Tag Archives: start-up

Can I just pretend I really, really care about you and send you an e-card for Christmas?

This weekend, the missus and I wrapped up our shopping for family for the holidays.  I have to say: “We were more thoughtful this year than any time previously…”

(at least I thought so)

We really thought through the whole process and I am pumped by the stack of “stuff” sitting in our kitchen that needs to be wrapped.

It’s about the relationship, right?

There are people you care about — people around whom you really want to build a history.  It kind of parallels your deal making process.

Makes sense, right?  You want to do business with people that you can stand being around.  People you like.

That’s about building a relationship.  Not seasonal email torpedoing.  But a consistent communication thread.

My inbox got me thinking……….

How special would you feel if you were sent the following e-card from someone that you spent money with this year?

I love the “We hope this communication is welcomed…”  Makes me feel like you really remember who I am.  And are you really giving me the option to unsubscribe from next year’s seasonal greetings?

You tell me.  Maybe I am being picky.

Now how about this one…  Are you feeling the love?

I now have to click on a link to go a site to see all the Christmas warmth you can’t wait to share with me… As if that isn’t enough to do, there is the obligatory signature language informing me that I could be sued for mishandling the email you are sending me.  WOW…. way too much baggage for me to do anything with.  I just have to archive it…

These both ended up in my inbox (along with a tiresome few others…) and I just didn’t have the energy to keep clicking through to link after link so I could get in the Christmas spirit.  It kind of made it all feel like a “chore”…

Like maybe our relationship wasn’t so important after all…

Know what I mean?

It gets you thinking.  What’s the logic behind this?

Who emerged from their marketing “bat-cave” with the fantabulous idea that impersonal seasonalized hyperlink creation was something that made customers feel like “you care”?

Was there a memo in the late ’90s that I missed?

Two words: CALL ME…

I know I’m a little cranky when it comes to this stuff, but doesn’t it seem a little dis-ingenuous?  Even if you give the sender the “benefit of the doubt”, you can’t overlook the general lack of creativity.  The fact remains that in the haste to have another “client touch”, the marketer forgot to put himself in the recipient position.

Here’s reality: No one really reads this stuff.

(not even your grandma who has unlimited Facebooktime)

Maybe the first one you get (right after Thanksgiving), but right around the second week in December you are left with no other choice but massive select-and-archive.  You even feel a little bad about it, but you justify if by telling yourself that if you have time, you’ll dig them out later at home to look through.

And you never do…  It’s just not a high priority.

Without a relationship, you just avoid all the rest of  the noise coming at you.

And certainly this mirrors a hunch I have had for some time now as I talk with C-level executives and ask about their behavior to inbound messaging.  I decided to test my theory.  About a week ago, I put a poll up on LinkedIn asking the following question:

“If relationships really do matter in sales, why don’t we build better ones throughout our selling process?”

Here are the overall results:

  • 40% stated that they didn’t have enough access to the right people to build a great relationship…
  • 10% noted that they tried to build good relationships but didn’t know how to keep it up
  • 20% thought that it wasn’t really a good use of their time…  AND
  • 30% admitted they weren’t really sure how to build great relationships…

When you study this further, you see that ALL of the CEO’s who responded to this question answered the same — that they had not developed this skill of long term relationship building.

Are you surprised?  You might have thought that senior level executives had “schmoozing” all figured out.  Maybe not.  Maybe there’s more to that cocktail parties and fast one-liners.

The numbers get more interesting when you look at the size of the companies responding.  All of the big guys (who would have the biggest sales and marketing budgets) all noted that they didn’t have access to the right people to build great relationships.

Essentially, the guys with the most advantages toward building the best relationships were the least likely to know how to get the right people.  Interesting indeed.

When you look at the age for relationship building, it becomes even more significant.  The young guys and old guys fall into the same category — limited access to the right executives.  While the mid-life high-performers know the right people, but aren’t really sure what to do to keep their attention.

