Steve Jobs: Parenting Your Startup

“The rewarding thing isn’t merely to start a company or to take it public. It’s like when you’re a parent. Although the birth experience is a miracle, what’s truly rewarding is living with your child and helping him grow up. The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are” (Simon and Young 2005).

Calming Irate Customers

This guest post is being contributed by Chris Blanton.
Do you remember the last time you were frustrated while making a purchase? Maybe you were talking with an unintelligible company’s customer service rep on the telephone. Or maybe a retail clerk was arguing with you. Perhaps a returns department refused your refund because you had lost the receipt. Regardless why you were upset, you wanted two things: someone to solve the problem, and a sincere apology for being disrespected.
Whenever you deal with an irate customer you must ascertain and resolve the initial problem while impressing upon them that you are aware of and never intended the perceived slight.
What if you think they’re wrong? Don’t disagree with them. Never argue with a client. You may win the argument but you’ll lose the sale, and the client. Worse, you’ll miss out on all their future business and all the future business of everybody that client ever complains to who chooses not to buy from you. So do your utmost to ensure a client always feels respected. Every shopkeeper knows the well-worn saw: “the customer is always right.” There are times when you have to jettison a client, and in a future post I’ll show how to do that so it doesn’t hurt your reputation.
At the same time don’t dwell on fault. Don’t consider whether the client’s demands are unreasonable, just solve their problem without opening yourself up to liability. How do you do that? Simple: empathize and accept ownership of the problem and bypass fault entirely. If the customer brings up blame, gently guide the subject back to how you’re going to resolve their problem. Recall the best customer service you ever experienced. The agent probably said something like: “I can understand why you feel that way. I’m sorry you were disappointed. Let me make it right.”
That’s all you need to say. No fault finding, just demonstrate concern and empathy. How you choose to make it right is up to you. What if you can’t make it right? One way is to show concession by bartering value. For instance, you could use a version of the discounted upsell – discussed in the previous post – to offer a customer a concession that might solve the problem. You save the sale and, as a bonus add profit to the bottom line. “This widget works great with this gizmo. Why don’t I knock $50 off that normally $100 gizmo for the difficulty?” The client doesn’t need to know the gizmo cost you only $5; the client only sees the $50 concession you made to keep their business and will often be satisfied.

An Organization Structure Designed for Knowledge Workers

organization structure
CAN was started to provide great jobs to innovative and creative professionals.  Our organization structure is designed to help people focus on what they are good at and enjoy. Each aspect of our organization structure helps us attract people that a results driven (as opposed to ego driven), multi-discipline, and creative.  The following some of the ways that we accomplished this:
1. We separate management and technical roles to allow technicians/managers to focus becoming better technicians/manager instead of having to switch gears and learn new skills.  This creates an environment in which the next step for a good technician is not to become a manager, but instead to become a better technician, and the same from managers.  In addition to keeping people focused on their skills, it also helps to screen out people with egos driven by title instead of accomplishment or skill level.
2. We carefully curate layers, and only adding what we need.  We currently only have 3 levels of technicians and only 2 levels of management.  Limiting the number of layers encourages collaboration because people are able to talk across different departments and with people of different experiences and skill levels.  The number of levels and departments will need to expand as we grow, but our goal is to rigorously question if a new position, department or level of management needs to be created.
3. Each month everyone including managers are encouraged to produce at least one new or improved piece of intellectual property related to CAN and present it to the team.  This provides a way for people to be creative with a purpose, requires respect and trust of peers opinions, and provide a learning opportunity for each person on the team.
4. We encourage our employees to expose themselves to the best ideas available.  We encourage continual learning, exposure to multiple disciplines, and discussions about interesting topics.  Innovation and creativity at CAN come from the synthesis of ideas from multiple disciplines and sources.  For example, the first thing that we train analysts is design principals instead of more mathematics.  This helps them organize their work, and communicate their results for effectively.
CAN’s Three Way Test of Organization Structure:

