If you’re in sales, you are always communicating. Your silence on a question that’s posed to you is also communicating something; not something good, that’s for sure. Winning sales communications move the deals forward. Anything less will stall or slow down the deals.
The Foundation for Winning Sales Communications
It may seem like the foundation is going to be ability to write well. While that’s an important skill to have, the foundation is really is the intent with which you approach the sale. Your intention has to be based on three solid pillars of serving, caring and providing value.
A. Intent to Serve: Your first and final intent has to be to help your prospects with their needs with one or more of your offerings. Of course, you don’t need to sacrifice your needs.
B. Intent to Care: You MUST care for your prospects concerns as if they are your own concerns. Put yourself in the shoes of your prospect and look at the deal from the other side of the table and see if the deal looks fair. If not, you need to go back to the drawing board.
C. Intent to Provide Value: However basic this appears to be, this is an important pillar. Your intent to provide value should be unquestionable.
With that in the backdrop, here are seven elements of winning sales communications:
1. Responsive: Even just a handful of years ago, B-2-B prospects were at a disadvantage, overwhelmed with new possibilities and solutions. Today it’s exactly the opposite. By the time a prospect reaches out to you, they’ve more than likely already researched potential solutions online, and they are much further along in the buying cycle. Sure, your offerings are differentiated from your competitors’. But as markets become more crowded with competing vendors, sales and marketing messaging is increasingly commoditized.
When offerings look more or less the same from a feature/function perspective, responsiveness takes the center stage. Respond late to a customer inquiry or other request, and even with a reasonably good offer, you might end up losing the deal to someone else who was more nimble. Problem is, there’s only so much time in the day, so responding in 10 minutes instead of 10 days requires the right tools and mindset.
“Hi [FIRST NAME],
Thank you for your inquiry. Please find below my responses to your specific questions.
Also please know that as long as we work together, I will try to respond to any call or email within 12 hours (and I’ll try to be much faster!). While our solutions and services are unique in the market, at [COMPANY] we also differentiate ourselves by our responsiveness and dedication to customer care and satisfaction.
2. Right The response has to be accurate on many fronts.
This seems like a given, but think of all the emails and other materials that are riddled with “unintended hyperbole”, exaggerating to the point that it’s nauseating.
A few examples:
- We build world-class inventory software
- We make the world’s best burgers
- We are the gold standard in compensation consulting
- We have the industry’s leading ecosystem of fully-integrated interfaces to all major functional applications and officially-certified business processes.
Unintended hyperbole is on one end of the annoyance spectrum. On the other end, you have “willful misrepresentation” of facts to make your offering look superior to competing vendors’ offerings. In the latter case, you might be able to win in the short-term, but only at the expense of your longer-term credibility and opportunities in the account.
More often, negligence is the culprit; sellers rely on content they know may not be the most recent or accurate. Being right is often nothing more than ensuring that sales-ready content is easily vetted and approved by the right stakeholders. This shouldn’t require circulating documents or lengthy meetings. More importantly, once vetted, the content needs to be readily accessible (meaning at the “point of use”) at the front lines of sales engagement.
Is your team working hard but running blind? Sami Linnanvuo, CEO & Co-founder of Screenful Oy, and his team found the solution that keeps teams constantly informed of their progress. Screenful is still in a progress of finding the best Product Market Fit and is about to scale.
Describe Screenful in under 50 words.
Screenful develops business dashboards that help companies to track and optimize their operations. A key part of the concept is the introduction of large touch enabled screens as a new medium for sharing information in a modern office space. We call them Information Radiators since they "radiate" relevant information for the people working in that space, or for those passing by.
Tell us the Screenful story. How and why was this project born?
Screenful was born out of frustration with the current business intelligence tools on the market. In today's fast paced business, tracking your key metrics is essential as it enables you to foresee possible issues so that you can take action proactively, rather than do firefighting later. However, BI projects are notoriously expensive and the results are often poor due to the complexity of integrations and the lack of UX skills in the dashboard design.
We wanted to make life easier for our customers by doing all this work for them and creating set dashboards that are both actionable and beautiful to look at. Since we've automated the whole process of setting up the dashboards, we can have new customers up & running in a matter of days or weeks rather than months as in traditional BI.
How do you see the future of Screenful in 5 years?
Well, that seems like an eternity in the life of a startup where lots of new things are happening every week. I'd expect that in 5 years we've made our name known internationally and we have operations outside Finland. By that time I hope that the hardware has evolved as well, making it possible to realize the whole product vision we have. We believe that in 5 years, large touch screens will be commonplace in offices and Screenful will be the leading vendor providing content to those screens.
