Archive for August, 2013

Pre-Week 7: Getting to deeper problems after a messy introduction

My introduction is still a bit messy, but by staying at the truth, a lot of times I still get through. I know by mentioning 1 or 2 (surface) problems heard earlier I can get the conversation going. “Do you recognise problem X?”. It’s the conversation itself where I’m still having a hard time going deeper.

I feel less motivated in pushing through my still messy introduction, because I start to lose the point of the problem interview itself. Most of them end up with an ‘there is no important problem’.

I believe my introduction will get less messy as soon as I myself better see the value of the interview again. For now, I will not concentrate my time on fixing my introduction.

Getting to deeper problems

I’m analysing how to get deeper and ask better questions. Currently I’m halfway reading the book SPIN Selling, and learned about ‘Implication Questions’ and Need development. Page 74 has an excellent example interview.

A good next step is to analyse recorded calls and write down possible ‘Implication Questions’ I could have asked, so they will be top-of-mind when I need them the next time.

Pre-Week 7: Focus and invest in personal development instead of an escape

I’ve decided to create full focus on my own business from the 1st October. Right now I’m working on a big freelance project, which is about to be finished. In the meantime I get requests for new ones. I thought it would be smart to flip freelance and my own business around. Change freelance from main activity to a side project, and make creating my own business my top priority. So I thought I’d take on some project request to combine but I immediately felt miserable on the perspective of lack of focus.

It’s a strange thing. While I wouldn’t advise anyone to totally quit any work they do for income, I do feel the need to try and see how much I can get done in a longer period of full focus.

This is how I made my decision

  • My top priority is creating my own business, so I should devote as much time as possible to it.
  • Although I like freelance design, it is taking away focus of my top priority, so I stop doing it
  • I do need to pay rent, and have saved up enough money to not need extra income for at least 6 months
  • Because it’ll take a bit of time to kickstart myself back into freelancing, I will start looking for projects again when I have 2 months of savings left.

So for now I won’t have time to do any freelance work apart from some after sales service on my current project. I’m not doing any design side projects either.

When to make the jump?

Last year, after working full time, I took 1 month off to start creating some small projects and play with lean principles for the first time. It felt like a small test drive. I liked the concept of investing time into my personal development. In the meantime I’ve heard others save up 6 months or even a year to get their own startup going. I’m sure there are many ways to do it.

After my month of not working, I really needed some income. So I had to start working freelance again, but I did want to do it in a way that allowed me to work on my business as well.

So what are the options?

– Work fulltime and save money until you can spare 1 month
– Work fulltime and save money until you can spare 6 months
– Work fulltime and save money until you can spare 1 year
– Work fulltime and save money until whatever feels safe…

There is no such thing as ‘the jump’

I don’t believe there is a thing such as ‘a jump’ from working as employee or freelancer to working on your own business from then on. There is absolutely no guarantee that after this certain period you will make enough money. You’re more likely to work slower because you have created a deadline but this deadline is not very close. Parkinson Law will make you spread out the stuff you’re supposed to do, out over the entire period.

So it’s important to not postpone important work and learning and not wait until you’ve created this free time.

  • Work part-time, and work on your business on the side
  • Work part-time, and work on your business on the side, and save money until you can spare … months

Until you can flip them around:

  • Work on your business, and work for extra income on the side

Or even:

  • Work on your business (full stop)

Invest your time for the right reasons

Whatever length of period of free time you choose, you should see it as an investment in your own personal development. Do it because every single month will pay back itself in every decision you make in the months after. When you can create one day a week to invest, do it. Two days, even better. A month? Perfect. Six months or a year? You’re going to learn an insane amount. Don’t do it because you expect to make a jump or escape your working life. Do it because you deserve maximum learning in that period and will benefit from it for the rest of your life. The business will come, earlier than expected.

Pre-Week 6: What's in it for them…


Having trouble explaining the ‘What’s In It For Me’. People don’t understand what I’m offering. And those who don’t understand won’t talk to me.


I’ve tried some new introduction stuff, focusing on ‘what’s in it for them’. Didn’t make a lot of calls, but got mostly rejected. Had 1 scheduled call. It lasted over an hour. It was interesting, but I wasn’t able to extract a deep pain. I have to improve my listening skills to get deeper.

Reaching out

Sometimes it feels a little alone, working on these Foundation skills of Idea Extraction and cold calling. It’s great to read about other people’s success. Especially from Foundation alumni. It would also be nice to be able to talk with others your challenges. That’s what The Foundation is set up for exactly. But until the start it’s important to find a replacement.

So I tried to contact other prospective Foundation members and alumni, by e-mail, on Twitter and will try to be more active in comment sections of blogs. Also, Andrew Warner of Mixergy is hosting awesome interviews and business courses and created a Facebook Group about Idea Extraction called ‘Find the pain’. There’s some interesting people out there trying the same stuff.

Pre-Week 4: my first scheduled Idea Extraction call

I had one scheduled call for monday evening 20:00 hrs. It was great to be confirmed that some people just love to talk about their business. I was hesitant to do the call because it was late in the evening. I couldn’t imagine how anyone would want to spend his evening talking to a stranger. But after reminding myself how very friendly the guy sounded the first time I called him, and realising he proposed the time himself, I just called him. And I’m glad I did. The conversation was great, we had quite a few laughs, and it lasted 82 minutes.

