Tag Archives: sales

Who is your customer?

  • People don’t share your exciting toddler video that much
  • They don’t show up on your awesome park cleanup party
  • Don’t buy coffee from your shiny machine
  • Don’t download your super useful app

And you’re like “Why don’t they – I love that shit, that’s why I’m sharing!”. You’re kind of right with this but only in your pretty little world.

My story

Recently I’ve decided to change my life a bit by starting a side project of my own. The idea is to have a vending machine serving quick and healthy meals at low cost (and eventually becoming free for people through cross-subsidizing that). I imagined everybody being customer of my service in the sense that everybody gets hungry on a regular basis (my time for that is 2 hours).

Long term vision is to demonetize food supply if you know what I mean :D. Don’t bother, the previous sentence is just a bunch is startup slang.


Short term is to have buckwheat vending machine to satisfy my demand.


Image: rice and curry

Marketing, go away!

“Our product is for everybody. Thus our market is the world and we’re aiming to get 1% of that really soon” (c)

When I hear this from other people, I consider it a rookie startup mistake. It was very insightful moment for me to discover the same line of thinking in my brain. If you’re a software engineer, marketing is not trivial :)

Luckily I have a very good UX designer friend. I initially approached him with the hope of making the device smoother for use by people (“I have a great product, let’s make it feel like Apple-grade design”).

As an unexpected result, he also made me think hard about identifying a very small group of the early adopters for my product (people call this segmenting your customers).

What for segmentation is needed?

In my case, the thing is that once I will get my device on the streets, not everybody will be similarly likely to use it in the first days (hey, I still don’t have a Pinterest account and they’re on the market for years with all the marketing and stuff).

Lack of initial followers is what poses a problem for a young startupling. By default most of the people assume that actions of other people reflect a correct behavior (google for Social Proof). Not using your new service is thus a correct behavior. Which we know is not good for business :)

Image: adopters curve per diffusion innovation theory.

I read this picture as the following: as a marketer, I should identify a group of people which can be the most easily convinced to use my service. By ease I mean with as small budget as possible.

Another cool group to be attracted early are those who are eager to pay upfront. Usually that means people are having acute problem of some sort which costs them a lot of time, money and/or their mood. This makes them benefit from my success which is a recipe for strong support.

So how to do that initial customer segmentation?

Unfortunately for nerds (wink to myself), you have to interact with people. Asking open questions about their problem and listening (basically interviews). A few ones I used for my Grechkomat concept:


  • Tell me how do you usually extinguish your hunger while on the go?
  • How do you choose places to grab some food at?
  • What are the things you like about them?
  • What are the things you’re missing when you’re on the go and willing to have some food?
  • What is important for you in fast food?
  • Can you name a few specific places you go to? (yay competitor research!)


  • How much time you spend to prepare a snack for yourself?
  • How much you’re making per hour (range estimates here, e.g. north of $10/hour so people would be more likely to answer)?

There are two things you most possibly would like to have here:

  • Enough of variety (randomness) in the people, so the opinions you receive will allow you to learn more
  • Enough of people interviewed
    • My fried told me that ~10 people is enough for qualitative interviews if you’re verifying a particular hypothesis (e.g. in my case gym visitors are likely to grab my snack after working out).
    • For quantitative ones you’ll need to get ~100 people to get somewhat plausible numbers

Our focus here is to confirm that people have a problem / need. Most probably you’ll discover a few of them. Or will discover the one you were solving is a thing which happens once a year or has a workaround.



Don’t focus on your product: no keywords, descriptions, nothing. Usually people are supportive of the new and risky things you do so they will compliment you and the idea.

mom book


Nerd time: talking to unknown people


Just be aware of the fact that at some point you’ll be talking to a lot of unknown people in person and that will be a lot of fun!

There are some hacks to get you started:

  • Do that on the internet (especially if you’re isolated from people e.g. by means of a service like Google Consumer Surveys with ~$300 / survey)
  • Do that to the people you already know (but be mindful of the compliments)
  • Adjust your mindset with Geeks guide to starting a conversation
  • Make people talk to you :D


Now target

After proper interviewing you inevitably will discover a few typical things people want. Different groups (segments) will want different things. Pick one and work on reaching out to those people (that’s called targeting).

