Stephen Colbert does.
Here I am doing it again.
I met with Mike Eagan (who works with Dave) the other day to talk about something very cool which will be announced shortly. We got on the topic of what made bubble 1.0 burst. His opinion is that it happened because people built businesses but had no idea how to sell. I think the problem was more fundamental. They built businesses that didn't have anything that was saleable. But, of course that's harder to prove. I resisted his logic a bit initially. But, as it has sunk in a bit, I am sold on the fact that it is the one big overarching reason. Even more disconcerting is that many of the people that built those businesses didn't even think they needed to have a salesperson.
Every business has to sell something. Of course, great web software design and a lot of sneezers might sell it for you. I am sure 37Signals doesn't do cold calling. But, that is the exception. Not the rule. And if all you 37Signal fan club web designers think that you can follow their path, you are fooling yourself. For every business (or product) like Basecamp that sells it self, there are (I bet) 10,000 businesses that have salespeople making sales.
Google has salespeople. Yahoo has lots of salespeople. Citysearch. Ticketmaster. Microsoft has lots of distributors and salespeople. These companies probably didn't start with a saleperson in the core team. But, they have plenty now.
So, if you want better odds of success. You need to learn how to sell or you need to hire someone that does. In the latter case, you better know how to hire a good salesperson and a big part of that is knowing how to do it yourself.
And contrary to popular belief, salespeople aren't born. My son will pop out scalping event tickets. But, that is the exception.
Also contrary to most salespeople's belief, sales isn't something you figure out yourself.
Salespeople are taught.
Dave has close to 1 million years of experience accrued selling. He has analyzed the sales forces of 7500 companies. (7500 is a true number. I made up the 1 million.) That's more companies than you, me and all of your cousins have even talked to. And he's dispensing all this knowledge for free on his blog.
Aah. The title of this post inspired by Dave's last post.
Renkoo finally launches. I've heard from a lot of smart people that this is a potential Evite killer. Or an "Evite done right". Up til now, I didn't know what that meant. It's more apparent now. Renkoo, like Skobee is already doing, is designed to let friends make decisions about what and when to do stuff.
Thanks to Dan Marques for the heads up. Dan thought this might be a WhizSpark competitor. But, I don't see that as the case. There'll always be events that are planned and marketed by professionals with the intention of driving value to a business (sponsors) and generating direct revenue at the event (admission). That's where we are playing. Actually, we aren't playing anymore. We're doing. I am glad to let Skobee and Renkoo help regular people plan bbq's and movie nights with friends. I could see enabling this kind of Comet interactivity* for a planned event among the people attending. But, that doesn't seem to be what Renkoo or Skobee is designed to do.
*As Arrington explains it:
Renkoo is an early “Comet” application (allowing real-time two way interactivity in a browser - Google Talk and Meebo are based on underlying Comet technologies). That means the event page updates in real time as your friends give their input. The exerience is similar to instant messaging. Users who aren’t logged in see the comment stream once they are.
As many of you know I blog for ROOT. Two big milestones were achieved today.
1. They relaunched a much more user friendly site that communicates their value soooo much better. It's sooooo much clearer what the business does. Although ROOT's been described as one of them there web 2.0 businesses, ROOT isn't a feature that some wanna be enterpreneur whipped up because it'd be cool to have this for their friends. It's a real business with HUGE potential. That's obvious now with the new site design and content. Further, it's very obvious how individuals are going to be a big part of this revolution of the marketing process. ROOT is empowering individuals to have a stake at this commerce thing; a seat at the table; be on equal footing with marketers. When ROOT changes the way businesses market things, we won't be numb from mass marketed consumer-pitches. It's about doing commerce WITH us. Not being sold at.
2. The internal staff wrote an excellent blog post about the changes without me.
I attended the Corridor Nine Chamber of Commerce's Speed Networking Breakfast this morning. The networking was great. The format was very cool. Each person rotated around to 3 different tables. At each table, there was a faciliator and about 8 people. At each table, everyone was able to speak for a minute about their business. I collected a lot of business cards and met a lot of great new contacts.
Among many other people that I've met over the last 2-3 years, Rick Roberge was there in full introduction-making mode. Here's part of his recap:
Today, I was lucky enough to be at Corridor Nine Speed Networking event held at the Doubletree in Westboro. The entire experience was awesome. Breakfast was great. Service - excellent. Facilty – perfect. There were 250 business people in the room with one purpose. Taking care of business. And that’s what Corridor Nine is all about. There were 25 tables. Everybody in attendance got to tell there story to about 30 others and exchanged business cards with each of them. There was ample time before and after to start early or stay later to elaborate further. This was an absolutely FANTASTIC event and I’m sure that a lot of people are taking care of business right now instead of blogging about it. But I had to say, “Thank you.” to Barbara, Karen and Eileen for letting us play, but especially to Chris Tzellas who is constantly reaching for and pushing people to new levels of excellence. One more person, Jonas Goldenberg was an excellent MC. Kept the facilitators informed and in line. Kept the room moving and lively. Great job, Jonas.
I told Rick to write up a review and I'd send him some traffic. Rick complements all the people responsible for making the event a success. So, I might as well quote him, rather than go through writing it myself. Thanks Rick!
