Get the Financial Fundamentals eBook

Do you know how to fill your company’s piggy bank? If not, Intelligent.ly can teach you how. As we announced last month, we’re teaming up with Silicon Valley Bank to teach you the basics of financial literacy and how to make sure your company sees financial success.

When it comes to startups, Silicon Valley Bank has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s the deal – it’s all about the numbers. Many entrepreneurs bite off more than they can chew, with sophisticated business models. Others drown in vanity metrics.

In this eBook, SVB will take you back to basics, covering the fundamental metrics and financial accounting principles that will make or break your startup. We’ll review income statements, balance sheets, and key financial terms you’ll need to know to be conversant about your business.

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If you like what you read, we encourage you to learn more about the financial fundamentals and apply for a FREE 1:1 session with an SVB Boston team member to assess your startup’s key performance indicators. Click here to apply today!

How to Sell Like an Expert Salesman

How to SellIt began when you were just a little kid. You were trying to convince your parents why you needed a new toy, or a little puppy. When you got a little older, you were selling lemonade on the corner of your street.  Fast forward several more years, and you were applying for college. Now, you’re applying for jobs. The fact is, everyone sells. Whether you are an outgoing salesperson, or a brainy scientist, knowing how to sell your product, or yourself, is essential.

Lucky for us, Clive Whittaker, a Sales Manager specializing in emerging technologies and process flow for Par 4 Technology Group stopped by Intelligent.ly providing us with some helpful tips on how to sell effectively. With more than 24 years of sales experience, and more than 14,000 sales calls, he has conducted sales trainings, mentored new salespeople and spent five years as a volunteer teacher in Florida prisons, teaching inmates about the importance of attitude in the workplace. Read on to find out exactly what he suggests for those new to the world of selling.

Profile of a Top Salesman

While not every salesman will share the exact same qualities, there are several traits that you’ll find in most. Most salesmen have a large ego, are highly empathetic, and are very modest (at least to their customer’s face). They love adventure, possess a curiosity about the world, and find themselves unafraid of failure, having failed more than 70% of the time. They often live by a code and follow an established set of rules and guidelines.

When selling, they don’t push things that won’t work, including their product. They have a determination about them, asking a business a minimum of five times before giving up. They “collect people,” always finding valuable connections to add to weave into their network. Finally, they sell their own personal brand, not their company’s.

Four Steps to Selling

One can boil down selling into four simple steps:

Qualifying – You need to qualify both parties. Show the customer you can deliver the product you’re selling them, and that they need your product.

Benefits – No one cares what your marketing department does. They want to know “WIFM” or “what’s in it for me.”  Remember, the benefits your product brings to the customer are not the features of the product.

Overcoming Objections – It’s all about how you present your product to your end customers. Before meeting with your customer, you need to figure out how to present your product, and also know the five biggest objections customers will have to buying your product, and how to reply to those concerns.

Closing – Ask for their business. If you’re in customer service, ask “has this call taken care of your needs?”  Lead the person closer to the solution they need.

Question Pause Question

Another four part sales strategy Clive recommends and endorses is SPIN selling – situation, problem, implication, needs benefit.  To explain this strategy, let’s say you’re selling your customer a wheel wrench.

Situation – You are in your car driving down the highway. It’s a beautiful day, sunny and warm, perfect for a leisurely drive. You’re driving through the mountains, on your way to a picnic. You have your family with you; your kids are in the backseat watching a movie.

Problem – One wheel is loose. You knew about this problem before you went out, but you didn’t think it was a big deal. Besides, the nearest mechanic was far away, and you didn’t want the inconvenience of driving all the way there.

Implication – The wheel fell off, and you crash into another car. Everybody dies except one passenger in the other car.

Needs Benefit – The wheel wrench is a tool that makes tightening the bolts on your tires simple.

Rules to Live by

Finally, every good salesman will live be these rules:

  • Know when you suck – Self-awareness is the most important thing. If you’re having a bad day, and do a bad job selling to a customer, be honest and tell them.
  • Don’t buy it back – When you make the sale, switch the topic to something light, fluffy. If you sold a Prius, but then mentioned you need to change the battery every three years, and then lost the sale, you bought it back.
  • Persistence outweighs resistance.
  • Down, right liar – When you’re lying, your eyes go down and to the right.

