Keeping sane while on the go

In the second half of last year, our start-up Statice really started to take off. That meant that we spent a lot of time on the road, which was a bit of a shock to the system after my 3 week summer workacation in Australia. Having been involved in early stage companies for 7 years now, I’ve been to my fair share of conferences, trade shows, and last minute client visits, but August onwards was a totally different level for me. I’m quite a homey person, and I like to have a bit of a routine. The first few months after the summer, that went out the window, big time. This had adverse effects on getting enough sleep, exercise, time with friends, and downtime, which resulted in stress and some pretty negative energy. It took me a while, but I found a couple of useful ways of maintaining balance (definitely not perfected yet though) and wanted to share them here:

  1. Keep up the exercise – try running or swimming: I normally climb, ride bikes, or play underwater sports, but all those things require specialised equipment or venues. Not keeping up with sports makes it harder to keep fit, and (for me at least) leads to lower energy,  worse moods, and poor quality sleep. I found that (at least while travelling in Europe, you can find pools or places to run nearly anywhere, and the gear is compact (and in the case of running shoes can often be repurposed for casual wear anyway). I only started running mid-year, but it was a great change, and it was super nice to see different parts of cities I normally only see for work, like Munich, Zurich and London.

  2. Use your downtime wisely: if you’re travelling anyway, use the time you’re in transit to polish off tasks, if you can. Ticking off those BAU (business as usual) tasks stops them from piling up, and gives you peace of mind that you’re not going to come back to a shitfight in your inbox.  For me, knowing that I’m keeping up on BAU means that I get less stressed, which in turn means I sleep better. You still need to manage your brain energy, and not overdo it, but sometimes taking care of business while on the go is great. Sub tips: 
    1. Find a good, comfortable place to work.  If you’re taking the train, take a seat reservation. Make your company pay for it – the €4 will make you more productive and knowing you have a seat will help you stress less. 
    2. Buy a decent set of noise cancelling headphones.  Best case, make your company pay for them. You’ll be way more productive. I use the Bose QC35 II, and although they’re not perfect, they do the job in most situations. 
    3. Figure out your hot-spotting. Expense data excess to the company if you can – it’s worth it for them, and saves you stressing about excess costs.

  3. Don’t eat junk food if you can avoid it, and don’t drink too much: seems intuitive, but eating crap food and drinking too much (for me at least) seriously impacts my mood, energy level, and ability to sleep. Alcohol-free beer is easy to get in most places, and finding something green and fresh to eat is also getting easier and easier.

  4. Plan in downtime: last year I was on the road 2-3x per month at least. Add in family and friends commitments, and there isn’t a lot of time left for relaxing. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have another trip coming up, and knowing you have zero time to recharge between arriving home and leaving again. Plan in an evening of doing nothing, and spend it consciously recharging. Eat well, stretch, do whatever (I find screens kill the recharging, while books help a lot – but you do you). 

  5. Make sure packing is easy: one of the things that stresses me the most is not feeling ready or having open question marks on my list in the days before leaving. Two things that really helped me get a handle on this were:  
    1. Buying second set of quality clothes that are always ready to go. For t-shirts, I go with Asket (sustainable, not ridiculously expensive, wide variety of fits), and for pants,  the ABC from Lululemon are a godsend. They never seem to crease, pack easily, and can go with everything from a running shirt to a shirt and jacket.  They’re pricy, but they last well, and once you start, you’ll never want to wear anything else. 
    2. Having a ready-to-go toilet bag with essentials ready to go. In DM (and I guess in equivalents in other EU countries..) one can buy travel sized stuff, which can be refilled easily. Saves a lot of waste, hunting for things in new cities, and last minute packing/forgetting stuff before running to airport in  the morning.  

These were the big actions that made travelling regularly easier for me. Some people manage travel better than others, but  if you’re like me and need your home base and your routine, developing things like this reduce stress, increase quality of life, and make you more productive. Travelling for me is still a WiP, so if you have tips of your own, please let me know!

Learnings from 6 Stages in 4 Days

My colleague Omar (Statice Co-founder and Data Science/Privacy Lead) and I spent the past 2 weeks on the road (my learnings about plane-free travel here). It was a very productive trip: we met great people, and closed some exciting new deals. We also spent time on stage in Nürnberg (pitching as finalist at the UP19 Awards, part of Germany’s largest IT and CyberSec fair), Zürich, and Bern, and I wanted to summarise some of my learnings from the concentrated stage time.

