Solve interesting problems and do good things.

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I was dreaming about winning the lottery yesterday. If I ever do, I’m not sure I would even quit my job. I just wouldn’t show up. Drop the mic on all the bullshit. See how long it takes for people to notice. Good thing for me I try to be quite productive at work, so I think people would notice. I hope.

If I do win the jackpot, it would be glorious. What would I do with all that money? That part is easy. Probably the first week I would spend it on something really ridiculous just to get it out of my system. I have some time to think about what that might be.

Time Management

What really got me thinking is what would I do with all that time? Would all that money and time change me drastically? Would I still be the same ol’ G? Maybe. I would like to spend more time working with charities. Try to help my family more. But what is stopping me from spending the extra time now? Nothing really. Just have to make that effort with or without the jackpot.

A Unicorn Comes Tumbling Down

I recently read the story of how a once Silicon Valley unicorn came crashing down to earth. Stories of excess partying at work, sex in stairways, shots for closing deals, extravagant trips. Maybe you are thinking, “what a great place to work!” You would think I was describing The Wolf of Wall Street. This is story is unfortunately about Zenefits. Read the details and you’ll be shocked it got that out of hand.

LIES, BOOZE, AND BILLIONS

They won the Silicon Valley jackpot. Great idea, well-funded, and seemingly good team. Then they lost their way. The success, money, and fame got them. Lying to customers. Trying to skirt the law. How could this happen? How could anyone believe they can build a lasting business this way.

What’s the point?

Whether you win the jackpot or not, you have to stay true to who you are and how you got there. Especially when building your business. Focus on building the best user experience throughout the company life cycle. Rooted in simplicity.

Companies change as they are raising a seed round or Series A. Adding more people makes it tough to keep a certain culture. Ten employees are easier to manage than thousands. However, the truth is establishing a strong value set and culture based on authenticity goes a long way.

I help startups keep that focus and maintain a genuine approach. A good VC pitch deck should tell a simple story of the problem you want to solve. Most often the message that does not get enough attention is why do you want to solve the problem in the first place? What is your mission? Your values? Why should I invest in you? Don’t lose your mission as the business grows. Be authentic. Solve interesting problems and do good things.

No Such Thing As B2B

I keep hearing business to business selling or B2B. I have seen this in job postings, articles, everywhere. It is common work jargon. The idea that a business is selling to another business seemed always ridiculous. For example does Slack really sell to NASA? Of course not. However, the B2B phrase permeates a bad mindset. I find people lose sight that there is no such thing as B2B. Only P2P or person to person selling. People forget the human aspect of selling, marketing, and engineering a product or service. Everything is personal. There is no such thing as B2B.

Why is this important? It has everything to do with being successful. More importantly, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Here are some tips or strong suggestions you need to incorporate. I reference a customer in this post, but this can be a prospect, user, etc.

LISTEN

There is an art to being a good listener. A big misconception in sales is you have to be a good talker. Garbage. The most important skill you need for a meeting is to spend more time listening. Funny thing happens when you listen more. You get actually get good information. Useful information. That is your time to collect information to build a good proposal and have a better understanding of the opportunity.

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People actually appreciate you are listening to them. Mainly because most people do not. This subtle interaction in a meeting can make a huge difference in the outcome. Here is a simple exercise you can try. Ask a question, then stop, then listen.

 

I guarantee you will find a more productive outcome. A high five at least.

LISTEN

No, not a typo. It is a dramatic emphasis on how important it is to listen.

JUST CARE

This one may be the hardest one to conquer. A key part of listening is you really have to care about what is coming back. You have to have a genuine interest in the customer. Their industry and application. What the customer is trying to accomplish. The company culture. Being genuine and actually caring goes a long way. Again, mainly because many people do not care. They are too self interested.

TIME MANAGEMENT

Be conscious of the time. If a prospect set aside 30 minutes to meet with you then stick to the allotted time. I will even remind everyone our time is up. I want my customer to know I’m not going to sneak extra time just for the sake of it. Time is precious and if my customer says it is ok to continue then we continue. It is like a house guest who overstayed their welcome and doesn’t get the idea to get out. You don’t want to be that person. Take the customer’s perspective in mind. They have other shit to do.

DON’T BE A JERK

Don’t be offended. I mean well. Seriously though, I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to see meetings get derailed because someone decided to be a jerk. Or you’ll see people approach the conversation in battle mode ready to land some punches. See the tips above. Take a step back and realize why you are there. Also remind other colleagues in the meeting why they are there. Keep your cool at all costs.

EVERYONE IS IN SALES

Hallelujah! This is one my quests in life to get people to realize they are in sales. Everyone. You in marketing. You in engineering. You in management. You in operations. Everyone means everyone. I’ll have more on this key topic later. I’ll point out sales isn’t a bad thing. Do not take it in a negative way. If you are running your business with the mindset laid out above, then everyone is “winning”. People are getting the right solution. Company gets more sales. There are no cons here.

I have laid out some important topics which I will expand upon. My hope is you will take a different view next time you visit a customer or build a product. By the way, this can apply to all aspects of your life as well. Just saying.