With these tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be on your way to selling in no time.

How to Resolve Organizational Conflict

Organizational ConflictIn both our personal and work lives, conflict is inevitable. Although some of us may try, it is impossible to avoid. It is perfectly natural to want to avoid conflict. It feels bad, and avoiding it is hardwired into our brains. However, conflict can be a productive business tool. It can generate organizational change and allow for the growth and evolution of a company.

To help us understand conflict better and help improve our conflict resolution skills, Claudette Rowley of Metavoice Coaching and Consulting stopped by Intelligent.ly to give us the rundown. Since founding Metavoice in 2000, she has coached and consulted internationally, guiding professionals, corporations and non-profits through collaborative, strengths-based strategic planning, team building and leadership development processes. She specializes in teaching and training people to develop the self-awareness, perspectives and skills to communicate, resolve conflict and lead successfully. She left us with some awesome advice on conflict resolution.

Five Conflict-Handling Modes

There are five different ways people handle conflict. The first step to understanding conflict is understanding these five methods. It is important to note that no one method of handling conflict is best. Each method has certain situations in which it is ideal to use and not as ideal.

Competing – assertive, uncooperative, and power-oriented. This person pursues his or her own concerns at the expense of others.

Collaborating – assertive, cooperative. This person attempts to work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies both parties. Collaborating might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, or collaborating to solve an interpersonal problem.

Compromising – intermediate in assertiveness and cooperativeness. This person tries to find a mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a fast, middle-ground solution.

Avoiding – Unassertive, uncooperative. This person does not immediate pursue his concerns or the concerns of the other party. This person avoids the conflict.

Accommodating – Unassertive, cooperating. This is the opposite of a competing. They neglect their own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity, yielding to another’s point of view, or obeying another person’s order when you don’t want to.

Preparation Process

There are four steps you should take before you enter into a conflict to help you successfully resolve the conflict.

Step 1: Understand your emotions. You must understand what your conflict tendencies are, what triggers you emotionally, and what your emotions are towards the current conflict.

Step 2: Assess your assumptions about intent. What are you assuming about the other person, yourself or the conflict that you don’t actually know is true? Be aware of these. Also, what do you assume is true that you don’t know as fact?

Step 3: Put yourself in others’ shoes. Try to understand what the other person is thinking or feeling. Don’t make assumptions about them; just get curious about what they might be thinking. Notice your own reaction to this. Do you feel empathy for them, or feel the same? Do you recognize they may have a point, or do you better understand what might be important to them?

Step 4: Identify your interests. What is important to you? What would a successful outcome look like to you?

Communication Skills

After you’ve prepared, the next step is to engage in the conflict. Here are some things to remember when you’re in the conflict:

Key Communication Skills: Listen and acknowledge everyone. Give each party the opportunity to tell their story. Identify interests, needs and priorities. Ask open-ended questions to probe and clarify. Stay as neutral as possible. Acknowledge emotions rather than acting on them.

Clarify Agreements, Differences and Options: Look for areas of agreement and clarify areas of difference. Brainstorm options for resolution and mutual gain.

Determine Objective Criteria: In doing so, there are three questions to ask. How will you know when the conflict is resolved? How will you know that it’s staying resolved? Who will document agreement and by when?

If You’re Stuck

If you’ve followed the advice given above and still can’t reach an agreement, here is a few more things to try:

  • Refrain from blaming, defensiveness and criticism
  • Name your experience—“This is what I’m experiencing now, this is how I feel…”
  • Reframe the conversation toward interests or options
  • Take a break and reconvene at an agreed upon time
  • Get a neutral third party if needed

By following these conflict resolution methods, you’ll be sure to successfully resolve your next conflict.

Grow Your SaaS Business Successfully

The Software as a Service model has steadily been gaining in popularity in the past few years as both companies and users alike have increasingly turned to the Internet for services. SaaS sales reached $10 billion in 2010, with estimates for the future only getting larger. There’s never been a better time to break into the industry, so what’s stopping you from jumping in?

