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April 3, 2006

Remember Every Name Every Time

(From “Remember Every Name Every Time” by Benjamin Levy.) In the book, Levy describes two methods for remembering names.

First, the verbally-oriented, “basic” technique: FACE.

FOCUS on the name.
ASK again.
COMMENT to them and yourself about the name.
EMPLOY the name in conversation.

Second, the visual, “advanced” NAME system. It’s “advanced” because it doesn’t depend on you working the person’s name into conversation, and it does take a lot of practice. But Levy remembers hundreds and hundreds of names using the four steps below.

NAME stands for…

NOMINATE - Survey the face, then choose a feature, any feature!
[Ex. Bob’s nose.]

ARTICULATE - Describe the feature to yourself so you know it.
[Ex. Bob’s nose…it’s large in proportion to his face, and the nostrils are very prominent.]

MORPH - Names don’t mean much, so transform them into nouns!
[Ex. “Bob” becomes…”bobsled!” Visualize the famous Jamaican bobsled team.]

ENTWINE - so that…
NOMINATED feature + MORPH = a lasting memory [Ex. Dozens of bobsleds shooting out of his nose!]

Via Keith Ferrazzi’s newsletter

March 31, 2006

How to Prevent Technology From Impeding Communication and Wrecking Your Virtual Project

Posted in General, Social Software, Leadership and Management
by David Teten @ 3:29 pm —

Technology has made it possible for teams with members around the world to work on virtual projects. A monthly budget for such a project can easily exceed $1.2 million and involve more than 60 team members worldwide. Although email and other communication tools make this possible, what happens when team effectiveness is hampered by the same technology? Dominic M. Thomas, a visiting assistant professor of decision and information analysis at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and colleagues studied the failure of large virtual projects to learn what went wrong. Their findings are presented in a new paper titled “Making Knowledge Work Successful in Virtual Teams via Technology Facilitation.”
http://knowledge.emory.edu/index.cfm?fa=viewArticle&ID=945

March 28, 2006

The Great Sales and Marketing Debate: The Cagey Sales Veterans Debate the Young Up-and-Comers

Posted in Personal Productivity, Leadership and Management, Career Acceleration
by David Teten @ 8:00 pm —

I recently was fortunate to participate in a panel discussion on “The Great Sales and Marketing Debate: The Cagey Sales Veterans Debate the Young Up-and-Comers”, sponsored by the New York Software Industry Association, March 13, 2006, held at JP Morgan Chase.

Allen Reynolds and Jesse Mandell all took some notes, which we have merged in the summary below.

Master of Ceremonies, Bruce Bernstein, welcomed and introduced the two questioners and four debaters.

Questioners: Sherri Sklar and Ruth P. Stevens

Sherri Sklar, President, Sherri Sklar Strategies, LLC
Sherri Sklar has built a star track record in helping organizations obtain exceptional results. Over the last 20 years, she has enabled organizations to make dramatic turnarounds, helping under-performing divisions achieve significant growth in the most difficult of marketplace conditions. Ms. Sklar has helped organizations in marketing strategy and execution, sales strategy, sales execution and performance, business development strategy, channel management, and communication skills training. A frequent presenter at seminars and conferences, Ms. Sklar practices and teaches ‘peak performance delivery’, a proprietary technique Ms. Sklar employs to help clients achieve optimal results. Ms. Sklar is President of her own consulting company, Sherri Sklar Strategies, LLC., (SSS). SSS is a sales, marketing and business development consulting firm that delivers measurable results from assessment, proven strategies, and excellence in execution. Ms. Sklar received her MBA from Harvard Business School and her BA from Newcomb College at Tulane University.

Ruth P. Stevens
Ruth P. Stevens’ expertise in customer acquisition and retention derives from a decade and a half of hands-on marketing for both large enterprises and start-up companies. Just prior to beginning her consulting practice, she served as chief marketing officer at an Internet company in New York City. Before that, she had broad responsibilities for direct marketing at three corporate giants– IBM, Ziff-Davis and Time Warner.

At IBM, she served as director of direct marketing, North America, for the IBM hardware, software and services brands, leading a team of 140 direct marketing professionals. She then moved to the IBM Software Group, where she directed global direct marketing.

At Ziff-Davis, she served as vice president of marketing for the electronic publishing division, and later helped launch Ziff’s Consumer Media Group as its vice president of marketing. At Time Warner, she worked in marketing, new business development and general management for the Book-of-the-Month Club and Time-Life Books.

Ruth has been a regular columnist for DMNews and is a frequent contributor to a variety of marketing publications. She teaches marketing to graduate students at Columbia Business School and NYU’s Stern School of Business. Ruth serves on the boards of the Direct Marketing Idea Exchange in New York City and the Direct Marketing Club of New York.

She is past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the Direct Marketing Association and holds a BA from Hamilton College and an MBA from Columbia University.

Debaters: Alan Kaufman, Ed Martino, Larry Cohen, and David Teten

Team Old School: Alan Kaufman and Ed Martino

Alan Kaufman
Alan Kaufman is a 38 year veteran of the Computer/Software/IT Industry. He was a founding member of the management team of Cheyenne Software, Inc., where as executive vice president of sales, he grew the business from $1 million in fiscal 1990 to over $200 million in 1997 to propel Cheyenne into the 13th largest software company in the industry. He has served as an officer in the Navy and holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University. He serves on the Board of Directors of NetIQ, a leader in server and security management, and is a Trustee of Outward Bound USA. Alan also serves on the Board of Directors of NYSIA and is its founding president.

Ed Martino, Director of Industry Business Solutions, Sprint Nextel
Ed Martino is currently the Director of Industry Business Solutions for the new Sprint Nextel Company. He has worldwide responsibility for the market penetration, solution development and overall growth in industry sectors for Financial, Insurance, Media and Professional Services, a $2b business area. Prior to this role, Ed was the Director, Northeast Corporate Sales for Nextel Communications. Other roles have included the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales reporting to the President for two companies both in the global systems integration business. Ed also served in various global management positions for the IBM Company for eighteen years.

Ed is a member of several boards including the NY Software Industry Association where he is the Vice Chairman.

Team New School: Larry Cohen and David Teten

Larry Cohen, EVP, Heartbeat Software
Larry Cohen is one of the most creative and inventive minds in the software business. He has that rare ability to listen to a business problem, quickly isolate the key issue, and translate that insight into a practical software solution.