One caveat: I hate being on stage, and I’m not good at it. I’m trying to get better though, and these musings about what worked, and what didn’t, is part of that. These are personal observations, and YMMV.

Short presentations are hard. Most of the short presentations we did were pitches, and one is never sure how relevant the audience is, to which level they understand the details of your area (Statice is a relatively specific solution for data anonymization, and people don’t always get the problem right away), or to which level they’re interested at all. I think to get better at these I just need to go for rote learning. So far I’ve been trying to wing it a bit, and that doesn’t get the result I’m looking for – it’s not terrible, but it’s not great, and I’m very uncomfortable.

Presenting about an area you are really excited about makes it a whole lot easier. I was lucky enough to get invited to present at Panter’s AI Morning’s event, and was able to present my thoughts on building data businesses on enterprise data exhausts. This is an area which I’m super into, and could present specific value to that audience.

Not that I’m not super excited about presenting Statice in general, because I am. It’s just harder to judge what the audience is expecting during a pitch, vs when they turn up as a response to an event/content that you put together yourself.

Having a memorable anchor works well. In our slides and pitches we use a comment about “data being the new oil”. We iterated on this during the trip, and started adding “and at Statice, we want to help our customers avoid being the next BP”. This often got laughs, and people approached me about it afterwards several times. All credit to Omar for that one, it was his idea, and it works great.

Takeaways for me to work on going forward:

  • Prepare short pitches without slides (1-3 minutes) by simple rote learning. My hypothesis is that this will make me feel more comfortable and less nervous, vs pitching on the fly.
  • For longer pitches with slides, learn the crux messages by rote. Doing them on the fly works fine, but having it memorised in advance would reduce pressure and nervousness upfront and let me focus on delivery (this wasn’t really an option on this trip as we were building decks every day!).
  • Prepare more in advance. Building decks last minute is always hectic. Sometimes leads to great iterations, but is high stress. This wasn’t much of an option on this trip, as we are simply too thin on the commercial side at the moment, but it’s something to aspire to once we hire more (if you’re interested in working at the cutting edge of B2B privacy technology, drop me a line!).

Business by Train

I just got back from a successful two weeks away on the road for Statice, and although I’m exhausted, I’m kind of stoked. We closed two new deals, met great people and hit the stage 6 times across 3 cities – and all without taking a plane! Friends challenged me to fly less, so I thought I’d jump in the deep end, and try a whole trip cold turkey. The route was Berlin –> Bern –> Zürich –> Munich –> Nürnberg –> Zürich –>Bern –> Zürich –> Berlin, over about 12 days. All in all, it was a great experience, and didn’t cost any more than flying (though I did book a little more in advance than I probably would normally).

What went well:

  • It’s definitely nice to see a bit more of where one is going. The landscape in the south of Germany and in Switzerland is breathtaking, and especially the early morning train from Bern to Zurich, with the sunrise over the mountains, was great.
  • Not standing in line, ever, and no being not able to use one’s laptop during takeoff and landing. I estimate that one loses approximately 30 minutes at least at each end of a domestic flight, as well as about 30 minutes on the plane in laptop-ban mode. If I’d flown, I would probably have flown the legs Berlin–> Bern, Zurich–>Munich, Munich–> Zurich, –>Zurich–>Berlin. At least 6 hours of working time would have been lost – so not losing that was great.
  • Having an internet connection (via tethering) that works 90% of the time is pretty great. My iPhone XR might not be the fanciest one, but damn, do I love the battery life, even when tethering for hours on end.
  • Being able to get up and move. It’s awesome to be able to focus on a task, and then reward oneself with a quick walk without bothering climbing over 2 other people. Being able to walk around the connecting area in the carriages to take calls without annoying anyone is also great.

What didn’t go so well:

  • Of course, it wouldn’t be travel with the Deutsche Bahn if one didn’t experience at least one delay. I got extra “lucky” and had several. Unfortunately, one delay was en-route to Zurich, where I should have had a meeting about 45 minutes after arriving. Missed that one, which was a bummer.
  • The 9.5hr trip from Berlin to Bern is a long ass way. It’s even longer when you forget food and water, and don’t have € bills on you, and the DB doesn’t work with N26 cards. Needless to say, upon arriving in Bern at 5pm in the evening, I was famished.
  • Vodafone. One pays an arm and a leg, and doesn’t get free roaming in Switzerland. In comparison, a €20/month Aldi PAYG subscription does. I’ll be having words with them, paying €6/day for internet, and then still using data allowance is not a great experience.

