How products spread in companies

In the early days of Salesforce – long before they had their hideous tower in San Francisco – they were small.

They struggled, just like the rest of us. I’m sure getting their customer relationship management (CRM) software adopted inside companies wasn’t easy.

It’s likely they tried many approaches. One approach they did try, that ultimately landed their first large client, was a bottom up approach.

The bottom up approach is allowing your product to be used autonomously by individuals within an organization. It should be easily adoptable. And, priced such they don’t need a purchasing department to approve it.

At least at the start. The contracts and official plans come later.

Then, you allow your product to spread inside the company. With individuals, or individual teams, using it.

This is what Salesforce found. They landed their largest client, because they found individual sales managers using Salesforce within the same organization. They were all using it independently and just for their team.

The teams used it for some time. Then, Salesforce realized this and approached them. This is where the contracts and official plans began.

When Salesforce discovered this situation, they began the conversation of combining all these separate Salesforce accounts into one account. Ultimately, making Salesforce more valuable to the organization. And, turning this client into a great client. At the time, it was their largest client.

Once this method was published, it became fairly famous. Many business to business (B2B) products attempt at spreading in this fashion.

It’s how HubSpot spread within the organization I work for.

This sounds easy. Build a great product that can be used by individuals within an organization and it will spread. Then, you’ll land a big contract.

What’s missing from the story above is the champion.

The spread of your product within an organization begins with a champion. The champion loves your product. Uses it. They are willing to tell everyone else in the business about it. And, they are able to show everyone the impact it is making on the business.

This single champion will slowly turn into two people using it. Then three people. Then two teams. And finally, wider company adoption.

The champion has to have the ability to start using your product on a small scale, build wins, then show those wins to other teams. Eventually, there will be so many teams using the product that the organization has to deal with it.

The organization will deal with it in one of two ways.

  1. They will stop it from being used. This is not favorable to you or the company. To the company, stopping it means disrupting and impacting many people’s jobs.
  2. They invest in your product.

If the product is showing value to the organization, option 2 is the more likely scenario.

This is how products spread within companies.

Not every product can work this way. But, if you can tap into this method and find your champion, it might make getting your product into an organization that much easier.

Who knows, after this works, you too might get your own building in San Francisco.

Building momentum

In the late 1970s, the San Francisco 49ers were the worst franchise in football. At 2-14, they looked hopeless.

Not just hopeless as a team. Hopeless as an organization.

For the 1979 season, Bill Walsh joined the team as their head coach. He proceeded to take the team to a 2-14 record his first year.

In his second year, they went 6-10. During this 6-10 season, they had a crippling 8 game losing streak.

After two years under Bill Walsh, it didn’t look like things were getting any better. At least if we looked at their record.

Underneath the surface, momentum was building. Unbeknownst to them at the time and their record didn’t support this.

The momentum began when Bill Walsh implemented what he calls his “Standard of Performance”. He did this the day he started with the San Francisco 49ers.

Although this standard resulted in a first year 2-14 record. Then, a second year 6-10 record. The standard built enough momentum, that they had a third year 13-3 record with a Super Bowl win.

Over the course of the next decade, they won the Super Bowl three more times. Then, one more time in the 1990s. All with Bill Walsh and coaches that learned under Bill Walsh.

The Bill Walsh “Standard of Performance” is built on consistently executing fundamentals. It’s not so important what his specific fundamentals are, although there are some great ones. What is important is he had fundamentals and he was unwavering in his commitment to them.

Bill Walsh has attributed the San Francisco 49ers first Super Bowl win to their adherence to this “Standard of Performance”.

Fast forward to 2020 and here we are. 2 weeks in a row.

What we can learn from Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers, is that this momentum is probably going to take a while. And, we need a “Standard of Performance” with some fundamentals to adhere too.

Although this standard comes from football, it is directly applicable to our business and careers.

If we would like to get traffic to our blog, we need to consistently produce quality content. This is our fundamental. If we consistently do this for nine to eighteen months, we will begin to see some results.

If we want to build our sales revenue, we need to consistently find prospective customers. Talk to those prospective customers and solve their needs.

If we consistently build this pipeline of prospective customers for six to twelve months, we will begin to see our sales build significant momentum.

Like Bill Walsh and the 49ers, we have to be willing to adhere to our own “Standard of Performance” for a significant length of time. Only then can we build enough momentum to get us to our goals.

It’s unlikely that meeting here – 2 weeks in a row – can be considered building momentum. But, it’s a step in the right direction.

Two weeks can become three weeks. And three weeks can become three years later with a Super Bowl win.

All starting one day at a time.

Welcome to 2020

Let’s hope it can offer us a lot.

Potentially, it can offer a:

  • Way to start new.
  • Change of course.
  • Continuation of activities from the last year. Maybe the last decade.

For me, there are a lot of things I am looking forward to this year. Mostly, continuing stuff I have started (and stopped but would like to restart) over the past year and decade.

For example, I’m riding my bike, running, and hiking regularly. I would like to see if I can hit 3,000 miles in 2020. That’s about 250 miles a month. I hit this most months, so it should be attainable.

I started a marketing blog, Red Bike Marketing. It’s been about 2 years in the making. I am looking forward to publishing a detailed post about marketing each month. I think that’s about what I can handle.

Also, I run a quarterly meetup with some of my colleagues, East Bay Marketers. They are all free. We’d love it if you join.

