Credibility is one of your most valuable assets no matter which sector or position you’re in. If your style of communication for some reason fail to signal absolute trustworthiness you’ll inadvertently trigger alarm bells that may take you years of relationship building to overcome. Credibility is particularly crucial if you’re in business development, internal or external relations or if you’re a leader. In these positions you simply cannot do your job without.
Let’s assume you’re a nice guy that means well. You want to come across as competent, trustworthy, talented, and shine same bright light on your company or product. How do you make sure you come across as genuine? Here’s 6 steps:
Under promise, over-deliver; this cliche is truer than taxes, the only thing that really builds trust is delivering. Whether you need to deliver results, introductions or just keep your word you can be sure it will be noticed every time you fail to honor a promise. As it revolves around promises, the easiest way to consistently deliver is to manage expectations, so when you’re setting sales targets with your boss, talking up your company at your cousin’s wedding or promising a completion date for a client always, always err on the side of caution to you’ve given yourself the best possible chance of exceeding expectations.
In sales you can be worried that you will loose the gig if you don’t promise big, but having clients out there talking about you missing deadlines or objectives is acid to future sales and much worse than loosing that one client. I know a company that sends their clients a cheque at the end of each project with the note that they didn’t require as much money as expected to reach the objectives and are returning the surplus. The physiology in receiving a cheque or a refund works brilliantly. Even though the client spend a million and you returned $1,295 they feel you’re the nicest guy in business.
2. Never overplay your hand
As in, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.When you’re trying to make an impression, it natural to want to include every single positive signal you’ve received so far. And if you do have commitment that’s also an strong card which you should play (“mum said it’s ok” is probably the oldest persuasion trick in history). But make sure to stick to the ones that are in fact already confirmed.
Last week I met with a guy who wanted me to support a new organization. To illustrate how cool this was going to be, he mentioned “they were going to approach Apple for sponsorship involvement”. Even though Apple is a great name, this carries no credibility, if anything, it signals that the guy is a bit of a dreamer. Because it’s just thoughts, Apple hasn’t committed, and they haven’t even spoken to them! It would be most more effective to tell me about people who were committed, even if they were lesser names. This is similar to sales talks where “we’re also in deep talks with so and so” is a common, but equally non credibile, sales phrase.
For me personally, the hardest part of this is resisting talking about new opportunities. Being an entrepreneur I am a total optimist, so I get excited very easily. When we get contacted by massive brands who want to buy something or partner, my impulse is to scream it off the rooftops. In the beginning I’d almost do this. I’d tell my colleague and (much worse) my board about many of these opportunities. What I failed to take into consideration was that most people are by nature more pessimistic (they call it “realistic”) than me, so for them it was just unlikely chatter.
And what’s worse, because many opportunities never materialize (for reason you can’t control) I’d inadvertently promised something I didn’t deliver. So without knowing it, I had upped their skepticism for the other matters i reported to them.
I still make this mistake, it’s a part of my nature to be entutiastic, but now I try to be conservative in my wording. I’ve also made a conscious effort only to include opportunities in board reports once they show high likelihood. It multiplies my promised-and-delivered rate without altering what I already do.
3. Your Kryptonite. Say what you can’t do
Some ago I was in Germany for a sales meeting together with the CTO of the company. I was giving them the full show, talking side up and side down about all the wonderful things our product could do. At one point I mentioned it was translated into 7 languages when the CTO interrupted, “Actually its only 6 languages”, he said. I looked at him incredulously, to me that wasn’t the point, since the 7th language would be rolled out by the time this client came on. And besides, why would you mention this in a sales meeting?! But something interesting happened. Suddenly the clients were listening more intently. They started looking at him when I explained very advanced features, he’d then nod, and use his new found credibility to convince them we could in fact deliver this big benefit.
I learned a lot that day, I learnt that unless you explain the limits of your proposition it comes across as all-magical, which is not credible. Trustworthiness actually comes from showing weak spots, lining out what your product can’t do. Today I make a point of mentioning seemingly relevant features we don’t have throughout sales conversations.