From his early days in the industry, Mr. Cohen has demonstrated a remarkable instinct for identifying a new technology solution and putting it to work quickly. Shortly after graduating from UC Berkeley, he pioneered the use of Webcasting in the healthcare industry. Soon after, he received an NIH grant to conceive the first online adherence programs ever developed.

Larry was a driving force behind the first enterprise-class, web-based software products for Marketing Content Management (MCM) in the financial services industry. He devised a highly innovative technology and methodology for performing online competitive intelligence. And lately, he’s been fashioning a new form of CRM that integrates data-mining and web services.

Throughout his career, Larry has closely advised some of the world’s most prestigious organizations, including Amgen, Novartis, GSK, Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Intel.

David Teten, CEO, Nitron Advisors
David Teten is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Nitron Advisors, an independent research firm which provides hedge funds, venture capitalists, and other institutional investors with access to a network of frontline industry experts. He is also coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, the first business guide to how to use blogs, social network sites, and other online networks to accelerate your sales. He blogs on the Circle of Experts Brain Food Blog and at TheVirtualHandshake blog. David formerly worked with Bear Stearns’ Investment Banking division as a member of their technology/defense mergers and acquisitions team, and was a strategy consultant with Mars & Co. He holds a Harvard MBA and a Yale BA.

NOTES ON THE EVENT:

Larry Cohen, EVP, Heartbeat Software

David and I see 5 main differences between the ‘old school’ and the ‘new school’ of sales and marketing:

1. The new school sells highly focused products. The new school goes after underserved, highly niche markets (and submarkets) that do not have much competition or many me-too products. For example, Heartbeat Software does not sell CRM to pharmaceutical sales organizations. We sell a highly specialized CRM product to Medical Affairs Departments and their Medical Science Liaisons. Due to our specificity, we are able to work with the majority of pharmaceutical companies and offer them incredibly specific learning from their competitors. We aim to penetrate the majority of these markets (and have done so in pharmaceuticals). Similarly, Nitron Advisors focuses specifically on introducing their clients, hedge funds, VC funds, and law firms, to industry experts—and more specifically experts in transition.

The new school understands that we need to do a few things very well and that companies buy software because their competitors have bought software - period. One client told me that if no one has bought the software they would never buy it. If everyone has it — what’s the point? But if a few key competitors have purchased, they will quickly jump on board. Non-vertical specific back-up software, data storage, or cell phones are not specific enough to attract the new school.

2. The new school does not waste valuable marketing dollars on soft, non-focused, and unproven channels. The new school uses on-line and off-line tools that have a proven, measurable ROI by creating a direct, track able, one-to-one relationship with our customers. Among the major mechanisms for this:

+ highly targeted old school cold calling with a new school spin; selling a proven piece of software to a sub-market that is not being called on;

+ e-mail marketing to very specific titles and organizations where we have market share, with tracking provided by software provider;

+ Pay per Click search engine advertising (Google, etc.)

+ Pay per Call search engine advertising (Ingenio, etc.)

(Teten’s editorial note: Eloqua offers some useful marketing ROI tools.)

3. The new school focuses on smarts & network, not necessarily experience. Sales methodologies are interesting. They are also boring and notoriously difficult to get to stick or to actually change behavior. The new school understands that growing a stellar sales team is about hiring smart, energetic people who are great at sales. What makes a good salesperson? The new school knows that it is one thing: A person that keenly understands the part of themselves that other people relate to and who can leverage that part to get people to buy. We hire those people. No matter what experience, sales training, or existing client relationships they have. Google famously put a billboard up on the road from San Francisco to San Jose that had a complex mathematical problem on it. If you solved it, you gained access to a recruiting website. The new school knows that smarts goes a tremendously long way.

4. The new schools taps online networks, not only face-to-face networks. Consider that 84% of U.S. Internet users have used the Internet to contact or get information from an online group—more than have used the Internet to read news, search for health information, or even to buy something. More and more of us are using online networks, such as blogs, social network sites, virtual communities, and other “social software” as a daily part of our business life. All the major Internet players, including Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL Time Warner, eBay, and Google, are already offering social software tools and planning more in the near future. Bill Gates, John Kerry, and other celebrities are among the over 2 million people currently registered on LinkedIn, a popular business networking site. Nitron Advisors uses these technologies both to target customers and to recruit new industry experts on our clients’ behalf.

5. The new school sells based on product quality, not just on who plays better golf. Many salespeople spend a tremendous amount of time and energy playing golf and drinking beers with customers. They believe that a personal “I like him�? relationship is key to closing the sale. In the new world, that relationship is helpful, maybe even a prerequisite, but it doesn’t close the sale.

Neil Rackham, founder of sales consultancy Huthwaite, conducted a study of whether salespeople who built good relationships would really make more sales:

“We found that sellers who dealt successfully with small retail outlets in rural areas seemed to rely heavily on personal factors in their selling. . . . For example, the seller might ask, “How’s Ann enjoying her riding lessons?�? . . . In rural areas, where the size of the sale was small, successful sellers used more of these personal references than did sellers who were less successful.”

“But it was a different story in the large urban stores, where the average sale was more than 5 times the size. We found no relationship between success and reference to personal issues[emphasis added].”

… “I’ve heard many other professional buyers complain about salespeople who try to open calls by cultivating areas of personal interest. The last thing a busy buyer wants is to tell the tenth seller of the day all about his last game of golf. . . . Many buyers become suspicious of people who begin by raising areas of personal interest.”

Source: Neil Rackham, Spin Selling (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1988), 140.)

Alan Kaufman

After Cheyenne sold, I retired. Soon after, I was approached by the VP of sales for NetIQ Corporation and asked where I found my stellar employees. The answer was that I trained them. Training is incredibly important. Every new situation I went into was different. I never took a cookie cutter approach to anything. A good sales/marketer carries a quiver full of arrows and can use each one for any new situation that arises.

Sherri Sklar, President, Sherri Sklar Strategies, LLC

As my first question, can you sell a complex software solution without meeting the client face to face?

Ed Martino, Director of Industry Business Solutions, Sprint Nextel

Yes, you can, but I wouldn’t advise it. If it’s complex, it needs lots of service. The biggest cost is in the service side and your goal is to build a bridge to the customer and use them as a referral to build business.

David Teten

Yes you can. Salesforce.com does it all the time. That said, the more complex the product and particularly the after-sales support, the more helpful meeting in person can be.

To sell virtually, you first need credibility (your potential clients and competitors look you up online and evaluate the validity of your service) and second, effective relationship management.