The takeaway is if you are in the business of building an app for example. Maybe take a look at how a user may use the app. Not from your perspective. From the user perspective. I wish someone from Concur (the expense app) would contact me. I have so many suggestions for you. Why does it take 10 steps to fill out an expense? Good app but not great yet.

Steve Jobs was well known to be obsessed with the user experience. Take a more human approach and connect on a personal level. You will see a dramatic improvement. You are leaving money on the table by not taking a more person to person approach.

The next challenge is getting everyone in the organization to be on the same page. We will save that for another day.

The Drought Is Over

Let’s see if this sounds familiar. You have just been hired to a new region. You’re job is to increase sales. Currently the territory is drier than a California drought. Let’s make it even worse. The economy is in the dumps. Your company is not the market leader. You don’t have that many products to sell. What do you do? How do you turn it on and make it rain?

Here are some ideas to get you started. Turn yourself into a rainmaker.

Main goal is to keep things simple.

Step 1. Current customers (The most important)

One quick mistake people make is they ignore their current customers. They go right after developing a territory plan focusing on acquiring new customers. This is the hardest thing to do. Focus your first month on mapping out where the business is coming from. Especially where the business has come from in the last 3 years at minimum. Get comfortable with Excel and pivot table the data to death. If you’re lucky enough to have a legit CRM, then create all kinds of reports. Sales reports. Product data.

Once you have that data proceed to step 2.

Step 2. Massage the data

Once you have all the data then you need to figure out what to focus on. Sort out the big dollar sales. This is where you will spend time on first. The customers who have purchased the most in the past should be a priority immediately. Go out and meet every one of them if you can. Update their software. Do whatever to get in front of them. In person is the best.

Step 3. Get email addresses, email addresses and more email addresses. (Legitimately)

Collect all the emails you have in the database. Scour old trade show leads, webinar leads, etc. Don’t go out and buy a bunch of emails unless you know it is a legit service. Clean them up. I usually get rid of personal emails, consultants, and any other bozos. Get skilled at identifying bozos. It’s a technical term for people who will waste your time.

Step 4. Be your own marketing team

Now that you have a clean email database and an understanding of where the bones are buried, develop a schedule to kick some butt.

Import all those email addresses into an email marketing program such as Mailchimp. Send out a newsletter every month or two with relevant material. Link academic information if you don’t have anything internally.

One thing I hate it is when people complain about leads. There are so many free services out there. Establish the mindset you’ll have to do it yourself first. Coordinate with marketing also if you can. More the merrier.

Step 5. Get hustlin’

Once you have sent out your first blast. Wait a few days and then start calling people. You now have a soft opening. You can say, “I sent you an email, I am the new manager in the area….Can we meet to discuss how you are doing with X product? What support do you need?”

Simple right. Email first then follow up with a call.

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Don’t be shy now. This is the time step up and develop a good work ethic. Research shows prospects require a minimum 5 follow ups to make decision whether they want to engage with you. Meaning email, call, email, call, meet, call, email, meet, etc, etc.

Just be relentless.

One last thing. ABC. Always Be Closing. How can you forget that? Work on your messaging over and over. Get better at tweaking it.

Some additional tips

  • Research your industry and competitors

  • Network. Go to industry events. Meet people. Don’t sit behind a computer.

  • Make calls. Yes make outbound calls.

  • Be consistent. Over time this will work. Keep at it.

There are so many more tips and paths you can take. Hopefully this provides you some direction on where to start. You’re not lost. I got you.

Target the 95%

The KISS design principle is an acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid.” The idea is that most systems work better when things are kept simple. I agree and that is why I think targeting a wider audience increases your chances of success. I’m all about making things simple.

Have you every heard of IoT or Internet of Things? What the hell does that mean? There are about 5% of the people who get jazzed about techie things like that but for the rest of us it makes no sense. It is confusing. The majority of the market needs a simpler explanation. Wearables, Hearables, and Nearables maybe gives this market a better description. This would make sense to my parents. Side note, I always use my parents as a barometer. If they can understand then I have simplified it enough for everyone else. By the way if you have a product or app you want to test, let me know and I’ll run it by my parents.

Apple’s Success

The iPhone and the rest of Apple’s products are not widely successful because of anything drastically different. They just do a better job than everyone else in targeting the other 95% who understand simple. There is a reason Apple products do not allow access to the internal hard drive or allow much customization. They know most people do not need this access nor do they care. Keep it simple. It works. What is lost with Apple though is how complicated it is to build phones and tablets. How complex the internal hardware and software is to provide a seamless experience. Yet that is not is important. The user matters. The 95% user understands simple.

Sure you can have a niche product in a niche market. I get that. I believe your odds are better as a niche product in a wide market.

Focus your energy initially on the 95%. They will tell you if your idea is a hit. An argument can be made the 95% do not know what they want. Steve Jobs was known for believing this idea. I agree to an extent. Most ideas are not as revolutionary as an iPhone. Most people do not have the panache to dictate terms like Steve Jobs. I suggest initially target the 95%. Be also prepared to dive deep for the those who want the nitty gritty details.

