Tesla Model S is near perfect

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Design matters a great deal. There are a number of articles on how awesome the Model S is for EV car. Most notably the 0-60mph in just a few seconds gets all the press. 

Yes, it is quite safe. Looks cool. etc etc. However, there are many overlooked design features that make the Model S truly a work of art. 

To make a car where an overwhelming favorite for customers who "love" their Tesla means they did almost everything right. Most importantly they designed the user experience right. 

Tesla Model S Awesomeness

Let me count the ways. In no particular order. 

  1. They key fob looks like a mini-Tesla. Nice design touch. To open the trunk double click the trunk on the key fob. Front trunk do the same. Rather than fumbling around trying to remember which button is which, it matches the car shape. Simple.

  2. Each key fob is connected to a user profile. I walk up to the car with my key fob and everything adjusts to my settings as I am getting in. So driver seat automatically moves into my position. Only the rearview mirror doesn't move. Lame.

  3. Door handles hide away when not need and are presented when unlocked. This doesn't seem important but it changes the look of the car when parked. A nice aesthetic touch.

  4. Same goes for the side rearview mirror. They fold in when parked. This is an option also. You can turn this feature off along with auto-present handle. But why would you? It looks cool.

  5. The steering wheel rattles slightly if you change lanes without giving your turn signal. I'll admit this seemed like a bug but a technician told me this is a feature. Can't tell if he was bullshitting me or not. Regardless, it is a gentle reminder to use your turn signals.

  6. Over the air software updates. Seriously this is the best feature. New features are pushed to the Tesla fleets. You are constantly getting new features. You don't get that "I'm stuck with this same car" feeling.

  7. Cute things like turning your Tesla icon on the dashboard into Santa Claus. Kids loved that. In that mode, when you use the turn signals jiggle bells play out instead of usual sounds.

  8. All glass roof. This is different feature. Really cool at night. Gets a little hot on those hot summer days.

  9. The frunk. No engine so you get an extra space in the front. I use the frunk for things takeout food. I'm not smelling up my Tesla with pizza. It also provides added protection in an accident by giving a larger crumple zone. Safe.

  10. Virtually no maintenance. No oil change. No timing belt. No tire rotation. Thank god. Never liked going to the mechanic. They jacking people.

  11. Regenerative braking. This is an optional feature. My personal favorite. Normally when you let you foot off the gas the car keep rolling. In this mode, the motor actually reverses and provides a more braking feel. This means when I roll up into a stop light I often don't hit the brakes until I am almost completely stopped. Which means you use your brakes less. Which means you don't have to change them very often. Genius. Takes some getting use to but well worth it and safer.

Tesla Model S Issues

  1. USB ports are basically useless. Only the 12V can really power your phone with an adaptor. Not sure what the other ones are for.

  2. Streaming music leaves a lot to be desired. Wish they integrated Spotify or something else than TuneIn.

  3. Voice activation is a bit sketchy. Never can get it to understand anything. Maybe I can't speak clearly.

That's all I could think of for now.

My Thoughts on Blockchain Technology

What is blockchain?

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BLOCKCHAIN IS SO HOT RIGHT NOW

For me personally, I have always been fascinated by technology and finance. The Dotcom boom and bust was a wild ride. From the rubble came a wave of new tech companies. Namely Google, Facebook, and many others. Tremendous investments were made to build out the foundation of the internet. 

Wireless communication and the growth of LTE, Wifi, and Bluetooth have completely changed our lives. Mobile communication and the upcoming launch of 5G is going to be really cool. 

The financial crisis and housing crash was an interesting experiment that seems to be repeating itself. Banking is primed for a major technology overhaul. 

Every now and then we encounter seismic shifts in how technology will shape our future. Currently, that new technology is the Blockchain. You have probably heard of it by now. Bitcoin and Ethereum are examples of applications built on the blockchain. 

There is so much to digest. It can be difficult to filter through the noise as most conversations right now are very technical. This is generally a good thing as we need really smart people to build out the infrastructure of what will blockchain do for everyone. 

Although I have been following this technology for some time now. I am just recently focusing more attention to learn more about possible beneficial applications of the blockchain. 

Blockchain Summary

A blockchain is a digital ledger of records or transactions arranged in data blocks. Blocks are linked together through a cryptographic validation known as a hashing function. Follow the link if you want to nerd out for a bit or have trouble sleeping. 