Lastly, I want to pick my weekly newsletter back up. Which, is why you’re hearing from me today.

Like everyone, I’ve tried doing new year’s resolutions, where I start doing new things in the new year. It never seems to work for me.

That’s why I am taking the approach of just maintaining things I am already doing. And doing those with consistency. This feels like a lofty enough goal.

Tony Robbins mentioned in his Netflix special that we over estimate what we can do in a day, but under estimate what we can do in a year.

Anthony Iannarino has said the same thing. But, he references how much you can accomplish in a decade.

Seth Godin teaches us how to accomplish a lot in a decade. He tells us to consistently show up and do the work.

Which, brings me back to my plans for 2020. Continuing what I have been doing with consistency. You could say I did end up with a new year’s resolution.

Building consistency.

Earning a Home Run

Earning a Home Run

I played baseball as a kid and I never hit a home run. I don’t know what it feels like.

A home run can happen in Business as well. Though, as with baseball, there are barriers so we don’t hit a home run.

It makes me think it has to be earned. By putting in the time and the preparation. Building up the small victories, until you become an overnight success.

The overnight success is the business equivalent of a home run. It may happen once, a few times, or never. I don’t know. I have yet to have a home run. But, I like to think I’m preparing for one.

When I think about the home run, three thoughts come to mind.

It’s not about failure

Failure, for the sake of failure, is not the way to a home run. That’s just failure porn. Playing the victim.

Failure happens, yes. But, it’s not a requirement. Nor particularly helpful. Being told no is bound to happen, but it is not failure. It’s a small rejection.

Building a portfolio of failures isn’t sexy. Building a portfolio of victories, no matter how small, is.

Getting small victories

If we cannot get small victories, how can we expect to get the big ones?

We can’t.

They’re like a prerequisite for playing in the big leagues. If we don’t get small victories, we won’t be prepared for what it takes.

We have to be able to close the small deals consistently. Then, like it’s the universe telling us we’re ready, we get a big deal.

Holding out for the home run, without putting in the time for the small victories, is gambling. It’s relying on sheer luck.

I don’t think luck is absent in a home run. Being the only thing we rely on, though, is dangerous. It makes me uncomfortable.

Small victories build. We get them, and we can stack them up towards a big win. It’s about stacking up wins.

Like the Oakland Raiders in 2016.

Stacking up wins

I am a huge Oakland Raiders fan. I have been through almost a new coach every year since 2002. And, Jamarcus Russell. What is sad is, I was excited about that draft. About the Jamarcus Russell future.

I have watched the Raiders consistently through a 14-year playoff drought. What gave the 2016 season something different was Jack Del Rio.

After each victory, he would tell the media we just want to keep stacking up wins. Then, we’ll see where it gets us at the end of the season.

There was no striving for a home run. Just one victory at a time. Then, maybe we’ll make the playoffs.

I try to apply this to my business. I stack up yes’s in a sales call and forward steps in the buying process. Then, see where the chips fall. Knowing that these are the necessary steps for a home run.

Only after enough time, stacking up small victories, can we be prepared for the home run.

At least I hope this is a way to get to a home run.

If not, I guess I’ll call BALCO.

Too many things in motion

Too many things in motion

I left Marin General Hospital and had to call my colleague to get an update.

We worked together, as I was his product specialist. It was convenient. I lived in the same territory he covered. Thus, we spent a lot of time together. We were a top 5 team in the country for the product I represented.

We spoke daily, sometimes multiple times. This was a many times a day call. I wanted to see how the rest of his day went.

Lucky for us, we had another trial of our product. Unlucky for us, we couldn’t begin the trial. We already had four trials going. There was no time.

It is the problem of putting too many things in motion.

This isn’t the busy problem where you have the dreaded conversation:

“How are you doing?”

“Oh, I am so busy.”

“Well, that’s a good problem to have. Better than the alternative!”

Yes, that is the worst conversation. Usually, because you know the person is not that busy. None of us are really that busy.

In this case, we weren’t “busy”. We were over-committing ourselves, which is a mistake.

This is a symptom of impatience, which is sometimes good to have. Other times, it can cause lost opportunities. We oversell our clients and then we get fired.

Why does having too many things in motion happen?

I only know why this happens to me. Not why it always happens.

It typically happens when I have down time. The normal downtime that happens in business. Most often when you are starting out and building your client list.

I spend too much time filling the funnel. Then I over-commit myself and lose business. This leads me to have more ups and downs and less consistency.

It has happened to me when working as a Sales Professional. It happens when I look for jobs.

I think I might have a problem.

How do we solve for it?

If we don’t make the first mistake, which is forgetting about the client, then we might be able to be proactive.

If we are smart, we can postpone a deal. We know that doesn’t happen often because time kills deals.

Another option is being patient and more strategic with our time. We can develop a sound strategy to focus on consistency.

Putting too many things in motion is not a good problem to have. We become distracted and we cannot commit to our clients or projects.

It’s an unwillingness to make a choice.

Sometimes that’s ok. Other times, it’s unsustainable.

If we take a step back, create a better plan, we might be able to avoid this scenario. Other times, it happens and we cannot avoid it.

Now, I try to be more strategic with my time. Let the lows in business go. Stick to a process the best I can. It helps me minimize these mishaps.

__ __ __

We never did get that trial. We over-committed, had to postpone, and the hospital never let us back in.

Sometimes, I guess it is better to wait until we’re fully committed.