Episode 4: Joe Williamson

joe-williamsonGuest: Joe Williamson, Partner at Alloy Partners, talks about:

  • how to price new products (brilliant stuff), including how pricing too low makes your prospects look bad
  • having an internal locus of control vs an external locus of control
  • what he learned from teaching at The Princeton Review
  • why he wouldn’t turn to sales books for sales advice (and the surprising persona of the best sales person)

Here’s the link to Episode 4 with Joe Williamson.

The wine: Joe doesn’t drink, but he helps me run an experiment on aerating the wine. Listen to get the results. (Hint, you may want to pick up one of the items in the show notes.)

Chateau Recougne 2012 Bordeaux. Pretty rich, definitely benefits from aeration, then mellows out nicely. Yum.

Chateau Recougne 2012

Venturi Essential Wine Aerator

How to Talk to Practically Anybody about Practically Anything, by Barbara Walters

Where you can find Joe: Alloy Partners, LinkedIn.

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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What to make of the Apple Watch

One year in, the Apple Watch business is probably as big (bigger?) than Rolex. It’s also a flop, according to many folks. I don’t have one and don’t want one. (I haven’t worn a watch since I had kids. I didn’t want the clasp to hurt them when I held them. I haven’t missed it.) But when Apple put so much attention into the watch project, I was curious to see what they would create.

I’ve played with the device a few times at the Apple store, wondering what I was missing. Unfortunately, rather than make me realize what I was missing, I could barely figure out how to work the thing. When Apple wanted to pay homage to watches of old, I don’t think they meant the part where you try to hit all the buttons in different orders to see how to adjust the hour for daylight savings time, or figure out if your alarm was set. But that’s what it feels like. Unlike the intuitive, simple interface of the iPhone and iPad, I have to know which button to push, or which part of the screen to touch, or maybe I need to turn that world’s tiniest scroll wheel. And depending on what I’m doing (if I actually manage to launch an app), those actions cause different things to happen. Sure, I didn’t spend that long trying, but I’ve tried several times, and apparently this problem doesn’t go away even if you own one.

In the watch world, “complications” are a good thing. For most people, they’re a bad thing. I think Apple tried to do too much. They launched the iPhone without 3rd party apps (and rightly fixed that, later). They could have made a great watch, a great fitness device, and a great notification device. (I haven’t experienced notifications, but people who actually like their Apple Watches tell me that subtle notifications are the best part.) The could have let notifications from apps on the phone go to the watch without those third party apps running on the watch (for now). (I also expected the interface to be more like the old iPod, being able to use touch on the sides of the bezel, without having the thickness and energy needs of a touchscreen, but what do I know about this stuff. I also thought that you’d be able to configure a few wrist motions to make it easy to do some key things without using your other hand.)

Anyone have a watch from Apple or other “wearable” competitor? What do you think?

Moving into Sales? Don’t Panic (Here’s How)

When you have a technical background (and a technical mindset) and you have to go on your first sales call, there’s a natural tendency to panic. Some people avoid this by having no idea what they don’t know, so they don’t panic until later, when they realize they’ve screwed up chances to make lots of money and work on interesting things.

While panic is an useful mechanism to remind you to take step back and take a deep breath, it’s not a good response in a sales situation. (Or any other situation, really.)

Of course, that’s easy to say, but panic is sometimes hard to avoid. I was on an early morning flight to meet with a prospect that a partner had arranged. This was a great opportunity, but the partner had been guarded about the details. It sounded like something we could help with, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. The thing I didn’t want to do was fly across the country for nothing (especially on a 6am flight). But the uncertainty was making me nervous.

As I sipped on my coffee, I looked down at my crisp white shirt and made a mental note to not spill coffee on it. As I finished my coffee, I looked down at my shirt. I had somehow spilled not a drop, but an oil spill’s worth all over my formerly clean white shirt.

Panic set in. Then, I took some deep breaths. (This is probably the most important physiological thing you can do.) Surely, I’m not the only klutz who’s spilled coffee on his shirt before a meeting, right? Right?

When I got off the plane, I found one of those overpriced stores that sells clothes to people who spilled coffee on their shirts. I paid the price, which I would never have done under normal circumstances, and went to my meeting.

We were in a big conference room where the table was big enough to have a gap in the middle. Lots of people were there. That was good, in a way, because it meant that this was important. It was also bad, because I’m introverted, and a much prefer a direct discussion with 1-2 people than a presentation with 8-10 people, who I can’t possibly know well.

Fortunately, the prospect had a problem that they wanted to talk about. I was interested in learning about it, and thinking about how to solve it. I thought about a mental trick I developed to help me deal with situations like this. How would I handle this if these people were friend’s of a friend? (Which in a way they were, as they were close with the partner.) How would I act if there was no money involved, someone just wanted some help with something? Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like “sales”. The awkwardness is gone, and I could just try to be helpful.

The day went well, and we ended up with a six-figure deal. And I didn’t spill anything on my shirt on the way home.

Don’t panic. Just be helpful.

(For tips on how to make 3 essential mindset shifts when moving from a tech role into sales, click the big green button in the sidebar.)


The Ultimately Nerdy Product Intro

Think you have trouble giving a sales pitch?

Just look at Elon Musk’s introduction of the Model 3.

This guy is brilliant, he’s a billionaire, he’s a poster child for changing the world, and even then he’s not entirely comfortable giving a sales pitch for a product that 100,000+ people have paid $1,000 each to reserve a place in line to purchase.

But he got up there to give the pitch, because it’s important. And the message is more important than how smooth a public speaker he is.