The second conference day at SIME offered some really inspiring sessions on stage, but one of the most useful experiences to my mind was again a workshop, the title being “Management lessons you don’t learn at business school”. The word had Måns Hultman who helped building QlikTech during 2000 and 2009, first as CEO, then as member of the board. QlikTech developed a business intelligence system that is nowadays supporting the business administration of a huge number of companies worldwide.
Måns shared some unconventional as well as conventional lessons that helped QlikTech from being a small Swedish company in Lund to evolve into a global player.
Key of the conventional lessons was to a great extend what one can read in Jeffrey Gitomers books about Sales and Leadership . QlikTech would be a state-of the-art example of how to apply Gitomer’s principles in your business, hence why I don’t want to waste much time on it here. Only a few things. QlikTech really focused on sales efficiency, means giving the sales team the support they needed with lots of good cases that helps them selling. Potential customers had the full support and help of QlikTech, as well as the possibility to test their product risk-free. Sales at QlikTech is about creating a win-win-situation, in which potential new customers actually win more than the company. That creates trust, and the strategy of underselling and overperforming results in happy, loyal customers who will advocate for you and help you selling more. Selling by being honest and helpful with solving a client’s problem, pays out in the long term, and QlikTech experienced that first hand. Read Gitomer, and you will understand.
The more unconventional lessons Måns passed on to us, and which are hugely important when you start a company, can be summarised as follows:
1. You need to have luck! But – luck is equal to opportunity times preparation. Means it is to a huge advantage if you had a chance to gather a wide experience in different fields of business. In other words, you know how things should work and ideally had a chance to execute stuff that you now need to do for your own company. Or like Måns put it, practise beats talent. If you have experience then you are more likely to succeed than when you have “only” talent.
2. The customer should win more than you. Brand value is worth more than brand awareness. Value should take 2/3 and awareness 1/3. Means it is more important that your product actually performs well rather than you just talking about their advantages and the rest is hot air. Hence why the already named underselling and overperforming will help you significantly in getting new customers.
3. Marketleadership is not about size. You may be the market leader when looking at the figures, but that doesn’t mean that you are perceived as such by your target group. In order to be perceived as the market leader, it is about the momentum than you can create by performing well, for example by gaining more new customers within a certain time frame than the competition. People will notice that and naturally think that you are leading the flock.
It is actually easier to get this momentum if you define rather small market segments and really put your effort in there. This gives you a definite advantage against bigger competitors that don’t perform equally well in the same market segment. Having succeeded there, you come out stronger, financially, reputationwise and in terms of experience – and you can take on the next market segment much easier.
4. When it comes to going international, Måns experienced that it takes longer to sell a product in countries with long sun days. Decisions take longer to make in countries that are situated more South, in other words, it is a cultural thing. One of the many cultural factors to consider, if you ask me. Måns developed his own formula, though:
DOS (Days of Sales outstanding) = No. of sun-days * 2
Well, share your experience in the comments. Do you agree on this formula – would be interesting to know!
5. Cash is a fact, profit an opinion. Means as long as you have cash when making a loss in terms of not reaching an agreed level of profit, it is always easier to explain than when you actually have no cash to show. Simple, I think, but one doesn’t necessarily think of it this way.
Then, in terms of the product development, you should develop stuff that attracts both, brain and heart. A visually compelling interface of a software is equally important in B2B and B2C sales. We are all humans, and we are emotionally touched by great looks of a product, no matter which purpose in which environment it serves. Therefore a great design helps selling.
One should also constantly analyse the performance of the product. Partly because great cases help selling, and partly because one keeps the development going into the right direction.
All this might not be that new for you, and neither was it for me, apart from his 5 unconventional lessons maybe, but Måns managed to put everything into context. He reminded us of what really matters, and gave with QlikTech a great example that pursuing these guidelines in building a business actually can work.
So, maybe get in touch with Måns, definitely read Gitomer, and then go out there and do epic stuff!!