Would I do it again?

Heck yes. The combination of more time spent more productively, and a lot more comfortably, is really nice. It’s a bit more planning, and it’s not always easy to sit in a train/bus combo for 9+hrs, but it feels better than being in a plane!

What I’d do differently next time / Tips for people who want to give it a go:

  • Take snacks! You never know what fun surprises you might run into with card payment, or whether the train bistro will be open, so BYO, and don’t be shy about it. Long trips + high productivity make one snacky!
  • Take a spare t-shirt for travelling, especially if you’re doing meetings before jumping into the train. On Friday, I had a meeting in the morning, and then had to dash to the train. Shirts are great, but they’re not awesome when you’re lugging your stuff at high speed through hordes of people while stressed about timing. Pack an extra t- shirt, for you (and for the comfort of your co-travellers).

New Beginnings: Why I’m Stoked To Join Statice!

Statice is a Berlin based data privacy company, working at the cutting edge of data anonymization. Statice allows companies to unlock the value inherent in their data for internal use cases, to share with external collaborators, or for monetization purposes, while simultaneously protecting the individual consumer’s privacy.

My thesis for joining Statice was relatively simple: privacy is not going to become less of an issue for consumers, and access to data is not going to become less important to innovation at companies, no matter at which stage of their digital journey. In our growing customer-centric economy, innovation begins with understanding people. Companies partly do this by measuring, tracking, and storing personal data on individuals in order to quantify personal preferences and use this knowledge to tailor experiences and products towards each customer individually. Personal data is the core source of modern services and products and serves as the most important resource for the majority of modern technological advances and discoveries. This does not only hold for scientific settings but also for corporate R&D.

Not all anonymization is the same though, as Netflix found out a while back. It’s important to not just remove personal information, as this can be circumvented by matching the “anonymised” data with additional data sets (as in the Netflix case above. Statice solves thi by using generative machine learning algorithms built around differential privacy concepts to create synthetic data sets, which retain the statistical value of the origin data, but none of the personal value. This is relatively new technology, but it’s mathematically proven, and is accepted as being private under Europe’s new (ish) digital privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation. In short, you can think of it as teaching a machine about a data set, having the machine learn that data set really well, and then having it generate a new data set that effectively contains very similar information. Imagine a set of census data, and running it through this process. You won’t find a single person from the training set in the synthetic data set, but you’ll find a very similar number of people living in street A, with and age between X and Y.

What this means in practice, is that companies can take sensitive data and effectively capture the value in that data to share, either internally (for example, allowing an internal product team access to sythetic data based on conversation histories to build better personalized experiences), or externally (for example, enabling medical research by enabling collaboration between hospitals and medical research institution).

Being able to contribute to Statice’s vision of becoming the central privacy-preserving data hub for data-driven collaboration across companies is tremendously exciting, and I can’t wait to get started! If you’re interested in data privacy, collaboration around private data, or want to grab a coffee to chat about Statice, just drop me a line at hi (at) bnolan0.com!


2 Sales Training Exercises To Get Your Team Customer Focussed

One of the things that bothers me the most in pitches is reps that are not customer focussed. If I wanted to get a rote explanation of each feature of your tool, I’d read the website! Recently though, I had an excellent pitch and follow up process from an AE at Crunchbase, which reminded me of how a great customer focus can make a vendor process not only significantly more effective, but also much more pleasant! It also reminded me of a couple great customer focus exercises that I learned back in my days of slinging bikes at 99 Bikes, back in Australia.

As someone who gets overexcited about the technical details (and it was even worse with bikes – there is so much to geek about!), I found exercises likes these very helpful. After all, people are usually not coming in to buy a bike with a particular carbon part, they just want a bike that is light, so they can go faster, and impress their mates. In the same way, B2B buyers don’t always care that you use the latest TensorFlow and Keras tech to do NLP  – they want a chatbot that makes their customers happy, saves their employees time, and makes them look great in front of their boss. These exercises will help your team focus on what the benefits to the customer of your product are, and are great for onboarding new hires, but also periodically for reminding your team to focus back to the customer, and away from individual product features/specs.

