The BoxWorks keynote video was recently published. It was an awesome opportunity to unveil metadata to the world on-stage at our annual customer conference (I come in at 58:30). More coverage from Techcrunch here: http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/16/box-metadata/
Dusting off the cobwebs and getting back into Rails this weekend. My goal was to build an app, but focus on test-driven development. I still find myself learning new things every time I read through http://ruby.railstutorial.org/—it’s probably one of the best rails tutorials on the market.
The app is an automator for Box. By adding in a valid access token, you can fill up an enterprise account for purposes of testing. I’m about 75% complete and hope to finish this up on my spare time over the next couple of weeks. Here’s the github repo: https://github.com/tblos/box_automator
Had the opportunity to speak at an SVForum meetup the other night at the MSFT campus in Mt View. To my surprise, I thought this was going to be a 5-10 person roundtable with only a 15-20 minute presentation, when it turned out to be a 30-40 person meeting for a 60 minute time slot!
However, I improvised, told a few stories, and filled the rest of the time with good old-fashioned white boarding and Q&A. I was impressed with how engaged the members were and it reminded me that Silicon Valley is not just filled with 20 something whiz kids; there’s also a large breed of engineers and developers that have been around tech for 20-30 years.
We just recently launched an awesome product at Box called the provision endpoint. I had the honor of being the PM on this project, working with a great team of devs over the course of several months to get this out the door. It’s innovative in the sense that with just an email address, you can cloud-enable your application with Box and skip all the process of sign up you’d typically expect of any cloud provider. Check out the blog post here: http://developers.blog.box.com/2013/08/19/cloud-enabling-your-application-just-became-as-easy-as-sending-an-email/
We recently held a day-long hackathon at Box. I built a pretty cool application that leverages attachments.me’s Ruby SDK and the stripe API to help people make money off their files. Use cases are infinite; for example, teachers could sell courseware, financial advisors could sell investment guides, or fitness instructors could sell workout videos. Enjoy!
My latest tutorial from the Box dev blog: http://developers.blog.box.com/2013/03/13/postman-a-developers-best-friend/
At Box, we primarily sell through a large inside sales force. This group is similar to inside groups you may find at Salesforce.com or LinkedIn, but in my personal biased opinion, we have the best reps in the valley right now. Our day to day consists of introducing new clients to Box, shepherding current prospects through the evaluation processs, and closing new business with new customers.
At the end of the year, I’ll be coming up on my second full year of selling at Box, and I would say one of the most important things you can do during a sales cycle is a first time demonstration of the product. If you think about it closely, the web demo is like taking a test drive of a car when you’re at the dealership. You may have done your preliminary research online or through word of mouth, but getting hands on with the car could be the make or break. For example, when I bought my last car, I was dead set on a Mini after weeks of research and seeing it around the roads in SF, but the moment I stepped into the car, I knew it wasn’t for me. Similarly, it’s crucial to deliver a solid web demonstration to my prospects to make sure my sales cycle gets off on the right foot. All in all, I would say that I’ve probably given about 320 Box demos thus far (I’ve worked about 80 weeks and average roughlg about 4 a week) and I’m constantly refining my process. In addition, I’m always observing the top reps around me and stealing their best ideas. With this constant iteration, I thought I would share some tips and advice that have made me successful on closing new business. If you’re in the same field or depend on online demonstrations, hopefully it can help you out too:
Make sure you block out 30 mins to an hour before your demo to prep for your demo. If the client looks more promising, block out the full hour to be safe. Do a quick skim of their corporate website, financials, LinkedIn profiles, and a basic Google search of the prospect your pitching to in case there are things you should know about them (like an award they won, an article they were mentioned in, etc.). Once you understand who you’re selling to, then create a basic outline of how you envision the demo going. I start with the one main thing I want to accomplish in the meeting, then build an outline from there. For example, if I want my client to launch into a 30 day trial after my demo, I will tailor my demo flow around convincing him that a trial is the way to go.
