Thursday, 21 May 2015

Sell like Steve Jobs

It is common in the startup world to compare yourself to others. Why did they succeed when we didn't? Why did they sell the company for £10M and we can't even sell something for £50?

We try and evaluate it and ask, is our team good enough? Are we in the correct location? Are we listening to customers and meeting their needs? Are we targetting the correct market?

I think lots of these refer to my previous post about mistakes we make when we look too closely rather than taking a step back. Firstly, there is not necessarily a repeatable reason why some companies succeeed when others don't. Some companies produce garbage but seem to be in business, others have a great idea and it doesn't bite. You might call it serendipity, which is a posh way of saying luck.

Maybe you were in the right place to meet that key person, maybe you met the first large customer by chance in a conference, maybe you have some good money men friends who made your company look good, not because it was but because that's what money men do.

So let's not worry about the why's and look at it in a different way. We need to sell like Steve Jobs. Imagine your product was made by Apple, there are certain things that you know would be true.

  1. You would be ruthless in your design. "Alright" wouldn't be an option and although you might not get everything in that you wanted, everything that was in there would be optimum at least as far as any of your customers are aware. This might require a ruthless system of employment that rewards success and fires failures - something that most of us don't like.
  2. Your user experience would be familiar and consistent across any other products that you have. People need to feel that they are buying into a bigger family, even if they are getting the cheap version of something. Remember the iPod? It was like a small iPhone.
  3. You would make sure that you know what people will buy. You might do this by various research or you might have a visionary who can just see it but once you have decided it, you will not deviate and you will never, ever, doubt the value of your product. Steve Jobs wouldn't be on a stage even hinting that the new MacBook might have been a mistake. You have put too much effort in at this stage to second-guess yourself.
  4. When you launch, you will not even think about suggesting that your product is sub-par or has features that will come later because everything that is in it has been done to perfection.
  5. You will not care about your customers opinions on whether they would have made it differently because you are the expert and what you have produced is quality. If they don't think they need it then they are either stupid (don't tell them that) or they haven't caught up yet with the next big thing. You will find plenty of doubters and critics but who cares? Don't pretend you can ever avoid that.
We all know that Steve Jobs was known as an arrogant man but is there a difference between arrogance and extreme self-belief? He didn't need to please people because he knew what he was doing and did it well.

Interestingly, Apple have taken a few knocks in the past which is weird for a company who most of us assume cannot put a foot wrong but that's just the luck again.

So if you want success, you can do much, much worse than sell like Steve Jobs.
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