Posts Tagged ‘product’

humility courage discipline“What do I do when overwhelmed and projects pull me in several directions?” That is a common question. The short answer is, “Practice humility, courage, and discipline.”

Humility is simply appreciating where the boundary is between what I can do and what I can’t do. When on the “can” side get to work focusing on success. When on the “can’t” side see if help is available within the time frame required. If that help isn’t available then it is time to either cut scope or extend the schedule. Another way to state humility is, “I have a place in the universe; it just isn’t at the center.”

Courage is risking action (or being still) when there are no guarantees the desired outcome will be achieved. This doesn’t mean the outcome can’t be achieved. Rather, it is about breaking into new territory and getting away from “same-old, same-old” behavior. Courage can also mean taking action when there are insufficient resources and attempting to get political movement by pushing on power brokers.

For example, risking building a prototype of a product you just KNOW the client will want and doing this BEFORE there is any commitment. “Taking a calculated risk,” might be another way to describe the exercise of courage. Keep in mind; this is different than being foolhardy.  When someone is foolhardy they throw caution to the wind. With foolhardy, think of the firm with no depth that mastered PowerPoint and then was at a loss as to what to do once they win the contract.

Discipline is what brings it all together. There are two ways to define discipline and both are relevant. The first definition is: know your area of expertise and how best to apply it. Practice, practice, practice.

The second definition ties back into humility. You must be able to maintain a sharp focus and broad view simultaneously. Imagine you are a surgeon and want to save the patient. The decision as to whether or not to operate goes beyond your ability with the surgical techniques. It is critical to consider whether or not the patient might die while under anesthetic.

This all adds up to wisdom, the ability to find a balance point among all the principles when the rules are either absent or fail to point in a clear direction. There’s an old saying that sums the challenge of the situation well, “Success comes from experience which comes from failure.” There are no guarantees but without trying you’ll never know. Remember to breathe and take a calculated risk.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Many people assume that most any business can become a big business.  But if that’s true, why is it that 95% of all businesses in the United States never reach a million bucks in annual sales?

Surprising as it may be, most businesses simply don’t have what it takes to grow significantly.  In fact, only two or three businesses out of a hundred will ever grow past the Mom & Pop stage – past the owner’s immediate span of control.

If you’re a small business owner with visions of growth, these facts can be a little unnerving, and more than a little disheartening.  What these facts tell us is that if you want your business to grow into a substantial enterprise, you need to do something that roughly 25,000,000 other business owners have been unable to do!

So where do you start?  You start by confronting the brutal facts.  You start with perhaps the most important question a business owner can ask:

Is the market sufficient?

Two factors comprise the market, demand and attachment.

  • Demand is about quantity – how many people want what you’re trying to sell.
  • Attachment is about quality – how much do people want what you’re trying to sell.

For a business to grow significantly, there must be high demand or strong attachment, preferably both.  Although it’s a little unwieldy, here’s a question that gets to the core of market evaluation:

Do enough people care enough?

Sometimes, the answer is no.  Last year about this time our company released an online service called ReallyEasyHR.  The service provided a complete small company HR program for $30 a month.  It was a great service and a remarkable value.  But guess what?  Nobody cared.  It turns out that small business owners have virtually no interest in spending even a few dollars a month on HR.

I believed ReallyEasyHR was going to be successful.  And I suppose I could berate myself about how wrong I was.  But here’s the thing:  You don’t know how the market will respond until you start trying to make sales.  The hard truth is, until you ask a prospect to fork over some cash, it’s all just guesswork and speculation.

That’s true in small companies like ours and it’s also true in huge, wildly successful organizations.  Not so long ago the brain trust at McDonald’s looked at emerging demographic trends and saw what they thought was an opportunity.  People were living longer and the older adult population was burgeoning.  In response, McDonald’s spent $300 million to develop and launch the Arch Deluxe, a sandwich positioned as “a more sophisticated burger for the adult palate”.  The Arch Deluxe was a complete flop. As it turned out, people didn’t want a sophisticated burger from McDonald’s.  Which just goes to show you that some of the smartest people on the planet can be flat-out wrong when projecting demand.