In the startup world (“let’s quickly get rich!”), people often pick the most impacting:

Impact = Frequency x Density (how many people) x Cost

Similarly everything you do in your personal life has a ‘target customer’ and is essentially an offering to a problem:

  • Your blog aligns best with certain people
  • Your Facebook profile is liked by certain people more than the others
  • Your social initiatives are supported by a certain set of people more than others

Understand who are the people around you and your business. Who are the ones you would like to have more of. Now work on bridging the gap between the two. Being persistent with your presentation allow you to have more of those you want.



Meanwhile in the ideal world of customer development…

Steve Blank and all the other guys want you to understand who your customer is before building anything costly. In this world…

  • Super useful app are never created until you have your first 1000 users registered
  • Coffee machines are never installed until you’ve found out where is that place having enough of people liking your coffee
  • E-commerce shops are not created in the niches you don’t know size for
  • And you share toddler photos to your toddler lovers list and nobody else :D

This world is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed :)


What’s next

Learn from others

Observe what do you read in the marketing e-mails / messages / posts you’re observing.

  • Who the author is talking to? Is that a guy or a girl mentioned more often in the stories?
  • Does the author mention a lifestyle specific to only a group of people you know?
  • If the pains and situations outlined in the e-mail do not concern you much, which group of people could resonate with that?
  • Do you think vocabulary used there is more likely to appeal to a particular group of people?

People which tend to invest some money into refining their speeches are much easier targets to play this game on:

  • Politicians, appealing to problems of concrete groups of people (“Factories will be working again”)
  • Personal coaches, reaching out to audience able and willing to pay for their advice (“So you have a stable business which stopped growing and you’re wondering what can be done about it…”)

Learn from yourself

  • Who is the person you imagine when you write a particular post?
  • What would you like them to do / learn / understand after reading your creation?

Segment every day

  • If you’re working for hire, would you prioritize solving problems for:
    • your team members?
    • your boss?
    • your colleagues across the division?
    • a group of people using a particular technology?
    • a group of people supporting a particular methodology?
  • When you post on facebook / twitter / instagram / blog are you aiming at:
    • potential business partners to contact you?
    • previous clients which you’d like to buy another product of yours?
    • your ex-university mates to appreciate you?
  • When you’re designing a promotion campaign for your business, are you targeting:
    • people which tend to free-ride on it often?
    • people buying ’emotionally’?
    • proven customers which you can upsell to?
  • When you bake a pie, are you targeting:
    • sweet teeth people?
    • people which are very much into sports and healthy nutrition?

What is very beautiful here is that a single person can potentially belong to multiple groups. Thus you can target and nurture a particular behavior you’re interested in (changing people’s behaviors!).

Have fun!




But I blog just for my own pleasure, why would I bother thinking about segmentation?

– It’s even more important to decide on what you would like yourself to look like. You can be just anything, I know, but I bet there is a particular kind of yourself you’d like to be more of – target that and that will fill amazing!

I haven’t done any of that and I have a lot of customers, is that relevant?

– Congratulations! Just remember about segmentation and targeting when you’ll decide to grow. My numbers show that learning in advance pays off.

How can I come up with questions for my survey?

– Google for 5W’s framework. Basically who, when, where and why might need your product. What is their solution now?

Relocation: benefit or a bait

It’s not uncommon for a developer to receive a linkedin spam. I have a few filters which direct most of the trendy ways to spam people to a special folder. 70% of linkedin spam letters I receive contain offerings from “international”, “successful” companies – filtering based on these words was a huge timesaver for me.

Recently, I’ve received a message from a recruiter “revealing” me as a person interested in relocation.

I recognize that kind of approach as another trend and apart from adding a new e-mail filter (“relocation”), I analyze why it should not work for the grown-ups.

You’re selling it wrong

nasty recruiter person

From sales perspective I can understand this move as a random value proposition. The guess is based on Ukrainian people generally feeling less secure than before and willing to do something about that (you probably know about Russia invading Ukraine).