Kind of what you would expect from life, right?  You work hard to get somewhere; and then once you’re there you push so far and fast ahead that you lose valuable ties to people who could be a valuable resource to you.

Young or old, big or small — we all need to work a little harder to keep our relationships strong.  They are our lifeblood, our lifeline to accomplishing our life’s mission.

So think about how you treat your relationships.

Are you asking friends to triple-click through your e-card nonsense, or are you bold enough to just say “Thank You”…  and mean it…

P.S.  Thank you to all the amazing readers of The DEW View!  Have a Happy Holidays.  I am grateful that I was able be a part of your 2009 selling year.  Take some time to get recharged and then let’s plan on changing the world together in ’10….  Thanks again!!!


“Pay It Forward” Salesmanship

Value Please!

Value Please!

A lot of sales people bring no value to the marketplace.  They take!

They bother us with their nonsense about “you can trust me more” and “I’m not here to sell you anything”.

That type of “selling” is the fingernails-on-the-chalk-board approach to getting a customer’s attention.  It’s the BS that makes the good guys look like schmucks.  It’s professional mediocrity and all of here at The DEW View are on a mission to fight it.

The “pay it forward” sale process understands that “qualified giving” before getting is the only way to build consistent high-value clients.  You can’t replace a “Pay it Forwardphilosophy with fake Zig Ziglar closes. (OUCH – apologies if you like the Zig-man).  It’s a mindset that trumps just about any other high-achieving, high return-on-investment activity that you do.

Here are some “Pay it Forward” ideas:

  1. Give away 30 minutes a day of your time to mentorships…
  2. Write an article about recent trends in your industry and what that means…
  3. Call your top 20 clients with a way to save them money…
  4. Do the research for your customer that shows the value of your services…
  5. Overwhelm presentees with crafty facts that they can repeat to their peers…
  6. Host a webinar where you showcase the 12.5 leading problems that your customers need to avoid…
  7. Suggest a (non-competing) industry partner your customer needs to meet…
  8. Learn the top 3 frustrations of your target customer…

There are other great ways to “pay it forward” in sales without foolishly donating time to non-buyers.  The key is that doing these actions is more than just the action — it is a philosophy of salesmanship.  Also note that each of these activities actually advances your selling process.


On another tangent, I am pleased that so many people find this blog helpful in generating more business.  I started it with a “pay it forward” idea of putting in writing some of the thoughts that made me successful in closing big deals.  In the coming days, I am taking this even further AND I WANT YOU TO BE A PART OF IT…

Launching in JUNE will be the Sales Matters group (a mini social network group).  It will be a place:

  1. for me to share sales tips like what you read here with entrepreneurs…
  2. for me to help you close the big deals that you currently working on…
  3. for sales guys to find a better job and a better future…
  4. where bosses can find great sales people to hire…
  5. where “revenue generators” can find other like-minded people…

I am on this incredible journey leading great people to even greater sales performance and I look forward to you joining me when the site opens…

Expect to hear more common sense talk about generating explosive revenue growth like the following:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Read the Road Signs

Wrong Way Sign

Watch for the $ales$ signs!

Life being me is an adventure!

Case in point: My casual 5 mile run this afternoon that turned into a half-marathon

I put the boys down for a nap and mapped out on Google a quick 5 mile circuit around my house that would enable me to burn some steam and think about the upcoming $ale$ challenges of the week ahead.   Somehow it all went wrong.

I started running at a good pace with a bottle of water and an iPod full of motivation, and I made the first few major turns successfully.  I usually drive that part of the route so I had a senses of where I was going.  Somewhere in the last 2/3 of the “pavement pounding”, I lost my way — in a pretty major way.

My 5.3 Mile Planned Route
My 5.3 Mile Planned Route

I had my eyes on the road and completely ran past the road sign that would have put me on the path to the finish line (my house).  Instead I ran unknowingly past the sign and ended up in the next town — LITERALLY!