Demand is one thing your company can’t grow without.  Unless enough people care about the product or service you’re trying to sell – and care enough to go out of their way to buy it – survival is unlikely and growth is impossible.  So here are two important reminders for owners who want to grow their businesses:

  1. You won’t know if there’s enough market for your product until you offer that product for sale.
  2. There’s a chance you’ve overestimated demand, so don’t go all in.  Make sure you live to fight another day.

In my next article, I’ll offer some thoughts on the other factor of market potential, attachment.

Jack-Hayhow Jack Hayhow is Chief Executive Servant of Opus Communications in Kansas City. Opus provides tools and techniques to help business owners build their business. Jack is also the author of two highly acclaimed business books, The Wisdom of the Flying Pig: Guidance and Inspiration for Managers and Leaders and, Breaking Through the Barrier: What Companies That Grow Do Differently
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What’s your ante?

by Himanshu Jhamb on March 1, 2010

If you have ever played poker (and I know there are many experts out there who can beat me hands-down belly-up!), you know what ante is. Simply put, it’s the wager you have to bet without an inkling of the hand that has been dealt to you or in other words It is the wager that you have to bet that simply qualifies you to ‘play’ in the game. Then there are many tables, each table with different stakes. You can choose which table you want to sit at and play on depending on how much money you have.

Business is very similar to poker. It requires us to wager something – an ante before we even have an inkling of the hand that is dealt to us. Think about the investment you have to make in order to bring a product to market or start your next entrepreneurial venture or even the new job that you get. In each of these situations there is this pesky ante that you cringe to put down but have to put down in order to play on the table! Here’s how the ante appears in each of these situations:

  1. Bringing a product to the market: You put your time, money (maybe not yours!) and energy as ante in building the product, doing your market research & getting help from others.
  2. Starting your entrepreneurial venture: Your ‘skin-in-the-game’ is pretty much your ante here.
  3. Getting a new job: You apply for your dream job, excel in that interview, land the job and within 2 months realize that what you’re doing is nothing like what you had imagined you’d be doing (Err.. I mean this in a negative way). In this case, all the effort that you put in to the point where you started the new job is your Ante.

My point so far: There is an ante in every game you play (Business being a game, too… )

Here’s the golden question: Is the table you are sitting at (which basically determines what ante you put) is the right table for what you want to achieve?

Consider this example: You are 45 years old & have plans of retiring with $4M in your bank account at the age of 65. You currently have $1M saved up. You make $100K a year. That’s a gap of $3M you have to cover in 20 years. You don’t need to be a math whiz to notice that it is impossible to get to this number with what you are making currently – You are basically sitting at the wrong table! because regardless of how well you play at this table, you’re never going to make your goal of $4M!

So you figured out that you’re sitting and playing at a table where no matter how well you play (heck! you might be the best player) you’re still not going to make it to your goal.

Now what?

Before you decide to take the leap of faith and move to the high-ante table, be aware that as you move up to the high-ante, the competition gets thick too. The players at the high-ante table are no pushovers. In fact, one mistake there and they’ll wipe you out before you know what hit you! So, yes – by all means, quit playing at the table where you are not going to make it BUT continue playing at the low-ante table until you are Skilled enough to move higher up and be the best player at the high-ante table!

… and of course, the last piece of advice and perhaps the most important to remember – Know when you have made it to your goal, get up from the table and go play a new game!

Good luck!

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

by Tanmay Vora on January 19, 2010

Last year, in November, I posted 12 posts on QUALITY in the form of QUALITYtweets, on Active Garage. It didn’t quite seem right to stop just there… when there is so much still left to say about QUALITY!

Here are the first twelve posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture

#QUALITYtweet Make every review meeting a learning

experience by reviewing the product

and process, not people.

We create, we review and we make it better. Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The core purpose of any review process is to “make things better” by re-examining the work product and find out anomalies or areas of improvements that the creator of the work product was not able to find.

Establishing a good review process in an organization requires management commitment and investment, but for returns that it generates, the effort is totally worth it. In software world, a lot of emphasis is given to formal inspections, but they work best when a formal process marries with a set of common sense rules. Here they go:

1) Reviewing early

Reviews in early phase of product development means that findings are less costly to resolve. The later defects are found, more expensive it gets to resolve those defects.

