Archive for October, 2013

Pre-Week 15: Slow down!

Your focus when switching projects

I’m doing freelance work on mondays and I notice it affects my focus a bit the day after. Feels like I have to rebuild some momentum on tuesday. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are full-focused on my Idea Extraction so that’s great.  This situation won’t change for a few weeks so I will see if I can cool down a bit better on Monday evenings to give myself a better start on Tuesday.

More SPIN Selling learnings

I’m starting to feel ashamed about not making the progress I want. For over a month now I keep telling myself I overwhelm each time I try to push my learning. This can’t be an effective way to learn.

Because I learned so much reading SPIN Selling I decided to finish the book, and I had two insights.

1: Learn one thing at a time

Learning too much at the same time made me feel overwhelmed for a few weeks in a row now. The funny thing is, that’s actually explained at the end of the book!
I would suggest: don’t read this book step-by-step and try to implement it along the way. Make sure you read it first, and then implement it step-by-step without worrying about perfectly implementing all of the theory at once. Trying to distinguish Problem Questions from Situation Questions and at the same time focus on Implication Questions while trying to avoid Need-Payoff Questions just yet. That can be a bit much.
So I’m now following the book’s advice and decided to only proceed to the next step when totally comfortable with the current one.
  1. Start asking questions instead of talking yourself
  2. Get comfortable asking Problem Questions
  3. Focus on asking Implication Questions
  4. Only then start asking Need-Payoff Questions
The focus is on quantity. Ask lots of the type of questions you want to learn. Don’t try to be perfect from the start.

2: Offering your solution too early creates objections

Last week I realised how my offer talking to business owners is a product itself as well. They aren’t paying money, but they do spend time. So offering to talk is like offering a solution. But did they have an explicit need to do so yet? Of course not, or they would have been looking for people to help them already.
I think it’s important to explain what you’re doing (as a software entrepreneur, studying the market to find the biggest problems, and then create a solution for it). But asking for the call is like closing without developing the need.
So you should ask questions first, and then make them realise they have a problem/implied need and then develop it to an explicit need so they want a conversation.
That explains why my calls where I mentioned problems I heard in earlier ones are way more successful compared to the calls where I asked for a meeting or longer call straight away.

A 20 mile march

Josh Isaac already mentioned how taking a 20 Mile March would guarantee daily action without wearing yourself out. Make steps every day and eventually you will arrive at your destination. In his interview with Andy Drish he mentioned this again, and Andy talks about the power of streaks as well.
I’m hooked on the app lately, and noticed building a streak of 30 minute movement each day is actually very addictive. The longer your streak, the more you’ll want to protect it.
I’m going to implement the 20 Mile March in my Idea Extraction as well. So every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I will make cold calls or have face-to-face conversations where I will try to find pain on a deep level.
Every day I want at least:
  • One call over an hour. Or:
  • Two calls of 15 minutes. Or:
  • Ten failed calls
I downloaded the Goal Streaks iPhone app to help me track my progress.

Problem hooks

This week I had my longest meeting ever. It lasted 3,5 hours! The guy had all the time in the world. It was not a business owner but an Operations Manager with experience at a few very large companies. I found it hard to judge how deep the problems were. Although I’m still working on getting to the deepest problems, it’s interesting to use these surface problems as a hook in conversations. And it looks like most of them can be applied to many markets:
  • no time acquisities or commercial activities
  • no contact plans for existing customers
  • no personal attention for staff
  • high sickness absence
  • high DSO (daily sales outstanding)
  • time consuming quotes
  • fees for missing appointments
  • complex status reports
  • time consuming client information updates
  • problems finding the right staff
  • long waiting time
  • contstantly explaning quotes
  • high staff turnover
  • inside/outside work rate out of balance
  • problems staying up-to-date on their industry


Pre-Week 14: Idea Extraction calls are the product to be sold first

Where do objections come from?

I continued reading SPIN Selling book. Today I read page 106-142, and once again am amazed how brilliant this book is. After reading about how stating advantages/solutions too early raises objections, I recognise how in a lot of my behaviour I do exactly that!
It’s now more clear to me how offering to call (and idea extract) is actually providing a solution to a problem they haven’t even stated yet. That explains why my earlier openings where more successful: I wasn’t offering anything. I did a quick (you could say messy) introduction that did create some trust. And then I asked an implication question about wether they are spending a lot of time on making price quotes.
A lot of times this got people talking. Sometimes the call would end after a few minutes. When I then offered to do a proper call on a more convenient time (offering a solution) the ‘implied need’ was not developed yet

Your Idea Extraction calls are the product to be sold first

While I tell people I don’t have a product to sell yet, I came to realise offering the actual IE call is a product in itself. It wouldn’t cost your prospects money, but time. I handled my offers like a ‘small sale’, because I thought the time investment would be small. I’m starting to think otherwise. The time investment might be small, but the information about their business is very delicate. Let alone the effort thinking about changing their business.
So I’d better develop the implied needs to a more explicit need before I offer to help.