Here’s the kicker: Even though I kind of thought I was lost, I kept running thinking that “everything would end up OK in the end” that I would find the road I was looking for.  I didn’t find my road, of course, because I had ignored it the first time around.   I had left it miles behind me.  Frankly, I wasn’t even close.   I was in a different town.  Let me repeat — A DIFFERENT TOWN…

I went left, and then I went right FOR MILES, and then I retraced my steps back to a gas station to look at a map.  When the store owners told me that they did not speak English, I went next door to a Papa John’s where some sharp delivery dudes told me that my street was back a few miles (Thanks, dudes).

Sure enough.  I ran back, found my street, continued my loop home and hit the finish line (the shower) about 45 minutes later.

The 12.1 Mile Unplanned Route
The 12.1 Mile Unplanned Route

My experience is lot like many of the entrepreneurs and sales executives I get to speak with on a daily basis.  They fail to read the road signs and end up at the finish line blistered, sore, and limping.  Sometimes they give up and don’t even make it home — the race is an utter failure.

Like in running, sales is about reading the road signs!  I was speaking last week at Enterprise Launch about the fact that for a start-up there is NOTHING ever more important that generating revenue.   We talked for several hours about some great ways to land sales — even for owners who consider themselves not to be sales guys.  Generating MA$$IVE amounts of revenue can be done successfully and the process is A LOT easier when you are watching the signs — your customer , their needs, and “WHY” they are motivated to buy your widget.

I am sure you have been in a sales pitch where the dude just droned on and on and on and on, and you wanted to find a plastic fork to shove in your eyeball so it would all be over.  That might even have been you at some time giving the presentation.  I can remember some presentations I gave that were absolutely “amateur hour”.  It happens and it’s absolutely painful to see (even more painful to BE).

So the lesson I leave you with is this: WATCH THE SIGNS!

That means that when a customer tries to lie to you lead you with “time tested” buyer intelligence like:

  • Your prices are really high…. OR
  • I need this all delivered tomorrow morning or else the deal is off…. OR
  • Your competitor told me that they could this better…. OR
  • I really need to see all this in writing so I can think about it…

(or a million other excuses)

When that happens (and it will if you are in business for more than 15 minutes) that you stop looking at your road (your sales pitch) and you follow the signs to get the buyer’s real motivation.  Need help doing this?  I have 5 magic words to help you “read the signs”…

Try this regardless of what the customer is telling you.

  1. Hear what the customer is saying…  (No need to listen too hard as most of what is being said is completely predictable)
  2. Pause…  (1001, 1002, 1003)
  3. Ask your customer the following: What makes you say that?
  4. Listen as the customer points you down the right road…

You can do this.  It works!  And it’s heck of a lot better then the blisters you’ll get from running down a million side roads hoping it will “end up OK in the end”….

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Create A Legacy of Trying

This could also be subtitled something like: NOT “Putting out” Only Works When You are Looking for a Girlfriend (and then sometimes “not-so-much”)… or  The “E” for Effort stands for “Everytime”

And so I give you some musings on “trying” and (2) videos you need to watch…

If you run a search on The DEW View for the idea of effort, you get like 50 or 60 posts on everything from investigating the best of open source technology to how to run a presentation so that people stay awake to how to get back up when you get your ass kicked (all good topics, I hear…).  The reason I am writing another post on the idea of trying is that a lot of entrepreneurs I speak with get the idea of trying all wrong.  They think “trying” is something to do after planning or building or everything else…  TRYING is what you DO while you DO all those OTHER things!

Try Harder Smarter like AVIS

Start-ups have one really differentiating quality — the art of trying harder.  Sure market timing, customer sensitivity, price incentives, management insight, cash flow, and a thousand other micro-factors impact your chance of success.  Sometimes, these factors have a HUGE impact on your success.  But the great equalizer is the effort the entrepreneur (YOU) puts into their own success.