We have a service in my company we don’t use because of this. The product sounds amazing, but apparently they can do *everything*. Even though they are only three people. That’s not credible in my book, so we’re not trying it out.
Limits have the added benefit that they put your product in the right “box”. This anchor is required for people to share it and remember it. It’s actually better to be in a poorly matched box, than in no box at all. People hate being compared to their competitors because “they’ve created a whole new category”, but “we’re like bit.ly but with more analytics so you get deeper business intelligence” says a lot more about you than “it’s a totally disruptive linking technology” which people will also have forgotten in an instant because it hasn’t been “anchored”.
4. Never talk badly of others
This especially includes former colleagues and employers.
5. Own your failures
You might as well cut the bullshit, because people will see through it. If you were fired then people will know that “I left for personal reasons” means exactly that. It’s much better to say “I didn’t manage to reach (insert expectation) therefore i was laid off. I’ve learnt a lot from this and in my next role (this) and (that) are going to be major focus areas for me”
This also applies to products launched and incorrect strategies. The point is, that everyone fails with some things (if not, they are not innovating) and that owning up to it is honest and upfront. “We tried to take on the German market but had to accept its was too much, when we were going into Mexico at the same time and only had 12 people in the sales operation” builds credibly because it shows you learn from your mistakes.
6 Don’t talk crap. Just don’t.
I am from the startup scene which is filled with super optimists, egomaniacs and dreamers. This can’t help but create a bit of a talking-bullshit culture, but some people just don’t seem to know when to stop.
I have a friend who tells the most amazing stories. If you talk about a hot company he knows the founder of it, or has just visited the island of the investor, if you talk about an amazingly successful campaign you’ve just studied, he’s just done one that reached twice the number. While it’s very good entertainment with a glass of wine, the result is that I never believe anything is but a good story. I am sure that some of the stories are true, some are exaggerations and some are just a productive imagination, but since I don’t know which is which I just don’t trust any of them. He’s lost all the credibility he could have had.
Talking crap also applies to those people for whom everything is just always going brilliantly. If people are going to believe any of your stories you better mix in a few humble ones about things that were hard or unsuccessful. This applies in general, but in particular to situations where you’re reporting to someone, like a boss or a board. Here’s it’s smarter to mention a few challenges, rather than just going on about everything that’s going well. It’s puts the successes into perspective and makes them stand out. It also shows you are not naive about the challenge of the task.
Getting heard, as in making your “news” interesting to others that your cofounders and your mum is a super important skill for any entrepreneur or leader
Whether your story is about you, your product or your startup it’s imperative that you can tell a story that others are interested in hearing. That’s what will make the product spread.
About a year ago I decided to learn the craft of writing press releases and stories. It’s a long on-going process in which I’ve found the hardest part to be the headline. Thus I was stoked when I found this blog post with detailed tips on how to create winning headlines. I wanted to share the best bits.
You can read the whole detailed post by Scott Martin, a direct marketing copy writer here
Types of headlines
• How to
It’s great if they are:
• Drawing a picture.
• Stating a fact.
• Asking a question.
Classic template formulas you can use
Are you ____________ ?
“Are You Ready for the Most Beautiful Lawn in Your Neighborhood?”
A word of warning about question headlines: I only use them when the answer is obvious to the reader. I never use open-ended question headlines.
“How I _______________”
“How I Overcame Joint Pain, Got Off the Sidelines, and Back in the Game.”
“How to ______________”
“How to Add at Least 20 Yards to Your Drives and Hit the Ball in the Fairway More Often than a PGA Tour Pro.”
“Secrets of ____________”
“Secrets of Wall Street’s Elite Investors Revealed…”
“Thousands (hundreds, millions, etc.) now ______________, even though they ________________.”
“Millions of ambitious investors are beating the ‘down market blues’ by listening to this woman’s advice…even though they know little or nothing about stocks and bonds.”
