I’ve been thinking of these two concepts intersecting today about what we choose to do –
  • Be conscious of what is not getting done
  • “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” – John Wooden

Both of these touch on the economic principal of opportunity cost.

Especially in a startup with limited resources, opportunity cost is a big deal. On one hand, you can deliver an MVP or hack something together to test knowing full well that if it works, you’ll have to do it over.
The question comes to the question of value. What can you do now that perhaps is not scalable, but becomes a great problem to have later? What “best practices” can you stiff arm so you can focus driving max value areas? Should you focus on retention more than new sales now?
Realize the resources you have. Realize how you can deploy these resources in the most value-driving ways now. Be cognizant of what you’re consciously not delivering now. Realize what’s in store to (re-)address later.
Common excuses and expressions that fail to realize and address the real problem:
  • “I’m waiting for the right opportunity.” Except, upon digging further, they’re really looking for the “perfect” opportunity. Problem is that there’s rarely any perfect opportunity. We strive for improving and crave being better. That’s incongruent with seeking perfection because by definition, perfection cannot be improved. Instead, realize how imperfect makes perfect.
  • “I’m not flexible enough!” most people tell me when I recommend yoga as a supplemental exercise. That’s silly. You can develop that flexibility through yoga. Too often I hear excuses like this for things like starting a company and starting a blog because “I’m not a writer!” If you start writing a blog, you’re a blogger. You’re a writer. You have to start somewhere.
  • “I don’t have time.” No, no, you’re not making time. You always make time for the things and people who matter like that big interview coming up, or the pipe that burst in the wall… you don’t plan on these things beforehand, but the moment you have these opportunities, you make time.
  • “Yeah, he’s not going to be happy about that.” Instead of owning this unhappiness, the excuse has been made in fear of or in expression of someone else – typically a boss. That’s disappointing. Own it. Why are (or aren’t) you unhappy? Why does it have to be someone else’s unhappiness that motivates you?
  • “Yeah, I can do that. I can do that for you.” That’s pretty much the response I got from a vendor recently. I needed prints done, and I rejected a couple productions because they were terribly off. The person behind the counter didn’t see the problem as poor service and incorrect. Instead, saw this as me wanting it done in a “certain” way. That “certain” way is wanting it done right. It’s not a favor to me. It’s delivery of what I requested and paid for.
Losing a deal sucks. I won’t paint a prettier picture or use more eloquent words. It just sucks. You’ll lose deals as a sales guy. You may lose a lot of deals over the years. However, there are some opportunities that sting more than others.
This happened to me recently when a prospect decided not to move forward with a pilot. The prospect cited an infrastructure and a missing feature issue. The infrastructure was actually the nail in the coffin, and was an internal issue. Not much can be done. However, I was also thinking about the feature issue. Though this wasn’t the real concern, it made me think because we’re selling a new product and building a nascent category. In this way, we can get compared to existing solutions that are similar-ish, but actually very different.
When it comes to buying, prospects want comparisons. Comparisons help understand solutions and offerings. Think about how often people say, “it’s the Uber of X” or “it’s the Facebook for Y”. They can be completely different, but people love comparisons to understand. Problem is when it’s a very new product/ category with limited comparables.
Given we’re all about relationships and we help sales leaders (and their teams), the natural comparison is the CRM. Indeed, we solve many issues of CRM. But what we do is very different in capturing the holistic relationship between the COMPANY and its PROSPECTS and CUSTOMERS.
Because of comparisons, it can be that much more important (beneficial) to get customers to the “wow” moment. In our case, it’s seeing your own data.
In my lost opportunity’s case, the missing feature actually exists in the CRM (again, our comparison point) because of the poor usability and access to the right data. We solve those problems. So in this way, we don’t actually need that feature. However, we are being anchored to preconceived pain points of our comparison point.
In sales, then, it’s vital to showcase why specific features are not needed due to your unique differentiators. It’s important to get to the “wow” moment as soon as possible. It’s vital to realize that you are being compared to existing solutions that may not be specifically competitive. Share the feedback with marketing to help address these issues early on.
Beware of comparisons.
Last week, Snap Inc. (company behind the Snapchat app) filed their S-1 for an initial public offering (IPO). I haven’t done a Finance for Dummies post in a while, and Snapchat’s an interesting company to look at.
I remember a couple years ago when there was a rumor of a $4B acquisition offer from Google ($3B from Facebook). Was wondering if the company would try to be acquired, or go for an IPO. Looks like I have my answer.
Let’s take a look at what’s in the registration statement…
  • The company defines itself from the get-go as a camera company. They cite the camera as the greatest opportunity to improve how people live and communicate.
  • Snapchat started life as Picabook around mid-2011, and later renamed as Snapchat. Months later, they hit 1K daily active users (DAU). (Still before 2012.) They hit 1M DAUs before 2013. 100M DAUs 2015.
  • Snapchat’s first ad was for the film Ouijain 2014.
  • Snapchat averages 158M DAUs today generating over 2.5B Snaps a day. (Snap = short videos and images sent between users.) 60% of DAUs create Snaps daily with DAUs opening Snapchat 18 times per day.
  • On average, more than 60% of sponsored ads are watched with audio on.
  • Snap, with Millward Brown, a market research consultancy, worked together to find the efficacy of their platform. They found that 88% of people who saw an ad for men’s deodorant were males between 13-34 years of age – the advertiser’s target demographic.
  • Some advertisements are used to adjust brand perception, not just taking an action. In one case, Snap and Millward Brown recognized a 30% lift in subscription intent for a streaming music service advertiser and a 24% increase in ad recall.
  • Snap recorded revenues of $58.66M and $404.48M for years ending Dec. 31, 2015 and 2016, respectively, with net losses of $372.89M and $514.64, respectively.
  • Snap includes the following as major competitors: Apple, Facebook (including Instagram and WhatsApp), Google (including YouTube), Twitter, Kakao, LINE, Naver (including Snow), and Tencent.
  • In December 2014, Snap and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came to an agreement to provide a bi-annual audit of users’ privacy, for 20 years. Additionally, Snap has a 10-year assurance program to provide compliance reports of practices to prevent minors under the age of 13 from creating Snapchat accounts.
  • Quarterly DAUs have grown from 46M in Q1’14 to 71M Q4’14 to 107M Q4’15 and to 158M Q4’16. So though growth has continued, the rate of growth has slowed down considerably.
  • Snap’s average revenue per user (revenue divided by daily active users) has grown from $0.05 Q1’15 to $0.31 Q4’15 to $1.05 Q4’16.
  • Snap cites seasonality affects to its business including strong advertising revenue in the fourth quarter every year (no surprise) as well as less engagements among users in the summer months (perhaps also unsurprising).
  • Snap launched Spectacles, their camera-enabled sunglasses that creates Snaps. There has not been “material” revenue include in the S-1. 

