended your class took the “Great Demo” approach back and have seen a difference in the number of demos that now lead to sales that are progressing.
You may be in the same predicament if your approach demos involves one or more of the following:
- You include a multi-slide corporate overview whether the prospect requests it or not.
- Demos are viewed as an opportunity to provide training on your product.
- It’s not uncommon for a demo to end with prospects sitting in stunned silence or murmuring, “let us think about this and get back to you” instead of asking questions.
We have two Great Demo! workshops on on the calendar for 2014 in San Jose
|May 21&22, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA|
|October 15&16, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA|
Fluxicon, an innovative software startup offering tools for business process mining, today announced Sean Murphy has joined their advisory board. Mr. Murphy is CEO of SKMurphy, Inc. a strategic advisory firm based in Silicon Valley that specializes in market creation and new technology product introduction. Fluxicon plans to leverage Murphy’s expertise for business and customer development.
“I am delighted that Sean Murphy has agreed to join our advisory board. Sean brings a pragmatic approach to developing customer and partner relationships, he has already demonstrated an ability to act as an extension of our team as issues arise, and I value his collaborative approach,” said Anne Rozinat, co-founder at Fluxicon.
“I was excited when Anne asked me to join the Fluxicon advisory board,” said Mr. Murphy. “Fluxicon turns traditional Business Process Management (BPM) on its head by providing process mining to analyze important business problems based on data from operational IT systems. Fluxicon’s ability to create an accurate process model from existing transaction records allows executives to focus on key challenges and their root causes. This means that process improvement teams are no longer limited to an “ideal world view” or to working from anecdotes about process failures. Instead, they are armed with detailed information and can now immediately focus on addressing the key issues in workshops and interviews. Process mining is a critical enabling technology as business processes are increasingly computer-mediated: Fluxicon provides real-time insight into both internal and inter-company processes and relationships.”
Fluxicon provides process mining software and services. Their process mining software Disco generates visual and actionable insight about your process from raw data in just a couple of minutes. Current clients include banks, such as the Rabobank, the City of Lausanne, several Consumer Electronics manufacturers, and multi-national companies.
We normally we work with a team of two to five engineers or scientists who have working technology and deep domain knowledge but who need help identifying and exploring opportunities for scaling up their business based on building long term customer relationships that provide recurring revenue. The eMOBUS team knew how to sell and had deep domain knowledge for cellular spend management, they wanted practical insight into how to incorporate software technology into their service offering in a way that aligned both with customer needs and larger technology trends.
Moe Arnaiz, CEO of eMOBUS co-founded the company in 2005 to bring stability to the fragmented world of mobility management. Under Arnaiz’s direction, eMOBUS has grown from an idea into a rapidly growing cloud computing company – providing web services and licensing its platform to various VAR’s and consulting companies. eMOBUS is the only mobility management platform to take a preventative cost containment approach, which has earned the respect of industry leaders such as Netsuite, Johnny Rockets, Master Halco and Swinerton Builders. Moe honored as one of “40 under 40” to watch by San Diego Metropolitan Magazine in 2010.
SKMurphy has helped us with several key transitions in our business over the last four years. The impact on our business has been to move from a carrier reseller model under increasing margin pressure and shrinking differentiation from other resellers to a fast growing technology enabled service organization who offers a platform that is so compelling that we are licensing our technology to other providers in addition to continuing to use it to power our own business.
From the beginning Sean challenged us to change our perspective from acting as an agent for the carrier to an advocate and trusted advisor for our customers. This resulted in a shift in our focus from procurement and transactions that migrated a customer onto a different carrier to a monthly service that monitored their business needs and current billing, making adjustments as necessary to get them the most cost effective configuration with either their current carrier or a new one.
As we continued to work with SKMurphy they helped us to identify and explore opportunities where software-enabled solutions not only allowed us to scale the business but allowed us to focus on building long term relationships with our customers that provided recurring revenue.
They were also helpful in recruiting our CTO, who has migrated our business from Excel and Quickbase to a cloud solution that is scalable to the needs of our growth plans. This migration to the cloud has also enabled us to offer a platform as a service to telecom expense management firms who wanted to add a mobility management component to their offering. Through out the process, SKMurphy provide insight into the technology trends that we should leverage.
I think two of the hardest challenges that a startup faces are hiring the right people and winning the early deals that establish credibility. Both of these problems are ultimately the CEO’s responsibility. Sean was available as needed, working nights and weekends when we did. What was surprising was that each new level of deal required us to learn a new way of selling.
We have other advisors whose sales, financial operations, and technology insights we value, I think where Sean has been most helpful was in thinking through and then executing the switch to a software-enabled services firm selling subscriptions from a rep firm focused on the next sales transaction.
As the CEO I have gathered a team of talented advisors because I want to make effective decisions. Their value is in the questions that they ask that force me to look at the problem from a variety of perspectives.
“Sean Murphy adds tremendous value for startups in setting them up “getting out of the building” and how to make sense of the data they’ve gathered. He’s one consultant I personally know (I’m sure there are others) who doesn’t confuse his role with the founders. I think of his consulting firm as a “force-multiplier” for Customer Development.”