Ed Martino

I disagree with David. Most of Salesforce’s sales are to corporate customers and their success depends on the time that they spend with their customers.

David Teten

But it is impossible for a company to meet with all their smaller customers.

Alan Kaufman

You must identify how complex a sale is and whether you need to go out there to meet face to face.

Ruth P. Stevens

To be competitive in getting the product to market, how should the marketing be structured? What is the best marketing approach?

Larry Cohen

At Heartbeat, customers pay for product development. Marketing should focus on specific departments in like companies. When we call someone who works in hedge fund marketing, and say we have a product designed just for him, we get a good response rate. It’s not spam if the person is interested in buying what you sell.

Alan Kaufman

Good marketing programs include people who are interested in talking to analysts to see how the customers are buying. I don’t believe in print advertising, especially if you are working with a small budget.

Bruce Bernstein

How should you go after your target market? How do you enable the sales to happen? How do you structure the sales team?

Ed Martino

It all depends on the size of companies. It always takes lots of research and phone calls, and knowledge of the competition. Draw 3 circles:

1. What business am I in?

2. What are the customers’ needs?

3. What does the company have to offer?

The little space where the circles overlap is what you develop and present to the CIO.

Larry Cohen

Small software companies are unable to pay to talk to analysts, so they must talk to businesses in the area for the problem they are going to solve. Refer to previous success that you’ve had at one or two other companies.

Ed Martino

I agree that if you don’t have a large enough budget, don’t talk to analysts. Talk to smaller CIOs from a niche group and then work your way up to the top.

Larry Cohen

I agree with Ed. We use that business model at Heartbeat Software.

Ruth P. Stevens

The marketing department must provide good leads for sales force. How would you suggest that you develop these leads?

Alan Kaufman

Having an inside telesales group that goes through incoming leads and cold calling is good. You also need to develop a good computerized process that is repeatable. Leads from the Internet need to be shown to the inside sales group as well.

David Teten

We get to the big dogs through networks. Each member of our sales team (and of our whole company) has a personal network that we can tap.

In addition, no surprise, we use online networks. We post intelligent comments on someone’s blog to make an entrée, and get into a target’s network in that manner.

Microsoft has approximately 1,200 bloggers out of 55,000 employees. There is no excuse to cold call Microsoft; just contact a blogger in your target area, and use their blog as a conversation starter.

Ruth P. Stevens

What incentives do you use for the sales team to follow up?

David Teten

Pay people a good commission. Develop a sense of ownership. Give options.

Larry Cohen

We have company wide minimums. If it’s a top 25 pharmaceutical company we go in person and talk to them

David Teten

In order to get leads, people should be thinking about how to talk to their particular network. This method is much easier than getting leads from a database company.

Bruce Bernstein

The old school is emphasizing structure and the new school is going with leads. We hate the people who contact people for business by my boarding school alumni directory. What do you think about David’s method?

Ed Martino

If you have a niche, then you don’t need to worry about making the phone call. If you’ve got value and you’ve done the research, then the other person may actually appreciate the call.

Bruce Bernstein

It might also be a generational thing. The youngsters don’t mind getting the networking call.

David Teten

The issue is how to get the most targeted individual. Email used to be an effective means, but today, email is broken. You can’t reach people easily via email due to spam filters and overuse of the email medium. If you can find the name of person in your sweet spot, call them. Even the shallowest referral is better than an cold call.

Sherri Sklar

What are the most important things that someone in marketing can do to create a buzz for their firm and their product?

David Teten

Get to opinion leaders. Get to bloggers. They are very powerful way to spread word of mouth. That’s a large reason why companies like Foldera have attracted over 1 million downloads—great coverage in influencer blogs like Techcrunch and Om Malik.

Lead events. Be a speaker and put yourself in a leadership position. You will reach far more people speaking at a conference, than you will handing out business cards before one. Reach 100 people, not 5.

Ed Martino

Blogs sound good. We want to look into them. Press releases are also good. Sometimes a trade show is a good idea, if you can find ways to bring customers too it. You will create a buzz just from saying that you are going to be at the show. Target is the key word. Marketing to promote your product in a targeted way is very important.

Larry Cohen

For selling to institutional investors, I lean more toward conferences on asset management trends, rather than trade shows, since marketing and business people will be speaking at them. Pay for your sales people to attend, and shake hands and create relationships. It’s cheaper to send 5 salespeople than to get one corporate sponsorship.

Alan Kaufman

The trade shows that you choose to attend must have your customers there. I like to allow our customer a chance to demo our products. If possible, get a small booth so people can at least see your company logo.

Ed Martino

It’s all about ROI. It can make the difference between a million in sales and 60-70 billion in sales. ROI is key. You must be selective and you must leverage the money that you put out to get a return.

Sherri Sklar

How do you grow a stellar sales team? Do you simple hire energetic, smart people, or is there much more?

Ed Martino

I am big on balance. People with fire in the belly are important, but what you really need is diversity because it enables different groups and people to bring in their abilities to the sales force. You want young people who are energetic and idealistic to bring in pep, and older people who can bring in learned skills to pass on. You also need people from the industry for which you are selling. The younger people will give you a lot of overtime. Motivation, however, is key. People need to feel empowerment and ownership.

Larry Cohen

We are a $10m company. Each person needs to meet their quota. We do, however, go after a wide range of people. The key is to find people who know what about themselves makes them successful. We interview a ton of people, but after they are hired, 99 percent of them stay.

Ruth P. Stevens

As sales managers, how do you optimize profits to your firm when the sales team is always trying to give away a deal?

Alan Kaufman

I think it is sloppy to sell on price. You can always cut a deal if you have to. If they cut a deal too much, the loss should come out of the salespersons percentage.

Larry Cohen

We need to train people to stay by their product.

David Teten

Another idea is to pay your sales team a commission on margin instead of based on revenue. This margin info should be shared with your team, but it often isn’t. We show all our new employees our full business plan on their first day of work, because we want them to understand the big picture.

Ed Martino

In smaller companies, I would drop price to get marketing traction. If the customer will eventually become a testimonial, then it’s good. You need to take risk. Larger businesses need to have focus. They need to pick customers. At the end of the day, you want sustainability. In smaller companies, salespeople don’t see the sales price, and that’s why they try to give it away for lower.

Sherri Sklar

If someone says that he is interested in your software if you can prove to them that it is buy worthy, do you fly someone out? How do you approach the relationship?

Larry Cohen

Because products are focused, we phone and then fly to meet with them. I’ve learned that we are more likely to make the sale if we stick to the price, because if we slide, then they may question the value of the product more and more.

