My Favorite Dreamforce ’13 Keynote: Marc Benioff interviews Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer struck me as the kind of person who is so relentless in her quest to reach her potential, that she won’t let anything stop her. Yet she comes off as warm and thoughtful at the same time. A unique blend of get-out-of-my-way determination mixed with I’ll-do-anything-to-serve-my-people. Felt like somebody took lots of common-sense thinking, added true insights about technology and psychology, and then poured it all into Marissa’s head.

For the record, I don’t know her, and I’ve never worked for her, so for all I know she just comes across this way in interviews. I’ve learned that some CEO’s are very good at charming you when in public, but when you start working for them they don’t practice what they preach.

On to what she actually said:


1. Mobile is the future, and Yahoo is now a Mobile-First company.

When she first took the reins at Yahoo, she was talking to one of the folks on the mobile team. She was new, and was just figuring out more about the different parts of the company. “How many folks on the team?” she asked. The employee answered, 40. Marissa’s draw dropped. She said, “I’m not very good at a poker-face, so I must have looked completely shocked.” The person quickly tried to comfort her, “Well, that’s just on this team. There are other mobile developers scattered throughout the company.”

Her: “How many?”

Employee: “Around 100, including this team.”

Her: ”Is that 100, or really closer to 60 to make me feel better?”

Employee: “Closer to 60….. <sheepish grin>”

Marissa left that meeting, sounded the alarm, and over the next 12 months scaled the mobile team from 60 to 400. Wow.

It is my completely biased opinion that she is 100% right (my company does mobile app development). Everything is going mobile. Ev-ery-thing.



2. Focus obsessively on the user, and on design, user experience, and interaction design.

Her punch-line on this point: “Many elements of Yahoo are about entertaining people. How can you entertain somebody if you don’t provide a beautiful, easy-to-use, and delightful experience??”

She hits it on the head. One of the changes she made to make sure this is a top-priority at Yahoo: the head of design at Yahoo reports directly to her. This critical piece of product-development is now a core piece of the company’s strategy. As it should be! Salesforce, can you hear me? (To Marc Benioff’s credit, Salesforce does appear to be attempting a move in this direction. He recently made some big design hire’s, and his VP of Design now reports directly to him).


3. Hire people who are better than you

Of her team, she said, “I have confidence that anybody on my executive team could trade places with me, and be just as effective. And same with them, I could take their place. I try to find the very best people I can, and go from there.”

And throughout the interview, I counted a half-dozen times where she deflected credit. “Oh, it’s not me, it’s this great team I have that did that.” Super-classy.


4. Great managers and leaders clear a path.

As a leader or manager, you don’t do things. You clear a path. You hire people that are awesome, better than you whenever possible. And then you figure out how to get out of their way, and get everybody else out of their way.

You cut through bureaucracy, you fight the political battles, etc.

5. Use technology for democratic experimentation

Imagine Reddit meets board-meeting-prep. This describes an experiment at Yahoo to create more transparency. Anybody with a concern can create a new “board meeting topic,” and then others vote on and discuss these ideas.

Marissa said when she first told the board about the idea, the response was, “We love it.”

She thinks the program has become popular inside the company, and helps to bring more ideas to the table. Interesting use of technology.


6. Prioritization. Do it.

Marc asked her, “How do you do it all? You network, you volunteer, you have a family, you run Yahoo.”

Marissa said, “Well, I’m glad that it appears that way. But it’s definitely not like that from my view. You know, it’s all about prioritization, which is something I am not that good at. But I’ll always remember what a friend in college told me. She said, ‘Every morning I write down all my day’s tasks, from Most Important to Least Important. If I ever get to the bottom of my todo list, it means I haven’t been working on enough high-priority stuff.’

“I like that. That’s what I try to do.

“Really, I only have time for Family & Yahoo. If I get to anything else, it’s a bonus.”

Refreshing for her honesty. We’re only human, and we can only do so much in a 24-hour day.

Learning, Sales

The Best 3 Talks at Sales Hacker Conference, Part 3 of 3: Matt Cameron, How to Write a Great Pitch

This is the 3rd of 3 posts that on the “best talks at sales hacker conference.”

My previous 2 posts are already up, the one on Aaron Ross of Predictable Revenue is here, and the one on Ilya Lichtenstein Founder of MixRank is here.

This is all about Matt Cameron’s talk. It was phenomenal. I’ve added Matt’s blog to my Sales/Marketing Feedly. I try to keep that list super-short so I’m only getting great information. It’s just him and Aaron Ross / Predictable Revenue now.

It’s going to be hard to recap Matt’s talk, because there was so much information. I’ll do my best.

First, a few sales hacks.