Our models provide the foundation of our client’s business, and so we work hard to make sure that our models reflect reality so that they generate reasonable predictions.  One of the best ways that we do this is the CAN Three-way test.  The CAN Three-way test requires that each model we produce can be backed up with theory, data and math.
  1. The Theory: Without a sound theory, you have to rely on randomness, and that decreases the long-term usefulness of the model.  CAN relies on the expertise of our clients executives, managers and employees to build the theories around our models.
  2. The Data: CAN makes sure to fully understand your data, because data is the raw materials used to build predictive models.  CAN will examine patterns in your data to determine which equations to use to model your data, and also determine the quality of your data.  CAN is able work with imperfect data, we just make sure that we understand the flaws and limitations of your data, such as potential bias etc.
  3. The Math: CAN’s analysts go through hundreds of different models to select the right one that fits the data as well as the theory.  This doesn’t mean that we always select the equation that has the best line fit, but instead the equation that fits both the data and the theory.

How to Succeed at Cold Calling

Most people think that cold calling is a waste of time, but you can learn how to succeed at cold calling. Instead of hoping that someone purchases or provides you with a referral, cold calling allows you to take control of your sales process, expand your network, and close more deals. Click here to learn how we can help you select the right prospects.
Cold calling allows you to focus your sales efforts on your ideal customers that are ready to purchase, and you are able to control their entire customer experience. Referrals are great, but they often provide you with less than ideal clients who already have preconceived notions about what your company can do for them.
The first key to successful cold calling to research your leads before you make first contact.  You want to look for indicators of need, willingness and resources.  Using this information you want to outline your contact strategy, sales pitch and closing strategy.  Your goal should to be to build relationships, and this means that you won’t be able to work a list of hundreds of names.  Instead, I recommend cold calling between 10 and 25 people a month.  This will give you time to research them, quality them and make several attempts to contact to request a meeting.
The second key to a successful cold call is making first contact. No matter how targeted the list or how much you know about a person, picking up the phone to someone you don’t know is nerve racking for even the most polished salesperson.  You have to just pick up the phone and confidently take the plunge.
On the first contact your only goal is simply to get a face-to-face meeting. This can be in person or virtually such as over Skype. The most important thing is that you end the call with a clear next step. At the end of the first contact you should either have a meeting rescheduled, a request for a follow-up call or take the lead out of your sales pipe.
Getting a face-to-face meeting before you try to sell the lead is important because a large amount of human communication is visual. This means that your sales pitch will be most effective face-to-face, and you don’t want to waste your sales pitch over the phone talking to a complete stranger. Also, most sales people are very comfortable talking to new acquaintances in person instead of over the phone, so in person your sales presentation will come across much more confidently.
Confidence is essential because people buy confidence, so your voice can’t quiver, break or shake. You need to appear confident. To help you convey confidence, you need to be very well prepared with what you are going to say. Many of the best sales people have a large repertoire of stories that they use everyday with almost everyone they meet. Your preparation should focus on developing your main points and using them to respond to questions. Focusing on your main points instead of writing out a word-by-word script will help your presentation flow smoothly.  I would also recommend role-playing with a peer by having them ask you questions.

At CAN, we use predictive mathematics to find people that have the need, willingness and resources to make B2B purchases over $20k. While CAN provides the leads as well as all the research needed to develop an effective sales strategy, actually making the first contact is left up to the individual sales person. If you are not used to making cold colds, making first contact can be challenging. One of our clients developed an interesting solution. They developed Most Wanted posters of their leads, and sent them to business connections and friends. On the posters they included the persons name, photo, company and most importantly an explanation of why they believed the person would appreciate an introduction.

12 Best Practices for Salespeople

We use mathematics to help people sell smart. The following are 12 of the best practices for salespeople our team sell has learned from working with our clients.

1. Invest in Prospecting

The foundation of being an effective sales person is to only sell to people that have the need, willingness, and resources to purchase what you are selling. This means that you will spend the majority of your time scanning the environment for the right people, and relatively little time selling to them. Learn how we can help you find the right prospects.

2. Coach don’t Sell

Once you have identified the right prospect, your role switches from prospecting to coaching them through the decision. People are often reluctant to make decisions, but if they have the need, willingness, and resources for your solution it is your responsibility to coach them through the buying process. However, if they don’t have the need for your solution, help them find the solution that is right for them, don’t push your solution just to get a commission.