Alan Kaufman

In today’s world, regions are a lot larger so you have to be careful about support. How would you support your product in South Africa? This scenario requires discipline in the sales force. They should know not to go after crazy leads. If it’s a one-time, you might want to walk away, but if it’s American Airlines in Texas, you have a lot of chances to make other sales.

Sherri Sklar

What technologies can you use if you don’t know what the return will be, you don’t want to lose it the sale, but you also don’t want to send expensive resources out?

David Teten

Use all the media: IM, email, webconferencing, phone, in-person meetings. This allows for a steady progression of relationship closeness. Professor Caroline Haythornthwaite has done some very interesting research in this area showing that the more media channels you use, the higher the trust levels that develop between two parties.

QUESTIONS FROM AUDIENCE:

Scott Lichtman

How do you feel about PowerPoint and its role in sales pitches?

David Teten

People buy from people, not from paper. The more talking I do, the less selling I do. Communicate value and use a slide show for support. You want the attention focused on the company and the project, not the PC.

Ed Martino

I am seeing that the PowerPoint is here to stay. Today, it is more animated and you are trying to stay way from stale slides. There is more animation and stuff over the net. Webinars etc. are a great way to get your story in front of a lot of people.

David Teten

Humans are wired to be interactive. PowerPoints are passive, and your potential customers will learn less and buy less when they are passive. You need to keep them active if you want to keep them interested.

Bruce Bernstein

What method was used before PowerPoint?

Alan Kaufman

We used flip charts and then foils. I love listening to good speakers. A major problem today is that people don’t speak to the audience. Also, never read from your charts. If you read to your audience, you will lose them. Using a wipe-board works for developing an idea in front of a crowd. Using a PowerPoint can be a disservice.

Audience Member

In your experience, what best motivates a sales force?

Ed Martino

Incentives work if they are fun. Recognition of achievement is also important. Build a plan at the beginning of each year. Each person should know what the accelerator and multiplier is. If they blow the doors off, they will know what the cap is.

Alan Kaufman

Salesmen have fragile egos, and when they are in a losing streak, it gets to them. Give recognition to the people who perform the best. This has the incredible effect of reinforcing their positive performance.

Audience member

The three most important things for generating leads are current clients, (stealing from) competition, and referrals.

Larry Cohen

I find that if they have a rolodex, it may be all that they have to offer. That’s why we don’t go with them. At some point the rolodex runs out.

Alan Kaufman

There is nothing wrong with a portfolio, especially when you are trying to capture a vertical.

Larry Cohen

We put out our own PR, and when we come out with a new product, we send out targeted emails.

Bruce Bernstein

Earlier in evening, David Teten mentioned that email was broken. Ed Martino said that there is no place for instant messaging in corporate America. Please expand.

Ed Martino

Instant messaging is internal. Email should only be used because everything needs to be logged. Instant messaging isn’t on the radar screen, and it can’t be logged or archived.

David Teten

As the young grow up, instant messaging will become an increasingly important medium. There are plenty of companies which sell archiveable IM and email solutions. IM is being used regularly across corporate boundaries—we use it with our clients.

Bruce Bernstein

Are there fundamental differences in advertising that that came out during this discussion?

David Teten

1) There is a movement in spending from advertising in mass media to PR. We are so deluged with advertising that it has lost efficacy. However, people do read the actual content in the magazine around which the advertising is wrapped. A good PR firm can get you in there as content. We get sales leads every few weeks from a Businessweek article about us from last year.

2) Secondarily, there also exists a movement to advertising where you can calculate an ROI. We’re moving from pay per click, to pay per action or pay per call. Compare that with throwing a million dollars at the Superbowl and seeing what happens.

Ed Martino

I have to disagree because my company (Sprint) sponsored the Superbowl! It depends on the industry. If you are in a big industry you have to make a statement, so you have to go with pro golf, the Super bowl etc. If you do not advertise with it, people ask why you aren’t in it. Such mass advertising is important.

Alan Kaufman

No one can afford TV. PR means hiring an agency. It’s best if you can get someone to develop relationships with the editors of blogs. You have to stay on top of people who can influence the influencers

CLOSING STATEMENTS:

Ed Martino

There is more in common between the old school and the new school, because it is an evolution from one to the other. Sales and marketing is fun and the interrelationship and interdependence between that and finance is important. Ethics is also very important. Ethics is everything. You need to have respect for your customers and your competition. We need to be ethical about how we do our business.

David Teten

We’re in the advice/education business. Ironically, there is a lot of advice out there in the world, but most people don’t absorb it and don’t follow it. They listen but don’t learn.

I encourage people to internalize the ideas that we’ve discussed here. I hope that people learned something that they can take home and incorporate into their sales and marketing strategies.

And as last words: A.B.C.—Always Be Closing.

March 27, 2006

Converting Gatekeepers into Greeters

Posted in General, Personal Productivity, Career Acceleration
by David Teten @ 9:40 pm —

(reprinted by permission)

Converting Gatekeepers into Greeters

By Debra Feldman, the JobWhiz

Correct technique and good manners turn interactions with corporate gatekeepers from frustrating to fruitful. Gatekeepers are not meanies; they are their boss’s designated agents charged with limiting unnecessary, potentially wasteful interruptions and unexpected interference that may negatively impact the boss’s workflow or productivity. Any unsolicited, meaning uninvited inquiry requires screening. If you don’t know the boss, then you have to show the gatekeeper it is okay to give you an appointment, schedule a meeting, provide an email address, switch you to voice mail, etc.

The gatekeeper uses criteria developed to evaluate requests. If you pass the test, you are referred to the boss. If not, you are turned away. The value proposition you initially present to the gatekeeper has to satisfy predetermined needs or be intriguing enough to captivate her attention allowing you the opportunity to elaborate on your interest and justify your request as an exception.

Here are 6 ways you can increase your personal odds that gatekeepers will grant you access. Start with the premise that the gatekeeper is not an enemy but, like yourself, is a professional trying her best to fulfill her assignment, keep the boss happy and get her reward for a job well done.

1. Offer a low risk, high reward situation. Do your homework. Plan your presentation so it is clear, compelling and engaging. Pique the gatekeeper’s curiosity. Be ready to address the gatekeeper by name, to inquire if she has a few moments for your call and how her day has been. Listen. Do not charge forward just because you didn’t get voice mail. If she hesitates, sounds busy or is juggling other lines, offer to call back, even before you leave your name. Do ask if there is a more convenient time to call back.

