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!

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