Building my call proposition

I was having a hard time explaining my offer so I thought about refining my offer. After trying to improve it myself for weeks now, I thought it would be wise to ask some help from a professional.
But, the objections I’m facing might not even be because of my unclear proposition. Of course I think it’s still a good idea to work on my proposition. But after realising I’m talking about my offer way too early, I think it’s much more important to ask the right implication questions early in the call. Those would lead the way to an explicit need after which I should state my offer.
I’m in the middle of chapter 7, opening the call. So I might learn more about that.

Pre-Week 14: Building Momentum

Man, it’s hard to even start a single call after a long time. But don’t bash yourself for it. Build momentum, and make sure you make more and better calls each single day.


Tried one call, got blocked by the gate keeper. Decided to e-mail the owner and offer him a 15 minute call
Am changing 3 new things at the same time:
  • e-mail instead of calling decision maker
  • mention straight up that I create software but don’t sell it yet
  • offer a call instead of tricking people into asking questions

Not sure what’s happening now.


Accidentally called someone who from the first second kept talking for 30 minutes about an iPad solution they already created in house. We set up a meeting about the app later. The most important benefit I found for now is their app getting rid of maintanance costs of the servers, data and backups they need for their old application. I’m very curious to find what problems in operating the business are solved as well.


A no Day. Lots of no’s. Tried different things. Didn’t feel very sharp when getting up. Not sure if it’s related, but it does make you feel more down when things aren’t going the right way.
Got stopped by a gatekeeper from a big corporation and told myself it’s impossible to reach the big corporations without a good proposition. Managed to get past a gatekeeper at another big corporation but got hung up by the business owner. Quite a dissapointing day.
Tried to e-mail another big business owner instead. Also sent a LinkedIn invite to a former Operations Manager and invited him for a coffee.
Felt quite stressful and overwhelmed today. Got the feeling I’m trying lots of different ‘tactics’ at the same time making it hard for myself to find out what works.


I feel I’m overwhelming myself too much to set up proper learning. I’m trying to go too fast which creates lots of stress. Going outside your comfort zone is good, but I suppose I shouldn’t go too far. Leaning just over the edge of fear creates the best growth.
Also trying to break apart the stuff I’m doing right now, to find out how I can focus on learning the smaller parts.
Got a positive reaction on my LinkedIn invite. Trying to set up a meeting.


Pre-Week 13: Building Idea Extraction skills in an every day phone call

During my focus on Idea Extraction in the security market, there are a lot of different skills I need to work on. Next to doing a lot of calls I’m trying to practise these skills as much as possible in every day situations.

This week I needed to contact my General Practitioner about an issue with my foot. Once again I found out how hard it is to reach him or his assistants. A good reason to do some inquiries about the way he is running his business.

These were my findings:

A permission problem
In the morning I called and got to speak the assistant. She told me I needed to repeat a recipe. But, to be able to do so I would have to call the GP during his phone consultation between 13:00 and 13:30 hrs. Yes, this was the only way because she wasn’t allowed to help me.

Wasting clients time
From 13:00 hrs I tried to call and for 10 minutes I kept being told it’s too busy by their automatic voicemail. Then, all of a sudden, I got a different message and got into a waiting line. Finally, after another 10 minutes, I got to speak to the GP, who needed less than 2 minutes to repeat my recipe. Great.

So I started asking some short questions about communication and contact with his clients. This is what I was told:

The underestimated business side of being a General Practitioner
“Yes, it takes quite some time to become a GP. After about 6 years you’re a doctor. And it takes another 3 (?) to become a GP. And then all of a sudden they tell you you’re an entrepreneur as well. But that’s not what they teach you at all.” (PAIN)

Objection for possible solutions
“Yes, we’re thinking about a call-me-back system instead of having a specific time for phone consultation. But…”

  • “My 2100 clients would have to get used to a new way of doing business, while they are used to working this way for 31 years.” (Is that you or your clients who need to adjust?)
  • “For a lot of clients we don’t have their phone number”
  • “A lot of clients change number”

What about emailing?
“Yes, that’s possible, but our system is not secure. We are working on it though”

Is your email address on your website?
“I’m not sure. I sometimes do get an email where I wonder how did they find my address?”

Doesn’t this way of handling phone calls cost you a lot of time?
“It sure does.”
And what about your assistants? Aren’t they working overtime as well?
“Yeah, one just burned out. And my other just came back.”
Must be expensive.

When I listen to you, and the way you talk, I always get the feeling you are someone who is thinking about innovating his business?
“Yeah that’s true. This problem has more attention now, we are working on it. But stuff like this takes time”.

Not too long ago I spoke to someone running a notification system for this particular kind of problems. So it’s nice to give him the lead. I tried to close:

I just spoke to someone who is running an easy call-me-back service. Would you appreciate it if I let him contact you?
“Sure, if he has a good solution”.

I felt it was a good practise of asking implication questions in an unexpected situation. And there was a closing exercise as well. Next time I should also focus more on quantifying the pain or costs in an amount of money.