Could you share with us how you validated your product?
We followed the lean startup principles, and validated our hypotheses through customer interviews before committing to actually build the product. The learning we got from those interviews led to our first pivot, which wasn't so much about changing the core product offering, but about finding the right target audience. There was no way we could have figured that out without discussing with potential customers early on.
We're still applying these tactics whenever planning new features. We are not ashamed of using "slideware" in our product demonstrations. If it turns out that there's no demand for the shiny new feature that we're about to build, we can just abandon it without much time invested.
What one piece of advice would you like to give to those who want to transform an idea into a business?
Think of ways to do validation early on before committing resources on actual implementation. In most cases the product that you plan to build can be emulated with something much simpler, e.g. using mockups instead of real UI, replacing automation with manual steps etc. Seek for feedback and talk to potential customers. Keep your eyes and ears open, and don't fall in love with your initial ideas.
Screenful was founded in 2013. What are the main challenges faced so far?
When you start a new business you start from zero. You have no team, no product, no customers. Typically, at this stage you have no access to investors' money either. So what you need to do is to acquire a team who's willing to work without salary to get the demo ready, so you can start approaching customers and investors. There's no manual for these very early steps - you just have to be creative and sort it out somehow.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is to stay optimistic even though all odds are against you. It's all about selling your ideas - to your spouse, your team members, your investors, your customers. If you don't believe your ideas yourself, then you can't sell it to others so you first need to sell it yourself!
What are you most excited at the moment?
I'm ultimately a product guy so I'm constantly excited to see our product vision becoming a reality day by day. Also, seeing that our team dynamics work and we're getting things done without glitches makes me believe that we're ready for whatever challenges we might face down the road.
Startup Ecosystem in Helsinki is doing pretty well and it is becoming into a hot spot in Europe Startup Scene. What kind of services are you receiving from them? What do you miss?
We have indeed very active startup ecosystem in Helsinki nowadays. We have some great events, meetups and all sorts of coaching programs for growth startups. It's not always been like that and I recall the times not so many years ago when none of this activity existed.
We're finally even seeing some co-working spaces popping up, which we've lacked so far, as evidenced by the army of people working with their laptops in cafes. I'm looking forward to see those empty office spaces or warehouses converted into modern co-working spaces as they've done London and other major startup capitals.
If you’re an early-stage startup that’s looking for a little help to get your business off of the ground, look no further than the recently established Founders Space accelerator and incubator. Founders Space, which was just opened a week ago, has already made it a point to provide some of the best perks and opportunities for its participants, including seminars, networking events, pitch competitions, and access to amazing set of experienced advisors, VCs, and angel investors.
In San Francisco, startup accelerators are fairly easy to come by – just Google it. However, few offer their participants the comprehensive package that Founders Space has put together. Thanks to founders Steve Hoffman and Murray Newlands, Founders Space has managed to assemble an impressive experience for early-stage companies that focuses on the development of their brand, their product, and achieving their business objectives.
The way it works is really quite simple, too. Startups can apply to join Founders Space, and once they’re accepted, they will go through an intensive 4-week “Boot Camp” where they will attend sessions taught by experienced industry professionals, along with networking events where they will be introduced to relevant VCs and angel investors.
“We are looking for companies that we truly believe in to join Founders Space because we have a dedicated and experience group of advisors and investors who are ready to take on the next big thing,” Steve Hoffman said. “Our goal is to teach these early-stage companies everything they need to know and introduce them to the right people to help them get things going and become the next major enterprise.”
For early-stage startups, the Founders Space location couldn’t be in a better location, either. The co-working space is situated in the heart of SF’s tech industry at SOMA Central, the same building where Instagram, Twilio, and a handful of other successful companies originally got their start.
“We’ve got a great co-working space in SOMA that encourages and inspires collaboration, but also enables our startups to have the meetings and business events that they need to,” said Murray Newlands. “Once we start our accelerator program, we plan on having regular networking events and seminars to give our startups the opportunities to learn and connect with other people in the industry.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Founders Space or applying for their program, be sure to visit their website for more information.
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Chandan Raj, CTO at YourStory. Apart from tech -learning and sharing about founders, innovators and changemakers psyche and natural system evolution. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
Tristan Kromer, as a Lean Startup Coach and advisor based in San Francisco, has a unique obsession: help product teams go faster. He has been doing this during the last five years working with product teams and innovation leaders to apply lean startup principles to teams and innovation ecosystems. Enjoy the interview we made him and discover his great entrepreneurial thinking and mindset.