This post is a clear objection and seeing an objection from a person you’re trying to sell something to is a clear sign you’re trying to sell to early. Meaning: ask about what is valuable first.

To save some time to all the sane future recruiters, I’m writing this opus. If you’re reading this and you’re a recruiter – let’s talk, I already like you for doing some homework ; )

What is in relocation for me

Case 1: US

Recently my company decided not to sponsor my H1B (for those who’re not knowledgeable: H1B is USA visa which is considered to be one of the ways to become a citizen in the end).

Given that we talked about this for a year, my feeling towards the news best can be approximated by childhood stuff: “I am no longer a beloved kid”.

Depending on circumstances, I would qualify that as a hit to one of the stages of Maslow’s pyramid:

  • Self-esteem
  • Love and belonging

WUT: Nothing about safety and security here! You’re selling it wrong!

Maslow pyramid wifi battery

Love and belonging theme in this case is related to a bunch of teammates from the US which I love to work with and seeing them in person would feel awesome.

Thus, if I’m not in love with your company – offering me to relocate is a clear bump in self-esteem. Unfortunately, telling me that you feel I am interested – is kind of doing stuff on my territory which has nothing to do with bumping my self-esteem ; )

Case 2: Poland

A few years ago I was offered to relocate to Poland (by the company I already worked for). It clearly affected my self-esteem at first.

I also perceived it as a growth opportunity, but then they’ve made me wait half a year and I’ve quit. As growth opportunities and illusions of such are different things : )

Case 3: Japan

A random approach by a recruiter. Salary after tax would be less than I earn and that’s given that Japan is more expensive.

Could have worked 5 years ago when I was huge Anime / Japanese fan.

Case 4: Self induced

I’ve just returned from 3.5 month long trip to south-east Asia. Changing location every month or so was a huge productivity boost for me. Budget was around $1000 per month per two of us.

Generalization of my relocation experience

It is often viewed as a value proposition by a [potential] employer.

From my experience when somebody believes, you’re receiving something of value, they’re asking for something in return. So most of the offers of relocation would assume lesser salary.

Exception to this rule will be a company which is already realizing a lot of value from your relationship so they are willing to go an extra mile to make you stay.

What is in relocation for other people

One fact is that I know a lot of people who move around south east Asia year round without selling their soul to any company.

There’s a famous psychological fallacy of considering actions of others to be directed by whatever selfishness they have and your actions to be directed by the sheer good intentions.

Thus, I won’t say a thing here. I don’t understand other people and all I can do is ask them to comment.

What to do if I am a a recruiter?

Uhm. Try to talk to me like I am a normal person?

I’ve suggested this to a few recruiters and they responded with a statement that they’re just playing the numbers game in match making. More tries meaning more hires.

Playing that numbers game in this way of cold-approaching as many people as possible makes you less godlike!

As I have said so many times, God doesn’t play dice with the world. (c) Einstein


Every pick up artist knows that cold approaching people is less efficient than having some warm up (like eye contact). You can try the same approach with engineers.

warm leads recruiting

What if I would like to relocate?

Go for it. All the experiences, actions and changes count towards becoming a better version of yourself.

If you’re relocating to Ukraine – talk to me : )


In the age of connectedness and free floating ideas location is just a tiny detail which can be easily tuned on your own.

Think twice: if you are concerned about changing the location of your body – who will be changing the world?

TLDR Article: What makes a good Sales personality

Just spotted a study[1] which reports that manager’s evaluation of higher Job performance correlated with:

  • Employee’s self-evaluation of Assertiveness and Self-discipline had a good correlation too
  • Manager’s perception of employees having traits of Extraversion or Conscientiousness

My conclusions drawn from other sales stories confirm these.


P.S. Don’t forget about the difference between correlation and causation. Also nailed by xkcd:

[1] http://su.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:542263/FULLTEXT01.pdf

War story: Persistent sales guy


Totally loved this story as a vivid illustration of a fundamental Sales principle: do the follow up. I strongly beleive that such examples are the very thing allowing us to throw away inner barriers(like this guy, who had followed up 48 times!). The story is about another one.