2. Convince the gatekeeper that there is no reason not to offer you an appointment. The gatekeeper is balancing two competing choices: granting too much access to the wrong applicants and being too stringent thereby excluding individuals that the boss would want to meet. Her job depends on how well she interprets the screening criteria. If the gatekeeper believes it would be more detrimental to keep you out than to let you in, you have won!

3. The more interaction you have, the more invested the gatekeeper becomes in a relationship that contributes to a desire to help you and be a part of your success. Speak respectfully, be polite. Make small talk. Ingratiate yourself and it is more likely that your proposal will sound attractive. Be likable and you’ll get more atttention and be able to more clearly communicate your value, engage in a dialogue and have the chance to explain more about your business.

4. Follow the gatekeeper’s instructions, cooperate and be pleasant. Not only do you have to have a high quality concept, but your personality has to be a fit. If she asks you to email a request, do it and send it out within 24 hours or less before you are forgotten. Don’t be argumentative. Smile as you speak—it will come through in your voice. Your demeanor tells her that you are not going to cause trouble. If your are not cooperative ( ie. difficult to manage,) she may conclude that you are not worthy of the boss’s time and sabotage your request. Be patient and helpful. This gatekeeper may be your new boss’s administrator or even your own right hand someday!

5. Gatekeepers can become your personal liaison warming up the boss on your behalf and facilitating the impossible.If you can win the gatekeeper’s support, she can become your ally advocating for you, squeezing an appointment for you into a booked calendar, talking you up to the boss, giving you hints to help your meeting be more positive. If your encounter with the gatekeeper is negative, reconsider your goal. If the boss condones unprofessional behavior, do you really want to move forward with this?

6. Timing is critical. If you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Make your own luck. Don’t be discouraged if your first approach isn’t wholeheartedly embraced. Re-group and after an appropriate interval, attempt another connection revising your presentation, enhancing your value proposition and using better timing. Persistence and creativity pays off. Follow up is key to making progress.

©Debra Feldman, 2006, DebraFeldman(at)JobWhiz.com

Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Learn more about her groundbreaking techniques that compress job searches from months into weeks . Contact Debra now at www.JobWhiz.com to expedite your executive ascent!

The Office Chart That Really Counts

Posted in General, Social Software, Personal Productivity, Career Acceleration
by David Teten @ 1:07 pm —

The Office Chart That Really Counts

Mapping informal relationships at a company is revealing — and useful:

Two years ago, Ken Loughridge, an information technology manager living in Cheshire, England, uprooted his family and moved to the other side of the world. His company, engineering and environmental consulting firm MWH Global, was reorganizing its various information technology offices into a single global division, establishing its main service center on New Zealand’s more cost-effective shores and promoting Loughridge to manage the company’s worldwide network, system, and desktop needs. “By and large, the staff I’d adopted were strangers,” he says. To help adjust to his new surroundings, Loughridge took a map with him. A map of his organization, that is. A few months before, MWH had surveyed its IT employees, asking them which colleagues they consulted most frequently, who they turned to for expertise, and who either boosted or drained their energy levels. Their answers were analyzed in a software program and then plotted as a web of interconnecting nodes and lines representing people and relationships. Looking a little like an airline’s hub-and-spoke route maps, the web offered Loughridge a map — a corporate X-ray, in a sense — to how work really got done among his charges. It helped him visualize the invisible, informal connections between people that are missing on a traditional organizational chart.

more

March 23, 2006

Investing in Stock Markets with Social Network Analysis

Federico Colecchia, a network researcher at ATALAB, wrote to the SOCNET mailing list: “I am looking for recent/ongoing research on application of social network analysis technologies to analysis of stock values.” (He works as a researcher and R&D coordinator for development of visual intelligence software tools for multiple applications. His current focus is on drug discovery support.)

We traded emails about the use of social network analysis in the financial markets. He wrote:

“The works I know of are econophysical approaches to hierarchical
characterization of stock price evolution that have been developed by Mantegna and Stanley. I think the primary references here are:

R. Mantegna, H. E. Stanley, “An Introduction to Econophysics -
Correlations and Complexity in Finance”, Cambridge University Press, 2000
R. Mantegna (1999). “Hierarchical Structure in Financial Market”, The European Physical Journal B 11:193-7.”

He also mentioned chiresearch (contact Jonathon Mote, Center for Innovation, University of Maryland) and Francis Narin’s work on social network analysis-based methodologies for patent analysis, with a focus on identification of companies in which to invest.

Does anyone have other suggestions on investors who are using social network analysis for investing?  Of course, Nitron Advisors is one indirect example.

March 21, 2006

Pull: Networking and Success Since Benjamin Franklin

Posted in Leadership and Management, Career Acceleration
by David Teten @ 11:45 pm —

I recently had a chance to have a conversation with Pamela Walker Laird, a History professor with the University of Colorado at Denver, and author of the new book Pull: Networking and Success Since Benjamin Franklin, a history of strategic relationship-bulding and mentoring in American business, published by Harvard University Press, 2006.

She was kind enough to agree to participate in an email interview about her new book.

David Teten: Why this book? What led to it? How did it evolve?

Pamela Walker Laird: As a business historian, I repeatedly come across biographies of so-called self-made men whose careers had in fact depended on mentors and access to powerful networks. I began this project to determine for what portion of well-known businessmen this was true. Pretty quickly it became clear that the statistic was easy to calculate: 100%. That is, not one case of a successful businessman or woman exists for which mentors and/or networks were not essential.

Why is this? It is possible to get rich by gambling, either at a roulette table or by day trading, without participating in networks. But real business is a social process. Learning the trade, getting leads, making connections, closing deals, getting promotions: they all require social interactions. It is not enough to “know�? your trade. Moreover, how can you learn a trade and perform it in isolation? Certainly you can’t make deals if you are unknown or you can’t be accepted as a person worth talking to. Your chances of closing a deal vastly improve if you can share a golf game, a beer, or even a taxi with decision makers.

What began as a study of 19th-century entrepreneurial businessmen, then grew into the 20th century. I began to think about the modern notions of corporations as meritocracies. Within these, thanks to personnel departments and “objective�? standards for hiring and promotion, people are supposed to succeed based on their work performance only. People think of “office politics�? as an aberration, something that happens when the system breaks down. However, once I started looking into the realities of what was supposed to be a meritocracy, I realized that connections and even connectability mattered in corporations, as much as they do in small firms and as they always had in the past, in every environment.