2) Staying positive

The art of review is to report negative findings (problems) without losing the positive undertone of communication. Negative or destructive criticism will only make the process more burdensome. Stay positive and keep the process lightweight.

3) Keeping review records

When a lot of time is spent on reviewing, it makes sense to track the findings to closure. Recording the finding helps you to effectively track the closure and trends.

4) Reviewing process, not the person

Always question the process and not the person. Human beings are bound to make mistakes, which is why reviews are required. So accept that mistakes will happen. How can we have a more effective process so that these mistakes are not repeated? That is the critical question.

Imagine that Bob is the reviewer of John’s work product and consider the following conversations:

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you. Again this time, you have not implemented the architecture correctly. You committed the same mistakes that were also found in the registration module earlier.”

OR

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you and your team. We have found some anomalies in the architecture implementation. I just wanted to know if the team had undergone the workshop on our standard architecture. If not, we should invite our systems architect to take a small workshop on system architecture so that the team has better clarity on how it can be best implemented.”

Two conversations with a totally different outlook. The first conversation tries to blame the producer where as the second conversation tries to assess the process and take corrective actions.

5) Training and more training

Reviewers can make huge mistakes if they are not trained. If you don’t invest in training your review teams, you cannot expect them to do it right, the first time.

6) Reviewing iteratively

Review often. During the course of product building, product needs may change. New ideas may be implemented. Keep review process constant amidst all these changes. Discipline is the key.

7) Reviewing the process of reviewing

Are we reviewing it right? Are we reviewing the right things? Periodically, assess the results and the benefits of having a review process. Assess how reviews helped improve product quality. In process assessment, also identify if people are heavily relying on reviews. It that is the case, it is a bad sign.

Success of any process depends on 2 E’s – Efficient and Enjoyable. Same holds true for your review processes. Review is a control mechanism, and hence the focus on getting it right the first time is still very important. A good review is just an internal quality gate that ensures that internal customers (reviewers) are happy with the final product. If your internal customers are happy, your external customers will be happy too!

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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Portfolio Management – A Case Study

by Sanjai Marimadaiah on January 12, 2010

Portfolio management is a critical activity for any business leader, be it a General Manager or a Venture Capitalist.  This article offers a case study on portfolio management with a focus on value-net1 and the economic value of portfolio companies. The intent is to provide an analysis of the portfolio that can serve as the basis for growth strategy.

The Value-Net1:

The success of any business initiative depends on the value delivered to its customers. While immediate customers are important for near-term growth, the long-term viability of a company hinges on the value delivered to eventual customers, i.e. customer’s customer.  Hence a view of how you serve your eventual customers is important in portfolio management. Several business entities, called value-net1 partners, are involved in the process of delivering value to end customers.

The Portfolio:

Rajesh Setty is a successful CEO and now a venture capitalist with a growing portfolio of companies.

Following is a brief description of 3 of his portfolio companies:

An innovative approach to solving the content marketing challenges. Content such as white paper and ebooks are better managed to ensure that it is efficiently delivered to the target audience. Since the company is still in a stealth mode, a fictitious name, ContentKing, is used.

Jiffle brings efficiency and intelligence to event marketing activities.  It offers a simple and intuitive web portal for event managers to schedule and manage client engagements at events.  In addition, customers can generate various reports on the efficacy of their participation at various events by product line, region, etc.

iCharts business service allows one to easily build sophisticated, searchable online charts. iCharts makes it easy for customers, journalists and others to find, reuse and republish your data — helping proliferation of your data across the web.

Analysis of the above portfolio companies highlighted a common theme in their value proposition. There were opportunities for collaboration among portfolio companies and also opportunities to expand the value range of services.

A common theme among the 3 portfolio companies is that their immediate customers are demand generation teams.  Hence these 3 portfolio companies influence the adoption of product/service by the eventual customers. However they are at different stages of the AIDA – Marketing model5.

AIDA – Model 5:

There are 4 stages in the AIDA model – Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.  A customer first has to be aware of the existence of the product then be interested in learning more about the product, then have the desire/need to buy the product and eventually be convinced that it is the right product in order to buy it. Support is added as the last stage by some marketing professionals. Different tools, tactics and activities are required to be effective at each of the stages.