Trying harder, better yet, “trying harder smarter” is the ONLY guarantee that you have.

You can’t change the economic outlook to get better financial terms.  You can’t change international geo-political trade regulations to grow new markets.  You can’t force people to care about you are doing…


If you haven’t read The Dip by Seth Godin, you need to go buy it from Amazon.com for the entire $5 that it costs.

Seth Godin Talks about Losers!

I read this some time back and recently did a re-read of all 96 pages.  It’s a 45 minutes pithy read on WHEN you need to quit.  Seth did a brilliant job of talking about this concept called the DIP, where most entreprenuers give up (or “stop trying” in DEW-speak).

I like that Seth puts some science behind the experience that I have been through several times in my life.   I certainly have been in the DIP several times in my career and it’s BRUTAL…. until you power out the bottom of the curve and get  superstar results.  Life is miserable at the bottom until you “figure out if you have enough guts to keep pushing”.

When critics complained to Abraham Lincoln that his leading general was a drunk, Lincoln made the witty response:

“Tell me what brand of whiskey Grant drinks.  I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”

That summed up Lincoln’s analysis of what he wanted from his leadership — not DRUNKENNESS but FIGHT!  (By the way, the story of Grant as a warrior is inspiring by itself.  He had no friends and no real experience like General Robert E. Lee and yet his courage to FIGHT on was a deciding factor in his success.  He didn’t quit…)

Have you ever noticed that quitting is something that we perfect as we get older?

We try to say sophisticated things like “market research indicates that current demand ratios point to slower growth patterns” or “I need to think about this some more.  I don’t want to make the wrong decision”.  What we really need to say is  something along the lines of  “I am really scared right now.  I think I have a great idea and I passionate about it, but I could lose everything if I’m wrong.”  Now we’ll getting somewhere.  Now we have the personal integrity that is foundation for deep-rooted, passionate enterprise.

It’s hard work.  No one said being successful would be easy.  But you CAN do it.  You CAN be the WINNER you want to be.  If you are in a DIP right now, here are a few things you can do to stay sane and motivated:

  1. Recognize that you are in a DIP.  There is no use denying the obvious…
  2. Refocus your attention on the basics (customers and cash flow)…
  3. Rationalize what “seems” or “seemed” to be working into a process that you can examine at a later date…
  4. Repeat to yourself and anyone who will listen your core values driving what you are doing…

There is no silver bullet that makes your pain go away or your fear of failure disappear.  You are your own best medicine.

Let me leave you with this quote from a reader and commenter of The DEW View, Lydia Sugarman: “I do it because I can, I can because I want to, I want to because you said I couldn’t…”  If you really understand that quote then you are on your way to creating your own legacy of trying!

Keep Trying!

Try today!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Burning Passion…

I told my wife this weekend that I am finally feeling the urge to go back to the gym after my hospital incident a month or so ago.  Up until the ER visit and subsequent ICU “hotel stay”, I was training for an ultimate fighting competition — which as would be expected was put on hold indefinitely.

“WHY the fight?”, you ask….  You’ll have to read more of the The DEW View! to get that answer, but in short, let me note that one of the leading reasons is the test of will and the human limit.  Regardless of that philosophical rabbit trail,  I found the following quote that sums up the INTENSITY with which we must apply ourselves to successful endeavors:

“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must first set yourself on fire.”

Who said this?

A man named Fred Shero…  And unless you happen to be a Philly hockey fan, that name probably doesn’t ring to loud of a bell.  Read a little more about Fred.  He was an incredible guy:

Fred Shero took the road less traveled. He scribbled messages on the locker room blackboard to inspire his troops. Before Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals, he wrote his most famous saying, “Win together today and we walk together forever.” Three hours later, the Flyers won the first of two consecutive Stanley Cups.