Even so, I do not want to minimize the importance of individual initiative and abilities. After all, connections help those who help themselves. Connections can create a opportunities for some, and they can deny opportunities to others, but they cannot make people into successes without their own effort and talent.

David Teten: What are your goals for Pull? What sort of impact would you like it to have?

Pamela Walker Laird: In talking about this project over the last few years, many of my audiences have found it gratifying to have their own experiences validated by my scholarship. This is especially the response I have received from women and disadvantaged minorities, as well as from anyone who has been passed up on the corporate ladder by people with fewer task-specific skills than they had.

In addition to these individual responses, I hope that Pull will provide insights to decision makers within corporations as well as those within less-privileged advocacy groups. Sometimes there is nothing like a good story—or in this case, three hundred years of stories—to show how something works.

I also hope to have an effect on how we think about people’s success and failure. Social capital is the term sociologists have developed for what I have been calling “connections and connectability”. Anyone who reads Pull will ask, “What is the social capital story behind every success or failure?” That is, we will start to look for the advantages from having mentors and access to influential networks, or, conversely, the disadvantages of not having connections or not being connectable.

David Teten:—What could a CEO who was trying to build a diverse management team gain from Pull?

Pamela Walker Laird: Most executives today understand how differences between groups of people can complicate and possibly undermine their firms’ interpersonal dynamics. So their commitments to employing and promoting diverse populations are practical as well as idealistic. Yet the best of intentions are usually not enough to see the bottlenecks and the pitfalls. Pull shows how managers struggled for decades with these problems and how some of them learned how to overcome them. More often than not, the strategies that worked applied universally what were understood by the 1960s as good, basic personnel management procedures. The trick was applying such recruiting, hiring, and promotion practices to everyone, and not just to those who seemed to have “potential.�? Pull shows the problems that can result from presumptions about who has potential.

However, no amount of “objectivity�? in personnel practices can overcome the social factors in gatekeeping and networking. Therefore, rather than try to suppress the social factors, which simply drives them underground and generates all the tensions related to office politics, top managers can develop strategies for synthesizing social capital for everyone. Instead of ordering gatekeepers to exercise objective judgment, leaders can guide them to take their blinders off and to grow connections with people they might otherwise look past.

This strategy is not the same as following all the latest cheery methods for “networking,�? which tend to ignore persistent social processes and expectations. It means recognizing the power of social dynamics and distributing their advantages broadly. It may mean bringing social scientists on board to help everyone see ongoing stereotypes that persist despite the best of intentions. Predispositions and blind spots can hinder the operations of even the best laid plans for diversifying management and for creating teams out of the resulting mix.

The trick to breaking through the glass ceiling and increasing diversity at the top of management is to recognize that people can’t break through from below, whatever their ambitions and talents. People can only pass through the glass ceiling by getting pulled from above. This almost always means that the people with whom top managers feel most comfortable are the ones they mentor and pull up. Therefore, mixing groups of people together is the key—creating ways for a sense of familiarity to develop between top managers and talented people with whom they would not ordinarily socialize.

David Teten: What are some of Pull’s lessons for ambitious individuals?

Pamela Walker Laird: — Because business is a social process, interactions are at its core. With whom do you interact? With whom do you have close, frequent interactions, and with whom do you have distant, occasional interactions? Optimally, you should interact with the people who make decisions about promotions or contracts as frequently as possible, both formally and informally. Sociologists have shown that we benefit by both “weak ties�? and “strong ties.�? Strong ties with people who don’t know anymore than we do, or who don’t have any more connections than we have, may not help us as much as multiple weak ties that are sources of lots of kinds of information and leads. Our “luck�? can actually seem to improve as our contacts with other people grow. After all, sometimes luck is just a matter of hearing about a chance opportunity from a casual acquaintance.

The interactions that can benefit us don’t even need to be face-to-face, as you discuss in your recent book (The Virtual Handshake). Learning from online exchanges and making connections online are becoming increasingly useful tools. By adding up the benefits of many weak ties, online connections can provide a lot of information and advice. They can even lead to the close social interactions—the strong ties—that moving to the top of a corporate ladder or forming a partnership entail.

Sometimes even holding on to your job in this age of relentless downsizing requires deliberate care and feeding of your social capital. For example, if you telecommute, you must somehow make yourself “real�? to the decision makers who put people’s names on the “keep�? list. It is essential that you be something more than just a number or a name to them. Therefore, go to corporate headquarters on a regular basis. Find reasons to share “face time�? with those list makers. Make sure that they think of you as a human being whom they like, as well as one who gets “the job done.�? Keeping a job involves a lot more than “doing�? it.

It is also possible to grow your social capital—if you can get past the first level of gatekeeping in your targeted profession. For instance, I know of a man who is now a screen writer. Initially he had no connections and couldn’t get any one to read his work, but he managed to get a job as a gofer in Hollywood. For a couple of years he ran errands and got coffee for screen writers and producers. Eventually, as writers got to know him, he could ask them to read something now and then. This long-term strategy for building social capital worked and got him “discovered.�?

Networking does not just mean that you should pass out your business cards everywhere. Nor does making a pest of yourself help. A contact is not a connection. Nor is it always possible to be connectable. The people who are the gatekeepers or the decision makers in your field can be too insulated by their staffs, their schedules, the places where they socialize, or their prejudices to be accessible to you. If that is the case, then you have to figure out either how to break through that insulation, or rethink your ambitions. Sometimes the best strategy is that of the Hollywood gofer, who combined work and patience. He did his day-to-day job well and wrote his screen plays on his own time, preparing—not just waiting—for his opportunities.

David Teten: What myths does Pull challenge and how?

Pamela Walker Laird: — The most important myth that Pull overturns is that it is possible to be a self-made business success. For openers, Pull examines two of the most famous cases of allegedly self-made success, Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Carnegie, to demonstrate that even their successes involved astute and deliberate development and exploitation of networks. These two illustrious successes went against the statistical grain by truly achieving rags-to-riches success, for almost all American successes began in comfortable or very affluent circumstances. But they did not go against the social capital grain: like everyone else, their successes required access to networks and assistance from mentors and important gatekeepers.

The reason that social capital is necessary is that business is inherently, profoundly, a social process. It requires interactions, whether those be competitive or cooperative. Therefore, being a self-made success is impossible. That doesn’t mean that ambitious people can’t grow their social capital. It means that they must maximize the productive ways in which they interact with others who can assist them.