Most my demos last an hour and flow like this: 15 mins qualifying the customer, 30 mins demo, and 15 mins discussing feedback and next steps. In terms of importance, the qualifying portion is the most important part of the demo, with the follow up being second and the demo the third. During the qualification period, it’s important to have 3 or 4 key open-ended questions ready for the client. I typically lead with questions like “why are you interested in a solution like Box and what business need are you trying to solve”? From there, I let my prospect’s answers guide me to how I should tailor the demo. For example, if the client says they need a way to enable their sales people with the latest marketing materials while on the road, I would tailor my demo as if I were a sales person in the field who needs to find data sheets for my customer while using my iPad. In the feedback and next steps phase, it’s crucial to close on the client for some type of commitment. A “close” rarely means to get them to buy the solution on the spot, but rather, to get commitment to move along the sales cycle. A great example of a commitment from a prospect looking at Box is for the client to get their technical team on a follow up call to do a deep dive into security and administration aspects of the product. If they agree to it, try to nail down th exact day and time you’d like to meet and send them an invite immediately after the demo.
Follow up separates the good sales people from the best. The top sales person in my group right now is a master of follow up. She’ll take all the top discussion points from a demo and list them along with the proposed next steps in a clearly written email to all attendees. I usually start my follow up emails with the business driver of why they may need a solution like ours, then bullet out the follow up items. Then, when you want to get an update from the client of where they’re at in the sales cycle, you can always refer or reply back to this email.
I’ve also picked up a few pointers from other colleagues that have made my demos run even smoother. First, try to stand up as much as possible. This helps your voice project and pacing will always help calm the nerves when speaking with new clients. Second, if you’re on a group demo, I try to turn on my web-cam at least the beginning, if not all of the demo. This helps put a face to the name and is a great substitute for not being there in person. Last, try to have dual monitors set up during your WebEx. Use your non-screen sharing screen to do behind the scenes research, take notes, or prepare a piece of the demo before presenting it to the clients viewable screen.
These tips will not guarantee sales or turn you into a demo king, but I’m a strong believer that sales is most successful if you put science behind the art. If you have a successful formula that you continue to iterate on, you’ll do better statistically over time then other sales reps who don’t approach their sales cycle systematically.
Check out 25:15 of this video, where Zuckerberg talks about social search at TC Disrupt. I think a fundamental flaw of Google’s algorithms can be explained here - they don’t have much social data about their users, which can lead to not having the best search results possible. If they don’t have the best search results possible, then their cash cow can be vulnerable to competition.
Industry Trends from the Front Lines of Sales
Posted from: CA, USA
I just posted a blog post up on our company blog - http://blog.box.net/2011/09/22/industry-trends-from-the-front-lines-of-sales/
Here’s the text from the article:
As an account executive at Box, I take inbound calls from customers, discover their needs, and work with them to find solutions that help them solve their problems. My clients range from small businesses to large Fortune 500 companies, with decision makers that vary from IT leadership to functional heads, all the way to business owners. The great thing about Box is that every single person who does business on a computer or smart phone can use it, so I see many different use cases across virtually all business verticals.
When you’re on the front lines, you notice customer trends faster than any other part of the company; that’s what happens when you spend every hour of the working day on the phone with potential buyers who trust you to solve critical business problems. And as the market shifts, both from a technological and economic standpoint, you also see how customers react by the patterns of inbound queries you receive.
Here are the 3 biggest industry trends I’m seeing right now:
Synchronized data across all devices
With the rise of consumer focused services like Evernote and the imminent iCloud, business users want access to all their content whether they’re in the office, at home, or on the road. These services permeate the business environment, and IT is taking note. Innovative companies are looking for ways to provide the same level of service that their employees are accustomed to, but at en enterprise level.
Everyday, I hear more customers say they’re looking for a secure and easy way to get content onto their staff’s tablets. At first, I primarily saw this trend only with boards of directors and senior leadership, but now, I see it across large functional groups like marketing, sales, and field operations. With the ability to provision accounts, control file access and run detailed usage stats across the entire enterprise, Box is becoming the tool of choice to distribute data literally to employees’ finger tips. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when Forrester ranks you at the top of your class.
Opening up your data to the public is hard, especially if you’re a large enterprise. SharePoint is limiting, FTP is tedious to set up, and email is inefficient. When it comes to large quantities of sensitive data, people are constantly looking for ways to provision client or partner access on the fly to help enable business productivity. From secure data rooms for lawyers to shared workspaces for long term projects,we’re helping people collaborate with the click of an invite button.