The son of immigrants who fled Russia to escape religious persecution, Shero was born on October 23, 1925, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He attended the University of Manitoba for two years and served in the Canadian navy where he made a name for himself in the field of athletics not as a hockey player but as a boxer. Shero was the lightweight and middleweight champion but rejected a $10,000 offer to turn professional, opting to play hockey instead.

A marginal player at best, the defenseman played three seasons for the New York Rangers from 1947-1950. Those three years were sandwiched between a playing career that began in 1942 for the St. James Monarchs and ended in 1958 for the Shawinigan Cataracts. In 1957, Shero began his professional coaching career with Shawinigan. By 1971, he had held additional minor league coaching tenures for St. Paul, Omaha, and Buffalo, winning six first place titles during those years.

With his minor league success, the Flyers came calling for the man with the tinted glasses in 1971. Using an eccentric, entertaining style, he began to mold the Flyers into the “Broad Street Bullies,” writing on his famed blackboard, “Take the shortest route to the puck carrier, and arrive in ill humor.” He stressed the importance of commitment by saying, “When you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, the chicken makes a contribution, but the pig makes a commitment.”

Practices under Shero could make an outsider shake his head in disbelief. To improve stick handling, tennis balls would replace hockey pucks. To increase leg strength, skaters would push a goalie seated in a folded chair around the ice. Forwards would practice breakaways while being slashed from behind. “Nobody ever lets you score an easy goal in a game,” Shero said. “Why practice that way.”

When the Flyers beat the Minnesota North Stars four games to two and gave the Montreal Canadiens a tough battle in the 1973 playoffs, Shero knew his team was ready to compete for the Stanley Cup, which the orange and black won in 1974 and 1975. They remain the only NHL championships in Flyers history. In 1974, he won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL Coach of the Year.

“The Fog,” as Shero was called for tendency to drift off in thought, didn’t rest on his laurels. Three days after winning his first Cup, he spent three weeks in the Soviet Union to study Russian techniques. Even with all his success, this brilliant hockey mind never took himself too seriously. “Coaches are a dime a dozen,” Shero said. “I found out a long time ago that only one thing wins for you–the players.”

Feeling he did not get the most from his team during the 1977-78 season, Shero resigned from the team on May 22, 1978. Less than two weeks later, he re-joined the New York Rangers organization as head coach and general manager. Because Shero still had a year left on his contract with the Flyers. Philadelphia received a No. 1 pick from Rangers as compensation. After two years and change in New York, the Fog made his final coaching stop in Tilburg, Holland, for the 1987-88 season. For the previous five years, he had been the New Jersey Devils’ radio analyst. In 1990, he returned to the Flyers as a community relations adviser.

In 1983, Shero underwent surgery for stomach cancer. It was the beginning of long battle with the disease that eventually claimed his life on November 24, 1990. Many of Shero’s innovations–hiring an assistant coach, installing playing systems, studying films, conducting morning skates–are common in hockey today. In 1980, he was a co-recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy awarded for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

The holder of every major Flyers’ coaching record, including years’ coached (7), wins (308), winning percentage (.642), and playoff wins (48), Shero was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame in March 1990. In a 1999 Philadelphia Daily News poll, he was selected as the city’s greatest professional coach/manager, beating out legends such as Connie Mack, Dick Vermeil, Greasy Neale, Billy Cunningham, Dallas Green, and Alex Hannum. It was a fitting tribute to one of the most innovative coaches in NHL history.

I guess I have been thinking about the ideas of URGENCY and PASSION more now that I am working with start-ups and entrepreneurs on a daily basis.  Great ideas are “cool” and savvy business plans are “commendable” but a deep passion for success is usually the great differentiator.

And… you can’t rely on OTHERS for your passion!  It has to come from within!

FEAR of investors, embarrassment from FAILURE, loss from monetary risk — none of these work either (though they all CAN help).  PASSION (lasting passion, that is) is rooted in a sense of higher-calling.

