July 18, 2013

Book Short: The Little Engine that Could

Book Short:  The Little Engine that Could Authors Steven Woods and Alex Shootman would make Watty Piper proud.  Instead of bringing toys to the children on the other side of the mountain, though, this engine brings revenue into your company.  If you run a SaaS business, or really if you run any B2B business, Revenue Engine:  Why Revenue Performance Management is the Next Frontier of Competitive Advantage, will change the way you think about Sales and Marketing. The authors, who were CTO and CRO of Eloqua (the largest SaaS player in the demand management software space that recently got acquired by Oracle), are thought leaders in the field, and the wisdom of the book reflects that. The book chronicles the contemporary corporate buying process and shows that it has become increasingly like the consumer buying process in recent years.  The Consumer Decision Journey, first published by McKinsey in 2009, chronicles this process and talks about how the traditional funnel has been transformed by the availability of information and social media on the Internet.  Revenue Engine moves this concept to a B2B setting and examines how Marketing and Sales are no longer two separate departments, but stewards of a combined process […]


April 4, 2013

The Nachos Don’t Have Enough Beef in Them

The Nachos Don’t Have Enough Beef in Them Short story, two powerful lessons. Story:  I’m sitting at the bar of Sam Snead’s Tavern in Port St. Lucie, Florida, having dinner solo while I wait for my friend to arrive.  I ask the bartender where he’s from, since he has a slight accent.  Nice conversation about how life is rough in Belfast and thank goodness for the American dream.  I ask him what to order for dinner and tell him a couple menu items I’m contemplating.  He says, “I don’t know why they don’t listen to me.  I keep telling them […]


March 15, 2012

Canary in a Coal Mine

Canary in a Coal Mine From Wiktionary:  An allusion to caged canaries mining workers would carry down into the tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine-shaft, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners. Perhaps not the best analogy in the world, but I had an observation recently as we took on a massive new client:  over the years, Return Path has had a handful of “bellwether” clients that I’ve jokingly referred to as the canaries in our proverbial coal mine.  In the really early days of the business, […]


February 23, 2012

Just Say No

Just Say No An OnlyOnce reader submitted this story to me a couple months ago: Went to a small, high-end restaurant last night. There were ~10 people there when our party of 9 arrived. Another group of 10 arrived soon after – amusingly, the chef declined to allow them to be seated. I asked him why afterwards – he turned down at least $1,000 worth of business. (like 30% of what he could have made that night). His answer : Our quality would have suffered, and then they would have walked away thinking less of us. Wow. What a revolutionary […]


December 1, 2011

The Ultimate Sales Job

The Ultimate Sales Job In a moment of productive tension a couple months back, one of my sales people said to me, “What do you know about selling?  You’ve never carried a bag in your life!”  Technically, the sales person was correct — I’ve never been a member of a sales department.  But as a product manager, GM, and CEO over the last 17 years, I have actually spent a significant of time directly selling customers.  But this comment got me thinking about the role of a CEO and just how much of a sales job it is. My conclusion:  […]


November 3, 2011

Learning to Embrace Sizzle

Learning to Embrace Sizzle One phrase I’ve heard a lot over the years is about “Selling the sizzle, not the steak.”  It suggests that in the world of marketing or product design, there is a divergence between elements of substance and what I call bright shiny objects, and that sometimes it’s the bright shiny objects that really move the needle on customer adoption. At Return Path, we have always been about the steak and NOT the sizzle.  We’re incredibly fact-based and solution-oriented as a culture.  In fact, I can think of a lot of examples where we have turned our […]


September 22, 2011

Who Are Your CPO and COO?

Who Are Your CPO and COO? Every senior management team needs a CPO and a COO.  No, I’m not talking about Privacy and Operations.  I’m talking about Paranoia and Optimism.  On my leadership team at Return Path, many of us are Paranoid and many of us are Optimistic, and many of us can play both roles.  But I’m fortunate to have two business partners who are the Chiefs – George Bilbrey is our Chief Paranoia Officer, and Anita Absey is our Chief Optimism Officer.  Those monikers fit their respective roles (product and sales) as well as their personalities. My view […]


August 11, 2011

Peter Principle, Applied to Management

Peter Principle, Applied to Management My Management by Chameleon Post from a couple weeks ago generated more comments than usual, and an entertaining email thread among my friends and former staff from MovieFone.  One comment that came off-blog is worth summarizing and addressing: There are those of us who should not manage, whose personalities don’t work in a management context, and there is nothing wrong with not managing.  Also, there promotion to management by merit has always been a curiosity to me. If I am good at my job, why does it mean that I would be good at managing […]


June 9, 2011

Sometimes, Things Are Messy

Sometimes, Things Are Messy Many people who run companies have highly organized and methodical personality types – in lots of cases, that’s probably how they got where they got in life.  And if you work long enough to espouse the virtues of fairness and equality with the way you manage and treat people, it become second nature to want things to be somewhat consistent across an organization. But the longer we’re in business at Return Path and the larger the organization gets, the more I realize that some things aren’t meant to fit in a neat box, and sometimes inconsistency […]


April 7, 2011

The Fear/Greed Continuum

The Fear/Greed Continuum My old boss from a prior job used to say that every buyer (perhaps every human in general) could be placed at any point in time somewhere on the “fear/greed continuum” of motivation, meaning that you could win him or her over by appealing to the appropriate mix of those two driving forces if you could only figure out where the person sat on the spectrum.  I’ve found this to be true in life, more in selling situations than anything else, but probably in any negotiation. Think about some examples: Is your product an ROI sale (you’re […]