1. Circle, Square, Triangle 

This is effectively a listening and summary exercise, paired with customer discovery. Have one person role play a client, and have the rep write down the 3 important items for them in deciding on a product or service like yours (more info on some ways of getting this information here).  Examples of these could be specific functionalities, business models, budgets, challenges they’re looking to solve, etc. Have the rep doing the exercise ask relevant discovery questions, and then summarize back to the person role playing what their 3 key factors (their circle, square, triangle) were.

Things to watch for:

  • Is the rep asking relevant questions, and responding to the answers enough that the role-player doesn’t feel interrogated?
  • Is the rep summarizing correctly? Are they using the vocabulary of the “prospective client”? This is key, as generally people recognize subconsciously that they are being listened to in this way (at least, this is what I was taught, and it’s worked well for me).

2. Which Means…?

This is a feature-benefit exercise. Too often, reps fixate on the vocab of their own team, and on their own product, and reel off a rote pitch explaining their product features. This can be boring for the prospective client, means that you are using a lot of their time, and can make the client feel unimportant. This is a particularly important exercise

To practice explaining your product in terms of benefits, have your team practice explaining the benefits of the features of everyday objects toward funny goals. We used to do this with “getting a hot boyfriend/girlfriend”, but you can use whatever works for your team.

Example:

This teapot has a nice handle, which means you can pour tea more elegantly, which means you will look sophisticated, which means that you have a better chance of getting a date with that guy/girl you like, which means you have a better change of getting a hot boyfriend/girlfriend.

While you can (and should) also do this with your product, what you’re aiming for is that your team become more flexible and creative in fitting features to customer benefits, and benefits to customer goals. Start with random goals and object/feature combinations, and when the team has had some fun, move to customer personas and use case goals. Better yet, play this after playing circle square triangle to get your team discovering and summarizing better!

Things to watch for:

  • Are your team getting to the customer goal? If not, have them try to add more “which means” steps, or repeat the customer discovery process.
  • Are they able to think creatively to solve for the customer goal? Is their summary fluid and does it demonstrate a proper understanding of the use case?
  • Is the rep making enough steps to clearly show their thinking, and make it easy for the customer to understand the benefit?

I found these exercises really valuable while learning to sell consistently. I hope they prove useful to your team, and if you try them out, let me know how you go. If you have other great exercises, send them my way!

Researching, planning, and testing your mobile market – 2 videos from Digital Dragons 2018

Mobile is a bit of a different kettle of fish than most other markets, particularly mobile gaming, in that a lot of developers approach it from a passion perspective first, and a business perspective second. I was invited down to Krakow for Digital Dragons earlier this year, which is a great gaming conference (definitely go if you get the chance, Krakow is a great city and the crowd is super fun), and my presentation centred on how one can do market research on mobile verticals.

I’m still developing this talk, and would love to include more data from other sources (more granular CPIs and ad revenue to start with), but if you’re interested in the process of analysing a mobile market, take a look:

Market research is one part of the process of building a successful mobile business (unless you’re crazy lucky and go viral…), but preparing and testing your product properly is also key. My favourite talk at the conference was by the CMO at Pixel Federation, who did a great talk (with lots of in-house data) on how to plan and conduct soft launch testing. You can check it out here:

 

MWC2018: Blood in the water, but still some innovation

Last month was the annual mobile (and I use that term in the loosest sense possible..) circus otherwise known as Mobile World Congress, which takes place in Barcelona, and turns a beautiful city into a nightmare of traffic, disillusioned people in expensive shoes, and this year, rainy and horrible weather. After processing for a bit, here are my 2c on the whole shebang.

In case you didn’t get it from the title and intro, I was not particularly engaged by this year’s congress. It seems I was not the only one who felt this way – Mike from Techcrunch wrote a good piece on it here. Aside from all the doom and gloom though, there were a few very cool things at the event (I mean, 85,000 people, there’s gotta be something going on, right?). My top two highlights were:

  • 5G moved from something everyone was talking about, to something you can see and play with. The best example of this that I saw was a robot in the Ericsson booth that was livestreaming audio and video back to CPH and video and control inputs back to BCN, with a round trip time of 6ms. This really demonstrates the potential of 5G well I think – imagine how it will impact rural medicine, for example, or other near-real-time tech it will enable. Exciting stuff.
  •  On the apps side, I was most impressed by the new Blackbox Platform from Redbox Mobile. It’s an app store search ads optimization tool, which seems to work pretty damn well (I took it for a spin for two of my clients, and both were impressed with the results). Time and more testing will tell more about what the quality of the users acquired through the tool is like (nothing to do specifically with Blackbox, but I’ve heard mixed reviews from marketers about Search Ad user quality), but Redbox seem to have put together a really strong contender in the search ads optimization space.