Steve Blank in a discussion in the comments for “Consultants Don’t Pivot, Founders Do“
I got the following E-mail from an entrepreneur on Friday
Heard a lot about you and been meaning to connect! Appreciate you taking a look through my blog and your comment was awesome. Is skmurphy.com your main thing right now? What else are you working on?
What follows is my answer, in case you had the same question.
We do customer development and new product introduction consulting in B2B markets for expertise driven products. Typically companies or consultants who want to turbocharge their practice with technology –we recently worked with a team that had developed a 1.2 mm thick heat pipe made from nanomaterial that can be used for LED, high performance computing, and electric vehicle applications).
I don’t like to travel but we have a global practice with about 2/3 of clients in Silicon Valley (either HQ, for events, and/or deals in Silicon Valley) and 1/3 in North America, Europe, or Asia. We collaborate with remote teams using a variety of technologies including skype, CentralDesktop, and GoToMeeting.
We help with strategy (typically bringing clarity and a priority to a set of problems and/or opportunities), pricing, negotiation, sales presentation preparation, and early market exploration. We have a strong focus on sales because a paying customer is not a market hypothesis but a fact, offering proof that your product and go to market strategy are viable.
I am not very fond of the word pivot, I think most successful startups actually build on “problem/founder fit” and need to zoom in on where they offer the most value to get established. I have taken an entrepreneurial approach to life (punctuated by education a number jobs in large companies) for more than three decades.
We also do
- Bootstrapper Breakfast in about 7 locations in Silicon Valley, Chicago, and Minneapolis. We started more than five years ago now.
- The Book Club for Business Impact webinar series.
- Workshops both open enrollment and private, including those we deliver in partnership with Peter Cohan’s Great Demo! series.
The common thread is small group discussion as a way of facilitating knowledge sharing and learning. The breakfasts normally have 8 to 16 people around a single table, the book club is a panel discussion between 3-5 people with questions from the audience to keep it lively and engaging, and the workshops we normally cap at between 16 and 22 depending upon the subject matter. Private workshops are with one team and their advisors and typically are 3-6 people
I met Ron Fredericks of LectureMaker when I was co-chair of the SDForum Marketing SIG in 2006. Ron was clearly a very bright engineer with a passion for both embedded systems and video (@DoMoreWithVideo). We kept in touch and last year he e-mailed me that he had opened a video studio in Sunnyvale. We have used his studio to create two short videos:
I enjoy working with Ron, he is a true professional in his approach to video production. He is committed to quality work and consistently delivers results that make me and my business look good. The convenience of his studio in Sunnyvale allows us to do short videos as needed. The option to take two hours and turn out a 30-60 second for an upcoming event or new product or service have proven to be a very useful addition to our repertoire of extended capabilities.
I was pleased to join the eMobus advisory board, it’s a good team with traction, energy, and domain expertise in cellular spend management. eMobus offers software-enabled services to help firms control cellular expense on an ongoing basis. They have been steadily announcing new customers this year, many in industries that have been hard hit by the recession. For the most part the cellular carriers treat businesses as unusually large families: eMobus allows businesses to monitor spending, correctly allocate costs, and adjust cellular subscription plans as their needs change.
I have been assisting the eMobus team on strategies for pricing, new customer acquisition, leveraging their cloud computing infrastructure, and effective differentiation of their services. I think that software enabled service firms that are able to differentiate themselves with expertise complemented by automated analytics are going to become more popular as cloud computing moves from technologists and early adopters to pragmatic users.
When we first started working with SKMurphy our product was complicated and our message was even more complex. SKMurphy helped us focus our product on a market that we could succeed in and create a message that was sharp, crisp and quickly show value add. They helped us understand that people’s attention spans were short, and that you only have a very limited time to send your message. Quality and relevance were of the essence, not quantity or complexity.
SKMurphy helped us select potential customers, set up presentations and demonstrations, and listen carefully to what the customer was saying. They helped us differentiate between customers that had a real need and what their pain points were from the customers that were just being polite and would potentially lead us on and waste our time. They gave us advice on how to negotiate evaluation and pricing terms, how to close a sale and strive for a purchase order.
In very short time, SKMurphy helped us get ready for two trade-shows, DVCON and DAC. Without interfering too much with our day to day business we were able to organize and successfully execute two shows. Being a small company keeping expenses down was a must. They knew how to get the most out of a tradeshow with the least amount of money.
Their experience with tradeshows is immense. They knew what the important things to do were. And a lot of time these things could be done very inexpensively. They helped us with slide shows, demonstrations, posters, banners, press releases, press interviews, and all the detail logistics that go into making a show. Both or our shows went effortlessly and flawlessly. We were not distracted by any unrelated to business and 100% of our energy could go into sales and lead generation.
Sean Murphy’s knowledge of the industry, the individual companies and the people involved is enormous. He has good instincts determining which people to spend time with and which people to avoid. He knows which people are going to help you and have upside potential for your company and which people are not, are clear competitors and should be avoided.