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And Sales Means What? Today

I never fail to be astonished by some of the hires that start-ups and entrepreneurial firms make and am shocked that they actually succeed. More and more, in examining and researching companies, I see a lot of people with the title VP of Business Development or Sales who are nothing of the sort. Loads of "content pushers" out there, highly educated and/or experienced people with not a prospecting stint to their name, and "sales" people who have no real sales experience.

I can somewhat understand experienced or highly educated people selling certain solutions, particularly if it IS a more consultative sale. But I wonder really how someone without inherent sales ability can actually be successful selling? And, what I refer to is more the extreme.

Traditional methods of sales and marketing even are definitely going by the wayside or - evolving. Prospecting and cold calls in terms of pure telemarketing don't work, but making phone calls using a higher level intelligence and solution type positioning DOES work. Press releases and other PR tactice don't work, but "managed content" through social media and other channels DOES. And so on.

Regardless, I still think sales and marketing - as a discipline - is still a discipline and is NOT something that just ANYONE can do - or do well for that matter. And multiple channels, new and old school, are still viable for developing business and growing markets.

Unfortunately also, everyone seems to be of the mindset of "NOW" - using the fastest means for achieving revenue (i.e. partner, channels, etc) without spending time really getting to KNOW the customer, market, and finding what really works for scaleable traction. Get rich quick, sell out fast, pad the pockets - but not sell, market, build, and sustain a solution.

Permalink 01/04/14 -- 04:57:01 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

The World's Worst "Entrepreneur": A Cautionary Tale

Once upon a time, there was a technical expert who was very proficient at developing applications and executing projects. He worked for many years for a world class Fortune 500 company where just the mention of the name would open a door.

One day, he happened upon a "very" successful company that developed applications and became obsessively fixated on this company. Determined that he could do a better job he decided to replicate the essential solution - he even named the solution pretty closely to that of the target of his affection and envy. He also banded together with a partner, a schoolmate, who called himself VP of Business Development. Both achieved MBA's at a fairly good school, both has limited to no sales experience. They were positive that due to the nature of the market, they would achieve a million dollar plus pipeline in six months.

Three months after initially starting out, the company had version 1 of two products and invested heavily in another "hardware" oriented solution. They also spent a load of money on a tradeshow, hired a full time sales rep, and hired a telemarketer to get meetings. At this time, they had no pipeline and secured only one very small pilot customer. The co-founders were also banging on every door trying to get investment to continue development - a very large investment. The VC's basically kicked them out saying come back when you have a single solution that actually has some revenue behind it.

Six months into the effort, the company ran completely out of money. Despite everyone telling the owners repeatedly that: 1) it was premature to ask for so much funding when there was no pipeline, 2) they needed larger scale sales and better marketing support, 3) they had no history whatsoever in the industry they were developing an selling to and they needed to learn more and "slow their roll", and 4) it would take at least a year to get any real traction. The salesguy and telemarketer are on the market looking for work.

Lessons Again:
1. Set and understand realistic expectations for achieving technical, financial, and growth goals.
2. NEVER "word for word" copy a competitor and do the "me too" thing unless you have some type of competitive advantage.
3. LEARN the market and industry. The company that these BOZOS were targeting had a management team with over 15 years ground floor experience in the industry.
4. Technology alone will not and will NEVER get you very far.
5. VC's and investors DO NOT care about you unless you have PROVEN traction and pipeline.
6. Getting the traction via market sustainable development activity needs to happen even before throwing experienced SALES at the situation. Unless you have messaging, targets, process, leads for guys to follow up on - you just pump money into NOTHING.
7. Follow on to that: Throwing money on brochures, slick websites, and attending a tradeshow is meaningless without the positioning and market comprehension.
8. If you can have a million dollar business in six months - then you don't need sales or marketing, the product will sell itself.
9. Spending on development for multiple products at one time without strategically assessing growth and upsell or any research is nothing short of foolish and stupid.

The sad thing in this case is that the company WAS starting to get traction and in a year probably would have established a decent toehold in the market. Another lesson which also demonstrates the incompetence of these people is: listen to everyone involved and heed advice or else end up with nothing left in your 401K and hardware parts scattered around your garage.

Permalink 01/04/14 -- 04:43:35 pm, Categories: Announcements [A]

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