Browsing articles from "December, 2013"

The Everything Store

The Everything Store is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding Amazon and in growing their own business. Even if you don’t aspire to build a web site as large as Amazon, The Everything Store offers a fascinating history of Amazon and some insight into the operating principles and aspirations of the site’s founder, Jeff Bezos.

The Everything Store

There are a lot of great takeaways for every aspiring entrepreneur and every aspiring executive.

When You Have To Strike Out On Your Own

Bezos came up with the idea for Amazon while working at hedge fund D.E. Shaw. He felt he had to leave because he would’t be able to realize his vision or build the company the way he wanted to within the framework of D.E. Shaw. There are lots of blog posts on the struggle people face when they decide to leave their jobs. What is clear is that Bezos felt he had no choice. He had to create his own framework to realize his vision. And he took a lot of the principles he learned–about hiring, for example with him when he founded Amazon.

Find A Big Wave

Bezos found a big wave–the growth of the Internet–and rode it. The growth was just too incredible to ignore.

Please The Customer

Bezos has long been focused on pleasing the customer. That is, putting the customer first. This is easy to say, but hard to do. Founders and executives alike would do well to remember this key business principle.  In its early days, Amazon often ran out of product and had to send employees around to traditional retail stores like Toys R Us to buy items in order to fulfill orders that customers placed on the web site!

Huge Ambition

It’s not enough to sell books, Amazon has to sell everything. It’s not enough to provide two-day shipping, Amazon has to get to the point where it can deliver in 30 minutes. Like many great entrepreneurs, Bezos is on a quest to make the seemingly impossible possible. From Bezos’s point of view, current technologies and economic constraints are meant to be disrupted. They shouldn’t stand in the way of realizing the vision.

Sweat The Details

At the same time that Bezos looks to realize his big vision for Amazon, he also sweats the details. From branding to packaging, from the web site experience to product deliver, every detail matters.

Surround Yourself With Great People

In the book, Bezos is portrayed as a rather cold-hearted manager. Bezos brought in a lot of talented people. He hired from competitors to fill in gaps in his organization. He kept those who worked out and let go those who didn’t. The reality is that startups are fluid organizations. Not every hire works out. The key is to make hiring a top priority and surround yourself with great people. It’s clear that Bezos did that repeatedly.


There are many more lessons to be learned from The Everything Store. The book is provocatively written, fast-paced and a great read. It’s as much about Jeff Bezos as it is about Amazon, which is what makes it such a compelling read. If you don’t get distracted by the author’s flair for drama and rather see it for what it is–a device intended to keep readers engaged and sell more books–you’ll find yourself with more than a few insightful takeaways you can apply yourself.




Dec 31, 2013

You Don’t Hire The Best Salespeople, They Hire You

If you haven’t read Mark Suster’s post How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle and Avoid Wasting Time, you should. But first I want to fill you in on three little-known secrets of startup sales hiring.


You Don’t Hire The Best Salespeople, They Hire You

What do I mean by this? When it comes to selling your product, the very best salespeople already know how to sell your product. They’ve researched it, they’ve sold another product like it, or they could envision selling your product into a set of clients they already know.

These are the salespeople who don’t spend their careers looking for sales jobs. They spend their careers looking for great products they know they can sell. And then they sell those products and sell, sell, sell some more. In effect, they’re hiring you, because they know you’ve got a product that’s a match for what they can sell.

I’m not saying that you can’t train people to sell your product. You definitely can. But the very best sales people will seek out your product because they already know how to sell it.

Great Clients Make Great Salespeople

At Speechpad, clients and partners contact us asking how they can refer or resell our video transcription product. Many of these people already know and love our product because they are users of it themselves. These clients would get high Net Promoter Scores or NPS, a measure of how likely your existing clients are to refer your product to new clients.

Like great sales people who already know they can sell your product, clients and partners who want to refer your product to other potential clients make great sales people.

Of course, there are companies we reach out to and partner with. But there are many more who contact us looking to partner or resell. We don’t hire them–they hire us and refer or resell our product to their own clients, partners and friends. We love clients like these because they are one of our best sources of new business.

To Sell To The Top, You Have To Sell From The Top

If you as a founder are not out selling every single day, how can you expect other people in your organization to sell your product? I’m not saying you’re going to have the world’s best sales technique, process or approach. But if you look at leaders like Aaron Levie of Box and Elon Musk of Tesla, SpaceX and Paypal fame, these founders are out selling every single day.

They are out there promoting their vision, their view on the future of the world. If you want to call high at your customers, the highest people at your company have to be directly involved with sales. That means both actual deal selling as well as visionary selling. Deal selling means helping to close new customers.

Visionary selling means creating space in the ecosystem for your company to exist by getting out there and being visible. Often, these two forms of selling go hand-in-hand.

Look no further than at two of the very best salespeople in the world, entrepreneurs Aaron Levie and Elon Musk. These entrepreneurs aren’t just selling their products, they’re selling their vision. They’re selling the dream. They’re selling it to anyone and everyone who will listen. They’re selling to potential customers, to potential salespeople, and to future investors (and current ones too).

No doubt there are days they’d rather just be working on the product. But they are out making room in the world for their products to exist. They are selling from the top.


You may be thinking to yourself that you’d rather code than sell. That you’d rather send an email than meet face to face with a person. When I first taught myself to program at age 12, I found the long hours of coding relaxing, mentally challenging and fulfilling. I still love to stay up till two or three in the morning working on the product.

I shipped my first ShareWare application at a time when I had to send out diskettes to people in the mail. There were times when I thought that was tedious, especially when I was sending out hundreds of diskettes a week. Fixing a tough bug or creating a new feature could be a lot more enjoyable than shipping another disk.

But I came to realize, as James Altucher put it in his recent post, that I have been selling, selling, selling ever since then. So when it comes to selling:

- You don’t hire the best sales people, they hire you

- Great clients make great sales people

- To sell to the top, you have to sell from the top

Now, get out there and sell!

Dec 29, 2013