This also matters because we tend to praise people who become successful and think about them as having been self-made, as being rugged individualists. However, no one, not even Lee Iacocca or Jack Welch in our own times, has ever “made it�? without help from mentors and networks.

David Teten: Do the insights of Pull apply beyond business?

Pamela Walker Laird: — The distributions of opportunity in all fields, in all professions, hinge on social dynamics. Having access to networks matters as much in medicine and academics as it does in business, possibly more. Likewise, in sports, coaches are the primary gatekeepers; in politics, lines of mentoring go back for generations; and in the courts, judges are almost always former clerks of older judges. Thus, up until the 1980s, most newspaper references to mentors were about people in sports, politics, and law, not business.

David Teten: How does Pull relate to your own background, training, experiences?

Pamela Walker Laird: — In the course of my life, I have had mentors in some situations, but lacked them in others. Being on both sides of this experience has given me insights about how these advantages work. In academia, mentors are at least as important as they are in business, and for all the same reasons: teaching the tools of the trade; giving advice; providing introductions to influential people; helping to form connections to gatekeepers. Watching all of this over the years and talking about it with a few trusted friends made me aware of the dynamics when I saw them happening in business.

One of Pull’s chapters begins with my experience working for a bank while I was in college. The vice president of my division asked me to stay, but when I jokingly said that I would stay if I could be a vice president in ten years, he was shocked! He said I could only become the secretary to a vice president. He was ready to be my mentor, but his ambitions for me would not have helped me climb his—or any other male-dominated—ladder. I had a contact, but it was not a connection.

David Teten: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me!

Download The Virtual Handshake book at no charge

Posted in General, Social Software, Personal Productivity, Career Acceleration
by David Teten @ 10:57 am —

We finally did it: we have made our new book, The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, available for free download. Of course, we encourage you to buy the bound book at your local bookstore. It’s much easier to read that way (and actually cheaper than printing out the whole thing on your printer).

Just as online dating has revolutionized the way singles connect, similar technologies are revolutionizing the way that businesspeople close deals. We wrote The Virtual Handshake to show you how to sign new customers, meet new business partners, recruit star employees, or even find a new job, all by using online networks. More technically, it’s the first mass-market guide to “social software”: blogs, social network sites, virtual communities, relationship capital management software, contact management software, and so on.

This was not an easy decision; we had a lot of discussions between ourselves and with our publisher, the American Management Association, about this. We were very hesitant to give away 2.5 years of hard work at no cost. The top five reasons we’re doing this are:

1) We’ve gotten rave reviews for the book, but it’s very hard to get people to notice a new book. The Virtual Handshake has received extremely strong reviews in BusinessWeek, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, countless bloggers, and many other leading publications. It has also been excerpted in CNN.com and FastCompany.com. I just received a great review from Ron Lichty, in the Software Development Forum News:

“It’s not often that you read a book in an area where you have interest and passion and discover authors who both deepen and broaden your thinking. It’s equally rare to find a book that, despite being published, as books are, months after they’re written and more months after they were researched, that nonetheless introduces technologies and applications and services that seem as fresh as if they were posted to a web site yesterday. The Virtual Handshake was that for me.”

We invested far more effort than we probably should have in writing a rigorous book that met our standards, with dozens of case studies, 300 sources, and extensive peer review. Our explicit role models were academics who write for the popular audience (e.g., Bob Cialdini, Deborah Tannen, Robert Putnam, Howard Gardner).

Readers appreciate that; the problem is getting readers to be aware of the book, in a world that publishes 600,000 new books every year. Providing a complimentary ebook is a way to increase trial of the book.

2) Frankly, we make very little money on each book. We earn in the range of 5%-20% of the publisher’s sale price (depending on various factors in the nature of each book sale), and 15% of that goes to the agent, and then Scott takes a chunk of course! In many cases, you as the affiliate marketer earn more on the sale of a book than we will, since you can earn up to 10% of the retail price as an affiliate, with no other parties involved. This is evidence that in the book value chain, the marketer adds more value than the content creator.

If the book becomes a bestseller, we’ll make real money on it. But in the unlikely instance that it does not become a bestseller (grin), then the real value of writing a book is the marketing of my company, Nitron Advisors and our Circle of Experts; of Scott’s consulting/speaking services; my speaking appearances; and anything else we choose to market.

There are also a lot of other ancillary benefits to writing a book, which I won’t discuss here. But to achieve any of these marketing benefits, we just need to get the book in peoples’ hands.

3) Distributing an ebook is particularly appropriate given the subject of our book. Long term, we think that every professional businessperson would benefit by learning from our system. In the short term, the obvious sweet spot of our market are highly computer-literate people who are heavy Internet users. Those are exactly the sort of people who are likely to be highly receptive to a free ebook marketing campaign.

4) Providing free downloads has worked very well for Cluetrain Manifesto, Naked Conversations, Seth Godin, and Cory Doctorow, all of which were significant influences on our book, and all of whom we’d be happy to emulate.

5) Insatiable curiosity. It’s an experiment. If it works, we can recommend it to others. To our knowledge, most of the authors who have tried free ebooks were self-published. AMACOM Books (the American Management Association) is experimenting just as we are.

So, download it now, tell a friend, post a link to http://thevirtualhandshake.com/free-book-download.htm on your blog, etc. Once you’ve read it, we’d greatly appreciate a review on your blog, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, company newsletter, or any other appropriate venue. And of course, we always value your feedback.

Enjoy!

March 20, 2006

Relaunch/New Location for Brain Food Blog

I am happy to report that we are relaunching the Nitron Advisors Circle of Experts Brain Food blog from a new home on the Web, http://www.CircleOfExperts.com/blog . Please tell your friends! From that link, you can subscribe with your favorite blog reader (Bloglines, Newsgator, etc.) or get every posting via email.

If you would like to change your subscription, unsubscribe, or make other changes, just visit http://lists.circleofexperts.com/mailman/listinfo/brain-food .

We will continue to write on Brain Food about career acceleration, business acceleration, consulting opportunities for industry experts, investment research, and online networks. We always welcome suggestions from people with good content.
We have several sister blogs and mailing lists we recommend:
http://www.nitronadvisors.com/mailing-list.html – two mailing lists for businesspeople interested in independent consulting assignments and new full-time jobs

http://www.circleofexperts.com/nyc : worthwhile business conferences, panels, and other events in the New York area

http://www.TheVirtualHandshake.com : how to sign new clients, raise capital, or even find your dream job with blogs, social network sites, and other online networks. You can also download there a complimentary copy of my new book, The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online.
To make sure that this email gets through to you, please add brain-food-blog-do-not-reply@circleofexperts.com to your address book or trusted sender list.Thanks for reading, and if you like this blog, please tell your friends!