Linking the blocks together forms a blockchain. 

What makes blockchain and this type of data structure so hot is applications can be decentralized. Records are not stored in any single location, are accessible by everyone, and are immutable. Meaning it is nearly impossible to hack. 

How does blockchain help us?

Let’s look at the most popular application of blockchain technology. Bitcoin is a digital currency that is built on the blockchain. There is no physical paper, like a US dollar. It is all digital. 

The challenge with making this purely digital is you could copy it for example. Also, how do I know your Bitcoin is legit and you didn’t counterfeit it. 

This is where blockchain technology enables us to use Bitcoins to buy and sell goods online with the confidence. 

Wait a minute. We can already buy and sell goods online. What’s wrong with PayPal and the current checkout system?

Well, for one thing, these transactions are controlled by just a few companies. We pay a ton in fees just to transfer money. Have you ever sent money overseas? It transfers from bank to bank adding fees upon fees and days to the process. 

There is no central company or person controlling Bitcoin. Bitcoin technology does not recognize a person or entity for validation. Completely decentralized. There are blockchain applications which are hybrids though. So it is not all or nothing. 

Blockchain hopes to make this more efficient by minimizing the middleman and enabling direct peer-to-peer transactions. 

A few more reasons to implement blockchain

  • No single authority in control

  • No center

  • No concentration of power

  • Secure (uses a push mechanism rather than pull). The network only sends what is needed where banks pull information from your account with credit cards for example.

  • Continuous innovation since it is an open network

  • Unchangeable

  • Unforgeable

  • Built-in privacy

  • No prior authorization needed to use the blockchain

  • Consumer protection allowing users direct control of their information

  • Predictable outcomes

My focus here is to summarize my thoughts around Blockchain and related applications. Specifically around how to apply this exponential technology to everyday businesses. The intention is not to be too technical because Ill get lost myself. 

How will blockchain effect banks?

How will blockchain effect supply chains?

How will blockchain be regulated?

How will blockchain affect my parents?

I hope to answer with future discussions. I cannot predict if Bitcoin will hit $20,000 or die out. However, one thing I know for sure is blockchain technology is not going away. 

Decentralized vs Centralized vs Distributed

Peer-to-peer networking and cloud technologies are fascinating when you start to think about how information is moved. 

Particularly with financial institutions that are prone to aggressive and constant cyber attacks. 

A key aspect about blockchain is it is a decentralized network. There is no central control. This is important for security to not have a central point for attackers to focus on.

Illustration from “On Distributed Communication Networks”, showing three types of networks.

Illustration from “On Distributed Communication Networks”, showing three types of networks.

This is different from a distributed network. Even though Amazon may have various cloud services with servers distributed across the globe, it is still controlled by Amazon. An issue arises with Amazon and your data could be in danger. 

I am personally not so concerned that Amazon controls the servers. It seems to be working well and thousands of businesses are built on AWS. They must be doing something right. 

However, the future with blockchain technology promises a decentralized environment where no one company holds all the data.

Cheers,

Fahad

The Three Guarantees in Life

A few years ago I am four floors underground walking to catch a train in Seoul I hear a loud “pop”! The 60 pound case I was wheeling around a foreign country decided it was time to break a hinge holding the wheel. The case now felt like dragging a house.

It was a crowded subway. I stopped right in the middle like a rock protruding in a stream. The stream of people kept going around me without any hesitation.

I managed to drag the case out of the way to the side. I notice the train is a few minutes away. After letting out a few expletives I think, “What I am going to do”?

We all have these moments where we are faced with a decision. Seemingly simple but what you choose and why you choose it makes all the difference.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are two guarantees in life, death and taxes”. It makes sense. These are two strong driving forces in our lives. However, for me something was missing.

I kicked and kicked the wheel hinge until I jammed it back in place. I tried to Macgyver a brace that would hold until my meeting was over. Now all I had to do was survive for a few more days while also dragging the case back to the Bay Area. How did I do on that trip? Did pretty good. I think.

“Seemingly simple but what you choose and why you choose it makes all the difference. ”

What motivated me to man up that day in the train station was bigger than death and taxes.

I believe there is a third guarantee in life. More subtle. Invisible. Nuanced. The third guarantee is “higher expectations”.

There is always more expected.