Clear The Fog

Once you begin to think about making things simpler, it seems the fog has lifted. Things will instantly become clearer. Communication improves. There is quite a bit of discussion around minimalism. The idea around minimalism is to live without excess. Reduce the clutter from your life. That is essentially the concept behind keeping things simple. Some minimalist take it to the extreme though. You don’t need to live our of a garbage bag. Focus on what is it you really need. Do you really need to have a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and cable? Why not just pick one or none. Do you really need to setup Slack (messaging tool) right away as you start your business. Email works just fine. Build a strong foundation first. Then add the fancy paint. You may not even know it but adding all these extras actually are more distracting then helpful. There is a time and place for extras.

Simple Startup

  1. Get Email

  2. Get a Website

  3. Get a email marketing tool

That is a nice easy start. All of those can be done with minimal cost or free. Focus on the idea first.

Simple Workout

  1. Pushups

  2. Squats

  3. Dips

See I just saved you thousands of dollars on a gym membership. Cancel it today unless you pay less than $20/month. You can do that in your living room with your kids running around or while watching Game of Thrones. Anything else is unnecessary extra. I could do this all day.

The progression is when you focus your idea into more simpler terms comprehension increases. You will be able to filter out any unnecessary junk. Then I believe you begin to master the subject, idea, business, anything.

What you are left with is the ability to push the boundaries. You will have established a solid foundation. The difference between good and great players is the great players keep pushing the limits.

What Is The Point?

The bottom line is whether you are developing a product, establishing a business, building a website, nutrition, fitness, etc, start with keeping things simple. Your UI should be easy to use. Marketing material should be clear and simple. Sales presentations should be simple. They should not look like datasheets.

I believe building on a clear and simple mindset will lead to a strong foundation. A strong foundation to build on. A strong foundation will open you up to take more risks. This mindset will help you get through the tough times in your business. You’ll have a philosophy to lean back on when faced with a difficult decision. The 95% understand simple.

Keep it simple.

The Last Tech Humans Will Invent

Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can cure cancer. AI that will know what you want before you want it. AI that can invent anything humans can invent but better and faster. As Scott Phoenix, co-founder of Vicarious calls it, “the last tech humans will invent”. It may take 10, 20, or 50 years to get there but it is coming.

AI Is Hot In Here

The new hot thing is artificial intelligence (AI). I started to look into AI and quickly found out most AI today is what is known as weak AI or narrow AI. Things like Siri and Google Now. Designed to do specifics tasks. Not as interesting as it used to be. I would classify this as smarter software. I am far from an expert in this field yet AI will be changing rapidly as computing power gets faster and as more investments pour in.

Vicarious is working on human-level AI. Some call it artificial general intelligence (AGI). Where things get interesting in the AI field is with AGI. This is where a machine has the ability to think like humans. AGI is what science fictions writers and futurists have been craving. Think HAL 9000, Tony Stark’s JARVIS, or the movie “Her”.

There is no need to worry though. A Terminator Skynet future is highly unlikely. AGI is not going to take us over. Rather AGI will “augment” our lives as Marc Canter explained it to me. Just as any technology today, AGI will help us do what we do.

“Possibly our last invention”

The bold claim is AGI will be able to solve our hardest problems. Such as a possible cure for cancer and create better inventions than humans. Possibly our last invention. This is a big “what if” however the implications are profound.

Today AI tools for sales and marketing professionals is mainly “rules based” AI. If something happens then do this. Software will scan your email and calendar and make suggestions. Salesforce is working on something called Einstein with AI built into its core. A smarter Salesforce for more predictive insights. This AI is more of an assistant. Obviously it is considerably more sophisticated. It is exciting progress but I see there is a need for much more.

I don’t know yet how I feel about a bot reminding me to call a client just because someone programmed in a timed trigger. Rules based AI has its place but it doesn’t yet think about our originality. There are so many nuances in human behavior unique to each individual. Particularly with buying and selling.

Originals

What makes the human brain amazing is its ability to create mental models with very little information. We learn primarily through our environment and experiences. Each person has a unique way of learning and applying what they learn. We are all original.

This is my beef with the traditional training models today. Essentially teach everyone the same thing the same way, Especially with sales trainings. Usually some veteran sales guy who teaches the entire class the same model he has been using for the last 30 years. Nothing adaptive or unique to me. I am left to figure it out on my own. Mainly conform to someone else’s opinion.

I can see the value of an AI engine automating some of my manual tasks. For me though I am more interested in an AI powered partner. Kind of like Steph and Klay. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Milk and cookies. Creating a dynamic duo. Someone or something that understands my unique style while merging it with effective methods. A personal AI just for me.

Granted AI is just in the beginning stages of getting interesting. My hope is Vicarious and other entrepreneurs are successful and we get a more personalized environment. More customization.

With Google’s announcement today of their Google Assistant, their vision is clear. Build a unique Google for each person. A personal assistant for everyone. Google understands the uniqueness of each individual. By tailoring Google to each person they understand the experience becomes more personal. Why does that matter? When we make the experience more personal, we tend to buy more. Simple concept, hard to implement.

A personal AI just for me. Now only if there was something like this for work….tbd.