[ Originally translated from here (ru) ]

On my last job, we had a salesman, Vitya. He was closing just every deal, clients preffered to pay just to make him gone. Vitya had ridiculously large salary(and that’s only performance part, no base, just his fees). He tracked clients at shows, conferences, seminars, at muni, Ikea, cinemas, jets, was cold-calling, warm-calling. He appeared in person if he was tossed away on the phone, was calling if asked to be gone in person. He wasn’t reflecting, never pedaled back and was succeeding just everytime.

That was funny until that happened to me.

Currently I should transfer part of a job to an agency, they have such a wild Vitya on their side, only called Sasha. I’ve asked him to send me a contract – he brought it personally. I’ve sent him couple of questions – he offered to meet and discuss. “I don’t have time” – I say. “No worries, turn on the Skype, it will last for only half an hour”. The worst mistake was to give him my cell number. The day before yesterday he called, said we need to talk. “I can’t, I’m moving” – “No problems, I’ll get to you soon, we’ll talk and I’ll give you a hand with your stuff, give me your address”. In an hour called to check: “What’s up, have you packed everything yet? Aha, on your way? Tell me your address, I’ll help you to carry. Carried yet? Need help unpacking? Why you’re not telling me your address – I can help.”. Soon: “Where are you? Let me give you a lift to the work, I have the presentation with me”. In one more hour: “Why you’re not answering your mail? Is computer packed? Let me borrow you mine?

Yesterday he woke me up at 9:05, called back in an hour and did that again. Managed to send me 3 e-mails in between 10:00 and 13:00. First had a few sentences sharing new information, second expressed his worries about me not answering the first one, third one warned me that he’ll call if I won’t answer. Then he called. Five times.

Today I’ve turned my cell off. I should have some sleep sometimes.

Was by the office by noon, “Sasha called, call him back urgently, he suffers”. Got to HR, they say “Your cousin, Sasha just called, was asking your home address. Said just arrived from Norilsk but you haven’t met him yet, but promised. He’s at the Kazanskiy railway station, crying out loud near a taxophone.”

“My cousin is an idiot, trains from Norilsk do not arrive to Kazanskiy railway station. Lying should be pre-meditated sometimes”. Going to get some coffee at the kitchen – got called by the boss: “I’ve got called by Sasha, he’s asking if you’re alright? I told you were going to perform a parachute jump but was not sure if you did that or not”.

Checking my e-mail, got 5 letters. In first he’s interested, worried in second, angry by third, begrudging in fourth. Last one has the following: “Svetlana, I beg your appologies for the persistence. In my aspiration to move forward our common business, I might have crossed the line. I promise, I’ll be more discreet. I’m asking you last time. Please, make sure the bills will get paid. It’s very important for me. Make sure it will be payed today. I BELEIVE IN YOU! I BELIEVE”.

If his bill won’t be paid today, I swear I’ll set him on the accountant.

Video: Sales is about hustling hard

An awesome talk by Steli Efti(close.io CEO) @ Pioneers Festival 2013.


Minimum Viable Pitch
* What do you do(no sexieness allowed here!)
* How you’ll be able to deliver(Credibility)
* Ask for close

Hi, my name is _____. I’m calling some startups in the area to find out if they are a good fit for our beta program.
What we do in a sentence is we provide companies with sales team on demand.
Does this sound generally interesting to you?

* What is your current sales process?
* Who are your cusomers? How do you get ideas?
* What’s the customer life time value?

Test Closing
* We want to start in 4 weeks – does that works for you?
* The beta program is heavily discounted, it’s going to be $X/day per salesperson
* We can only offer you 1 Salesperson to being with (that’s going to be me)
* What is the decision making process in your company? How quickly can we make a decision?

* Lead conversation towards a virtual close
* Be willing to walk away
* He followed up on an e-mail 48 times!(and the answer was: ‘Thanks for the follow up, yes!’)
* The most powerful technique: be silent and listen