Ask any sales person. What have you done for me lately? Every year our quota goes up. Bank on it. Every year more revenue is expected. Cost of living keeps rising. Better products required. More features. Faster. Cheaper. Push the boundaries.

It is human nature to expect more. Venti mocha two-pump triple shot light ice frappuccino with whip, please.

What got me going that day was thinking about my family. They expect more from me. I expect to do more for them. I am constantly pushing myself to keep going.

Started from the bottom…

There is no amount of money or fame to pick you up from the bottom. You have to have to turn to something bigger. For me it was family. For you, it may be someone else or an important cause.

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As an entrepreneur, seriously think about your business. Build up a good network of friends, family you can turn to, advisors, and mentors. I truly believe there has to be a human element in what we do to make it more meaningful. Our personal connections are what drives us to do better. You’ll be more successful in every way.

Eating healthy and exercising may help prolong death. Educating yourself on money may lower your taxes. Higher expectations are a guarantee.

Finding something bigger than yourself will help you better handle the higher expectations. You will need it to pull you through the abyss of entrepreneurship and sales.

What Is Thoughtful Software?

Thoughtful, exceptional software begins with the end.

It takes clear definition of goals, understanding of business objectives, and alignment between software developers, clients, and users.

In this brief article, you’ll learn:

  • What is thoughtful software?

  • Why is thoughtful software important for every organization?

  • How to build software for a successful outcome?

  • Why an iterative, phased approach yields the best results?

  • Why personal values are important to build great software?

  • And why the creation and maintenance of quality software leads to long term success?

Work with partners who are genuine in understanding your goals.

WHY DO PROJECTS FAIL?

“Thoughtful software is better for the environment”

- Fahad Shoukat

Currently, it is estimated that over $3 trillion is wasted on software projects that never come to fruition. This translates to a staggering amount of value lost for both businesses and consumers. And it’s not just the private sector that struggles; for example, the Air Force spent $1 billion on a software project and had nothing to show for it.

Looking back on failed projects can help determine why the project failed. Unfortunately, the success or failure of a project is determined by a number of factors. Recent statistics show the most common reasons for project failure are:

project failure.png

The figures shown above only provide a small glimpse into the complexity of software projects and factors involved that ultimately determine success or failure. Additional studies demonstrate that software projects tend to run 66% over budget and 33% over time.

Most businesses are able to handle the additional costs in time and money; however, reports show that 17% of projects are so poorly executed that they threaten the very existence of the company.

BUILD THOUGHTFUL SOFTWARE

Prevent your projects from becoming part of these abysmal statistics.

Imagine and create thoughtful software.

Be committed to building, delivering, and maintaining software that is thoughtful, usable, and valuable.

Strive to build products that enhance user experience, provide value, and emphasize quality. But how do we define thoughtful software?

Thoughtful software is usable, unobtrusive, and is enjoyable to use.

It prioritizes the needs of users; rather than the needs of developers and designers. And for our clients, the creation of incredible, thoughtful software products leads to added value and tremendous opportunities for growth and sustainability.

Here we present how Skiplist builds software and what you should consider when building software and choosing a software development partner.

1. ASK WHY

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge”

- Thomas Berger

Ask why and understand the journey that creates that pain point. Experts recognize always starting with WHY and completing a successful software project are inextricably linked.

This does not mean starting slow. However, an initial meeting or call should be to understand the problem we are trying to solve. Seems simple, right?

Often developers are so quick to take on a project, they forget to ask about business outcomes. These are important to establishing the engagement and vision of the project.

  • Is this feasible?

  • Why are we building something?

  • Who is the intended user?

  • Timing to complete the project?

  • What are the goals for you and your team?

Ultimately, these questions are not very helpful if not rooted by strong personal values of the people working together. After all it is people working together with people.

Alignment in values is important.

2. WE ARE DEFINED BY OUR CONVICTIONS

“A people that values its privileges above its principles, soon loses both.”

- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Skiplist is a collection of talented individuals who came together to build thoughtful software.

We wanted to create a different experience for ourselves and our clients.

The software industry is full of bloat. Starting a project can be painful. Getting a master services agreement (MSA) signed? Forget about it.

Many projects never take flight due to legal teams going back and forth for months. Your project may be outdated by the time the MSA is finally signed.