3. Sell don’t procrastinate

People are talking to you because they want to purchase what you have to sell. Do not delay the sale by continuing to offer facts about your product, if someone wants to purchase you need to close as quickly as possible. In this situation, you don’t need to hard sell, you have to make purchasing enjoyable — the people sitting across from you want to buy something.

4. Rehearse, Present, Adjust

Your sales presentation is a very complex performance, and you need to know it well enough to quickly adjust depending on who you are presenting to. The best salespeople treat their sales presentation similar to a theatrical performance. They write down their best lines and stories, they remember how people react to each line and story, and then they practice over and over. They practice until they are able to present and spend their energy reading and listening to their audience.

5. Get the Meeting

The key to effective cold calling is to get the meeting.  Do not try to sell someone over the phone, just get them to commit to a face-to-face meeting either in person or over video. Once you are face-to-face it will no longer be a cold call!

6. Read and React

Read and match your clients faces and body language. This helps set the tone of the meeting and build confidence. If your client is really analytical, you don’t want to sell with too much emotion. And know when to end the call — if they look bored, uninterested or turned off — change your message or end your presentation.

7. Confidence and Enthusiasm

First if you aren’t confident and enthused by what you are selling then you might want to think about why you are selling that product. People will match your level of confidence and enthusiasm one level below you. In order for people to be confident and excited about your product, you need to be more confident and excited about your product.

8. Know what you are selling

Knowing what you are selling helps clients trust you as the expert, helps you make promises you can keep, and helps speed up the sales process. Truly great salespeople are masters of the sales process and what they are selling.

9. Follow a System

You need to develop a sales system. There are a variety of different systems available such as, Sandler Training, but the key is to have a system. By developing and using a system you will be able to rely on your system, instead of your emotions, charisma, mojo, or social connections. You reap what you sow: The relationships that you build today will pay off in several months or years.

10. Always Carry Business Cards

Always carry your business card, because you never know when or where you will meet someone. When you meet someone for the first time, your business card allows you to immediately establish your brand, and your ability to build a relationship with that person. Once you have given someone your card, always ask for theirs in return.  It shows genuine interest and it puts you —the most likely to follow-up — in charge of following up.

11. Don’t Assume a Sales Lag

Most salespeople talk about their “sales lag” as something they have no control over. However, great sales people do not assume a sales lag. Instead they see it as a result of not having the right mix of marketing, pricing, sales-process, and leads; and they are continually adjusting this mix to reduce their sales lag.

12. Silence is the Best Close

The best salespeople know that being silent after asking for a decision is the best close, and they aren’t afraid of waiting for the client to make a decision. It can be uncomfortable for the salesperson, but it provides the client time to think through the decision.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help solve your business problems.

The Right Approach to Good First Impressions

While you need to be genuine, it is always the best sales strategy to know how to approach someone for the first time. This will help you quickly establish trust, and make a good first impression, with a new potential client. The following are some of the approaches that we recommend to our clients depending on the potential clients personality type, education and work experience. The basic principal is to pick a sales approach that allows the person to see a little bit of himself or herself in you. If you can successfully do this, without making it obvious, the people that you talk to will be more trusting and willing to connect with you quicker.

The Ego

This person wants to feel important, and they will most likely respond to you and possibly purchase your product to satisfy an egotistical need.

The Expert

The person considers themselves to be an expert in their field, and will expect you to have a minimum knowledge of their field, or to be an expert if you are approaching them about something in their field.

The Good Samaritan

These people are very open to being contacted, but they don’t want to be sold. They want to help out and listen to someone.

The Skeptic

With skeptical people you want to lead with facts and figures. They won’t agree to a meeting with you unless you have case studies, testimonials, and/or an impressive client list.

The Explorer

These people are very open to being contacted, because they love learning about new things. When you approach them about an opportunity, it has to be unique and also be exciting.