  1. When selling to public companies, look at their 10k. Read the section called “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risks.” Then find a way to mitigate those risks. Genius.
  2. On LinkedIn, look at references given/received. If you see references to/from a vendor that you compete with, figure out if it makes sense to use this information as you position yourself against these other vendors.
  3. Smoke Signals. This is when you’ve discovered something that your competitor does, that you don’t. To turn it into a strength, you turn it. Say something like, “We could have done <the thing our competitor does>, but we decided not to, because of <weaknesses of the thing>.” Sun Tsu’s quote was flashed on the screen: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.”

Then he gets detailed into how to write a better proposal. I’ll go through each slide and give a quick summary of what he taught.

This first slide was an intro worksheet, to be used when first diving in to a new proposal. It allows you to get an overall read of the competition onto paper, and to start organizing your thoughts around how you’re going to beat them.

Competitive Analysis Worksheet #1

  Competitor 1 Competitor 2 Competitor 3 Us
Description of Offerings
Target Markets / Strategy


Competitive Analysis worksheet #2

This goes into more detail about how you compare against the other folks who are bidding.

Attributes Sought in Provider: Competitor 1 Competitor 2 Competitor 3 Us
Large base of customers and existing experience
Services reputation
Ability to leverage global resources
Performance-based contracts
Breadth of service offerings
Flexibility to meet all needs
Financial stability
Broad technological capacity
Expertise in emerging technology
Industry knowledge
Proven tools methodology
Degree of market leadership in ____


After filling out the worksheets above, this next worksheet, the Strategy Statement, is a framework for positioning yourself against the competition.

Strategy Statements

We will maximize our strengths in [...] by [...]

We will minimize our weaknesses in [...] by [...]

We will neutralize their strengths in [...] by [...]

We will amplify their weaknesses in [...] by [...]


Solution Worksheet

This worksheet can help you organize how you will describe each of your solutions. This assumes that you’ve done enough digging to uncover the client’s hot-buttons.

Hot Button #1: Real Time Collaboration Hot Button #2 Hot Button #3
Solution Graham-Bell Telephone System
Alternatives Considered Smoke Signals, Tin can and string, Postal mail
Discriminators Reliability, speed, etc.
Proof / Experience / Performance Megacorp case study


Good Example, Bad Example of headings

Matt emphasized the importance of doing enough at the top of a document so that the exec can read it, and get enough information to “get it.” If they want, they can read further and drill down, but it’s not necessary.

Bad Example Good Example
2.0 Functional Requirements Detail 2.0 Functional Requirements Detail
2.2.2 FEATURES 2.2.2 FEATURES Realtime communication Bell-Graham telephony will allow Acme to convene in real-time Audit trail All calls will be recorded as events and audit logs provided Ease of use Our rotary dialers are very easy to use – Tested on Monitoring ability The Bell-Graham “party line” will allow managers to monitor every call


The Executive Summary – Four box organizer

This was a great insight for me. Cameron described how to write a really compelling executive summary. He said, “I see so many executive summaries, that aren’t summaries. Summarize everything! After I read your summary, I should have a good sense of everything in your proposal.”

Document purpose Acme will increase employee engagement and increase x by 10%, through the ability to collaborate in real time with the Graham Bell Telephony system
Preview Acme proposes a real-time collaboration system that addresses the following key problems:*Hot button #1
*Hot button #2
*Hot button #3
Proposal details * [Hot button, statement of problem]
* [Solution and benefit]
* [Proof]
* [Visual]
Proposal details * Summary
* Next Steps
Learning, Sales

The Best 3 Talks at Sales Hacker Conference, Part 2 of 3: Ilya Lichtenstein, Founder of MixRank

This is the 2nd of 3 posts that I’ll make on the subject, each with a different talk highlighted.

The first post was on Aaron Ross, in case you missed it. Your mileage may vary, I’m sure I liked these 3 because of the unique stage that Mokriya is at right now.

Ilya’s a super-smart guy, and he’s a hacker at heart. His presentation style is flat, but the content is gold. I told a few people at the conference that I loved his talk, and they were surprised, “But he was so monotone.” For me, the content was so good that I could have listened to him in his single-tone-voice for another hour.

What really perked my attention was his first slide. In it, he said they didn’t have any Sales Development Rep’s, and outbound lead-gen was 100% automated.

The “how” is what really got me thinking.

The linear approach is what most companies use. You start at the top, and say, “We want to target companies doing > $100m in revenue, with 100k employees, in x sector, who have y title, etc.” Then you get a list of all the companies that fit this criteria.

At MixRank, they take a lateral approach. 