Clients and vendors labor over writing a detailed scope of work (SOW) when in reality building great software happens outside the SOW. Through good communication and flexibility to make changes.

Corralling the relevant resources and managing a team in a rigid environment can be painfully challenging.

Relationships are more important than ever. Software is an iterative process.

There is a better way.

For that better experience, we stick to our 10 core values. We believe these should help you as well.

  1. Simple over complex

  2. Caring over apathy

  3. Long term over short term

  4. Candor over cowardice

  5. Change over stagnation

  6. Team over individual

  7. Transparency over obfuscation

  8. Relationships over money

  9. Iterate over perfect

  10. Learning over ignorance

In the end, our journey and experiences together are what matters. Let’s make them good ones.

3. DOING GREAT WORK REQUIRES GREAT TEAMS AND ALIGNMENT

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

- Andrew Carnegie

We are all one team. Let’s do this!

When you have a team that is founded on 10 core values and a mission to build thoughtful software, quite a bit of good can happen.

Combined with enterprises who hold similar values, the possibilities are limitless.

One core aspect of great teams is specialization. To achieve the best outcomes, bring in talented people who excel in certain areas. For example, a user experience (UX) designer can be the difference between a successful or failed product.

Don’t just build an app for the sake of it. Carefully plan it out with experienced architects and designers who can help support the vision. Five star ratings correlate to a better brand image and increased revenue.

Leveraging data can be a competitive advantage if implemented properly. Data science isn’t just a buzzword and data scientists are very expensive.

It is more impactful to start with a proof of concept (POC) to test the idea. Then develop a roadmap to increase the probability of success.

Teamwork:

  • 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.

  • 86% of employees and executive cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

  • About 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”.

Figure: The New Organization: A Network of Teams (Deloitte, 2016)

Figure: The New Organization: A Network of Teams (Deloitte, 2016)

We understand the need for dynamic, flexible, and dependable teams to complete our projects and form lasting relationships with our clients.

Listening and executing on software projects quickly and within budget is crucial to success.

4. SOFTWARE IS AN ITERATIVE PROCESS

“Software is a great combination between artistry and engineering.”

- Bill Gates

We firmly believe that software development is an iterative process that requires a phased approach.

A phased approach is necessary and important because it allows for our developers and our clients to provide continuous feedback, make improvements, and manage changes to the project without disruption.

Reduce uncertainty.

phased+approach.png

A phased approach consists of 3 phases:

  • Phase 1 — Discovery

  • Phase 2 — POC / MVP

  • Phase 3 — Expansion

PHASE 1 — DISCOVERY

The requirements gathering or discovery phase is an essential part of any project. Though often it is overlooked as we rush to save time and start the project.

Experienced project managers will agree if requirements are identified early on, the probability of a successful outcome dramatically increases.

In this phase we want to establish a few important aspects.

  • Purpose of your project

  • Domain you operate in

  • Your unique operation complexities

  • Produce alignment between teams

If you are working with experienced professionals, this process moves fairly quickly.

PHASE 2 — POC / MVP

In the proof of concept phase demonstrates that certain concepts or theories may have potential for real-world applications.

A prototype is a very useful tool to determine the feasibility of a product without the high cost and going too far into a project.

A POC may involve extensive research. It allows time to examine and test assumptions. Often wireframes and mockup designs are created to visualize what may be possible.

In this phase, we can also get a better idea of the estimated total cost of the project. Budget overruns are usually a result of poor upfront planning. Stuff happens and projects do get derailed. We understand.

However, we can make a conscious effort early to minimize these effects down the line.

The next step can be a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP takes the POC a step further to build a functional beta product where users can actually use and play with something real.

This provides invaluable feedback of how users interact with a product. The next steps are to learn from our findings, iterate, and build a better product for a full launch.

  • Alignment and understanding are achieved

  • Identify and build

  • Learn and iterate

  • Prepare for launch

PHASE 3 — EXPANSION

The term “production ready” is often misunderstood. It depends on who you are talking to.

A programmer would say a “production ready” software is:

  • It runs

  • It meets the product requirements as defined in the discovery phase

  • Its design was well thought out in the POC phase

  • It is stable

  • It can be maintained

  • It can be scalable

  • It is documented

Management would say a “production ready” software is:

  • It runs

  • It turns a profit

This all depends on the purpose of the product which we define by asking questions at the beginning of the project. For example, some research projects may not need to be a scalable solution.

