Entrepreneurs Discuss How to Sell the Vision and Close
& Spice & Everything Nice. Not.
are the attributes of the best sales people you've had?”
asked one audience member at this morning’s Coffee &
was the unanimous answer, offered only half jokingly.
“Someone who is motivated by personal wealth,” was
how John Ticer put it more positively. What else do successful tech CEOs look for in a salesperson?
dedicated champion for the success of their customers’
about examining the honest characteristics of their
takers, from the willingness to work on commission to the
drive to find better ways and new tactics
and confident, but likable
desire to learn from the customer rather than to act like
track record of earnings
said, Kay summed it up this way: “People like to do business
with people they like.”
MD -- September 20, 2001) Not
long ago, BioNetrix,
a growing security technology company, reorganized
into just two divisions: Sales and Sales Support.
The engineers at the company weren’t too happy about it at
first, but the move reflected an important belief of the executive
team: that to be successful in business today, everybody has to be
totally focused on customers and their needs, all of the time.
Today, that message i10.0pt;mso-fareast-font-family:"MS Mincho"">s
“fully embedded in the company culture,” said CEO John Ticer.
Ticer spoke this morning at Morino Institute
Netpreneur’s Coffee & DoughNets meeting entitled “Driving
the Top Line: Selling the Vision and Closing the Deals.”
He was joined by two other high-tech CEOs--Elliott Frutkin of
Richard Kay of OTG
Software--as well as Gina Dubbe, Managing Partner of venture
capital firm Walker
purpose was to share with the audience of entrepreneurs some of the
lessons they’ve learned.
The most important lesson, as all of the panelists
agreed, was that a successful entrepreneur has to be selling all of
the time. Obviously,
you have to sell to customers in order to get revenue, but an
entrepreneurial executive must also be selling the company vision to
nearly everyone he or she meets-- to possible investors, to
partners, to potential employees, and more.
Even executives at a publicly traded company should always be
selling, as Kay pointed out in describing a secondary stock offering
from OTG, “W e took off to the road
show, which is really all about selling and about closing investors.
These investors don't know what you really have; they just
look at you from across the table like a prospect and say ‘I
believe you’ or ‘I don't believe you.’”
According to panelists, the
secret of sales is largely a matter of putting yourself into your
customer’s shoes, understanding their needs, and delivering upon
what you promise. As
Dubbe put it, “There is always some mystique about sales.
Actually, you're investing in sound principles of
probability, the number of people in the pipeline, the bottom line
and sound judgment. It's
not life on the golf course or buying somebody two drinks over
dinner; it's what your product or service is going to do to further
the customer's mission.”
And sales is all about
relationships, which is why Frutkin stressed the importance of
building recurring revenues into all of Doceus’s service
contracts. From a
practical and financial perspective, ongoing maintenance agreements
and other recurring revenue deals mean both income and
predictability, but it’s even more than that -- recurring revenue
means that your customer is satisfied.
Once you’re beyond the stage of
two partners in the garage, building a strong, effective sales
organization becomes essential.
For bootstrappers like Kay, who self-financed OTG in its
early days, revenue generated through sales may be the only thing
keeping you in business. Even
if you plan on going after VC money, investors today want to see
some kind of sensible revenue generation plan (if not actual
revenues) before they’ll make a deal.
As Ticer noted, investors today ask, “What have you
done?” not “What are you going to do?”
The panelists provided advice on
a variety of particular sales issues.
Frutkin, for example, discussed how he inculcates a sales and
customer service attitude in Doceus’s non-sales employees, and
Ticer discussed how BioNetrix created a compensation plan that
rewards employees based on overall corporate revenues rather than
individual performance (salespeople still get commissions, too).
Kay explained how OTG has built a powerful network of
distributors, OEMs, VARs and other channels to sell its products,
rather than a large, expensive inhouse sales force. Other topics included departmental versus enterprise sales
strategies, commission structures, and knowing when to say
“When!” on a deal that’s going south.
One piece of advice that the
panelists stressed is the importance of keeping company executives,
especially the CEO, involved in the sales process at the right time
and place. BioNetrix
believes this so strongly that all executives have accounts they
manage so that they stay intimately involved in the market and
One of the now discredited precept s
of the earlier days of dot-com mania was that eCommerce would
disintermediate sales people in many industries.
Not so, of course. In
fact, as Dubbe sees it, “Nothing, no matter what the press says,
will replace nose-to-nose, belly-to-belly, toe-to-toe selling.
We still need people out there in the trenches with our
prospects because, in the end, what sells is individuals talking to
other individuals about meeting their goals.
When you go out to find funding or when you go out to build
your business, never lose sight of the fact that sales is the
underpinning of your success.”
2001, Morino Institute. All rights reserved.