The dynamics of each of the stages in the AIDA model are different. As you progress from Awareness to Action, the number leads decreases while the cost per lead increases. The following is an illustration of this dynamics. The numbers in figure 1 and 2 illustrate the relative scales. The actual value varies by product and industry.

Figure 1

Mapping the Portfolio on the AIDA Model:

The 3 portfolio companies are mapped on the AIDA model in figure 2. The immediate target customers are listed below the portfolio company. Finally, the Assets/Capabilities of the VC, Rajesh Setty, is also mapped to highlight the investor’s affinity to their domain expertise.

iCharts4 is at the cusp between Awareness and Interest. The interactive charts not only build awareness to a company’s offering but also generate interest in the offering by providing interactive charts that offer more details. ContentKing2 deals with whitepapers and eBooks, hence heavily in the interest phase. Jiffle3 is placed in the Decision stage but can play well into the action phase. The meetings at conferences and tradeshows influence the decision and at time deals are closed at these meetings.

Figure 2

The Conclusion:

The mapping in Figure 2 provides a bird’s eye view of the strategic position of the portfolio companies in the AIDA model. This can serve as the foundation to develop strategic growth initiatives for the individual companies as well as help VCs manage their portfolio companies.

Considering the price per lead at each stage of the AIDA model, one can get a sense of the valuation as well as revenue potential of the portfolio companies. The portfolio manger can evaluate collaboration opportunities among the portfolio companies and also opportunities to invest in new companies.

The individual portfolio companies can brainstorm whether it makes strategic sense to expand along the AIDA model. It also forces the portfolio companies to think beyond their immediate customers by engaging in initiatives and partnerships to help product/services companies in their pursuit to close sales.

Note:

  1. Value Net:
  2. ContentKing: http://www.rajeshsetty.com (watch the URL for announcements)
  3. Jiffle: http://www.jifflenow.com
  4. iCharts: http://www.ichartsbusiness.com
  5. AIDA Model:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDA_(marketing)

Sanjai MarimadaiahThis article was contributed by Sanjai Marimadaiah, a seasoned product marketing professional and author of an upcoming book ProductMarketingTweet. Sanjai works as the Global Offerings Manager for IBM Smart Business. You can follow Sanjai on Twitter at Sanjaim1
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Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…

by Tanmay Vora on November 20, 2009

Quality InspectionWelcome to the tenth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first nine posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication

#QUALITYtweet Formal inspections can be a

huge waste of resources if you have not invested

in getting it right the first time

The goal of any process improvement initiative is to prevent same problems from occurring again. New problems are an opportunity to identify areas of improvement but same problems occurring repetitively is a sign of stagnation.

As someone rightly said, “Quality can never be inspected in a product; it has to be built first.” Processes have to help identify the quality expectations from the customers and translate those expectations into a practical action plan to build/verify quality constantly.

Inspections done at the tail end of product life cycle can eat a huge chunk of your budget because later the problems are found, costlier the resolutions. On top of that, if you have not “engineered” quality in a product, inspections can be a huge waste. You can never verify something you have not built upfront.

In manufacturing world, it is very unlikely to find that a component is inspected after it is integrated in the product. The very idea of inspecting everything after completing all product development is a dangerous one – one that has many business and financial risks associated with it.

This is where “prevention” is always better than “cure”.

Don’t get me wrong. Inspections are still one of the best ways to find problems. The timing of inspection is very important.

When inspections are done earlier in development process:

  • Fixing problems is less costly
  • Early identification of critical risks helps you manage them proactively
  • Lower risk of failure at the end

Following are some very simplified guidelines on how inspection activity can be leveraged to generate value and lower risks for your customers. Each one of these points can be a process in itself.

  • Know customer’s quality expectations early and educate team
  • Clarify the exact customer requirements (and be ready for change)
  • Give thoughtful consideration to a robust product design
  • Plan actions to ascertain that quality expectations are built in the product
  • Inspect Early and Inspect Often in cycles
  • Each cycle of early inspection reduces risk of failure
  • With this, final cycles of inspection can focus on “value-delivered-to-customer” rather than “defects-found-at-the-tail-end”.