March 14, 2006

Getting a Venture Capital Job: Fighting Upstream

Posted in Leadership and Management, Career Acceleration
by David Teten @ 11:47 pm —

(This was originally written in 2002-03, but still relevant today.)


Getting a VC job: fighting upstream
By Mark Cicirelli
Mcicirelli(at)mba2002.hbs.edu

I have compiled what I hope are helpful observations from my job search since finishing my MBA this June.

Be warned that my advice is most relevant to those at the same stage of career and training. I’m very much a generalist. I received my undergrad degree in economics and government from Dartmouth, spent three years at an investment bank, one year founding and fundraising for two startups, and then received my MBA from Harvard. While I am very familiar with the private equity process, I am not an engineer, a biochemist, or a war-weary, metal-bending “operations guy.�? Those who have that sort of background will face different obstacles and opportunities in seeking a VC job.

The environment; no rush, very particular:
Pundits predict a 30% to 75% reduction in VC personnel. Venture funds are shrinking, and with them the fee income available to support salaries. Aggressive boom-years hiring, and reluctance to layoff, has resulted in excess junior staff.

Above all else, this means VC are in no rush to hire. Layoffs in banking, consulting, and VC have also resulted in an ever growing supply of highly qualified candidates. Additionally, since post-MBAs usually fill partner-track positions with an eventual claim on fund profits, VC have little incentive to hire. This environment has given them the luxury of being extraordinarily particular. Why hire someone that requires training when there is an abundance of candidates who already possess buy-side experience, a scientific degree, an MBA, were strategy consultants and started several successful ventures?

What to do?:
But even as the industry contracts, particular circumstances do create openings, and some people are being hired. Given the bad environment, what can improve your odds?

Proprietary “deal flow�?
As in the VC business itself, creating proprietary deal flow is key. With so much competition, you need to uncover openings before they are widely known. Usually positions will never be advertised.

In an environment of few openings and long odds, it’s a numbers game. Certain sources of leads may be more productive, but you cannot afford to neglect any. One approach is to follow industry news and anticipate hiring. Monitor electronic newsletters like VentureWire.com and TheDeal.com, and the site Privateequitycentral.org, and look for announcements of new fund closings, or organizational shakeups, or shifts in strategy that might result in a firm staffing up around a new initiative. Better yet, if you know fund-of-fund investors or private equity lawyers, ask them who is in the market raising not-yet-announced funds.

Work the network
Once you’ve identified a likely target, both as a way to improve your chances, and as a source of new leads, you must shamelessly work your network. You cannot hesitate to lead with your “in�? and then ask for what you want. Ideally you know someone well who can personally introduce you to the firm. Personal references are easily the single best way to approach a firm. Lacking that, look for some point of commonality in background between you and the fund’s management. Often this will be a university or a common prior employer. Bluntly highlight this common connection, in the subject line of the email, and make sure the first paragraph unambiguously communicates what you want of them (a meeting or a phone call).

Where you think a firm is hiring, but you don’t have a contact, or where you have a contact, but their firm isn’t hiring – still try. Circumstances might eventually change, and your contact can point you in productive directions and make introductions.

Speaking of contacts, don’t make the mistake of only networking towards the most senior people. While they may have the most sway in their organization, they are hardest to reach, most burned-out on networking, and probably know the least about junior hiring at other firms. Counter-intuitively, some of my best networking has been when I’ve networked down in the organization. Junior people are more generous with their time, are often more open, can give you valuable scoop about their firm, and have friends at other firms who know about the junior staffing situation.

Getting them to talk
It also takes practice to get useful information from contacts. Only after fifteen minutes of conversation, once they have had time to dwell on your situation, and once they have decided you are a quality candidate, will they begin to offer you leads and introductions. Best of all is to push for an in-person meeting, where you are most likely to have a lengthy conversation. Ask to grab a coffee or meet them at their offices. Less effective but the vast majority of your conversations will be by phone. Email is only useful to send your resume, introduce yourself, and set up a time to talk or meet.

Once you’re talking you need to persuade them to take ownership of your situation, and you need to differentiate yourself. Asking for “help�? and “advice�? on your job search strategy psychologically allies them with you, and prevents them from declining to talk because they don’t have an opening at their firm. This “help/advice�? phase of the conversation also gives them time to warm up to you so they are comfortable using their Rolodex for you.

Be different, have a solution
To differentiate yourself be prepared to have a well conceived point of view on where you’d be investing right now, or interesting ideas on sourcing deals, or generally some way to demonstrate that not having a VC job hasn’t prevented you from acting like a VC. Make it clear that hiring you will provide a solution to whatever may be their problem. Along these lines, going to conferences will give you ideas, put you in contact with new leads, and prove your sincere interest in the business. (It’s often possible to get into conferences for free or at discounts if you offer to help the organizers with event setup/breakdown.)

Working around VC if not in it
If none of this is working, there are more creative but time-consuming ways to get noticed. VCs have mentioned that they would consider short-term consulting relationships to help them deal with troubled portfolio companies. Others have said they would welcome introductions to quality companies seeking venture investment. They are often prepared to pay for these services. Actually taking a full-time position at a portfolio company is another possibility.

Targeting the segment du jour
And if you are interested in buy-side private equity generally, there are areas that are actually thriving in this environment. Loath to lose management fees, many partnerships are shifting their investment focus rather than returning capital commitments. Mezzanine debt, biotech, distressed assets, and defense companies have all seen investment increases. If you are flexible on geography, approaching venture firms in smaller cities or suburban areas will allow you to sidestep the throngs of candidates on either coast.

Do you really want in?:
With so much turmoil, it’s not always clear that any job in the industry is a good job. Numerous VC to whom I’ve spoken have warned that the job isn’t nearly as fun as it once was, and job security no longer exists. Evaluating a job offer is complicated by the questionable viability a numerous partnerships, portfolio write-downs endangering incentive compensation, and the likely death struggles for advancement in overstaffed firms.

The good news is that for those firms that survive the shakeout, those standing will be richly rewarded during the rebound. Even if the job search is unsuccessful, the effort itself extends your network – the seeds you sow today may yield fruits in better times.


Mark Cicirelli graduated from Harvard Business School in 2002, and joined Thomas H. Lee Putnam Ventures. Mark is now an investment analyst at Elliott Associates, an activist hedge fund.