The beauty of these trends is that for most customers, they’re interchangeable. For example, when a large consumer brand comes to us with an iPad initiative, it’s incredible to see that we can present a solution that satisfies their initial problem, then introduces new possibilities for content management. For example, a construction company that adopts Box to share documents with sub-contractors will discover they can also enable data access via tablets for onsite employees.
On the front lines of sales, it’s our job to notice these trends first and share them with our customers. Though we may see these trends change drastically in six to twelve months, you can trust us to be attentive to the market so your business doesn’t miss a beat.
After reading a blog post by Ben Horowitz about peacetime vs. wartime CEO’s, I picked up Andy Grove’s Only The Paranoid Survive in my iBooks library, which was referenced by Ben. For those of you not familiar with the book, Only the Paranoid Survive was a reflection of Grove’s time as the CEO of Intel and the hard decisions he had to make when faced with market changing forces he called “10x forces”.
What is 10x?
The crux of the book was about the largest shift he had to make as the CEO of Intel—moving the company from a memory chip company to a microprocessor company in the mid-80s. This change was brought on by a “10x” force by Japanese memory producers who had found out how to produce better memory chips and a lower cost, causing the US to bleed market share. To better understand this force, Grove references this chart below:[[posterous-content:ybjipJCCuzhvDiaiDtac]]
As you can see, it was unlike any 1x or 2x forces his company could overcome previously and was damaging to America’s innovation ability as a whole. However, Grove didn’t sit back and compete in the same way as he had in the past, but instead, made a drastic shift in strategy from memory chips to microprocessors - a move that turned out to be the right one by riding the wave of personal computing. Looking back, he navigated Intel through the valley of death and arose in 1992 as the largest semicondutor company in the world, even larger than the Japanese companies that were producing the memory chips that almost put him out of business. After reading his story, it’s still hard to fathom that we were so close to a world without personal computers, servers, or gaming consoles without “Intel Inside”.
A Current Example of 10x: Enterprise Software
10x was a theme that was repeated throughout Grove’s book. In short, its simplest definition is a change in a business climate that can topple a business or entire industry. Today, one of the 10x wars we’re seeing is between traditional business software vendors vs. business SaaS providers. As SaaS becomes more stable, secure, and fast, its upending the very fabric of traditional software business models. For example, if a customer needs to deploy on premise software across the company, it has to procure licenses from a vendor, host a server, reconfigure its network access, train users, and hire an IT staff to maintain it for the lifetime of the service. SaaS companies are disrupting this paradigm by shrinking expensive and tedious process to 1 step: procure licenses from vendors, everything else is taken care of by the vendor. The beauty of the model is that it allows companies to acquire turnkey solutions that are equal to if not better than the experience of traditional software companies. This allows customers to focus on core competencies of theirs while not having to focus on areas like IT. If you examine what is arguably the most successful SaaS company to date, Salesforce.com, you can see how the market has responded to this 10x attack. You can see the stock performance of traditional business software leaders, SAP and Oracle, compared to SFDC over the last 7 years, and they’ve been left in the dust. In fact, their performance is almost 10x to date, at an 851% stock price increase.
What could happen?
When a 10x force comes about, there are three things that can happen. The first is that your company could die quickly. We’ve recently seen this with the once mighty Blockbuster, who when faced with a 10x market force of the internet (embodied primarily by Netflix), couldn’t change their brick and mortar business model fast enough to survive, hence their subsequent bankruptcy. The second is that your company could die slowly and allow competitors to eat at your revenues over time. This example can be seen with Blackberry, who when encroached upon by the app driven smartphones from iOS and Android, adjusted their business model accordingly, but haven’t executed nearly as well. This lack of performance can be seen by their downward trend of global marketshare, but they will probably be around for a while due to their persistence. Lastly, in Intel’s case, you can survive and ride the momentum of the 10X shift, but this requires that your company take drastic actions that will significantly cut into your short term revenues.
So what will the traditional enterprise software providers decide? Are we going to see them embrace the cloud completely? Are we going to see a couple product launches and marketing campaigns that tout cloud technologies? Or will they stay stagnant and continue to build new updates to on-premise based systems? Whichever they decide, I can assure you that there are many smaller, nimbler, and driven companies that won’t be slowing down any time soon.