The process of inspection can be your biggest asset if you have invested early efforts in building quality and then inspecting it. Else, it can be a huge waste.  Reduce this waste and you will automatically start forming a culture where “building quality” always takes precedence over inspecting. Your journey towards a quality-oriented culture begins there

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication

by Tanmay Vora on November 19, 2009

Welcome to the ninth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first eight posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual

#QUALITYtweet How NOT to deliver total quality:

Focus on quality of product without focusing on

quality of relationship and communication

In an increasingly service oriented business environment, what you sell is not just a product but an experience. People may forget explicit details like specifications or price, but never forget the experience they had when they bought the product.

Experience extended to end-customers largely depends on attitude, values and behaviors of each individual who interacts with a customer. One of the most important challenges is to keep this group of people aligned to organization’s quality system and values.

Communication is the backbone of organization’s success in marketplace. Effective internal and external communication within an organization ensures that:

  • Your employees understand your value system
  • They understand what is expected out of them
  • They are motivated to walk an extra mile to deliver excellent service
  • Your customers know your value system
  • You build trust-based relationship with your people and customers with consistent communication
  • Manage expectations with your people and customers.

How can you motivate your teams to deliver excellent customer experiences through simple communication processes? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Train:

Training your internal team can be your biggest tool for clearly explaining the process of communication and how important it is for the business. Consistently train your people on value systems, leadership, quality management, effective communication, what works in customer management, what not, expectations management and cultural aspects of client’s location. Clients also need training on how best they can use your products. Companies organize client workshops to educate them about different aspects of product/service. Train consistently to streamline communication.

Support:

Once your people are trained, you need to support them in doing right things. Supporting can be a simple act of being there with your people when they talk to customers. Help them improve and share feedback on how are they doing. Some companies may see this activity as an “overhead” but it is an “investment” in your people.

Monitor:

Once you have confidence that your people will be able to do the right communication, monitor them. Take periodic feedback from them. Communicate consistently to ensure that they are motivated enough to continue doing it.

Delivering consistently superior experience to your customers (via quality of products and communication) results in a long-term relationship based on trust. In business, as in life, relationships are crucial. Quality of your relationships is as important as quality of your products, or perhaps, even more.

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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The Worst Demo I never Got

by Wayne Turmel on November 16, 2009

demo wrongIf you’re the VP of Sales for a software or other service company I want you to listen to this cautionary tale.  It’s absolutely true and ought to make you ask some important questions about how confident you are in your inside sales or demo teams. More importantly, I can make some educated guesses about how they’re measuring this sales person’s performance and that really ought to make you go hmmmmm. At any rate I was able to avoid a painful experience and what I can only guess would have been the worst demo I’d ever seen.

A cold call/email for no reason: I got a voicemail from someone at a company who “wanted to speak to me” about their software-as-a-service product.  I suspect I know which list they got my name from but “that’s okay”, I figured… they’re trying to make a living. I then got an email at about the same time with the same kind of offer. Of course, there was nothing about their product other than the name and a hyperlink. My immediate thought was “If I don’t know what it does for me, why would I want to talk to them?” Something told me this person is cranking out the cold calls because they have a certain number of contacts they have to make. That’s fine, I’ve been there and done that, but I also know it’s not terribly productive except that it keeps their boss happy.

A kind offer to waste my time: I have great sympathy for sales people just doing their job so I emailed back and said (essentially) “tell me what it does and what it has to do with me and we’ll see”. I then got a response telling me what it is (an “email marketing tool”. Thanks for clearing that up!) in a single sentence, but I really should schedule time for a 30-minute demo so I could “really see what it can do”. Note: They didn’t ask or even assume what it could do for ME, just what IT could do. I don’t know about you, I don’t have half an hour (and is anyone foolish enough to think it will really only be 30 minutes out of my life???) to waste just watching someone tell me about a product I don’t need or want. Again, I figured their “sales management process” demands a certain number of demos a week. I know fully well the assumption is that if they do “X” number of demos, some of them will convert. Exactly what is their conversion rate? Do they measure it?  Imagine how high it would be if they only did demos to people who actually might buy the product to start with!