Purchase Values Not Features

I have learned to make my business purchases based on values rather than features or price.  Sometimes because of this philosophy I can’t find a vendor with a system that has everything I need or sometimes I have to wait until I can afford the right solution, however in the long run I am rarely disappointed.  Purchasing based on values provides a constant in a world of change, because I know how vendors will continue to develop their solutions so that future versions will be able to keep up with my changing business needs.
Your Business Systems are your Standard Operating Procedures. When you purchase a system, you don’t want to purchase a system based on features, but on the way the company does business. Since the system will provide your employees with standard operating procedures you want to purchase your system based on the manifesto of the company instead of the features of the product. If you purchase by manifesto instead of features, the system will reflect your Standard Operating Procedures and the updates to the system won’t be surprising. You might not get everything you want out of the system, but in the long run the system will be a better fit for your organization.
When developing CAN’s website and marketing materials, we made sure to include our manifesto on the front of our website.  This is because we are not finished building, and we want our customers to know where our products are headed.
This is because I know how they will choose to build their company to meet my needs.  The world is constantly changing and if I don’t react to new technology and purchase based on a companies values/manifesto instead of features, I will be disappointed.  The capabilities of technology and the needs of my business are constantly expanding.  If I purchase a system based on its features, it will quickly become obsolete because the system no longer parallels the way that I have chosen to run my company.  However, if I purchase a system based on values or manifesto, it will change when my company does.
This is especially true when purchasing B2B technology solutions.  Your business and technology are in constant change, so I would recommend purchasing a business system that is capable of changing along with your business. This will help you minimize the risk and cost of building and maintaining your own systems. Also, if you end up not likely a system that you purchased you can always purchase another solution.

Predictive Analytics is About Being Less Wrong

Last week Grant and Tadd (co-owners at CAN) presented their insight on the concept of being “Less Wrong” on day two of the Infotec Conference and left the audience intrigued with the possibilities of the use of predictive analytics in their line of work. CAN has used the “Less Wrong” approach in predictive analytics to predict when roofs will fail, track down graffiti artists, date, predict the S&P 500, and make software go viral.
The basic idea of Less Wrong is that in business, and almost anything in life, you can never be perfectly right, but you can be less wrong and by striving to continually become less wrong you get closer and closer to being right.  By using predictive analytics you can analyze data from multiple sources to capture information and determine what’s happening, what will happen, and what is the right thing to do.
A good example of Less Wrong is the CAN Roof Failure model.  CAN worked with the facilities department of a Fortune 500 company to help improve the scheduling and budgeting process of their facility maintenance division.  Each facility manager was responsible for 500+ server huts and they had no way to predict when the roof on a hut was going to fail. However a single leak could quickly destroy the sensitive electronics below leading to blackouts for their customers.  CAN was able to use information about what the roofing material, weather patterns, age of the roof, previous maintenance, location, and other variables to make a reasonable assumption on when each roof was likely to fail.  While it was impossible to know exactly when a roof would fail, we were able to provide a reasonable estimate as to when failure might occur thus allowing for maintenance schedules and budgets to be prioritized.

Innovation, Humility and Genius

In American culture we consider creative and innovation people to be geniuses.  This places a lot of pressure on creatives and innovators to continually produce amazing work.  We treat creatives as if they posses the internal power to create.  However, they don’t have the power to control the creative process.  They have simply learned to make themselves available to inspiration.
Elizabeth Gilbert in a TED Talk made an interesting point about genius.  She said that we have it all wrong.  She said that people aren’t geniuses they are simply influenced by the genius.  She stated that if we think about genius and inspiration in this way we will have a more accurate picture of the creative process.
I agree with her.  I have often stated that you can’t force creativity or inspiration and that people need to set aside time to be inspired.  You can’t force inspiration, and you can’t plan it.  You can just make yourself available to it.  That is one reason I think entrepreneurs should limit the amount of venture capital, debt and non-productive assets they accumulate.  Debt, Venture Capital and non-productive assets require time and energy to manage, and this time could be used searching for inspiration.  These things also place pressure on the entrepreneur, and limits the freedom they have to create and innovate.
P.S. We are proud to officially launch the New Contemporary Analysis (CAN).  We are launching a suite of predictive analytical systems that are designed to be simple, easy to implement, and applicable to almost any type of business.

Featured Posts – Click the Brain
CAN Jewels