One year ago, I announced I jumped full-time with a startup called SalesWise. It had been several years since I had worked for a company (April 2012, I left Chainalytics and the corporate/ consulting world). They say one year in consulting is like working seven years in “corporate” job. I’d say that’s more fitting to say from my one year at SalesWise, and hungry for more.
SalesWise is still an early-stage company. When I joined, I was the first business hire. It enabled me to get in on the ground, and start building out… well, everything – sales, marketing, customer success, and more.
A few lessons learned:
  • It’s been a lot harder. When I joined, I was thinking, “wow, the product is great! The two founders are experienced. The CEO has even started four with all four successful exits. This will be a rocket ship!” Not so much. Modern B2B sales is harder than most people think. Every new startup is a new company with, likely, a new idea. There are tools to make things easier, better equipped, but it’s still very, very hard to build a company.
  • I’m doing what I feared I would – keep wanting to do more. I joined the company because I felt I was starting to distrust others. I joined to help me trust working with others. But no matter what, I catch myself wanting to do more, so I don’t have to rely on others. I think to myself how can I learn to program some, just so I can help speed things up. It’s crazy. I’m already manhandling the other sides of the business. I want us to be successful, and I have this insatiable hunger to do more – to test, to deliver, to sell. I need to specialize on my side of the wall, and let others specialize where I don’t.
  • There are so many tools to help a company… and confuse. The number of SaaS tools available for companies is daunting. There are so many analytics programs, customer success tools, support apps, marketing platforms, etc. It’s a dizzying array of programs to help a company know everything that’s happening, and to keep the company buzzing. However, it can be too much. I have four screens around me – most split-screened so I can monitor everything. Is it too much? Maybe. The key is using each tool effectively for what it’s supposed to do.
  • A passionate, highly intelligent team members is more amazing. I didn’t meet everyone at the company before I joined. However, it’s been fascinating the personalities at the company. Each person is highly, highly intelligent – perhaps the smartest folks I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Most are very passionate about the direction of the company, and they truly own their areas of expertise. We have plenty of passionate debates during team lunches. They’re all healthy, and they give perspective to create the best approach.
  • Following a highly successful leader who is also very transparent and honest is… amazing.I can’t tell you how often I’ve been amazed at how my CEO has been open about our company’s direction and funding. He’s listened to everyone’s input, and though he may disagree at points, he hears us all out. He’s taken time to share his intentions while looking out for our own ownership stakes in the company, and he’s making decisions in the best interest of us, our customers, and our investors. There hasn’t been as much of explicit 1-on-1 mentoring with me, per se, but I’ve been absorbing everything just in everyday interactions. It’s been fascinating, refreshing, and hugely motivating.

When I started, we were launching a product for sales (reps and leaders). We had no customers. We pivoted a couple times last year before landing on our current direction. We’re now selling specifically for sales leadership. We have a dozen customers who are passionate about what we’re doing, and we’re seeing engagement numbers climb steadily. Our close rates are incredibly high at about 4 of 5 trials converting. We just raised $1.3M to build a repeatable customer acquisition process before cranking up the machine. We’ve hired several sales professionals, and are now in the market looking for a marketer. We’re building out the Business Relationship Intelligence category. It’s going to be an exciting next year.