However, if there is a bigger vision for a particular project it would make sense to plan ahead. Designing the architecture upfront to allow for scalability should not be overlooked.

Additionally, during this phase new features may be introduced and implemented. Feedback from the POC phase is important to refining a “production ready” product.

  • Production ready

  • New features

  • Exponential success

5. PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”

- Paul J. Meyer

Planning ahead will save time and money. The challenge is always balancing being prepared with moving quickly to meet demand.

Experienced developers, designers, and architects know it is always better to understand the end goal. We may not always know how the end may look but we can guide the process with a vision of what we want to build.

When are you working with experienced professionals at Skiplist, we are able to move swiftly by following the steps outlined in this paper. We are also able to adapt and make changes to keep the project on schedule.

When we all have the vision in mind and are aligned in values. The future can be more predictable.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Now that you know what thoughtful software is, how there are different software partners in this noisy world, and what it takes to not be another statistic.

The question remains, will you be responsible for initiating an amazing, thriving software project?

This article was originally published on Skiplist.com

Why You Need A Sales Strategy

Imagine you are given a product to sell. Where do you start? Maybe marketing has put together a competitive landscape. Your job is not to only to sell but sell the shit out of it. You are left as the salesperson to figure out how to sell the product. Good luck. Anyone see a problem with this?

The problem is as a company you are hoping the sales people know what to do. That’s why you hired them anyway, right? By not taking a deeper look at the nuances of selling, you are leaving money on the table. You are not maximizing the potential. You are leaving yourself vulnerable to being “out sold.” Vulnerable to competitors. That is why a sales strategy is so critical to reaching higher without wasting money.

Frontline Sales Strategy?

I hesitate to call this a sales strategy. A sales strategy means something different to different people. It could mean deciding whether to go with direct sales people or a distribution channel. Or possibly how a specific territory may be split up. Who gets the big anchor accounts? Who goes after a geography? It’s too general.

That is the not the sales strategy I am talking about. The most critical component of any company strategy should be incorporating a well thought out and adaptable frontline sales strategy. Frontline are the sales people in the field. The grinders. The callers. The ballers. The road warriors. The hustlers who get up everyday and hit the pavement looking for the next sale. They are the frontline. What we go through on a day to day basis is rough. Exhausting at times. Yet at the same time hectic. A good hectic. By adding frontline my intention is to emphasize the importance of focusing on the sales people in the field. Not a corporate sales strategy.

All too often the battle being fought in the trenches goes unnoticed. There are too many companies relying on hope. As you know hope is not a strategy.

The Difference

A frontline sales strategy is important and very critical to excelling sales without much added cost. I always ask “What is the difference between your product and the competition?” I strongly believe, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! People will spew off better specs, faster, easier to use, etc. Those things are important, however the main different is…..YOU. The sales person is the most important factor in the sale.

Another one of my strong beliefs is there is no such thing as B2B. I really don’t like that term. There is no such thing as business to business selling. Intel doesn’t sell to Apple. Slack doesn’t sell to a startup. The deals are negotiated by people. Person to person or P2P is much more appropriate. A sales strategy is far more effective with a micro view rather than a high level macro view. I caution though micro doesn’t mean micro-management. That is the last thing you want to do to your top sales people is kill their freedom.

Example

A simple example is looking that differences between an iPhone and Android. Not really much difference but asking the question of how a person uses the phone leads to a different conversation. On an iPhone you can’t attach an excel file to an email for example. For work, you might find that important.

Frontline Sales Strategy Suggestions

  • Tactics — A method is working better than others. An example could be to bundle products together. Gives customer a complete solution.

  • Tips — Feedback from sales on a particular improvement.

  • Gotchas — How to handle objections? Or how to handle product flaws. Delivery issues.

  • How to convey a confidential roadmap

If you agree P2P is important, then the next question is why isn’t there more emphasis on developing better frontline sales strategies? Most likely people don’t know this problem exists. Maybe. Or because it’s hard to do. It requires continuous attention and refinement. Good collaboration is necessary for it be effective. Management to marketing to engineering to sales need to be on the same page.

This isn’t about tricking customers or manipulating the conversation. This is about understanding the customer requirements and constantly aligning your products and strategy around those requirements. Ultimately improving the sales process and securing more business. Make it rain!

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.