    Even if the show itself wasn’t particularly inspiring this year, one thing about MWC that is undeniably a great value add are the events that happen on the sidelines. MWC is such a big event that most of the industry shows up, and even if you can’t meet them in the halls, being able to have dinner or drinks is pretty great. Whether it’s private dinners, industry players throwing parties, or taking clients out for a drink, for me, the value of MWC is that it provides the opportunity for good face-to-face discussions. And despite the lack of “innovation” in the halls, that’s worth something.

    I probably missed a lot of great stuff (as you do when focussed on one hall of a 9 hall conference), but I didn’t hear a lot of great things about MWC this year. Regardless, as long as the industry keeps coming, being in Barcelona during MWC is going to be a good investment for mobile companies – whether you need a ticket to the conference is another questions altogether.

M26 Panel: Mobile Advertising in 2018

This is a bit late, but I didn’t get a change to finish it off before jetting off to the annual mobile circus that is MWC in Barcelona. Back in Feb I was asked to moderate the latest edition of the venerable Mobilisten-Talk series at the Telefonica Basecamp, here in Berlin. The series has been running for a long time, always helmed by founder Florian Treiss. Unfortunately, this week Florian was sick, so I got the chance to jump on stage and moderate. The panelists for this edition were Ben Jaeger, MD at Appsflyer EU, Mark Stohlmann, Senior Marketing Manager at Telefonica Next (Telefonica’s corporate start up), Mustapha Mussa, founder of bam! interactive, and Danny von Holt, who runs mobile marketing at Moebel.de, a big furniture search engine.

The plan for the panel was to dig into the key points of mobile advertising in 2017, and then discuss what big-ticket items should be on the radar of practitioners for 2018. My notes from the talk are below.

What should A level marketers have definitely gotten a handle on in 2017: 

  • Install Attribution: understanding where your quality users are coming from and how your paid marketing channels are working became non-optional in 2017. The tools are there, the knowledge is no longer hard to find. Of course, there are still challenges, but the panelists felt that attribution became commoditized in 2017, and that every serious marketer needs to have it locked down for 2018.
  • Ad Fraud: Related to the above, 2017 was the first year that multiple attribution providers started providing credible tools that track down most major advertising fraud types. Companies like Appsflyer and Kochava really pushed this issue, and marketers seem to be picking up on it – though not everyone agrees how much of a big deal it is (obviously, big $$$ problem, but there are obviously some industry players benefiting from it…) .
  • Audiences: Most marketers seem to have at least begun to experiment with audiences. Facebook has done a great job of making audience targeting popular with lookalike campaigns, but there are lots of other ways to do audience targeting. In 2017 Kochava released a very cool tool called The Collective, for example, which allows you to target users based on location, installed apps, etc.

What are the big items practitioners need to watch out for 2018:

  • GDPR: These new data privacy and security laws mean big changes for large parts of the industry, particularly for those companies collecting user data for ad targeting or segmenting purposes. All of the panelists mentioned GDPR, and the audience had questions as well. Most people were loath to give too much comment on it – it seems to be a topic best for lawyers!
  • Data is nice, Context is king: Most marketers are now in a position to reach target audiences pretty accurately. A great point that Danny made was that it’s not just about leveraging data to find the right audience – but also using it to find the right time, location etc. No point targeting your ideal customer in the wrong place, on a platform they can’t take your desired action on, is there?
  • New Channels, Apple Search Ads: This came up as one to watch for 2018, which surprised me a little, as many of our clients at Priori were already getting stuck into search ads last year – it’s obviously on the radar for 2018 again, though we’ve heard mixed things about the quality of the users it drives (probably because store search is heavily brand specific, and Apple is a bit funny about using other brands directly). It was only an example of a new channel though, and everyone seems to expect other new channels to open up this year. If you’re interested in this, check out Black Box, a search ads optimization platform.