  • First, they start narrow, and look at your ideal customer. Really figure out who your ideal client is. Look back, and start painting a picture. Then take a list of all your most ideal clients, and write them down. Look at the data about them. The email address, the title, the years in career, etc.
  • Then, start to look at 3rd-party data. On LinkedIn, you might look at other companies they look at, job titles they’re trying to hire, who they follow on Twitter, what they like on Facebook, etc.

With the data that you’ve just gathered, you can now start looking for similar people. And those similar people will have similar problems, and your marketing message will resonate in a similar way.

Your filter criteria will continue to grow as you gather more data, and get more contacts. Over time you can filter by:

  • Business information
  • Competitor’s keywords
  • Traffic sources
  • Keywords
  • Technologies and vendors

Next week, I’ll post 3 of 3. Thanks for reading!

Learning, Sales

The Best 3 Talks at Sales Hacker Conference, Part 1 of 3: Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue

This is the first of 3 posts on my favorite talks at Sales Hacker Conference. Your mileage may vary, I’m sure I liked these 3 because of the unique stage that Mokriya is at right now.

This 1st post is about Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue
(currently #1 on Amazon in sales/marketing category), and an early employee at Salesforce that helped them get to $100m in revenue by building out the prospecting team.

The reason Aaron’s talk made it to my top 3 list is because: (1) His talk’s advice was concrete enough that I’ll go home and be able to actually do something with it, and (2) it was super-engaging (didn’t hurt that he brought his family and had them participate).

Aaron says that there are three stages that a company goes through (1) organic growth from word of mouth, etc., (2) hot coals, (3) real growth:

three stages growth, predictable revenue



This talk was about trying to smooth out that bumpy #2 “hot coals” phase, and get to growth.

Random Life Lesson, Work 25 Hours a Week or Less

Aaron says that he has always tried to work 25 hours a week or less. He says if he works more hours than that, his breakthrough ideas go away… I’ve heard this advice before, but never from somebody who had as much success under his belt.


On to the meat and potatoes.

1st Fatal Mistake, Afraid to Pick a Niche

Pick a niche, get rich.

The excuses we tell ourselves: “boring”  ”too small”  ”not sexy”  ”limiting”  –> If you’re speaking to everybody, nobody can hear.

LeadGeni.us is the case study he offers up. They were an outsourcing company for anything. Then they became MobileWorks, outsourced virtual assistants. This helped growth improve because they got more focused. They got even more focused, and became LeadGeni.us, which is lead-gen for B2B companies via email done by an army of outsource agents. Growth has taken off, and they can’t keep up with the demand!

2nd Fatal Mistake, Treating All Leads Alike

Seeds = word of mouth

Nets = marketing

Spears = outbound sales

spears seeds nets, predictable revenue


My takeaway from this is that there are three tools you have at your disposal when growing.

You can use spears, which are your outbound hunters. These are folks who are actively hunting for leads, or Sales Development Rep’s. This is an army of smart researchers/emailers who are hunting. They search blogs, LinkedIn, and other databases, find contact info, and send targeted messages to the folks they find. This can become a rich resource of leads for the sales team that’s higher up (qualifiers and closers).

You also have seeds, which is your organic word-of-mouth growth. At Mokriya, this is where much of our growth is. While we’re definitely ecstatic that word is getting out, and lots of folks are talking about the quality of the work that we do, one takeaway from this conference was that it’s not going to be enough to quickly (3-5 years) becoming a $100m company. I think Aaron Ross calls this type of growth seeds because eventually seeds turn into oak trees, but it takes 100 years. So it’s not going to allow you to quickly grow. 

Your other option for growth is nets, which is marketing. This is your inbound marketing campaign. It’s blogging. It’s e-books. It’s creating whitepapers, etc. It’s creating interesting tools for your target market. It’s doing all the long-term growth efforts that eventually will become a steady stream of leads. This, like seeds, isn’t going to help you grow quickly. The fast growth comes from spear-hunting.


3rd Fatal Mistake, Using Too Much Jargon, aka Failing the Aurora Test

From the perspective of a future father, this was pretty cool. He had his (11 year old?) daughter help him here. Her name was Aurora, and he called this the Aurora Test. “If my daughter doesn’t get what you do within a few seconds of your pitch starting, then you fail the test.”

In other words, this:

what you say what they hear

We know our stuff inside and out, so sometimes we talk so fast and use so many jargony words, that people don’t have a clue what we’re talking about.

Another thing he said was to sell ideas, not just benefits (and hopefully, if you’ve been in sales for a bit you have learned not to sell features).

sell ideas, not benefits predictable revenue

See predictablerevenue.com/matrix for more info on how to sell ideas.

4th Fatal Mistake, Making Salespeople Prospect

Salespeople don’t like it, they’re not good at it, and even if they love it and are great at it, if they’re doing this they won’t be closing deals and selling. This resonated with me.