Two entrepreneurs talk heroes, growth hacking and scalability: Verifeed’s Melinda Wittstock with ShopPivot founder David C. Conley
“This is an era of fake entrepreneurs,” WineLibrary.com’s Gary Vaynerchuk told a crowd of entrepreneurs at SXSW Interactive in Austin. “It’s time we stop celebrating the Series A or the exit. True entrepreneurs love it for the grind, the climb; they’re in it to build a great business”.
If you don’t know Gary then you probably don’t know that he “growth hacked” Wine Library to a $60m e-commerce business by spending six hours a day tweeting to people and engaging them in authentic conversation. TV personality, author, and “the first wine guru of the YouTube generation”, he boasts 35.7K Twitter followers and can spend hours on the air answering questions via Facebook.
Very few entrepreneurs wanting to build scalable businesses would adopt such a labor-intensive strategy. Gary’s business was built on his personal, authentic connection with his customers.
He didn’t chase VC money. He didn’t think about the exit. He thought about his customers.
“If you start with this question – ‘does it bring value to people who will pay you?’ – then you stand a f-ing chance”.
Yes, yes, YES!
“What sells cupcakes? It’s the sprinkles,” Gary told the crowd at SXSW Dell event. “99 per cent of the work is making the cupcakes but that doesn’t mean f— if you can’t close the deal. The sprinkles close the deal.”
That comment is what got us thinking.
So, your staff slaves over the perfect PowerPoint for the sales demo like they did for Gary. Then, you get to the meeting and your antenna (hopefully) is working well enough to know when your PPT isn’t connecting. You have to pivot mid-pitch to make it work for the prospective client.
“It’s that sprinkle that makes all the difference,” says Vaynerchuk.
Sure, but is there something this visionary CEO could have done to have saved his staff a month of wasted labor?
We think so.
Why not save his staff time (and his company money) by having an early meeting with the prospective client where all the CEO or VP Sales does is ask questions? “What if we could do X? Would that be valuable to you? It would? How valuable?” Or, “so what I hear you saying is Y, is that right?” And, “that’s not the case? What is your experience?”
Think about the valuable intelligence Gary could have shared with his staff to create the perfect PPT to close the deal.
Better yet, he’d have taught his staff a valuable lesson in how to sell: why it’s important (as he told entrepreneurs here at SXSW) to know the client, their challenges, and their circumstance. His team could have all been better aligned to sell the value from a position of knowledge not ignorance.
But then, Vaynerchuk would not have been able to recount how he’d saved the day to his admiring coterie in Austin. His anecdote made everyone laugh with recognition (as CEOs we’ve both had to correct and pivot mid-meeting).
In building loyalty with the customer, did he run the risk of losing the loyalty of his staff? We wondered too about the scalability of a business that has to depend on one person. Wouldn’t it be better to teach and mentor your staff? And if saving time is valuable to you – Gary believes the big businesses of the future are time-savers like Uber – why not save your staff’s time?
If a business always needs the CEO to come in and “save the day” the business will not survive the CEO.
Here’s what we think about the sprinkle on the cupcake: The sprinkle only works once. If the cupcake tastes awful, say goodbye to your customers.
David C Conley is the founder of ShopPivot, helping auto shop owners deploy data to drive business decisions
Melinda Wittstock is the CEO and founder of Verifeed, translating social insights into actionable business outcomes.