Random Learnings for me:

  • Telcos are working on/ already built a competitor to Facebook/Google sign in, working with just a mobile phone number. Seems like a nice alternative, but haven’t heard of it much here in Germany yet.
  • Panels are fun, but hard to dig a lot of lasting value out of for the audience. Even though each of the panelists are at the top of their respective games, they were quite diverse, which made getting deep takeaways difficult. I think if I were to do something like this again, I’d love to see a couple changes:
    • A very specific topic, like “Designing a mobile ad” where panelist can discuss their process and the concrete steps they take, and why (for example, when we do x, we say y change). This would give the audience something to take to work the next day and try out.
    • Less diverse panelists. All the guys were super switched on, but too different.
    • More diverse panelists. It’s a shame in a city as multicultural as Berlin that we can only get 5 white dudes on the stage. Would be cool to see some of the amazing non-male, non-white techies on stage!

Wrapping it up:

All in all, it was a super fun evening, and it’s something I’d like to do again. Moderating is fun, and it’s something I want to get better at (getting over stage fright was on my list of New Year’s resolutions). So bring on round 2, i guess! Big thanks to Florian and the Mobilebranche team for having me, and to Telefonica Basecamp for hosting – it’s really cool that they’re contributing to knowledge sharing in the community like that!

Practical Sales Process Advice #1: Framework, Opening, Gathering Requirements

I’ve seen a couple of really great early stage companies here in Berlin founded by super smart people, but with early teams lacking much/any dedicated sales firepower. That’s fine, if it means you can build an amazing product faster with the same resources, but at some point most teams need to find people to buy that product, and that can be a stumbling block for some – especially when it comes to building a repeatable process that can be handed off to new team members and scaled.

In this series of three blog posts, I want to dig into one way a sales process can be structured in a practical, implementable way. The first post will cover a general overview of the process, and go into detail on building rapport, getting the information you need to find the right solutions for your client, and how to phrase that initial information for the client. The second section will cover product demonstrations, and the third section will go through feedbacking, objection handling, and closing.

 

The skeleton of the process:

Regardless of what you’re selling, there are some core steps that help to ground your process and help you focus during selling. I structure them as below, but there are probably as many right ways to do this are there are good salespeople – this is only an example and you should feel free to adapt it for your use case.

  1. Meet & Greet / Build Rapport
  2. Understand Requirements
  3. Summarise & Get Them Saying Yes
  4. Wow (Product Demo or Solution Presentation)
  5. Feedback and Objection Handling
  6. Ask For The Sale!

 

  1. Meet & Greet / Build Rapport

People buy relationships (1). Despite what HBR says (although it’s worth a read), there are not too many more effective predictors of sales success than a good salesperson building a relationship, and crucially, being able to see (and of course communicate to the prospect) the value their tool will create in the prospect’s organization (2). To do this effectively, you need to break down at least some of the barriers in an initial contact (phone, video call, in person, or whatever). Some people do this really naturally, some don’t. If you’re in the latter camp, you can use some of these points/questions to guide you:

  • Where are they based?
  • What experience did you have there/ have in common about that place? (after linkedin scouting)
  • I saw we have X person in common – how do you know them? Funny story about interaction with that person, if you have one/appropriate. If appropriate and authentic, a question around a recent news item about the prospect’s company.
  • How did they come across your service?

The key to success in this stage of the process is being authentic. There is not much more annoying than a salesperson who is overly familiar and chummy, so make sure you spend time preparing for this phase of a sale, and have a couple of good openings ready (Inc has some good advice for this).

 

2. Understand Requirements / Qualification

In this stage of the process there are a couple of objectives: you want to get 6 or 8 pieces of relevant information from the prospect, so you can provide the right solution, you want to show the client that you have an understanding of their space and can ask relevant questions, and you want the client to understand that you’re gathering information to provide a helpful recommendation, not just selling them something. You should aim for at least 70/30 here – that is, you should be talking less than 30% of the time. There are a lot of questions you can ask here, so I won’t try to list them all, but your goal is to understand the following:

  • What problem are they trying to solve / opportunity are they trying to exploit?
  • Who in the organization has this problem /opportunity?
  • How big is this problem/ opportunity?
  • How urgent is this problem/opportunity for them?
  • What factors play into their decision to make a purchase?
  • Have they used your type of service before?
  • Are they looking at competitors?

