Selling Your Product Globally: Lessons Learned From International Expension

I was fortunate enough to take a product globally (on a small scale) at a startup, and later scale a product in 45 markets as part of SAP. A discussion I had with a founder of a large, successful US SaaS company, made me think of some of the challenges and the dos and don’t when selling internationally. Much of the below is based on my own expereince, and targeted at startups taking their first global steps, but some of the lessons are relevant to large, more established companies as well.

Where should you start?

This is probably the hardest question. How do you pick the first country to go after? Should you go for the next biggest market? An English speaking market? Or maybe the most untapped market?

For most startups, the first market is selected by opportunity, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you are French, start with France. If you find out that 50 Brazilian companies are using your product you might want to understand why. If a great guy you worked with before just left his job in Denmark he might be the one starting up the market for you. The key to start selling globally is having a local market understanding. Knowing the language and market, or having customers in a country, will help you gain the knowledge you need, provide feedback as you experiment and allow you to learn.

Get on a plane

Before you do anything, get on a plane and spend good amount of time talking with any customers you already have, and other relevant prospects. Continue reading “Selling Your Product Globally: Lessons Learned From International Expension”

Selling Your Product Globally: Lessons Learned From International Expension

Three reasons why frequently asked questions (FAQs) are not effective

Magneto is working on a new and exciting product and I happened to draft some help articles for it. I was about to draft an FAQs section but my co-founder Ellen Beldner advised against it and claimed they are much harder to parse. When I went back to my desk and looked at some of them I realize she was right: FAQs are not effective.

Why would you waste your header on a question vs. the answer? Instead of asking: Can I connect more than one calendar? Just state: Magneto lets you connect more than one calendar. This way your reader can get the answer at a glance and can read more if she likes. (by the way, imagine newspapers will change their headlines to questions: Did Obama Win The Elections? How annoying will it be?)

People search, they don’t browse. Long gone the days of reading the manual. When people have a question, they go to the help section and hit search. When the search results return answers vs. questions, users can scan them quickly and find the best article without the need to read it. Continue reading “Three reasons why frequently asked questions (FAQs) are not effective”

Three reasons why frequently asked questions (FAQs) are not effective

The importance of being on time (and why we often run late)

A guest post originally published on TNW

In my first startup, TopManage (now SAP Business One) I spent the first couple of years as the chief salesperson. It is something that many founders experience (selling to customers or pitching to investors) and it meant four to five out-of-office meetings a day.

Each meeting could lead to thousands of dollars in immediate revenue that was crucial to us back then. My day was a constant balance between cramming as many meetings into a day and not being late to any of them. Why? Because, in my experience, being late to a meeting means you are probably 20 percent less likely to close the deal.

While there is little research on this area (no sales person will admit tardiness), this was certainly true when I ran the SMB sales team at SAP and in multiple startups. I’ve spoken about this with heads of sales across the industry and heard many times that being five minutes early to a sales call is actually being late.

Why is being on time so important?

For me it boils down to one thing: owning the meeting. Good sales people own the meeting and lead it. They set the agenda, decide when small talk is appropriate, when it is time for the slides, the demo, and finally, the ask. A good sales meeting is one where everything goes as you planned for it.

If you were ever late to an important meeting, you know that what I described here can’t happen if you are arriving 10 minutes late. Small talk is replaced with apologies and you’re only half listening as you try to pull your laptop from the bag and set everything up.

Worst of all, you lose points in your customer’s mind before the meeting even starts.

Compare that to arriving 10 minutes early, stopping by the restroom, getting a drink and chatting with the receptionist for few minutes, then getting some background info about the mood in the office or anything else that can help you in the meeting.

Why is being on time so hard?

running to work late 730x426 The importance of being on time (and why we often run late)

We are horrible at predicting the future and we tend to be optimistic in our estimates. This is a normal human tendency (and the reason why “it ended up taking twice the time and double the money” is probably something you’ve heard many times).

We also tend to underestimate things – like the time it takes to get to the car, finding parking and traffic. Even when presented with driving time data, we often fall into the illusory superiority trap, thinking that we can make it on time since we are better and faster drivers. (The best example for illusory superiority is the fact that 93 percent of the drivers rank themselves as above average. I wonder how bad the seven percent that think they are below average…)

We like to round. Our brain is efficient because it is lazy. Thinking that you need to leave 37 minutes before a meeting is hard, so our brain rounds it to 30 minutes (see optimism) so even if traffic is perfect, we will still be late.

Lastly, it is tedious to calculate all this in your head and repeat it for every meeting. Most of us just don’t like tedious tasks.

Be honest with your time

We’ve spent tons of time thinking about this problem at Magneto. We used our collective experience and interviewed dozens of salespeople, early stage startup CEOs and business development executives, and we are convinced that if you want to be on time, you have to plan to be on time and do it every time.

How can you do it?

  • It has to be on your calendar. It is not enough to know that a meeting in San Jose starts at 1:00PM. You should also know that you need to leave at 11:48 AM to make it on time.
  • Block time on your calendar for travel, so you or others don’t chip into your travel time and makes it hard for you to leave when you planned to.
  • Use services like Google Now (will let you know when to leave) or specialized calendar apps to plan ahead

Being on time takes getting used to, but once you are, you will never go back. It can be difference between making your quota or losing another deal.

The importance of being on time (and why we often run late)

Shit you say in the enterprise

ImageAn email from a friend who works at Microsoft sent me back in time and got me started on #shityousayinenterprise last week.  Ray Wang asked me to convert it to a blog post, which sounded like a fun project. For each sentence you hear in the enterprise, I added a short explanation for the startup gang…

What do you mean you can’t build this feature? I am going to escalate it to your manager

Escalation is one of the most commonly used threats in the enterprise. A customer complains? Let’s escalate to the head of engineering. You can’t accept a task someone from Marketing asked you to finish? He will escalate it to your manager. Someone made a nasty comment? Let’s escalate to HR.   Continue reading “Shit you say in the enterprise”

Shit you say in the enterprise

Did Mailbox’s brilliant launch strategy backfire on them?

ImageUntil yesterday I thought that Mailbox nailed their launch. They seem to have done everything right: created hype, designed a great-looking app, came up with an intriguing video, built a robust waiting list, and got tons of press.

The icing on the cake was their brilliant plot to shoot up to the top of the  iTunes most-downloaded app list (currently number 4 overall): they sent everyone on their waiting list an email which asked the recipients to download the app in order to check their position on the waiting list. Continue reading “Did Mailbox’s brilliant launch strategy backfire on them?”

Did Mailbox’s brilliant launch strategy backfire on them?

Someone should build it: don’t send emails you regret later

Here is a common advice: don’t send emails when you are angry. You will regret it later once you are calm and had some time to think about it. The problem is that when we are mad, we can’t really control the urge of sending this mail and tell those corporate goons/our boss/our spouse what we think of them. When we are mad, we want revenge and email is the nerd’s machine gun…  Continue reading “Someone should build it: don’t send emails you regret later”

Someone should build it: don’t send emails you regret later

Never trust your users (during market research)

The first time I viewed a professional focus group I was impressed. We sat behind a mirror wall, were served great food and wine and watched business owners answer questions asked by a professional moderator. For a long while, I was in love with the concept: pay some money and get a glance into the future, read your potential users minds and build the perfect product that they will use for ever. If only it was so simple…

Later in life I understood that the most important thing to remember about any user feedback is that people don’t tell you what they think, they tell you what they think they thinkContinue reading “Never trust your users (during market research)”

Never trust your users (during market research)