Category Archives: High Tech

CEOs AND SALES

Why Startup CEOs Still Have to Make Sales Calls

by Howard Tullman

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It’s not your strength, or maybe not even what you enjoy doing. But being there to close the deal isn’t something you can simply hand off to the sales team.

At what point can a CEO turn sales over to professional salespeople?  Before that can happen, the company has to achieve two foundational milestones:

  • You need to know exactly what you’re selling—by doing it over and over again (and not as a one-off).
  • You need to know for certain that others can sell it consistently.

That only comes with the maturity of your product/service.  Until it reaches that point, stay in the field and keep selling.  Your product is still being developed on the fly and continually redesigned/reconfigured to better suit the real requirements and demands of customers.  The fact is, ultimately only you can make the critical design and development decisions and you’ll do a much better job of that if you are hearing it directly from the end users and not from a bunch of whiny salespeople.

I’m seeing more and more startup CEOs who discover way too soon that they don’t like the wear and tear, the travel, and the rejection that are all crucial parts of selling a new product or service.  So they retreat, thinking they can run their businesses while they’re sitting on their butts behind a desk back in the office. That’s not how this game works; that behavior is a formula for failure. You may not be an extrovert.  You may not even know the technology that underlies your business as well as half the other people in the company.  You are, however, the boss and today that fact alone means a lot, at least to the people who make the final purchasing decisions.

Remember—buyers are typically older than you, they grew up in strictly hierarchical systems where titles count, and they need to be made to feel important and respected if they’re gonna sign off on your deal. No offense to any of the members of your team, but customers don’t want to deal with the monkey—they need to see the organ grinder. That’s you. And they want you for all the obvious reasons:

  • People don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show up. It’s important.
  • Startup staffs are notoriously scattered and hurried—lacking focus and attention to detail. Customers want to know that you personally are connected, paying attention and directly engaged with their business, their concerns, and their problems.
  • Clients want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Not second hand. They want commitments and assurances from you. Everybody knows that the sales guys will say anything and promise them the world.  They need assurance that you will stand behind your product or service and make good on your promises. The buck always stops with you.

Product Maturity

Once your product/service reaches those critical milestones, it’s time to kick yourself upstairs and focus on other things. I encourage CEOs who find they spend too much effort selling to optimize their time.  I suggest that they find competent sales managers and others who can tee up just the right meetings for them—not opening meetings which are a dime a dozen, but closing meetings where the deals get done.

Finding sales meat-eaters to fill managerial roles isn’t easy; they are the hardest hires for any startup, but it’s absolutely critical to have them onboard if you’re going to build a viable business.

When your startup is hiring talent, you need to avoid certain categories of salespeople. For example, stay away from what I call empire builders.  There’s a whole generation or two of sales management types whose experience comes only from large organizations.  I have found fairly consistently that they are the wrongest guys possible for a startup because they grew up in a system where they measured their value and their success by the sheer number of people they managed rather than the results that those folks delivered. Nothing kills a young business faster than bloat and bureaucracy and having too many sales people sitting on their hands and not selling is the worst kind of poison. So be careful what you wish for and who you hire for this critical job.

There’s no more challenging job than being the CEO. You are responsible for the health of each part of the organization and the trajectory of the entire venture.  Stay in the sales loop until your product/service matures.  Then focus on closing deals.  Customers need you to be there—to say what you’ll do, and do what you say.

 

 Howard Tullman is the CEO of Chicago-based 1871, where 500 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V and Chicago High Tech Investors, both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council and Governor Bruce Rauner’s Innovate Illinois Advisory Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

@tullman

This article is an excerpt of one that appeared recently in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office, Howard Tullman

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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A STOLEN STORY

by John Jonelis

“Tell me a story, Uncle John!”

“A story eh?” My pal Loop Lonagan got in big trouble telling stories to Jim Kren’s little girl.  “Y’know, Princess, in this case, maybe discretion’s the better part of valor.”

“But I always get a bedtime story. I can’t sleep without a bedtime story.  Please, Uncle John!  Pleeeeeeeeeze!” 