What’s key for me here is to listen very carefully, and pull out the 3 biggest motivators for the prospect to do the deal. I call these the “Circle, Square, Triangle” for a client. An example of these might be “we need to simplify reporting” (why), “my boss asked me to look into this (why + who) and “this quarter”(when).  I make sure to link back to these points throughout the rest of the discussion, and always use the prospect’s phrasing!  This is important (i don’t have stats for this, but it makes sense to me and works..) because the client feels that you listened and understood their requirements, and that makes the subsequent stages of the process much easier.

In the next post I’ll go through how to take the Circle, Square, Triangle of your prospect and translate that into a summary of their requirements, and then we’ll look at how to use that to make a strong case for your solution or product. To summarise for now, in the first two stages of the process:

  1. Prepare well, and have questions/icebreakers ready
  2. Be Authentic
  3. 70/30 Listening/talking (more asking questions than anything else)
  4. Listen hard and get a good handle of the client’s Circle, Square, Triangle

 

Links

1) The impact of customer relationship strength on sales effectiveness and relationship profitability in services selling.

2) B2B relationship calculus: quantifying resource effects in service-dominant logic

Bunch: Team Culture As A Managed Asset

Most successful leaders would agree that team culture is a key factor in organizational performance. It is surprising then, that team culture is one of the largest unmangaged corporate assets globally.  Research from Deloitte (1) found that:

87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50 percent call the problem “very important.”

A recent McKinsey & Company study (2) identified culture as the most significant barrier to digital effectiveness, stating that:

Risk aversion, weak customer focus, and siloed mind-sets have long bedeviled organizations. In a digital world, solving these cultural problems is no longer optional.

Obviously, this is a significant issue for organizations – and that’s why I’m I’m excited about Bunch.ai. They’re meshing the organizational psychology models that Standford developed together with Apple with next-generation NLP (natural language processing) and machine-learning based predictive modelling techniques to predict company cultural priorities and alignments based on various inputs. This is important because there is statistically significant evidence showing that teams that are highly aligned on cultural priorities perform better financially and can grow faster (3).

Tools like this will be relevant for more than 1 Bn people in the next few years (4), so this is a significant market opportunity that needs a sophisticated product to meet the growing need. The MVP of Bunch’s tool, a survey based implementation of their technology aimed at hiring managers, was a great start, bringing on customers like N26 Bank and Frauenhofer Society, but it’s what they’re launching today that is really groundbreaking.

The Bunch MVP allowed people to see team priorities and how individuals were aligned to that.

Predictive analytics around social and cultural factors are a tricky beast, so much so that there are only a few projects that have successfully demonstrated results in this field (Cambridge Analytica and Apply Magic Sauce), and until now, none specifically focussed on predicting cultural priorities.

That changes today. Bunch’s new Communication Analytics module is now live, and as of right now, teams can plug in their open Slack channel data (no private message access needed) and track their alignment over time on 6 important cultural factors based on the aforementioned Standford models:

  • Adaptable
  • Collaborative,
  • Customer-orientated,
  • Results-oriented,
  • Principled,
  • Detail-oriented

Bunch allows team members to understand their team’s priorities, and track their own alignment as well, which makes this a huge leap forward for HR management. Bunch empowers teams to anaylze and improve their own performance, rather than being diagnosed from above.

Over time analysis is now possible.

Bunch has also curated a collection of “culture hacks” from successful companies like Apple, Zappos, AirBnB and Slack, and is able to recommend these based on the analysis of team performance. Does it seem that team Adaptability scores are low? Bunch will recommend exercises to help the team become more flexible. Customer-centricity falling by the wayside? How about a persona workshop to get the team back on track?

Of course, this is just the first step. The team will be adding further inputs, such as CultureAmp, GitHub, Trello, and Jira, to combine culture and productivity data, so that teams are able to see what cultural factors are helping them succeed, and which factors need to be managed to mitigate risks. Long term, Bunch and similar companies will be able to help teams self-improve, freeing up management resources for more strategic problems, and improving automony, workplace satisfaction, and overall, company performance. This is the start of a brave new world, and I for one am keen to see where it’s headed!

Links

(1) Culture and Engagement: the naked organization, Deloitte

(2) McKinsey & Company, 2017

(3) Parsing organizational culture: How the norm for adaptability influences the relationship between culture consensus and financial performance in high tech firms

(4) Zion Market Research, 2017