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Archive for the “Simplicity” Category

Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

Last week a kick-ass young entrepreneur of my acquaintance called me to ask my advice about his integrated AI platform to improve corporate sales and marketing. He had just won a major entrepreneurial contest, had serious investment interest and had a beta-tested technology product. He had an ivy-league degree, was good-looking, full of brio, and genuinely expert about his field. Yet he was having trouble making his sales case.

After making his pitch to me, however, I quickly understood his problem: He didn’t understand simplicity. He was so in love with his product (appropriately so) that he could not keep himself from waxing prolix about it. He was a veritable firehose of knowledge, enthusiasm, and rococo detail. He threw in everything but the kitchen sink. It was overwhelming and hard to practically focus on.

In my friend’s case less would certainly have been more.

Buyers want simplicity. They want direct talk about what they can apply to improve ROI. They are like Jack Webb, who played Sgt. Joe Friday on the old TV show Dragnet. He repeatedly said “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

Yup. That is what most buyers want. More than half of any initial sales job is articulating a result–not the process, not the whole detailed magilla, and not your complex brilliance. Winnowing down a simple core value can often seem a process of almost insulting oversimplification to someone who has pored their heart and soul and essence into a new product or service. Yet it is only the final result that is the compelling factor in initiating a dialogue leading to a sale.

A buyer is interested in an outcome. (“All we want are the facts, ma’am.”) If the result of a service or product is clear and compelling, the buyer will then be enthused to explore the details about how the sausage is made. Otherwise–not.

(This is one thing President-elect Donald Trump well understood in the recent election. He made simple–perhaps overly simple–claims about results. It worked.)

The minister of my church recently told the following story in his sermon to illustrate a biblical point, the story works fine as a lesson about sales simplicity.

Two ranchers from Texas are bragging to each other about the size of their respective cattle-raising operations. One of them says, “Well, I’ve got 15,000 head of cattle out there on the range, all wearing my ‘Flying A’ brand.”

“Flying A!” the other sniffs. “My brand is the Bar T, Circle L, Cross Creek, Flying Z, Bent Fork, Double Back, North Canyon brand.”

“Wow!” says the first rancher. “How many cattle are you running?

“Well.” the second rancher confesses grudgingly, “Not as many as you have. Most of mine don’t survive the branding.”

Beat novelist Jack Keruoac says in his novel The Dharma Burns, “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” So with the compelling entrepreneur. Thanks, Jack Keruoac.

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Still thinking about simplicity this week. One thing I have found is that if I try to sell everything, I sell nothing. It’s just hard as hell for me to stop talking sometimes.

In a sense, this is a case of “Physician, heal thyself“, as I am constantly pounding my clients to focus their sales message into a simple essence. When it comes to my own selling it is a learned discipline to know when to stop. When it’s your baby, every descriptive detail is a gem of rare price. But the fact is that loquaciousness is the enemy of illumination.

It’s really true that less is more, most of the time. I was reminded of that last Sunday in church, of all places. My minister told the following story in his sermon to illustrate a biblical point, but the story works fine as a lesson about simplicity.

Two ranchers from Texas are bragging to each other about the size of their respective cattle-raising operations. One of them says, “Well, I’ve got 15,000 head of cattle out there on the range all wearing my ‘Flying A’ brand.”

“Flying A!” the other one sniffs. “My brand is the Bar T, Circle L, Cross Creek, Flying Z, Bent Fork, Double Back, North Canyon brand.”

“Wow!” says the first rancher. “How many cattle are you running?”

“Well,” the second rancher confesses grudgingly, “Not as many as you have. Most of mine don’t survive the branding.”

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There was a thoughtful essay by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal last weekend (November 14/15).  She feels that much current political rhetoric from the Obama White House is both condescending and convoluted.  She speaks to the point that the public wants direct talk.  She says, “Politicians in general no longer assume that we all operate on the same intellectual level, with roughly the same amount of common sense”. She quotes the actor Jack Webb on the old TV show Dragnet, playing Detective Joe Friday, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Ms. Noonan recognizes there is a strong universal longing in the current political body politic for simple talk and clear explanation.

But, for me, there is a larger lesson in Ms. Noonan’s useful essay.  And it is one that is applicable to both sales and entrepreneurship.

I am asked almost daily to strategize sales campaigns for my clients at Corporate Rain International. (My company specializes in initiating the sales process with high-level executives).  Often the biggest part of my consultative job is convincing clients to simplify their message.  More than half of the initial sales job is articulating a clear value that can solve a problem (i.e. increase profit, reduce cost, gain market share, etc.) for a potential buyer.  The complex brilliance of my clients is often of little interest to their audience.  Winnowing down a simple core value can often seem a process of almost insulting oversimplification to a client who has poured their heart and soul and essence into a product or service.  Yet it is only the final result that is the compelling factor in initiating a dialogue leading to a sale.

A buyer is interested in an end result, an outcome.  (“All we want are the facts, ma’am”).  If the result is compelling and clear, the client will then be enthused to explore the rococo details of how the sausage is made.  Otherwise — not.

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