So what are you passionate about?

Catching Up On My Sleep…

…while you finish your demo! (Admit it. You’ve walked away from many a WebEx session from hell)

That’s why I am a stickler about demos…

They should be fun, engaging, and leave the other party gasping for breath — NOT snoring and disinterested. We could also substitute the word MEMORABLE here…

A lot about demos comes by way of strategy, tactics, and good old-fashioned PREPARATION (i.e. practice…).

I see way too many Chief Sales Officers “wing it”… without a clear sense that the tired presentation they are giving truly sucks. On the other hand, you have the big boss who is brilliant (engineering, math, or science dudes) and can’t get out of his/her own way for the deal guys to wrap up the action…

A great demo is like a stand-up act. There is a smooth opening where you try to get the “crowd” to like you, the quick dazzle that keeps everyone interested for the long haul, and the act itself (where every word and phrasing is pre-planned)…

I have written before about Jason Calacanis and his no-bullsh*t approach to the topic of COMMITMENT within building a successful startup company… Last week I read another right-on-point article by Jason talking about how to demo…

(BTW, Pedro and company are in the second round of interview of TechCrunch 50 — the event Jason references in his discussion below…)


Read what a successful “demo-er” should be doing below:

“For the past 10 days I’ve sat through 200 company demos for the TechCrunch50 conference. These demos are mostly done over the phone for 10 minutes using the phone and web conferencing software like WebEx or Adobe’s wonderful new “Connect” service.

After doing 2,500 minutes of demos (40 hours) this year and many more last year for the conference, I’ve learned a lot about what makes for a great demo and what makes for a horrible demo. Since demoing your idea is a key to your success as an entrepreneur, I thought I would share everything I know in a few simple bullet points.

These tips are applicable to presenting in front of an investor, a partner as well as a demo style conference. Of course, every situation is different so consider these loose guidelines.

1. Show your product within the first 60 seconds
Most folks start their presentations with information like the size of the market they are tackling (tens of billions, we only need 1%!), their inflated corporate bios, the philosophical approach they’re
taking, and boring Powerpoint graphics explaining some convoluted workflow of their product.

The longer it takes for you to show your product, the worse your product is. Folks who have a kick-ass product don’t spend five or ten minutes “setting the stage” or “giving the background.” Folks with killer products CAN’T WAIT to show you their product. Their demos start with their homepage and quickly jump into the users experience. If a picture tells a thousand stories, then a product demo tells a million.

Show your product immediately, and if you don’t have a product to show don’t take the meeting.

2. The best products take less than five minutes to demo
The greatest tech products over the past 10 years would take no more than five minutes each to demo. For example:

a) Larry and Sergey could demo Google search in less than five minutes. Here’s a box, type something in and you get a huge reward.

b) Steve Jobs could demo the iPod in less than five minutes. Plug it in, put in your CDs and it syncs your music. Turn it on and use the wheel to select what songs you want to listen to.

c) Chris DeWolfe could demo MySpace in less than five minutes. Sign up, fill out your profile, and add your friends. For bonus points add some widgets to your page.

I think you get the idea: the better the product the LESS time it takes to demo. If your product demo takes more than five minutes to demo, it probably sucks. All the tiny little features that matter to you are of course important–God is in the details–however, when presenting your company, you don’t have to show them. Larry and Sergey wouldn’t open up the advanced search tab and the list of operators you can use in Google during a demo.

Steve Jobs does take the demo details to a fairly detailed level, but you and I are not Steve Jobs. There is only one Steve Jobs and there is only one Apple. You’re never going to build something as cool as Steve, and as such there is no need for you to talk about your product for five or ten minutes.

3. Leave people wanting more.
If you take my advice in point two, then folks should be either blown away or intrigued by your core product. If they are not somewhere in that spectrum, you need to rebuild your core product.

