Category Archives: mobile

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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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—THE BEST INCUBATOR IN AMERICA?

by Denny O’Malley

Recently, Inc.com published an article about the best cities for early-stage companies. The premise: Chicago is the surprise winner.

Why would that be? San Francisco and New York are both beautiful, thriving cities that dramatically represent the diversity of American ideas. San Fran—younger, more venture-oriented, with beautiful natural vistas. New York—the classic, bustling private and public equity concrete jungle.

What do they have in common? It costs a kidney to pay rent for a closet. Continue reading

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INQUIRY AND INNOVATION

by John Jonelis

What happens when you invite the community into your high school and send your high school students into the community?

Amazing things!  You create a THIRD SPACE in people’s lives.

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YOU MIGHT AS WELL DANCE

help-t-ms-officeIT Guys—Stop Playing Defense

by Howard Tullman

Not feeling enough love? Yes, techies are under appreciated until spit hits fan. But if you’re one of them, you’ve got a bigger role to play than you think. Here are three ways to raise your profile. Continue reading

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BILLION DOLLAR UNICORNS

unicorn-from-ms-office-tKenneth M. Freeman

The world seems captivated by the growing number of unicorns – private companies theoretically worth more than $1 billion based on their latest round of funding. There are now more than 100 unicorns, led by Uber with a valuation of $66 billion. Continue reading

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5 STARTUPS WE LOVED FROM TECHWEEK

Chicago’s Launch Competition

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by Jeff Segal

Why does a B2B digital marketing agency that works with some of the biggest and best-known companies in America send a team to a startup competition?

Because marketing and startups actually have a lot in common.

  • Marketing is about problem solving, and startups are founded to solve problems.
  • Marketing is about storytelling, and every startup has a story.
  • Finally, a great marketing campaign and a successful startup both make people say, Wow, I wish I’d thought of that!

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SOURCING STRATEGIC INVESTORS

Monopoly Investor MS Office clipart TPart I – Funding your Business with Strategic Corporate Investors

by Laurence Hayward

It’s common to think of strategic investors, or strategics, as large established corporations that make equity investments in entrepreneurial ventures (and that is precisely how the Kauffman Foundation defines it). However, the reasons they make these investments vary and are more subtle than the definition implies. Continue reading

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DON’T GET DOWN—GET BUSY

Howard Tullman Double Gulp Tby Howard Tullman

If you run a startup you’ll hit a wall or screw up big-time at some point. It goes with the territory. What doesn’t is letting yourself get stopped. Adversity doesn’t need any help. There are things you can do to right the ship—and the first is to right yourself. Continue reading

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THIS AIN’T NO LEMONADE STAND

20160402_143634-JAJ TLoop Lonagan—Verbatim

What if y’could combat starvation by producin’ yer own meat ‘n potatoes—and do it right at da local food bank? Hey, I’m lookin’ at a real working prototype here.  What about a solution to student debt?  Or, maybe fer yer next birthday party, ever’body plays laser tag with drones?  Or learns music real fast?  Or gets a little help rememberin’ stuff.  I can use summa that. Continue reading

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APPLESAUCE AND APPLE

Light Bulb TTHE FINANCIAL MINDSET OF A NEW GENERATION

Tom McBride and Ron Nief

The students who began college this past fall have a forty percent chance of graduating in four years, and a seventy percent chance of graduating in six. Having grown up in the Great Recession they can rarely take money for granted. They are more interested in money than in love, unlike their parents, who may have grown up as hippie advocates of free love during the far more prosperous 1960s. Continue reading

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HAWKS

Hawk Logo_JAJ0561by Mark T. Wayne

“Quit talking business! This is important!” A shocking pronouncement coming from one’s employer! I go mum. We sit behind thick glass, watching the Chicago Blackhawks clobber the Anaheim Ducks in the final game of the series. The Hawks will win this game and go on to the coveted Stanley Cup. That is correct, sir—an opportunity for a third championship in just a few years! Continue reading

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