Don’t Lose Alone

In the Spring Term (i.e., now), I teach a course at Johnson called Startup Learning Series.  “Hosting” would be a more appropriate term because the course consists of 10 lectures, all by guests.  No required reading, no problem sets.  Come to class and get 1 credit.  If you miss more than 2 classes you don’t get the credit.

Anyway, last night my guest was Nick Lantuh, the founder of NetWitness.  NetWitness is spooky software that plays Big Brother.  I will leave it at that because what the company actually does is irrelevant to this post.

Nick’s lecture was awesome.  My 90 students were literally enthralled.  One wrote me right after class and the email only said “That presentation was sick”.   I confirmed that sick meant awesome.

Nick talked about company building.  He talked about exits.  He talked about product.  He talked about the customer.  But mostly he talked about sales.  Nick hit some fundamental points:

1.  If your sales guys are not making the most money in the company (because of commissions), then you should change your comp structure.   Note that NetWitness was exploding in revenue and profits prior to its sale to EMC so commission incentives were very meaningful.

2.  Don’t be an ass.  Nick could not stress this enough.  Don’t be an ass to customers (i.e., don’t take advantage), don’t be an ass to employees, and listen to everyone, ESPECIALLY the customer.

3.  Don’t lose alone.  If a sales guy lost a sale alone, meaning that he did not huddle with the team to save the deal, he would usually be kicked out the door.  Sales is a company wide effort – use the company.

4.  But, the sales guys owns the account.  Do not touch a customer without getting clearance from the sales manager (NOT the VP of Sales, but the actual account manager).

5.  All that matters is products and sales.   Have the best product and focus on selling.  Nick’s strategic plans go out 3 months…..purely sales focused.  I know that many of you will take issue with this one, but it certainly has worked for Nick (6 companies, 6 exits).

6.  Build a culture so that employees will die for you.  Incentives…..whatever you can afford.  One time he bought an employee a Harley for a big thank you (again, easier to do when your company is swimming in cash and your VC backed board says “hell, yes”.)

There were a boatload of other great soundbites too.  Sales, Sales and Sales.