When I pitched Mahalo to investors, I had five sheets of paper with different search results on each. I put them on a table and said which one is the best. Obviously I knew my result was the best, and that simple demonstration lead to MASSIVE discussion: how was the page built? how long did it take to build? what would it cost to make that page? how often do you need to update it? how can you scale that business? how many pages can you create before it breaks even?

It’s best for folks to discover the merits of your product for themselves, and it’s up to you to make such a compelling core product that they are intrigued enough to explore it.

4. Talk about what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do.
Weak startups and their leaders seem to immediately start talk about “what’s next,” as opposed to focusing on the core product. Anyone can say we’re going to add: a mobile version, collaborative filtering, an advertising network, visualizations, a marketplace, a browser plugin, a browser and a social network to their product. In fact, given the amount of open source and off the shelf software out there, combined with the large number of developers in the world, anyone can bolt these things on to their service in a week or three.

Who cares what you’re going to bolt on to your startup? What really matters is the core functionality of your startup.

Steve Jobs has become at once the world’s greatest salesman and product developer because he only announces Apple’s achievements. He doesn’t waste time on what Apple’s going to do: he talks about the here and now. Microsoft’s old strategy was to talk about products that were coming and that put them in the horrible position of having to backpedal when they changed their mind about a product.

5. Understand your competitive landscape–current and historical.
This year I’ve had three companies show me group SMS messaging products, and most of them did not know what UPOC.com was (Gordon Gould’s group SMS messaging service that was five years ahead of its time). I’ve had three or four companies over the past two years of TechCrunch50 conferences pitch me on Third Voice–the controversial “web annotation” service from Web 1.0. [Side note: I loved the concept of Third Voice so much I considered starting a company like it and even bought the domain name annotated.com.]

When I pitched the idea for Weblogs, Inc. to Mark Cuban, Yossi Vardi and Jeff Bezos, I understood all the niche email marketing and newsletter companies from the early and mid-nineties cold. I researched why they worked and why they failed, and I knew which ones were sold and bought and by whom. When I pitched Mahalo to Sequoia Capital, I knew the history of human-powered search and directories from DMOZ to Yahoo Directory to LookSmart.

If you don’t know the competitive landscape, and the shoulder’s you’re standing on, folks are not going to be comfortable giving you their money, time or attention.

6. Short answers are best.
When taking questions about your product answer questions shortly. This is a very challenging thing for many people–including myself–to do. If you’re like me, you’ve probably thought out your startup’s issues a thousand different ways. When I sit at the poker table I play a game where I think out every possible scenario for not only my hands, but the hands of my opponents (this is fairly standard among advanced poker players from what I understand).

Say I have Ace King and I raised out of position and the button called my raise pre-flop. Then they re-raised me on the flop, which had an Ace. What does that tell me? They could have an ace, they could have two aces and have slow played me, they could have a medium pocket pair and they want to see if I have an ace, maybe they are on a flush or straight draw or maybe they suck at poker. Who the hell knows?!?! You can go insane trying to figure all these things out–that’s why poker becomes very addictive.

The point is all that inner thinking is chaos when you try to explain it to another person. It’s pure madness after 60 seconds of talking. The best thing to do is answer the question with the most concise answer. For example, when asked “what happens if Google enters your market?” answer quickly and with confidence:

a) Google has entered many markets, but they are only #1 in search and search advertising. They trail in social networking to MySpace and Facebook, in classifieds to Craigslist, in news to Yahoo and AOL, in email to Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo, and in instant messaging to Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo.

b) We’re not sure if Google will enter our market, but hopefully we’ll have developed our product enough that it will be a real sustainable business by that time.

c) We think Google might enter our market at some point, and if they do they and their competitors will certainly consider buying us–creating a bidding war for our entrenched position.

d) Google is a very big company right now with a very big cash machine that they have to focus on and protect–they will never do our business with our level of focus. We will out execute them on all fronts.