Learning about the market in general

I told him the call was to learn about his business and the problems he experienced running it. On the way I learned a lot about the market in general as well. Afterwards, I noticed a lot of my questions were about running a security business itself, and I was constantly introduced to new stuff such as security plans, certification and quoting. All new for me, so talking about it took a lot of time. But also showed my genuine interest and perhaps even made me more vulnerable as well. I noticed the same in a lot of earlier calls, and I think it’s normal when starting in a new market. I guess it’s a good idea to make sure you have a good understanding of the market before deep diving into the pains.

Extracting pains

During the call I made notes about everything I learned. I paid extra attention to the sound of his voice. Would it tremble or have a bit more energy? Twice I thought I stepped on something painful. A few times he wrote security plans (of 2-3 hours) after which the customer would bail out. Time spent for nothing. He also came up with his own solution: not doing any work until he got his first pre-payment. That made sense. Another pain was about customers not understanding or agreeing on his price quotes. He would constantly have to explain how his quality results in a higher price. The biggest pain, impossible to ignore, was about competition from big companies who would sell cheap security systems door-to-door with free installation only charging a monthly fee. In a few years customers would pay double for a less quality setup.
At the moment I was unable to price anchor the pains on the spot. As this was my first call, I told myself to relax and learn step-by-step, not stressing myself to complete all Idea Extraction steps and that way ruining the call as a whole.
In the end I tried going into some smaller frustrations and found out most unpleasant tasks like administration where outsourced to his wife. It would be interesting to talk to her as well some other time. By then, it was 21:20 already and I didn’t want to push it any further.
An unbelievable call. Although I didn’t manage to quantify the pains, I felt great after doing the call. In the end I asked him how he felt about it. He told me he enjoyed talking about his business. I learned so much about the market and his business, but most importantly, I learned people were happy to talk with me about it.

Show up on time for your meetings

On thursday I had a face-to-face meeting planned. Unfortunately I made the mistake to not show up on time. I said I would arrive around 17:00-17:30 and I was there at 17:25. My bad. The guy already left, as it was great weather. Can’t blame him. It reminded me I’m asking people a favor and I need to be more stricter myself about setting a single starting time and make sure I arrive exactly on time. Also it’s a good practise to call before you go there to confirm you are coming.

Another appointment.

In the morning I did some calls and made new appointments for next week. In the afternoon I had my first face-to-face meeting with a very excited business man who on the phone already tried to convince me of some of his own brilliant new App ideas. Someone eager to talk to me.
We started off going into his business. I learned a lot about his daily schedule, and how he delegates most work to his colleagues in the morning. Afterwards he is doing new customer acquisition and creating the plans and drawings for existing quotes. I wasn’t able to get into any pain, as it seemed he had everything working for himself.
So I asked: what’s the one thing that’s keeping you from growing your business? He said “I don’t work on making my security installation business more efficient. That’s small return on investment. The business is running this way for years, and it’s running fine. Instead, I’m constantly looking for other products and services I can cross sell my existing customers.” And I got a small tour around the building. One after another ‘invention’ was showcased. This guy was super excited to show me all of it.
No pain found. In the end I learned about a security company, and I learned where a multi-entrepreneur is looking for leverage. Let’s see how that compares to other small business companies.

Pre-Week 3: Calling after emailing

Earlier this week I completed my target list. My goal was to create a high value list of exactly 100 customers to make it easier to learn from metrics later on.

The list I started out with had company names, main phone number and website. Only the companies I could find the name of the business owner and a direct contact email address for qualified for my list.

Send out in the morning

Although it’s good practise to check your email once or twice a day, most people are not that strict. They have this constant stream of new email notifications and will most likely see your email as soon as they get it. That doesn’t mean they have time or energy to answer it.

I was able to send my emails around 10:00 AM. I’ve read open and response rates are even higher earlier in the day. 7 AM would be perfect. So it would be nice to be able to schedule it.

The numbers

Emails sent: 100
Bounce: 2
Out-of-office: 6
Replies: 12
Answer: 6

Not too bad in the middle of high season summer holidays.

Setting a goal for the call

I planned to call both responders and non-responders. Although I reached a lot of voicemails and a lot of people were still on holidays, it all went quite well. After sending emails on tuesday, this first day of calling (thursday) I ended up making an appointment for next week!

I noticed how setting a distinct goal for the call helped me close it. My goal was to make an appointment to call back or schedule a meeting. It was not about getting as much information as possible from this call already. When I was less focused on what I would learn from the call itself, I was less attached to the outcome of the call, making me sound more natural. And I think that created trust for the person I was calling, making them more open to talk.

After doing more calls on friday I had 3 face-to-face meetings scheduled, two scheduled calls, and there was someone who called me back a day later. It felt real good making this kind of progress.

Making cold calls a little warmer

Some people told me in email they weren’t interested. When I called one of them despite, we talked for over 15 minutes and I ended up with a face-to-face meeting for next week. Unbelievable. This really learned me how sending these emails are just a way to make it easier to reach the decision maker as you have something to talk about. It’s making my cold calls just enough warmer.