Sales Reps do what?

“Oh my God! Wait a second– do people often say they’re going on sales calls and then go someplace else? Because that’s not cool.”

– Michael Scott to Stanley Hudson, Season 6 Episode 1 “Gossip”

Thanks for supporting the Openera pre-launch party and cancer fundraiser!

Thursday August 25th was a day to remember for us at Openera, and we want to thank YOU for making it such an awesome day. The Openera Launch Party and GutCheck for Cancer Fundraiser was a huge success – which is a major reflection of the kick ass startup community we have here in Ottawa.

We have a pretty lengthy list of people to thank for making the launch a night to remember… so here goes (queue the music…):

Bruce Firestone – Thank you for your inspirational words and being such a major supporter

of Ottawa startups/entrepreneurs.

– Dave Schellenburg from Live 88.5’s Morning Start Up – Thank you for attending the event and sharing a few words with the crowd, much appreciated!

– Devin and the Mill Street Brewery Team – Thank you for your sponsorship and for fueling our launch party.

RedBull – Thanks for sponsoring and giving our launch party “wings”.

– Scott Annan (Mercury Grove) – Thank you for letting us use the Mercury Grove HQ as the launch party venue and for being an awesome supporter of Ottawa startups.

– The NetGen Team – Thank you for your speedy delivery of our simple story video and working with us on our landing page and mobile site, you guys rock!

– Everyone who donated to our fundraising efforts for the Canadian Cancer Society. Cancer sucks and every little bit we can donate will make a BIG difference.

A special thank you to each and every one of you that has been an Openera cheerleader along the way and has worked with us to get us where we are today. We can’t thank you enough for all of your support throughout this journey. We have a phenominal group of supporters, friends and family.

We have a really exciting month ahead as we embark on our launch in San Francisco. We will keep you posted on our adventures and remember, if there’s anything we can do for you while we are in SF, please, please, please let us know!

You’re PERFECT! Now Change!

I’ve hired hundreds of employees over the years and a lot have been sales reps. I’ve always tried to find the right person for the right job. Don’t we all? However, once we’ve spent all that time and money finding and then hiring the right person, what do we do once they start? We ask them to change.

“ok, I know you were really successful selling your way, but spend the first 30 days learning our sales processes, methodologies and systems.” Sound familiar?

Why change high performing reps?

What made the last five high performing sales reps you hired great? Was it that they could follow a process really well? Take orders? Do what they are told to do? Or were they highly motivated, engaged reps who delivered results no matter what? They probably did things their own way and not the way everyone else did the job. You hire great salespeople because they can SELL. Not because they can do administrative tasks really well and keep their forecasts up-to-date.

So why do we always ask sales people to bend to the will of the process? If we are honest with ourselves, it’s because we want good forecasts. We want better visibility into activity, pipeline and manage a predictable revenue stream. That’s the dream, that’s why we buy expensive CRM systems. It’s not for the reps to be more productive, even though that’s what we tell ourselves and the team. Don’t get me wrong, CRM systems will increase productivity. CRM’s are vital for high volume, transactional, inside sale roles. But you don’t hire high-priced sales talent to fill those roles. Complex sales cycles demand that you hire performing sales reps that can navigate and manage a complex sales cycle. So, why would you try to change great sales reps and mess with the process that got them to that performance level in the first place?

Isn’t there a better way?

As someone having built and led many sales teams, I asked myself;

“how can I get the information I need, without changing the way reps work? How can we get technology out of their way?

“The best sales reps that I know have a laptop and a smart phone. They live in email, on prospecting calls and in client meetings. That’s exactly where I want them to spend their time. ”

To get the returns companies need on their sales rep investment, sales people must focus on what they do best – selling. Frustrating systems and time updating the CRM and massaging forecasts is valuable sales time – wasted.

Do your reps have to change the way they work to get you the information you need for a trustworthy forecast? What strategies, systems, or processes have you deployed to be able to forecast accurately, and how is it working out?

Hacking a Cure for the Salesforce Email Headache

Today’s post comes to you from our very own, Adam Daw. Adam recently took the “hack-a-thon” crown at the International Startup Festival in Montreal. Here’s what Adam has to say about the hack-a-thon, the current state of email integration and Salesforce, and how many of the existing Salesforce email headaches can be solved with SmartCloud:

A couple of weeks ago, for the International Startup Festival in Montreal, a few companies related to Email threw an off-site event – a “hack-a-thon” – to announce their new APIs. I attended the event, and had a pretty good idea of a “neat” tool that I’d like to see for dealing with the kind of data you find in your email inbox. I was pretty jazzed up to start writing the tool until I found out two things:

  1. What we were being judged on
  2. Someone else had already built it at a similar event the month before

We were being judged on the number of APIs from that day we used, the creativity of our app, but also the financial viability of it. The business sense. So instead of doing something “cool”, I decided to do something that as a Salesforce User and Admin/Developer, I knew was a particular sore point with the application – Email Integration.