Perhaps my favorite headline but difficult to use well.
“Warning: a little-known change in the law will make it harder to manufacture chocolate. Here’s what you can do right now to keep making chocolate…”
“Give me _____________ and I’ll _________________.”
“Give me 10 minutes right now and I’ll show you how to sell your home for full value in any market.”
“__________ Ways to ______________”
“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
With apologies to Paul Simon.
Ever wondered if your newsletter is working?
Well, here’s some help for marketeers to judge themselves by from the nice guys at MailChimp. They have shared the average response rate. Very useful indeed!
All industries: http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks-by-industry/
We use MailChimp in Everplaces. It’s very good but also very expensive. But these nice stats are for free!
A startup is acquired for any combination of the technology, talent, or the user base. Here are some hard cold figures:
More info in this wonderfully informative blog post by Wired, including a spreadsheet with all this valuable information.
Cutting through the hype, smoke and mirrors these numbers of revenue show what’s really happening at Twitter, Groupon and their big cousins.
2012 Revenue Per Employee
Here’s a data table comparing the 2012 reported revenue over employee headcount, found from online public data.
Comment: Foursquare is officially “not to be focussing on revenue, but on growth”, in contrast to the others, so enjoys a little unfair comparison here.
Facebook shows highest revenue per employee
As reported by public available data, Automattic, Zynga, Twitter, and Facebook are all making over $300k per employee despite tech salaries often ranging in 100k range, with additional costs.
300k is benchmark
300k per employee can therefore be used as a benchmark for good revenue per employee. For comparison, Facebook is pushing over $1m per employee, and Google (50b revenue for 53k reported employees) is about the same, at $946k per employee. And while WordPress team has a modest $45m their revenue per employee stands toe to toe with the big dogs.
True success is in the ratios
People have a tendencies to compare apples with pears, such as Groupon’s revenues with Yelp’s, despite the massive difference in size and expenses occurred making same revenue. Unless you’re looking at the opportunity costs of one sector vs another, a much more nuanced picture is from ratios. It gives you a much better understanding of how you’re company is really performing.
Example, the startup scene is famously hyped, and early stage success tends to be measured in headcount. This is not a great measure since headcount is an expense and therefore hardly a great measure of success in itself (any idiot can hire lots of people). The best measure of success (or productivity) early stage is employees per user.
Best pre revenue performance
Among the most famous ratios, Instagram comes out on top, with one employee for every 2.07 million users.
The second highest user-to-employee ratio is OMGPOP (Draw Something) with only one employee for every 875,000 users (fastest growing mobile product in history, scaled to 50 million users within 50 days so probably never even got the change to hire).
On the other end of the scale are Aardvark, with one employee for every 1,800 users, and Zappos with one employee for every 3,400 users.
This came from two super informative blogs:
Revenue per employee, by Web-strategist: Full article here
users per employee, by Wired. Full article here
Normally it’s hard to get anyone from the big three in tech travel to reveal anything about priorities or strategy. But having three of the head honchos on stage together at IBT, made them reveal a bit more.
Here’s key priorities of
Facebook revealed they are working on becoming really good at sorting friends recommendations based on shared interest and level of trust, a mix between the social graph and interest graph.
“People are looking for filters, there is simply too much choice” . Facebook
Facebook expanded that their early venturing into graph search supports this observation, as the 2nd most frequent type of graph search is for places. So hotels, bars, and places you’re friends have visited and liked.
Google revealed the are working on making the whole process from discovery to booking more streamlined. Right now people check 12 sites before they book, therefore the overall process (the five steps of travel) is the big ambitious goal for Google.
On a question on on site operators such as tour operators Google was positive because these expend a service that can’t be done online.
“If you’re a tour operator that owns the whole value chain, and then extends that to include mobile, then you’re in a winning position”. Google
On whether search remains a key factor Google replied that “Our core business is answering questions. It’s not about links”. Which i why we should expect a lot more than traditional search results, depending if you’re looking for a recommendation, wants to know the weather or find a flight to book. Another example why owning the whole process becomes increasingly important to them.