It would have been a complete waste of THEIR time too: Had this sales person asked a couple of questions they would have known I’m not a good prospect for them. Instead they invested a phone call, two emails and blocked out half an hour of their time (not to mention putting me in their carefully managed CRM pipeline) without ever asking a couple of basic questions which would have taken me off the list immediately. And let’s do some math: 5 minutes of questioning up front versus 30 minutes per demo to someone completely unqualified who will never buy.  It makes no sense, but if I’m being measured by how many demos a week I perform, you can bet I’m going to schedule them. And let’s face it; it’s less painful than filling that time with 15 more cold calls from an obviously flawed list of leads.

Here’s what I avoided:

By not taking up their kind offer of a “30-minute FREE demo” (are there people who charge for that honor?) I avoided several things:

  • A carefully scripted (we can only hope… either that or a rambling, unprofessional) 1-way monologue about their product and its features
  • A demonstration of all the cool bells and whistles without asking any qualifying questions about my company or goals
  • A not-too-subtle avoidance of the price and other key questions until the very end (although that’s probably one of the first questions I have and I’ll sit through the whole thing wondering about it)
  • If this person’s demo is carefully scripted, it MIGHT contain a call to action like moving to a trial account. (About half the demos I watch and review for people have no clear call to action so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here). My guess is I won’t have been asked who actually makes that decision or whether we’ve got budget for it (assuming they ever get around to telling me the price) until the very end of our time together.

I don’t blame the sales person here, at least not entirely. The big problem is some assumptions on the part of sales management:

  • Measuring activity will get results–  you can make 100 cold calls but if you’re calling people who aren’t good prospects you’re wasting a lot of time and effort and demoralizing the sales person
  • The demo itself will move the sale forward– Are we supposed to believe that a good pitch will move an unmotivated person to tears of joy and make a sale?
  • The function and features will make the sale- If I see the wonder of your product, how can I resist? I can think of 20 reasons not to buy something- starting with I don’t need it
  • All customers want the same thing and we can provide it- an interesting notion but you know it’s not true. Find out what I need and give me THAT, then we’ll talk
  • Product knowledge is really the critical part of a demo- asking the right questions, acting like you care about my business and showing me what I want to see (especially in the early stages of the sales cycle) is far more important to a customer than your User Interface or the fine details of your algorithm

Basically, I was able to avoid having a half hour or more sucked out of my life by a “well intentioned” person just doing their job and appeasing their boss. Not exactly a constructive way to do business but one we see all the time.

How are you using demos in YOUR sales process?

Wayne Turmel PicThis article is contributed by Wayne Turmel, the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings and the host of The Cranky Middle Manager Show podcast. You can follow him on twitter at @greatwebmeeting
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Your customers want more… so give them less!

by Wayne Turmel on November 2, 2009

time is moneyThe way we buy and sell our products has changed forever because of the Web. This is especially true for the B2B (business-to-business) landscape. The problem is many of us haven’t really adjusted to this change and it costs us money, which is a shame because they are really acting just like we do when we buy something… so, why the cost?

Think about the way we make a major purchase…. We investigate online, read reviews, visit websites and eliminate obvious bad choices. Then-armed with information- we march down to the car lot or the appliance store and get what we want in record time.

Now think about the way we sell to customers online. We have some information posted, the customer clicks a link or emails us and says “yes we want a demo” and we schedule a demo. But is that what the customer really wants? Probably not. They don’t want to start from scratch-  and you have to meet them where they are or risk alienating them forever.

The good news is if they’ve requested to speak to someone from your company they are a great, live prospect. The better news is that they have all the basic information they need or they wouldn’t be there… what they want is the final information necessary to make a decision (or at least pass you on to someone who can). They have very specific information they need to move the sale forward, or decide you can’t help them.