The current state of affairs for integration between email and Salesforce is a bit of a hodgepodge of solutions, so to speak. You can integrate Salesforce with your Outlook installation, or set up an email service (or use the existing Google service for this) that you then make privy to all of your email traffic, bcc’ing it every time you want something to show up in salesforce. You also have to be aware that one solution doesn’t act the same as the other – they all have their quirks and idiosyncrasies, so if you have users on multiple platforms or some that prefer Outlook and others that don’t, there’s no unified truth for email in Salesforce. Of course, you can force users to adopt one method or another, but then you’re making your users conform to the tool instead of making the tool fit the user – not exactly the goal when implementing a system as robust as Salesforce.com!

Once the email data is in Salesforce, it works “sort of” like any other object, but not really. It’s hard to get the data you want when you need it, and even harder to make sense of the data once you find it – assuming your users are still uploading data the way they’re supposed to. With the burden of data delivery on your salespeople, you’re taking them away from the key tasks they’re meant to perform and asking them to follow a new process every time they do something as naturally reflexive as send out an email. That’s like asking someone to change the way they breathe, all day and every day: it can be done, and it’s not an incredibly difficult task, but you’ll be hard pressed to get as much done in your day as you potentially could! Also, you’re more than likely to forget as soon as something important comes up and shakes you out of it. In other words, it’s not natural, it’s not needed, and it’s not the best use of your time!

I guess that’s the ultimate goal when I started working on this – the autonomic nervous system of the sales cycle. Just like youshouldn’t constantly have to think about when to breathe and how, your salespeople shouldn’t have to think about how their email data is getting into Salesforce. By connecting to the email server directly, we can make sure the key data needed to let you make the right decisions ends up in the right location, and by making the details configurable from directly inside Salesforce, we can do it without requiring any additional components or systems to be set up. No plugins in your email client, no bcc’ing some random email address with every communication, and it can all be done directly from inside your Salesforce window. So that’s what I presented, or at least the beginning of it, at the hack-a-thon.

Apparently I wasn’t alone with my frustrations, as I ended up winning the event.

You’re Invited: StartUp Launch Party & Cancer Fundraiser

Free Beer! Join us on August 25th for a sneak peak preview of what we’ll be launching in San Francisco in September.

What? StartUp Launch Party & Cancer Fundraiser

When? Thursday, August 25th 6:00 pm @ Mercury Grove in the Glebe (738A Bank Street #202)

*Keep in mind the construction on Bank St.

Who should be there? Everyone in the Ottawa Startup Community! Openera wants to celebrate our upcoming launch with the local startup community, give you a sneak peak at SmartCloud and some of the crazy things we’ll be doing in San Francisco in a couple of weeks, share some startup tips and give some shout outs to a few Ottawa startups whom without – we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. Mostly, we want to encourage other startups to get to know and help each other while we raise money for cancer research.

Sponsored by: Start-up fuel: RedBull and Mill Street Brewery.

Cost: FREE (but don’t forget to donate: GutCheck for Cancer – Canadian Cancer Society)

Dave Schellenberg from Live 88.5 (TechBites) will be there and Bruce Firestone will share some thoughts about successful entrepreneurialism.

Interested? You know you are! CLICK HERE TO RSVP.

If you can’t make the event, you can still make a donation! If you are attending, feel free to donate in advance. GutCheck for Cancer fundraiser, click here.

LOL! Openera @Startupfest in Montreal

Yes we are!

“Hey, do you want to go to Montreal for a couple of days and hang with a bunch of start-ups?”

That was my intro to the idea of the first International Startup Festival in Montreal. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but it definitely seemed like an event a bootstrapping startup should be at, if for no other reason than to connect with other startups and share ideas, pains, and opportunities.

Great Event.

Wow. What a fantastic event! StartupFest certainly didn’t disappoint.

