Monday, November 30, 2009

Bob Metcalfe @ MIT

Bob Metcalfe, a co-inventor of Ethernet and co-founder of 3COM and GP at Polaris Ventures is in 6.078 today to talk to us about selling.

The talk began with an excellent point - "nerds" have a disdain of the "suits". But one of the most frequent causes of doom in a tech. start-up is this disrespect. Three things that sink a company are the uncontrollable ego of the founder, lack of money and lack of focus.

He then went over the numbers at 3COM - for every $1 spent on engineering, $10 was spent on increasing sales.

First level of selling consciousness is the belief "build it, and they will come".

Second stage of selling consciousness is argument - go out and argue with people why your product is better than the competitor's. Frequently, you will win the argument, but will not get the order.

The third stage of selling consciousness is when you over-promise and under-deliver. Works better than second stage but is ultimately not too successful.

The fourth and ultimate stage is to learn to listen to customers, and hear what they are actually telling you. This will result in the maximum number of sales.

Caveat: If you are going to go ask customers what they want now, you are going to have to guess what they want 2 years from now, if that's when your product is going to be ready.

On how do you know when you're selling to someone who will never buy vs. someone who needs more convincing, the trick is to qualify the customer. 3COM survived versus competitor because they made a conscious decision to not network Apple computers.

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