Lots of news and articles on myspace advertising painting a gloomy picture. I couldn't have said it better than Jay Baldwin:
Brands are correct. Users are not on MySpace with the intent to purchase. However, I would argue that brands should realize that selling to these people are the best prospects for marketing efforts. First reason, you're building a direct relationship with individuals. This helps with long-term brand recognition and repeat customers. Second, with respect to the low CPM, MySpace users engage in the most powerful marketing: Peer-to-Peer. This demo. is an elusive, finicky, sometimes hard to reach group. If you have even a tiny percent of the 70+ million users telling their friends about your product or service that is invaluable.
If a marketer wants to roll up their sleeves and engage their prospects and customers, myspace is an amazing vehicle to see word of mouth. But, if they are looking for an easy way to advertise to them via myspace through banner ads, it's not much different than wasting money on traditional advertising: saturate the audience and hope for a low percentage response rate.
First. A little background. I received a call from someone I met through this blog. He's a local guy. He found my blog one day quite a few months back. We talked about networking events in our first conversation. A few months later we talked about another topic. A few months later (today) he calls me up again.
In the last two calls we talked about how WhizSpark could fit into a specific market. I blogged about how we were looking at different markets not too long ago which sparked our last two conversations. Since things are now picking up on the sales front, we've started to figure out what works. That's not to say, of course, that other things won't work. But, in any startup's course of finding a place in the world, there's time to focus and execute. And there's time to explore business models and markets. Now, is the time to focus and execute. And suffice to say that the market he is interested in - is not any of the ones that we've tried pursuing.
That's my frame of mind.
So, we were about an hour into our two hour long conversation today. This isn't the first time we've talked for a long time. After an hour in, he asks for demo sites to be set up and for more material. I know why he wants this. It is so that he can go and sell this idea to potential clients.
Keep in mind that my frame of mind is this lately: I help people market their events. Specifically, my focus is on networking events and seminars for businesses as lead generation tools. If someone does seminars or wants to, I can help. These sales have been about a 2 week sales cycle once I get to the decision maker.
So, my sales hat says: get to the decision maker.
After a little instruction from Dave Kurlan, I've learned that demos, long proposals and documents don't make sales. They actually impede them. When I get in front of someone, I find out the problem. I see if I have a match in my toolbox to solve that problem. I communicate how I can solve it. I confirm that they think my solution solves that problem. I close. I've learned from Rick that contracts are for formalities: Legal stuff and to simply confirm we are on the same page.
So, I suggest that I should meet with him and the decision maker. And he pushes back gently. I push harder. I say something stupid: "We can talk until we are blue in the face. But, noone can sell my services as well as anyone else."
He then gets perturbed.
So, I apologize for my choice of words. I ask him why he's perturbed. And he tells me. He elaborates on how the money might flow. And who the players are. And how the relationships would work.
I can't really explain the whole thing and keep this story confidential. Nor is it that important. I got what I wanted out of the conversation: I wanted to know whether this guy was a player or if he was jerking my chain. And I wanted to know who the decision maker was.
It turns out that he is the decision maker. It turns out he's already built a few businesses and flipped them. It turns out that this could be a big deal for us.
So, what was my predisposition? I assumed that this guy wasn't a player and that he was a big dreamer with a bunch of ideas. I know that this is a BIG generalization. But, often I've found that people that come to me with ideas as a result of reading my blog are usually looking for affirmation of the idea. Then, they move onto another idea in a few months before ever really make anything a commercial success. And if that is the case, then I just wasted two hours of my time today when I could've talked to 3 or 4 prospects about seminars.
We'll see whether this guy executes on this one. But, my predisposition did me some disservice. It caused me to be a bit short. When I should have asked questions like: How will the money flow? Have you ever done anything like this before? Are you financing this?, etc... I said something like "We can talk til we are blue in the face."
It worked out in the long run. I pissed him off. I apologized. I told him about my bias and predisposition. He explained how the deal could work and his long term vision. He understands what I can and can't do using WhizSpark and how we can test out some of his ideas for this market with little investment and with a quick turn-around. It could turn into something HUGE. It might go nowhere.
I guess the point is: It's hard to know when to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Whether someone can really pull something off. It's hard to know what opportunities should be ignored and which should be embraced. I've learned most recently to let cash flow rule. But, maybe big opportunities won't come from the markets already proven profitable?
In addition to the changes I blogged about yesterday, we also made a change to the home page. It used to say, "Build a website for your next event". This was a pretty silly value proposition as very few people see the value in building a website for their event. So, we've changed it to, "Increase attendance at your next event." Most people understand that. And many people want that.
Of course, this overlooks the fact that we can help people save time organizing their event with our online tools. But, more often than not, we have more luck going with "increasing attendance" over "save time". Increasing attendance adds to the bottom line of the event. And that's an easier sell.
Evite is owned by InteractiveCorp. It was lumped into the citysearch and ticketmaster business unit previously. They've divided up IAC a bit more recently. Evite is no longer in the same business unit as their event ticketing activities:
The good news is that we have a great team in place, including the other CEOs, Scott Garell, who runs the IAC Consumer Applications group (includes iWon, Excite, Smiley Central, MyWay and now Evite)
Evite is classified as part of Consumer internet services. Although it has always been a consumer internet service, I've always wondered how they would leverage it for larger ticketweb and ticketmaster events. Other than a little continued cross linking between properties, I assume we won't see anything new, which is fine with me. Keep selling those banner ads, evite.