The bad news is that we often don’t know at which point in the conversation they are. Thus, we end up giving them too much (read irrelevant) detail and that does not serve them very well. This is evident by their number one complaint  about online demos … yep! you guessed it right – they have too much information and don’t get to the point.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind:  If the customer has come this far, find out where they are, currently and what they need to complete their journey. Now, you are at a point where you can then give them exactly what they need. Before even starting the presentation, ask a lot of questions and find out what information is critical to them to make a buying decision. The form they fill out won’t give you the same good quality information as a conversation. Your contact with the customer needs to give them more relevant, focused information they need to make a smart choice. It needs a lot less time and extraneous detail. You may never even demo the product- which is actually a good thing in a strange way.  Why go through all the effort if it’s not a fit, and why make them sit through it if they know enough to move you through the sales cycle?

This also means that the information on your site needs to give them as much up-front information as possible. Do you have recorded information, demos and video that helps them choose you?  Are you giving them the chance to gather information before they even talk to you? If not, why not? If you are, is it easy to use and understand?

Customers want more from us than ever before, they just want less of us in order to accomplish it.

Wayne Turmel PicThis article is contributed by Wayne Turmel, the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings and the host of The Cranky Middle Manager Show podcast. You can follow him on twitter at @greatwebmeeting
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How hurtful is your product or service offering?

by Himanshu Jhamb on October 5, 2009

hurtAs an entrepreneur, whatever product or service that you sell, it is critical to look at not only how it helps your customers; but also to look at how it might hurt your customers. Most of the offers that exist in the marketplace end up being ordinary and have little value associated with them, because they end up “hurting” customers at places which have serious consequences for them. The “hurt” can be of different types (and depending on what the level is, it hurts the marketability of the product or service) and you want to stay as far away as possible from the one that comes with the serious consequences for your customers.

Here’s a little personal story of mine: I recently bought a new bed frame from one of the discounted retail stores. It was a beautiful wooden (brownish) frame; both my wife and I loved it. While my wife strolled around to the other parts of the store, I walked around the bed inspecting it and marveled to myself how it’d look in the room we were thinking of putting it in. While I was mentally playing taking this beautiful piece of furniture home, I heard my wife call me from the other aisle. As I started walking towards her casually; I felt a sharp pain under my kneecap and immediately sat down. That’s when I noticed that the bed had a protruding part on the corners of it (the corners where the legs would go) which could easily go unnoticed (Hello?) and “hurt” people. Suddenly, the beauty, the wooden frame and the comfort vanished from my mind and all I could remember was the “hurt” that I felt from my little accident with the bed frame and how “dangerous” it could be for people in the house. The product (or service) called “The bed” immediately lost its marketability with me, its customer.

While you are designing your product or service for providing the fantastic help that it’ll provide your customer, be sure you give a thought to how it might “hurt” your customers. While one can argue that it’s impossible to come up with a product/service that is “Perfect” in all aspects and causes no “hurt”, one can surely design it in a way so that the “hurt” is kept to a minimum. Here are a couple of levels of hurt to consider while you think of the design of your offer:
1. Fundamental Hurt – This is what I call the “Deal Breaker”. This is the hurt that will instantly kill any marketability of your product or service. It wouldn’t matter how aesthetically tasteful your product is; it wouldn’t matter how practical it is or how valuable it is. If your product or service hurts a fundamental concern; it will, in all likelihood, not be very marketable. My example, above fits the bill for “fundamental hurt”. The bed, regardless of how comfortable and elegant it was, was dangerous to the fundamental concern of my body. The moment that dawned upon me; the offer was outta-the-door for me.

2. Derivative Hurt – This is something that the customer sees as not impacting his or her core concerns and thus, is open to a cost-benefit analysis of whatever product or service it is that he or she is considering buying. It’s like your offer gets a Second-chance-at-least kind of hurt. This is where most of the “good” products or services fall in. They all “Cost” something (which obviously hurts the customer in a way since it eats into his or her resources) but if the Return is good, the Cost is viewed as more of an investment and the conversation suddenly centralizes around the ROI, and not just the “Hurt”. As an example, offers such as entertainment magazines and Television fall in this category. They provide customers with a sensation called “Relaxation” and “Fun” in return for the money and time they cost the customers.

When you are designing your products and services; look closely for what kind of “Hurt” they might cause your customers… and stay away from the “Fundamental Hurt” as much as possible!

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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