It was a cold and windy day in the middle of October 2005. I sat in my glass cubical on the fourth floor at our Dutch HQ near Rotterdam. The situation was tense; People were running around, stressed out, and I sat there with a knot in my stomach…
I’d just hung up on call with PJ, a US technology analyst that I trusted. I thought the call had gone well, but then he shocked me:
“There’s something that truly differentiates your solution, Ton, you just have a very odd way of communicating it and that doesn’t help anybody,”
What he basically told me was that the story we were telling wasn’t clear. It was littered with words and details that mattered to us but didn’t have any meaning to him or to our customers.
I was taken aback. Was it that bad? No one had ever challenged me on this.
The conversation kept going through my head as I drove home that evening. I slept on it for a night and the longer I thought about it I began to realize he was right.
The following weeks the trickling of revelations became an ant’s nest of issues.
…Had we really fallen in love too much with our own ideas?
…Had we lost connection with whom we were actually doing it for?
Suddenly I realized we’d become complacent to a hidden, but sizeable problem and needed to have some difficult conversations. It was clear we needed help.
So, we connected to an expert – someone unbiased and emotionally detached – who could challenge the status quo and poke holes in all our believes.
What we learned was:
Suddenly we had meaningful and energetic conversations with decision-makers about what else could be i.e. the potential. That built trust with customers and also took our confidence to new levels. Our demos transformed from meaningless ‘feature-function’ tours to meaningful showcases of value.
Sales teams started to win four out of five, rather than just one. Sales cycles visibly shortened. Deal size increased, often far above the second vendor on the shortlist. And the word ‘discount’ started to disappear – in fact, some competitors decided to back off when they realized we were ‘in’. We’d transformed from being undervalued to being ‘the one’ for the right customers.
The project taught me three essential lessons:
The most important thing that stood out for me was that no matter how much I love building software businesses, what I love even more is fixing them.
And you can experience what I experienced too. I’ll be your guide to get you through the challenging situations, positioning you to come out as a software business your customers just keep talking about.
Whether you’re a start-up or a well-established business, working with Ton has the power to change your business for good and for the better, not by 10%, but by 10x.
Michiel Schipperus, CEO Sana Commerce
#1 Global Thought Leader on Startups
#2 Global Thought Leader on Entrepreneurship
#11 Global Thought Leader on Marketing
#23 Global Thought Leader on Sales
The GC People Leader Series meets…Game Changer Ton Dobbe