While listening to Vahid Mirjalili, co-founder and COO of Owl speak at yesterday’s FintechTO event, I thought, “It would’ve been way easier to sell software to, like, Alexander the Great or Napoleon.”
A little context’s required.
Hello? Hi? ‘Scuse Me? Do You Have Any Power? Finding the Decision Maker in a Corporate Maze
Mirjalili, who runs a KYC company, was speaking to the audience of tech enthusiasts, founders, and entrepreneurs about the importance of knowing your customer. Not for AML purposes, but for sales purposes. People familiar with buyer personas or account-based marketing (ABM) tactics understand the benefits of identifying the right person.
But what if you’re selling to enterprises?
Anyone who’s tried to get anything done within a corporate environment can speak to the agonizing experiencing of finding the real decision-maker, so good luck to the outsiders trying to sell to them. Mirjalili, who correctly calculated that addressing “KYC” from a sales perspective rather than a compliance perspective would land better, provided guidance for navigating a corporate maze.
According to Mirjalili, it’s about identifying the sponsor and then building a relationship with your champion.
How do you know who the sponsor is?
It’s not an easy task given the various stakeholders, the overlapping remits, and the overall inaccessibility of people who actually hold any power. Mirjalili says you can tell you’ve got the right person if they’re solving a problem big enough to require an external vendor (small improvements are usually tackled internally).
Another good sign they’re the sponsor? They have exactly zero time to speak to you.
Cue the champion.
The champion is someone trusted by the sponsor, who has access to them, and who has likely been tasked with sourcing solutions. The champion’s job is defined by talking to all kinds of problem-solvers and presenting the most compelling answer.
Once a company understands this, they can spend less time chasing the “un-chase-able” and more time building a relationship with the power behind the throne.
Which brings us back to Alexander the Great and Napoleon. I don’t know what need Macedon or the French Empire would’ve had for a cloud-based expense tracker or e-commerce platform. But if they did need one, there’s nothing like a big shiny throne to tell you who calls the shots, vague org charts be damned.
And if I wanted to get to Alexander the Great or Napoleon, you better believe I would’ve made a few BD calls to my champions, Olympia and Talleyrand.
“You’re Asking a Former Uber Guy About Profitability”: Properly Walks The Walk on Authenticity
Earlier in the night, co-founder and COO of Properly, Sheldon McCormick, talked about building trust with your customers. When you occupy a field characterized by commissions and closing cost horror stories, it’s hard to get people to warm up to you.
Properly understands this firsthand. To prove this, McCormick shared negative comments the company received on Facebook. When asked how Properly would build trust with its customers, McCormick referenced the company’s “starts from within” approach. They hire employees who value customers, conduct all-hands meetings where customer needs are discussed, and everyone within the company talks to customers regularly.
Perhaps the best moment of the talk was when an audience member asked about Properly’s future prospects, citing the struggles of a similar company. While McCormick had an optimistic answer, he prefaced it with my favourite line of the night. I’ll have to wait for the video for the actual quote, but it was something along the lines of “First off, you’re asking a former Uber guy about profitability”.
Keeping it real is definitely one way to build trust.
Kudos To Whoever Came Up With The Name: Knowtions Talks Innovation Battle Scars
Christina Cai, co-founder and COO of Knowtions, spent her chat talking about the battle scars of running innovation projects for large enterprises.
Her big takeaways?
Understand who your stakeholders are, whose P&L you belong to, whose KPIs you affect, and where you can present the most value.
If you don’t know whose P&L you affect, you’ll encounter resistance and struggle to find the source of it.
If you don’t know whose KPIs you affect, you’ll be talking to people with little incentive to listen.
Finally, Cai recommends understanding where you can make the most impact. When you’re energetic and innovative, it’s easy to fall for your own press. In the process, entrepreneurs forget that many enterprises have been chugging along with existing processes for quite some time. The key to making an impact is finding that 5 percent of the company where you can provide 10x value.
From Unicorns to Cockroaches: Disrupting Buzzwords During a Fireside Chat with Wave’s Kirk Simpson
Wave co-founder and CEO, Kirk Simpson, joined TechTO co-founder Alex Norman for a fireside chat. Wave’s recent acquisition by H&R Block presented ample opportunity for reflection. Running a startup included both highs and lows, and by lows we don’t just mean having a difficult week. Simpson discussed laying off employees, being weeks away from insolvency, and even questioning the company’s product at one point.
While he definitely thinks there’s a fine line between “never giving up” and “putting a second mortgage on your house”, Simpson encouraged entrepreneurs to focus on surviving another day, another week, another month when the going gets tough. In his case, sticking it out led to a successful $537 million exit.
This “I refuse to die” attitude prompted Norman to compare Simpson and his company to cockroaches, marking perhaps the only time in history the word “cockroach” has been used as a compliment.
Norman was unfazed. As he put it, unicorns can die, but cockroaches stay kicking through it all.
Fair enough. Fair. Enough.
Featured image via Unsplash