Brief description about your background, experience, journey...
I've spent ten years in the music industry, five in IT security, and the last five years in startups. I spend about 50% of my time working with early stage startups and the other 50% professionally helping enterprises and accelerator programs develop their innovation ecosystems.
Imagine an entrepreneur with no experience but with a great idea and right attitude. Which would be your first three advices?
1) Your product idea is probably wrong. Focus on your vision instead. Find someone you really want to help. Someone in pain. That's your vision. Helping someone and solving a real problem.
2) Find team members with complementary skill sets who are able to challenge your perspective and add their own.
3) Go talk to customers.
How to find a good mentor for your startup?
Look for someone who doesn't give you their opinion but instead challenges you with questions that makes you think.
You are running different initiatives. Have you got any mentor? If so, who is he/she and why did you choose him/her?
My team is my mentor. The customer is my mentor. My friends are my mentors. I rely on other people to challenge my perspective. People like Sean Murphy, Spike Morelli, Laura Klein, Nick Noreña, Zac Halbert, Janice Fraser. People who are willing to question me or tell me I'm wrong.
There's a common buzzing in most of startups communities: Lean Startup vs Business Plan. What do you think about that?
The battle is over. The business plan lost. Some people just haven't noticed yet.
Which is the biggest barrier to implement Lean Startup in a company?
It varies by company. Some don't put together cross functional teams to get out of silo based, waterfall development. Some don't know how to evaluate early stage startups on the appropriate metrics such as iteration velocity or actionable metrics. Some simply don't know how to put together innovative teams. The scrappy people who break the rules and get angry when they see problems are often viewed as troublemakers and isolated. In Silicon Valley, we celebrate those people.
From accelerators perspective, What do you think about ...?
Accelerators shouldn't sit around playing hypothetical scenarios and critiquing business ideas. They should be sending entrepreneur's out into the world to figure out for themselves what's a good idea by getting data for real customers. The only thing that an accelerator might be able to do from an armchair is help identify which are the riskiest parts of the business that the entrepreneur can then investigate.
Startups should talk to customers. Accelerators should train startups to talk to customers. They shouldn't be in the room when that happens. They shouldn't be responsible to find the customers
In terms of Validated learning from customers.
What did you learn from music industry that you can apply now to startup scene?
The team dynamics are identical. It's a group of creative people with different skill sets who have to come together and play in harmony (and sometime disharmony when appropriate.) They are creating something new out of thin air.
Being able to understand who works well with who and how to get people to perform at their best is very challenging. I don't think I'll ever master it, but I'm getting a bit better.
Which was your biggest mistake launching a startup?
Not knowing how to code. I've since corrected that error. It's a basic literacy like reading an writing. Everyone needs to know at least the basics but preferably should be able to launch a basic prototype within 24 hours. There's so much great open source software out there that there is no excuse to not being able to cobble together an MVP.
Which is the most challenging project that you have now?
Recruiting and managing an all volunteer force for Lean Startup Circle. I haven't figured out how to scale that as an operation. We now have a very consistent group in San Francisco that shows up month to month to put on events but to get people showing up weekly or even daily to put in a few hours to build up the organization globally...that's a trick I haven't figured out yet.
If you are an entrepreneur like me, I don’t need to tell you that there are characteristics that will help you out as a leader, for example, needing less sleep than the average person and being able to read people as if they are sitting across the table from you in a poker game. There are many resources for this kind of advice once you get your business moving. But what should you keep in mind when you are just building your business and its most important asset — its culture — from day one?
To help inspire you, I’ve collected four top insights for creating a winning culture from top business experts and added in my own experience with my company Vuclip and previous ventures.
1. Create a Meaningful Mission
Make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, has a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society – Larry Page, Google co-Founder I agree wholeheartedly.
The best way to achieve meaningful impact is to focus on a mission that is close to your heart. The best companies inspire people by giving them an opportunity to do work that they believe in and enjoy. For example, I could not imagine doing anything else other than building a business that is fostering innovation at the intersection of the media and mobile technology worlds. And in turn, the company has attracted like-minded creative, vibrant employees that inspire me on a daily basis. Find that cause that inspires you and is the spirit of your business.
2. Honor Merit Over Tenure & Ideas Over Hierarchy
“When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”— Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric.