How can a guy turn this kid down? “Okay Princess, just lay back and pretend you’re sleepy.”

“Make it a Christmas story!” Continue reading

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GET YOUR OWN ‘BOTS

OR RISK BEING PUT OUT OF BUSINESS BY THEM

by Howard Tullman

Don’t fear the bots. They’ll free your company from unprofitable and tedious work. Yes, some jobs are going to be displaced. But the ones that are left and the new ones the bots will create will be more productive and way more interesting. Continue reading

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HOW HYPERLOCAL ECONOMIES EVOLVE

By: William Arrington

The original intent for this follow up to Hyperlocal Social Economies (HSEs) was to focus on how businesses can participate in these targeted consumption markets. I think this is an appropriate time to discuss how HSEs may evolve. Before diving in let’s quickly recap what comprises an HSE market:

  • A group of consumers with similar lifestyle and consumption patterns (i.e. friends)
  • Common set of goods/services consumed by the group
  • Competitive market for said goods and services
  • Goods and services are geographically unbound

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HYPERLOCAL SOCIAL ECONOMIES (HSEs)

by William Arrington

While most of our lives have transcended into the digital world through experiences such as social networks, friends are still very much tangible. We make friends because we share common ideals, motives, beliefs, activities, influences, communities and even consumption patterns. Social media sought to capitalize on this relationship by broadcasting our lives to the world and then selling them to the highest bidders (i.e. advertisers and retailers) for lack of a better illustration. The effects of this commercialization of our digital lives has left a divide in the purpose and utility of social networks begging to ask the question whether our friendships and connections online have become nothing more than apparatuses for advertisers and marketers to spam us through? Continue reading

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WILDERNESS

by John Jonelis

.In Chicago, we enjoy something few high-tech centers can boast—easy access to a primal wilderness—a vast paradise, ancient and unspoiled—unique in the world and very special.

Whenever I’m in this place, I love the world just as I find it. Continue reading

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STARTUP OF THE YEAR

by John Jonelis

Here’s a Chicago Area startup that brings pleasure, relaxation, and satisfaction to tired business people, gets them out in the open air, away from the pressures of the big city, and teaches them to smile again. Does that sound like a worthy goal?

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I think so. Continue reading

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INVESTORS LOSING PATIENCE WITH PIVOTS

by Howard Tullman

There’s no polite or easy way to say this, but winter is on its way in the venture world. It’s getting tougher and tougher for startups caught in the lukewarm limbo between ideas and invoices to get their early backers to up their bets especially when it’s not clear that they’ve found a viable business model and/or a way to stop the bleeding sooner rather than later. Too many pivots with too little to show for the dollars down the drain and pretty soon no one wants to hear your, “someday soon,” story or your next grand plan. Continue reading

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THE JOB INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM SHAKES

by Mark T Wayne

We’re here to interview some reprobate named William Shakes for the job of special correspondent. I do not know why I’m a part of this.  No sir!  Continue reading

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MILLENNIALS ARE BECOMING OBSOLETE—ALREADY!

by Tom McBride

The first time I heard the word “obsolete” was when I overheard my father talking to a stranger on a bus. They were speaking about a new expressway that the city had built, and the stranger said, “That thing was obsolete before they ever opened it.” Continue reading

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CHICAGO TECH’S NEXT CHAPTER

At Tempus, Ocient and Catalytic, Chicago’s most prominent entrepreneurs are moving on to their next big thing.

by Jim Dallky

Chicago tech is growing up.

One sign of a maturing tech ecosystem is the success of a city’s serial entrepreneurs, and recently we’ve seen some of Chicago’s most high profile founders and technologists move on to their next companies, and tackle big industries like the Internet of Things, cancer research, and artificial intelligence. Continue reading

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WHY MILLENNIALS KEEP DUMPING YOU

An Open Letter to Management

by Lisa Earle McLeod

 

Attracting and keeping top millennial talent is a burning issue for leaders. Millennials are 35% of the workforce. By 2020 they’ll be 46% of the working population.

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