Before you take the plunge, though, Cory von Wallenstein, the CTO of Dyn, a company specializing in managed DNS, email delivery & SMTP solutions, has a few words of advice for you. He’ll be teaching his class, “Growing a Successful SaaS Business” at Intelligent.ly on Monday, November 19. Cory spoke with us this week to let us in on his expertise in this area. Read on to find out more.

What are the fundamental difference between SaaS and traditional web and software platforms?

Biggest difference, at least with traditional shrink-wrap type software, is you live and die by your renewals. It puts the “recurring” in “recurring revenue”. That impacts a lot on how you run the business.

Tell us about your work at Dyn. How did you grow bookings to over $36 million in just four years?

Identify a proven market. Build an awesome product that meets the need. Forge awesome, rock-solid relationships with your clients, and lock arms with them to help them build their businesses. They’ll return the favor in kind and help you build your business.

What is the most common mistake made when trying to grow an SaaS company?

Having release anxiety, where you don’t release until you think it’s perfect. The reality is it doesn’t matter whether you think it’s perfect or not, it matters if it solves a customer’s pain point sufficiently for them to open up their wallets, take the money out, and put the money in your wallet. I promise that whatever you find embarrassing about the product you built, there are folks out there that are more than willing to overlook a few rough edges if it helps them do their jobs. You’ll know what rough edges to fix later on by listening to their feedback.

If you had one piece of advice to give to someone starting a SaaS business, what would it be?

Start today.

If you could learn any skill by tomorrow, what would it be?

Multi-tasking. I’m an engineer by degree, and a lot of my thinking is rooted in “focus on one problem at a time and knock it out of the park”. I’ve had to really focus on improving my ability to multi-task and pay a little bit of a attention to a lot of things, and to know when to dive in and when to stay out. And I’m still learning!

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Learn how to grow your SaaS business. Sign up for Cory’s class today!

Building a Financial Model That You’ll Actually Use

Bottom Up Financial ModelThis week at Intelligent.ly, Dan Allred, Senior Relationship Manager of Silicon Valley Bank, and Matthew Nichols, EVP Operations/ Board Member at Gemvara were in the house tag-teaming as they walked students through a “Bottom-Up” approach to financial analysis. From revenue to expenses, they used hard examples to illustrate the importance well-informed assumptions and separating fact from fiction (we all want to aim for success, but c’mon, ya gotta be realistic!). Clearly a critical topic for startups looking to grow, we saw the biggest turnout we’ve seen yet!

Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up
Starting with a top-down approach is all about gauging your startup’s opportunity and your potential market share. A bottoms-up market analysis means you’re more focused on what it will take for your business to capture it. Money promised is rarely the same thing as money received, so analyzing financial variables, such as investments and expenses, becomes much more simple. In the end, you should have a model that will allow you to project reliable results that are highly manageable.

Key Assumptions When Forming Your Financial Model
Money, money, money, money. Think about how you make it. Do you offer a service? Sell a product? Who are your prospects? This includes sales, both inside and direct, channels, freemium/premium, and traffic. Consider the range of products that you have to offer and how they’re each priced relative to their value. Which class of clients buys which product? Customers often times aren’t one-time buyers, even if they one buy one product (think subscriptions, upgrades, or product maintenance). Make sure to account for all your revenue channels.

On the flip side of money made, there’s money lost. Ask yourself what Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) are associated with your sale. This includes implementation, customization, material cost, and commissions, to name a few. Look for any opportunity to lower COGS, like network effects of volume inflection points.

Fully understanding how your sales funnel works allows for more accurate sales assumptions.  How many more prospects you need to convert the projected revenue based on your current conversion rates? Are there previously overlooked costs associated with reaching and converting these prospects? Don’t forget that there’s also a period of adjustment for channels and sales people before they become productive. On the marketing front, what do you need to do to optimize for your success metrics? When you’ve figured out what your specific business needs to address to answer all of these questions, your revenue, sales, and marketing expense assumptions should work together to help you manage your business and move forward, providing a much needed reality check.

Tips for Building Your Model

  1. Build a monthly model all the way across
  2. Standardize your employee build
  3. Clearly identify inputs
  4. Check a random moth- BY HAND
  5. Spot check big jumps
  6. Re-check your out years vs. public companies