These are all amazing answers (I did, after all, come up with them), and you can say them in around a minute. However, if you cram all four of these sentences together you’ve spoken for five minutes.

7. PowerPoint bullet slides are death
Do not make slide after slide explaining your business in bullet points, because it’s really, really boring. Powerpoint/Keynote slides that are not boring include charts, product shots, feature set tables and the like. Things that explain big concepts with ease and grace are great, but bullet points of obvious facts show that:

a) you don’t have the ability to create a compelling story with data

b) you don’t think that much of the person being presented the information

I’m not a huge fan of “funny slides” or lots of graphics for graphics sake. You’re not pitching your company to get laughs–unless you’re on stage–you’re doing it to raise capital, close a partnership or get on stage at a conference. Keep it focused and to the point.

8. How to use this new device called the phone.
When presenting over the phone use a handset and a land-line… only!

It’s amazing to me that any person doing a business call would conduct it on their mobile phone. Mobile phones sound horrible 95% of the time, and they frequently cut out. If you are presenting your company take it seriously and get yourself to a landline. You have limited time and don’t want folks to miss a single word.

Speakerphones are horrible, and putting the person receiving the demo on speaker phone during a demo is just disrespectful. You can hear all the rustling, side conversations and horrible echos when you’re on speaker phone. When doing a demo pick up the handset and speak. If you go to a Q&A session then use speaker phone. That’s why it exists.

Only use a headset if it is very, very high-fidelity and you have the microphone right up to your mouth. Also, don’t eat, drink or breath heavy into the microphone or you run the risk of sounding like an animal. I use an amazing Plantronics headset, and I like me some Green Matcha tea, but I hit the mute key when I sip!

I know it sounds crazy to have a discussion about how to use the phone, but the majority of these young people actually think it’s acceptable to have two or three drop offs in a call–it’s not. Grow up and get a land line.

9. How to handle questions you don’t know the answer to
After you do your concise presentation you’re hopefully going to get a lot of questions. Here are some important tips to consider when you don’t know the answer cold:

a) take a moment to think about the question. You can even say “Hmmm… that’s a good question. Let me think about that for a second.” Folks appreciate a little consideration when someone takes a question.

b) if you don’t have an answer be honest and say you don’t. There are many ways to say this including: “I’m not really sure, I’m going to have to think about that for a bit and get back to you,” or “I’m not sure to be honest. What do you think?”

c) feel free to think out loud and brainstorm with the person. You can do this by saying “I’ve never really considered that. Perhaps you can expand the question a little and we can explore it right now.”

d) if you’re not sure of the answer you can always say you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it. “I’m not sure how we would deal with a sudden spike in the cost of bandwidth, we would have to collect more information and answer that question down the road. It is a manageable risk factor I suppose. ”

The worst thing to do when you don’t have an answer is b.s. the person. No one has an answer for everything, except a b.s. artists. So, feel free to say you don’t know–folks find it refreshingly humble and honest.

10. Always confirm the time of your meeting/call, and always be 15
minutes early.

People are really busy and meetings get mixed up. Every meeting or phone call I do is confirmed twice: once by email, and once on the day before the meeting. Reconfirming meetings makes you look like a true player and it costs you nothing. You do this by sending a simple email saying “Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at your offices at 123 Main Street at 3pm. If anything changes you can reach me on my mobile at 310-555-1212.”

Also, be early. Come on. If you’re doing a meeting with someone who might invest in your company, do a business deal with you, etc., you can show a lot of respect by being in their lobby or on hold on the conference call five to 15 minutes ahead of time. Don’t show up more than 15 minutes ahead of time or you’ll look like a stalker. If you get to your meeting 45 minutes ahead of time go to the Starbucks and buy yourself a treat for being so on top of things.” — Jason

By the way, Jason has launched and sold a handful of companies and now invests in new interesting ideas… He might have a little bit of experience in demoing ideas…