March 8, 2016

Selling is complicated

It’s time for another of my quick primers on the enterprise IT business. This one is about sales. First I’ll run through some generalities; then I’ll link you to some previous posts; after that I’ll close with a collection of practical tips.

This is, to put it mildly, an important subject. In particular, there are only two kinds of enterprise IT CEOs:

Every enterprise IT CEO needs to be heavily involved in sales.

Of course, a few tips do not a salesperson make. Selling is a complex process, with many steps. Worse, it’s tough for somebody to explain to you what the process is, in part because there’s a kind of recursion involved — a big part of what you do in the sales process is establish what the process is.

And that’s in both senses of “establish”, namely “figure out” and “bring into being”.

Other inherent difficulties in selling include:

Read more

February 21, 2016

Telling multiple stories

Much of this blog gives advice about how to tell a story. But that’s actually an oversimplification. In fact, you’re almost always in the situation where you want to tell multiple stories at once. The main messages of this post are:

Reasons the multiple-stories situation is so common include:

The first way to deal with all this is via modularization. In some cases, that’s easy. (E.g. websites can make different points on different pages.) Sometimes it’s harder, but worth doing anyway. E.g., in my recent post on influencer pitches, I said:  Read more

January 15, 2016

PR (or AR) pitch emails

I believe:

My support for these views includes:

My top tip for pitch emails is: Approve the pitch emails a PR firm writes before they are sent out!!!! There are two big reasons for this:  Read more

October 30, 2015

Why pitching ability matters

Engineers used to wonder what the point of sales and marketing people was. If a product was good, wouldn’t customers make the correct decision to buy it?

Nobody I know seems that naive anymore, but I did just get a similar question, which may be paraphrased as:

Why do investors judge a startup on the CEO’s pitching ability? Shouldn’t they focus instead on the actual merits of the company?

Most of my answer boiled down to:

Investors’ top concern is management’s ability to execute, and pitching is — or simulates — a large part of execution.

In particular (and now I’m quoting my own email directly):

I finished with one other point that didn’t fit the template, namely:

If you can’t articulate a good pitch, why should we believe there’s a good story in there at all?

I think the entrepreneur who asked me the question was convinced. :)

Related link(s)

September 18, 2015

Third-party quotes in press releases

I’m generally a skeptic about the value of press releases. However:

So my current opinion is:

That fits with my general view that press releases:

That brings me to the subject of this post: third-party press release quotes. For starters, I think the following are pretty obvious: Read more

August 30, 2015

Elevator pitches and other self-introductions

The concept of “elevator pitch” is ill-defined. Strictly speaking, it’s supposed to be how you’d describe your company or product in no more time than the length of an elevator ride. But if you ever actually are in such a situation, you will likely tailor your pitch to the specific listener. Ergo, you shouldn’t have one standard elevator pitch. So I’ll talk about “self-introductions” instead. Whatever we call it, the challenge “How do we introduce and summarize our story in the shortest possible time, or in the fewest possible words?” is a Really Big Deal.

Self-introductions occur at several different lengths, including but not limited to:

Usually, it makes sense to view the shorter ones as being abbreviations of the longer, more complete forms.

Read more

July 21, 2015

The marketing of productivity

Most software technology benefits boil down to either:

My views on the marketing of productivity benefits are similar to what I wrote about the marketing of performanceRead more

May 16, 2015

Your first customers

A couple of the raw startups I advise have recently asked me about a hugely important subject — dealing with their very first customers. The big deal here is that initial customers can offer three different kinds of valuable resources:

*Confusingly, both credibility and product feedback are sometimes called “validation”.

Questions of money are of course heavily influenced by how complete your product or service is. In particular:

Equity investment by your early customers and partners is problematic. In particular: Read more

April 24, 2015

Should you start a tech company?

I occasionally get very hands-on in accelerating a raw start-up. Typically this is when an engineer comes to me with an unquestionably clever idea and asks me — sometimes in very broken English :) — whether and how he can get rich from it. So let’s collect some thoughts on the subject.

This post can be construed as fitting into my “not-very-organized series” about the keys to success. In particular, it draws on my July, 2014 post about judging opportunities.

The product plan

A start-up product idea needs to satisfy multiple criteria. Awkwardly, they’re rather contradictory to each other.

That usually means that the idea:

Criticisms I’ve made repeatedly of specific ideas include:  Read more

March 1, 2015

Marketing advice for young companies

Much of what I get paid for is advising early-stage companies, especially on messaging and marketing. So let’s try to pull some thoughts together.

For early-stage companies, I’d say:

Of course, these subjects are much discussed in this blog. The top three overview posts for young companies are probably:  Read more

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