Enlightened leadership teams ask employees to contribute ideas because they recognize managers and executives don’t have all the answers. I believe in encouraging debate and action on ideas. By way of example, at my company we have a standing weekly “Concept-Accept” forum where anyone in the company can have an audience of all our executives. Typically there are multiple ideas presented each week and there is healthy debate and discussion on these ideas. Following that discussion, a concept is either green lighted to move to validation and productization or sent back to the drawing board for additional work. Many of our successful product capabilities have been built from ideas originating in these meetings. This fosters innovation and allows anyone and everyone to voice their ideas freely and be heard.
3. Inspire Authenticity ”Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet — thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing — consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.” —Lance Secretan, leadership theorist and former CEO of a Fortune 100 company.
A business and its leaders need to inspire people to be their true selves. I’ve observed that there is often a dichotomy between how people present themselves at work and their personal lives. And this is not a good use of energy. Employees should be focused on the business, outsmarting the competition, managing time well and collaborating with others, not on an inward battle. If you build an environment where people can have fun and connect with their creative instincts, you not only are empowering them to do their best, but in turn they are inspiring everyone around them. Ultimately, this makes for an exceptional company culture.
4. Embrace Risk
“In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and chief executive of Facebook
The status quo is no place for an adventurous, exciting, inspiring start-up with its eye on the prize. Here’s a personal example. When we were just getting Vuclip off the ground, not many saw the value in starting a company addressing the needs of emerging markets, the fragmentation of the mobile space was daunting, mobile networks in places like India vary with regards to reliability, not to mention that YouTube was already dominating the video market. We had a lot going against us. But the management team was excited by this challenge. We developed unique technology that no one else could build and went after this opportunity with everything we had. Today, we are thrilled that this risk paid off and so are the 120 million users that use Vuclip per month. My point is certainly not to brag. We’ve had just as many detours as we’ve had direct hits and we continue to learn from both. I wanted to illustrate that resting comfortably is not interesting and will likely not inspire your employees or customers for very long, so try something new, fun and exciting! In summary, if you can please indulge me just one more quote, I wanted to share one from Jack Dorsey Co-Founder of Twitter. He said — actually he tweeted – “success is never accidental.” And I agree. I believe amazing businesses arise from exceptional work cultures. If your business is a house, I see culture as the foundation. If your house is well built on top of a solid foundation of a meaningful mission, creativity, authenticity and smart risk, then the maintenance of that home is seamless. And being inside of it day after day is a joy. And if you are competitive like I am, then you can be satisfied you have the best house on the block.
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Nickhil Jakatdar, a successful serial entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. His latest venture, Vuclip is the world’s largest independent mobile video company with over 120 million users globally, with over 20 million users from India. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
Startups need to be extra careful, even with the most minute things, because in this phase of the business, the process and the systems in place aren’t as optimized as they should be. Although there are a number of things that can go wrong in a startup business, we’ll talk about the 7 most common mistakes that new business owners make that are detrimental to a startup’s success.
1) Accepting Too Much Responsibility.
If you have tons of responsibilities and are doing too much manual work, then chances are that you probably aren’t running your business. You’re just doing manual work. You need to remember that more than anything else, your key role as a business owner is to delegate and capitalize on the strengths of your workers. Doing everything by yourself won’t just burn you out fast, it’ll also lower your business’s overall productivity.
2) Not Having An Online Presence.
If you think that having a brick and mortar store and advertising your business via traditional means is enough (TV, radios, etc.), then you’re in for a huge surprise. Considering how technology and the Internet age is on the rise, having an online presence can be the sole difference between success and failure. There are several website builder services on the web like Wix or IM Creator that allow you to make a professional looking website for free. It’s because of this that business owners and regular people are able to have their own online real estate. If your company doesn’t have an online presence, then you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities.
3) Not Collecting Feedback From Customers.
A good way to determine whether you’re making the right business decisions is to ask for your customers’ feedback. It’s a good reflection of how your business is viewed by your customers and can be used as an invaluable tool when it comes to upgrading/improving your products.
4) Being Unresponsive To Your Employee’s Needs.
If you have your employees’ backs, there’s no reason why they won’t have yours. Making sure that your employees’ needs are met is critical if you want to make sure that they give you 100% of their focus. The more they are bothered by a lot of things, the more mistakes they’re likely to make, which can end up costing your company.
5) Give Up Vacation.
Being burned out is an all too familiar problem for CEOs and business owners. And because they are burned out, they tend to make the wrong decisions and are easily frustrated and angered. When the people at the management level are burned out, they usually become a source of negative energy in the office, making the environment very hostile. It’s important to take a break, relax, and come back to work refreshed and energized than to wear yourself out but working nonstop.
6) Making Decisions Without Enough Data.
