Amazon 1-click makes it easy to buy stuff. iOS makes it easy to buy apps. Netflix and LOVEFILM make it easy to stream videos. Spotify makes it easy to stream music. Google makes it easy to find information. Twitter makes it easy to stalk people. Facebook makes it easy to keep up with friends, and so on and so forth, you get the drill. Most of the insanely successful companies out there have taken something fairly complicated and made it dead simple. As in, as simple as writing 140 characters in a box.
The same rule applies when it comes to sales, especially when you’re selling to big companies. And in the past few years I’ve learnt that the sales process is always much, much more complicated than you think it is. And even though most of the problems one can stumble upon can be solved fairly easily, there is one that can bite you in the ass so hard you won’t even know what hit you. Like that isn’t enough, it’s also incredibly difficult to spot it if you don’t know your industry like the back of your hand: external factors.
External factors are so bad because they can’t be controlled. Timing is one of them. Steve Jobs deciding not to support Flash on the iPad is another. If you’re a retailer in the UK, the VAT increase to 20% is another, and so on and so forth. And not only you can’t control them, but they’re almost impossible to predict as well.
However, there are two things you can do if you realise an external factor you can’t control is interfering with the sales process. The first one is quite obvious: it’s better to adapt yourself to the world than try to adapt the world to you (I don’t remember who coined this phrase but it’s worth remembering). The second one is even more important than adapting and usually makes the difference between the startups that make it and those that don’t: make sure you have enough money in the bank until you solve whatever problems the external factors caused. Which is tricky given that external factors are pretty unpredictable, but hey: it’s all part of the game.
Keep it simple stupid, adapt, and check your bank account.