Openera at Startup FestWe had the opportunity to hear from serial entrepreneurs who put us at ease that we’re not alone in this, and yes, startups are hard, but that doesn’t mean we should give up (even if it did seem like they were encouraging us to run away as fast as we can!) We gained incredible insight into the The Lean Startup Model, validating that we’re on the right path, and approaching things the right way. We had the fortuity of learning what VC’s and angels are looking for, and what to do, or not do, when seeking funding.

Here are some highlights of Startup Fest.

Here are our highlights from Startup Fest!

Adam Daw is a Hack! Officially.

Adam Daw - Hacker. Winner.

Openera kicked off our activities at StartupFest with our hacker-in-residence, Adam Daw (@adamdaw), competing at Context.io‘s hackathon at Notman House, and wouldn’t you know you know it – he took first place!

Adam Daw, you are a Hacker! What better way to kick things off for us – congratulations Adam! (enjoy the iPad!)

We knew right away…

…this conference was F*@%!ng Different!

There was certainly no shortage of amazing presentation from some incredible speakers. While Dave McClure ( http://500startups.com) (King of the F-bombs!) may have had entrepreneurs and founders curled up in the fetal position crying for mommy with his in-your-face keynote “Why *NOT* do a Startup” (I especially love the term “Wantrepreneur”), thankfully it wasn’t enough to make us run away screaming. Here are just a handful of presentations we attended that had a huge impact on us, as well as links to the decks on SlideShare where available:

“Startups are hard, but don’t give up”

Sarah Prevette‘s awesome napkin slide presentation “Your first Startup” and Tara Hunt‘s “Lies, Damned Lies, and Startups” (The cake is a lie!) – were sharp, witty, and authentic… Definitely the stuff a bootstrapping startup needed to hear to stay motivated.

“Lean, Mean, Startup Machines”

Ash Maurya‘s “10 Steps to Product/Market Fit“, Dan Martell‘s “Understanding the lean model“, and Ed Roman‘s “Lean Startup Cases” provided invaluable insight into the Lean Startup Model, and helped validate for us that we’re on the right track, and are doing the right things.

“To fund or Not to Fund” and “Exit → This Way”

Jeff Clavier‘s “Startup by numbers“, Stephan Ouaknine‘s “It’s all about shareholder value” gave us a lot to think about with respect to funding, VC’s, and Angels. Anand Agarawala took us along BumpTop’s journey from startup to being acquired by Google last year and gave some great advice in “The Art of the Hustle“, and Jeremy Edberg walked us through “A brief history of Reddit, the first YCombinator success“. Both were inspiring and insightful.

Art of the Elevator pitch

Openera at Schwartz's

StartupFest did a terrific job providing entrepreneurs with various opportunities to pitch their ideas to VC’s, Angels, and potential partners and/or customers. This included, pitching to Grandmothers (your pitch/product should be so easy to understand, even your Grandma “gets it”.), delivering your elevator pitch … in an elevator (literally), and, for a handful of startups, the opportunity to pitch on stage to a full audience.

We couldn’t resist: Openera Pitches SmartCloud in an elevator.

We weren’t planning on pitching at this stage in our development, but who could resist doing an elevator pitch, in an elevator, to a couple of VC’s sitting on couches? It was awesome! The feedback was exactly what we needed to hear. Hearing a VC say:

“You’ve got a great idea, you’re going to make money, but you’re not thinking BIG enough!”

Well, that was pretty inspiring. Message received. Thinking bigger!

Startup Fest was about a lot more than just presentations.

Bowling with Hippos

Bowling with Hippos

Way more than just presentations. People. Smart people. Entrepreneurs willing to build something, take chances and help each other. There was a LOT of fun to be had as well. Besides the Montreal nightlife, cuisine and electric atmosphere on the Main…there was bowling with hippos! Feel free to ask Scott Annan from Network Hippo to clarify!

Huge thanks to Phil Telio and his team for spear-heading this fantastic event. We hope to see this event back in Montreal next year!

What did you learn from StartupFest? Do you think this will become an annual event?

Big Important Things

Analytics is great for analyzing online data and metrics. How do we bring Analytics to the offline world? Is there a tool that can help us make better ‘offline’ decisions? Hiring, promoting, firing, disciplinary decisions, which forecast to trust? Which rep is doing the wrong things? Are our contracts being managed and are we compliant?

Analytics is important but we don’t make decisions based purely on exact science. We make gut decisions all the time. Analytics is no replacement for good gut decisions. How can we make better gut decisions? We don’t need all the data, we only need thin slices of data to make good gut decisions. (refer to ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell.)

Focus on the big, important pieces of data that actually matter to the offline world.