Data is what helps you make well informed decisions, whether in your business or your personal life. The more data you have, the higher your chances are of succeeding and attaining the goal that you set out when you made that business decision. Making an important decision without the appropriate use of data is pretty much like gambling. It can be likened to you doing a toss coin to determine whether it’s a yes or no for your business. This clearly isn’t the way to go. Because if it’s that easy, then everyone can venture into business since everyone can toss a coin.
7) Selling Your Product’s Features and Not The Benefits.
What makes your customers want your product isn’t the features of the product, it’s the benefit that they’ll get from having or using your product. It’s very important to emphasize this matter to your employees, as well as your sales team, if you want to increase your sales. An effective piece of advice that you can follow when selling is to paint a mental picture to your customer where they’re already experiencing the benefit of having your product.
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Murray Newlands, YourStory's US Correspondent and Deputy Editor at Search Engine Journal. Consultant. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
How many times did you run out of battery in your mobile device when it was most needed? Mario Aguilera, founder of Tespack found the solution to this issue during his years in the army and now his startup is about to scale.
Describe Tespack in under 50 words
Tespack is a technology company providing wearable solutions for green energy and mobile data, with its first line of products being innovative Smartpacks. We combine renewable energy with everyday items to improve and bring freedom to the lives of consumers and show that solar energy is sufficient, fun and easy.
Tell us the Tespack story. How and why was this project born?
Mario Aguilera, the founder and the brains behind Tespack Ltd., used to be the co-director at an electronic designing company called Electriel that specialized in energy regulators. After leaving Electriel, he designed the Tespack concept from scratch; the designs and practicality are all the result of his input and work. The name Tespack was chosen in honour of legendary inventor Nikola Tesla.
Growing up in the army in Bolivia and belonging to a special forces unit in South America, Mario understood the importance of having portable electricity when on deployment. Staying true to his values, Mario decided to use solar energy to reduce the user’s carbon footprint.
Using his military background, he designed a series of smartpacks that are practical, durable, stylish and appealing to a wide array of markets. Tespack entered the market in June of 2013 and was met with immense excitement.
Wearable solutions are getting crazy right now. How do you see the future of Tespack with Internet of Things?
Tespack differentiates itself from most wearable solutions, as it works for and with all other wearables as a mobile energy provider, aiming to become the premier mobile energy brand.
Could you share with us how you validated your product?
We opened the version of our website early June 2013 to a huge number of visitors. With a prototype done, we iterated the design based on demand and feedback, and launched the 7-design product line at Outdoor trade show in Germany, the largest of its kind in Europe. Sales, partnership queries, feedback and general interest at the event allowed us to move forward to mass production.
You are pretty active in entrepreneurs/startups events. I saw your team in action in last Pitch Helsinki 2013 and Mobile World Congress 2014. What one piece of advice would you like to give to those who pitch in these events?
Practice your pitch, know your numbers, study the companies and investors that are going to be present, and first of all, see if the event is going to be worth your time and money, or are there superior ways to use them for the benefit of your business.
You are about to scale Tespack. Which are your main challenges in this phase?
Scaling, especially a physical product line, in the pace we want to do it, demands more capital. We can deliver big quantities, continue to develop our product line, and currently we are looking to find the right investors for the field and the company.
Startup Ecosystem in Helsinki is doing pretty well and it is becoming into a hot spot in Europe Startup Scene. What kind of services are you receiving from them? What do you miss?
We are working with EnterpriseHelsinki’s NewCo Factory and particularly with Jaana Pylvänen, who have from the beginning provided us with premises, networking possibilities, and many other services and vital support. We’re also supported by certain government agencies, Tekes, Finnvera and AVEK.
If you could come back to the past, what would you do differently in your startup?
Choose carefully the people in your team. Under no circumstances should you bring in people that are not talented, who do not care, or whom you can’t trust 100%. A company of talented people together can create synergy that is essential in moving quickly, yet surely.
Your big mistake?
As an entrepreneur in a startup, big mistakes can prove to be crucially valuable, and I humbly await the big one, which will ultimately allow us to grow to unearthly dimensions.
Why should I buy your product? Convince me in under 100 words
Think of the times you have run out of battery in your mobile devices, and hoped to find an electricity outlet nearby. Now think of the moment you need to leave that spot, but your battery says 9%, and you will probably have to survive with it for the rest of the day. Now, imagine you’re a Tespack owner… You will never run out of mobile energy again. Based on Nest New York’s and our own market research we have proven our products to be the lightest, most efficient, extremely durable, stylish and affordable for either city or outdoor usage.
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