• The biggest advantage you have when competing with giants is just
giving customers exactly what they want.
• Promise the moon then break down your CEO’s door to make sure
your customer gets it.
• Engineers can complain all they want after the fact, but most
actually prefer rallying for a paying customer.
• Large competitors have to stick to rigid guidelines, satisfy dozens of
constituencies in the install-base and within their own organization,
and optimize for the masses.
• Remain as flexible and nimble as much as you can for as long as
The Value of Speed
• Value speed in everything your sales team does:
• Performance isn’t just a characteristic of a technology; it’s a
characteristic of your entire organization, beginning with how quickly
you respond to an inquiry or follow up on a presentation.
• If your argument is that your competitors are big, slow dinosaurs
make them look that way at every opportunity: whenever a prospect
makes a request to you and your competitors, be the one who
• Don’t stop there! Speedy, tenacious follow-up at each milestone
gains ground and combined with product and value proposition
establishes a competitive model.
Roadblocks and Posies
Disrupt and Gather Testimonials
• Go first in customer presentations so you can set the
terms of the debate.
• Prepare a list of questions for customers to ask your
• Customers won’t trust whatever claims you make about
yourself, and they don’t like it when you attack
competitors directly, but if you let them dig into
competitors’ weaknesses for themselves, it works.
• In a $2.5 million contract with a major upscale retailer -
we included the questions to ask our competitors in a
hand-out. Who knows what happened to that hand-out,
but we came from far behind to win.
• Each win demands documentation of client satisfaction.
• Ask for each client to participate in a case study or white
• Identify the best testimonials and include these in
proposals, RFP responses and marketing.
• Do the due diligence required by the client organization
to obtain approval before you need references.
• References can also limit the damage of a startup’s
greatest sales enemy: proofs-of-concept. If references
establish that the product generally works, you can focus
the PoC on very specific concerns.
Move In NOW
Take Up Residence
• Those first customers are your best sales people, so after the
deal closes, assign a sales-person to move in with that
customer — not move on.
• Every customer who took a crazy risk on your little company
has to be completely vindicated in that decision, enough so
that he convinces the next customer to ignore the obvious risk
of doing business with you.
• Most customers understand that their career depends on your
ability to convince new customers to make the same decision
they did, and so they are usually eager to help you out.
Keep Your Head Up
• Even if you feel you have no right, work from the premise the customer
needs you as much as you need the customer.
• If you don’t have confidence in your solution, who will? Half of what a
startup/small business person brings to a the market is a little swagger.
• As long as you aren’t obnoxious, customers like to buy from confident
companies, and their procurement officers are trained to smell weakness.
• Riding up the elevator toward a negotiation with one of the world’s largest
banks, I decided to raise our walk-away price by $1 million. Everyone
argued for a lower number to avoid jeopardizing the deal, but the higher
number actually increased our chances.
• We got the deal for 30% above our walk-away price.
• When one startup’s exit strategy was realized by a successful M&A - most
people were shocked that our full head count was modest. We leveraged
confidence, flexibility, speed and trusted consultants and partners to
populate our bench.
• No one gets fired for hiring IBM or EMC or
one of the Big 5 firms:
• Therefore, leverage a channel built of
practitioners and partners from globally
• Get as many of your executives, founders, engineers, product managers,
and customer-service folks involved in the sales process as possible.
• You get better perspectives on the deal – a customer will level with an
engineer in a way he might not with you – and it makes your company seem
bigger to the customer.
• The customer develops relationships with people throughout your startup,
and realizes there’s more at stake than a greedy sales-person’s
• Focus on how much your whole startup cares about the individual customer;
make your small size work for you by developing intimacy between your
startup and the customer.
• This tactic works with large or small customers. I recommend having the
CEO or another member of the executive staff make a personal phone call
during the final decision process to pledge their commitment to the
• Don’t segment your workforce too soon.
• Avoid isolation.
• Set up collaborative tools from the beginning and
• Don’t just set up a project management portal, use a
CRM as well for effective time management and contact
• Avoid the temptation of creating a “Named” accounts
division too soon. Again isolating and segmenting
prospective focus works well in large organizations, but
can be a revenue killer for a small company.
Hire Slow, Fire Fast
Hiring and Firing
• You’ll hire some folks who don’t work out.
• If you wait to fire them, you’ll lose money, demoralize your top
performers, you may demoralize the fired individual who potentially
could have been rehabbed and you’ll certainly lose credibility.
• Three months after hiring a rep a colleague asked him “How long
are you going to be comfortable not selling anything”?
• His answer, “Don’t worry Matt, I can go several quarters without
selling anything before I’d start looking for a new job.”
• He was let go the next day.
• Don’t threaten. If milestones aren’t met, do not make idle threats.
• A business associate was told in August that her opportunities
weren’t where they needed to be. She was left hanging until January
with no assistance, re-training or coaching provided…an action that
served no purpose for either the company or the employee.
• Engineers mostly drive start ups in the early days.
• On hiring you, they’ll expect you to start cold-calling the whole
• And the truth is, you have to love cold-calling.
• After all these years, I still love it.
• But just like Dutch in Predator before the final battle, you have to be
able to answer only one question about your target before you start:
where they are.
• A sales force needs to know what kind of companies to call on and
the title of the person to call within those companies.
• Then the entire team needs messaging that a ten year-old could
understand. This well-honed, focused message must be both
mantra and battle cry across the company, from the top down.
Go2Market Strategies/Seattle Media Studio
Go2Market Strategies/Seattle Media Studio