Even though it was unrelated to my current market, I did enjoy the extra learnings.

Pre-Week 12: A recap

Idea extraction wise, I’ve worked (and am currently working) on these things:

  • Shut up and listen. Don’t finish sentences or confirm your understanding.
  • Get more comfortable waiting even longer when silences are dropped
  • Prepare implication questions (SPIN!)
  • Look for no (and don’t give yourself an excuse to quit)
  • And my last and most important one: craft a shorter, sharper and more honest introduction to create instant understanding of my proposition, filter out ‘goodwill’ conversations, and end up with people that want to talk about improving their business.

But… the last couple of weeks, on a personal level, things have been much more intense. Rationally I’d say these are simply excuses to keep myself from IE action and making calls. But my gut is telling me these are important long-term learnings.

Evaluate the 5 people you spend most time with

This is huge. I know how the people you spend most time with influence you. It’s literally who you are. For over a year I’ve spent time to gather people around me who were like-minded in business. I’m a big believer of the lean startup movement, and think it’s amazing how The Foundation is taking lean principles one step further by starting out finding a problem without an idea.

So to find interesting people I connected with old colleagues, I attended a lean startup weekend, and I ran a meetup myself. I focused on finding people expressing their hopes and dreams of freedom, entrepreneurship and creating value. And the funny thing is, there are so many of them. But in a year time, I learned how hopes and dreams are not the same as acting on them. Few people really understand lean. And there’s a big difference between movement and action, and you can use it to fool yourself with.

This is actually one of the scariest things to say out loud: be selective about your friends and co-workers, and create people around you that support you and are of great influence in your life. The first time stating this I felt like a freak, but I got more comfortable about it. Up to the point where I now seriously understand how unhealthy it is to act otherwise and couldn’t go back. It’s what you deserve to yourself: people around you that do not fool you or themselves, who will hold you accountable, and will point you out on your own bullshit.

Demanding a quality environment will filter out talkers. It raises the bar for the people you are already spending time with, and sets a standard for new ones to meet. For a few weeks, consciously I’ve been evaluating the people around me, and it’s been super painful and emotional to make a decision when I realise how some people act very toxic. Slowly I’ve been reserving the space around me for high quality people only.

Saying no to pointless meetings

As a freelancer and in any business actually, you get meeting requests for coffee (some people refer to it as networking). I used to always accept these. Some are great, but many are precious time wasters as well. Especially when they claim the little time you have to actually work on your business. Saying no to colleagues and companies has been a tough one. At first I felt a little arrogant, but I’ve learned it’s the best thing for both. It’s not about saying no. It’s about getting both to express your goals. If your goals are not aligned right now, it’s perfect to talk about it, and decide meeting doesn’t help.

Declining valuable freelance project requests

I’ve been working freelance for almost a year while putting money aside to eventually take a break from freelancing and being able to dedicate my time on creating a business. Now is the time to do so. With my plans on joining The Foundation I wanted at least 6 months of no freelance work, which I should manage right now.

When my last big freelance project got to an end, I kept declining big projects, but almost naturally accepted a few small projects. I thought they would be great to do on the side to make some extra money, but the day I accepted them I felt totally overwhelmed and realised how I was sabotaging my focus. Didn’t I save enough money then? Maybe I got cold feet. Eventually I told my clients about my plans learning entrepreneurship and how I would probably get myself in trouble creating quality time for their project. Giving back the assignment felt dishonorable at first, but afterwards it felt honest to myself and perfectly aligned with my goals.

Create a dedicated place and time for business

(And saving me from killing my back working on dining room chairs). Next to working as a freelance designer I used to dedicate 2 days a week to create my own business: every thursday and friday, working from home. This was fine for a while. But last week I’ve scaled up to 4 days a week. With my girlfriend also going freelance, working from home is not an option anymore.

There are a lot of co-working and flexible workspaces available, but since I need to make phone calls all day without disturbing people around me, I figured I need something private. So last week I managed to get myself a solo office. What do you know, luck was on my side, making a phone friday afternoon, signing a contract the next monday morning. It might be a temporary office (and an absolutely amazing one), but I’ll find a new one when I need to. More importantly, the actions required to arrange this shifted my mindset.

It cost me almost a week to get it up and running, and it wasn’t the moving and buying of office stuff itself that cost me most time. I think it was the transformation in my mind from seeing business as a side project, to seeing business as my priority.

Investing in proper sleep equipment

This sounds like a small one but is one of the most important ones. After being sleep deprived for nearly 3 weeks in a row I had one lucky night of sleep and felt like superman. Incredible. I told myself to always remember how good I felt that day and wanted to make sure I had full control over feeling that way every single day in the future. I found out how my old sleeping couch/bed was killing my back. Buying a good bed was a big investment, and now one week in, I’m sure it’s one of the best investments I’ve made.

I can’t describe what it feels like to type this all up, the first day of a new period. I know this is just a small high, and there’s another challenge around the corner. And I’m up for it.