Kayak said, their key focus remains price comparison. The are looking into discovery social recommendations, but consider it less important. However they did reveal to be working on an algorithmic that predicts what will be relevant to you based on your past behavior (by the sounds of it similar to a cookie with semantic analytic capabilities)
All agreed mobile is the future
“Going forward the land grab is getting your app on someone’s mobile phone. Then to get it onto the first two pages.” Facebook
The other key topic was meta data. Facebook went as far as to say that meta apps are one of the key opportunities. “Meta is a smart play”
This is all good news for Everplaces. I better get back to work;-)
When going through hell, keep going — Winston Churchill may have been talking about politics, but hits it spot on for entrepreneurship too
I wanted to share an excellent ressource. This article is a great explanation of how a VC fund work:
In any negotiation and sales understanding that the person opposite you wants and needs to get out of the situation is important. I’d almost say its paramount to success. Despite this, many entrepreneurs don’t understand the maths and rationale that rules a VC fund. If you learn you’ll have a much better chance of picking the right fund based on the size of investment you require, and return you expect to be able to deliver.
Two key things a lot of people forget:
- Big funds require a potential for truly massive returns, so they wont invest in anything that doesn’t offer a chance of that.
- If you need too little money, you might not be worth their time. A investment manager normally manages around 8 investments, and it takes the same time to manage a tiny seed investment as a big one.
Enjoy the article
Business development is a long and arduous process with a million little details you need to remember, and at the right time. So you need a system.
If your team has several people working on outside relations you definitely need a CRM system to keep track of what’s been said to whom. And we’re not just talking sales here, but also partnerships and key contacts.
This is not just to make you and your sales people’s job easier. It’s also because those relations are of critical value to the company and need to be sustained even if a key person leaves (the “if someone gets hit by a bus” rule).
I’ve tried so many of these systems that just didn’t cut it. Like SalesForce and Highrise that are both too inflexible and old fashioned. But now I’ve just started using a new CRM system called Pipeline, and it’s amazing!
Over all theme is a cool visual overview. Where you can see how far each “lead” has come in the process.
You just drag and drop them as the move on. And of course you can click further into each deal/ organisation/ person to record full history.
It can be both stressful and a headache keeping track of these million little things, all happening at once. I hope this can make your life easier.
So often true…
Harvard Business Review just released this study of mobile usage. It provides interesting insights to mobile companies and marketeers.
SOURCES ”Seven Shades of Mobile” study, conducted by InsightsNow for AOL and BBDO, 2012. In the first phase, 24 users completed a seven-day diary and in-depth interviews. In the second, 1,051 U.S. users ages 13 to 54 were surveyed, data on 3,010 mobile interactions were collected, and the mobile activities of two-thirds of those users were tracked for 30 days.
TheNextWeb’s Startup Awards come to Denmark!
The company behind one of the world’s most famous tech blogs are now turning their eyes to Denmark. In the next weeks they want to find the best startup people and companies, and are running a competition to do so.
Nominate for the competition now
The awards are awarded to several roles in the startup ecosystem:
While startup awards seems to be a dime a dozen these days TNW have a refreshingly relaxed approach. There is no award ceremony, just a meetup on February the 28th which is organized in collaboration with Founders House and Connect Denmark.
“The Danish Startup Awards are a public choice award, where the people decide on who will win the awards. It starts with nominating your favorite startups through our platform. Later, the TNW jury select max. 5 companies or people per category who will be going to the voting round. During the voting round anybody can vote for their favorites via the social voting platform or e-mail.The companies who get the most votes in their category will receive a ticket to TNW Conference Europe and of course, eternal fame”
You can nominate people and companies here
”My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people:
Those who do the work and those who take the credit.
He told me to try to be in the first group. There is much less competition”