Category Archives: Philosophy

Dreamforce and a single Pen for an entire year

One Pen : One Year

Single Pen

Dreamforce is on my mind.  The RingLead team is cooking up some interesting (and fun) initiatives for the biggest tech show in the universe.  What will Marc Benioff launch this year?  Every year the industry leadership of Salesforce has stood out.  I’m excited to be going.

What’s with the pen?  First, it is a compact Fisher Space Pen. It is awesome and I have not used another single pen for an entire year.  It was a personal challenge to myself.  I keep it on my keychain and always have it with me.   It writes  upside down and does not stop working like 98% of the pens you typically get from tradeshows.

I just walked around my entire office asking for a bunch of pens (to take a picture) and no one had any from tradeshows.  The sales reps had collected a bunch of them; I knew this.  When asked, it was simple:  “I threw them out Donato.  They stopped working”.

Tradeshows, Dreamforce and advice to vendors:

Dont’ give away crappy cheap, pens

When I get back with a low quality pen that does not work.  Guess what?  I associate that with YOUR company.  I have never had a pen from a trade show last.  Really ask yourself… have you?

We are teaching our children to recycle and not to waste, to have a better world.  I paid around $20 for my space pen and I regularly give them as gifts.  After a year it is more cost effective, process efficient and cutter free way of using a writing instrument.  Think long term, think quality.  My appeal:

It’s doesn’t have to be a space pen, but here is a picture of mine.



A marble on the keyboard; advice to new sales reps

marble on keyboard

Sales outreach is on my mind.  We are launching a new product, Capture! and today, two of our junior reps reached out to me for advice. Why? I am a phone animal.  I break call accounting systems, wear out wireless headsets and I’d blow the curve for the average rep.  I have fun on my calls and have learned,  failed,  explored and developed techniques to get 9 out of 10 call backs.

At this point in my life it is not a set of techniques, but a way of thinking.  It is now part of me. However, I wasn’t always this way.  It took years to cultivate the skills, to act with intuition, to do without thinking,  to blink.  Back to speaking of new people…

Working from home today, I got a call from Chris, a new sales representative at RingLead (for those who know me, I recently accepted the position of Acting CEO @ RingLead).  RingLead is a specialist in helping to Dedupe  Salesforce.  Chris was on speaker phone and he had another “Chris” with him.  They wanted to bounce ideas off me.  They developed a call plus email campaign.

New campaigns are not simple to execute.  You must A/B test and adjust as you work through the initial campaign.  We did a great job in recruiting and these guys were prepared. After bouncing a few ideas around, they were ready to go.  Why is a CEO spending time doing this?  In this case, I just built and delivered a new product where I am the subject matter expert (Capture!).

The knowledge needed to be transferred throughout the organization.  Besides, I am good at it and I enjoy doing it.  Eight minutes  (yes I timed it) of time spent coaching these new reps in the right direction can have tens of thousands of dollars of impact in the long run.  The ROI is there.

This is an important distinction that most organizations miss.  The manager is not necessarily the trainer, nor the coach.  I am not the manager, nor the trainer, but a few minutes of high-impact training can make huge impact if used strategically.  Write this down.

Back to my new sales guys.  Now they are ready.  In fact I can see they are making calls now.  Not 30 second calls, but four, five, eight and twenty minute calls.  This means they are engaging.  Capture is going to be big!  What 5 bits of advice did I give them?

  1. Sales is a numbers game. ok duh, Donato, no big secret there.  Everyone talks about this.
  2. Every call counts. This is less talked about.  Some dismiss this, yet they are dead wrong.
  3. Every call affects your attitude Even less talked about.  This is where the leader exceeds the manager. Managers rarely talk about this, leaders do.
  4. Attitude is everything.   No,  really.  This is where the coach exceeds the typical leader.
  5. Put a marble on your keyboard What the heck?

It is simple.  If sales is a numbers game, every call counts and affects your attitude (and attitude is everything), then you must control your attitude.  You do that by putting a marble on your keyboard.  Get it? Blog over, fat lady sings and I now I get to press “Publish” If I lost you, watch my video (I’ll explain it).

In addition to my video if you are facing reluctance in picking up the phone, my friend Connie Kadansky is the “Call Reluctance Coach”.  Her material is top quality and can be seen at:

When Marketing Lies About Technology

I’m at a talk about marketing at a conference, sitting in the audience, blending into the mix of SEO students and experts. Unlike most conference, I am not speaking, not helping with sales at a booth and not scheduled with back-back meetings.  This is a chance for me to sit and learn.

At the end of a fantastic panel discussion on SEO tools, demand generation and technology, the panel went into the Q&A section of the talk.  One panelist was asked what made her technology better than the next tool.

“We spider the entire Internet, every day. Every site and keyword, everything, so we have more data to work with.”  She said.

Looking around me, I saw eyes wide and heads nodding.  They swallowed it.  What happened next was like an out-of-body experience.

“Buuuuullshit!” I said, just-loud-enough for the group in the small theater to hear.  I just couldn’t help myself.

I was then asked by the moderator to, basically, explain myself.  I proceeded to talk about why “spidering the entire Internet” was not possible.  This is an area that I am a subject matter expert.  I won’t explain it hear, but if Google can’t do it…well, you get the idea…  I then asked if she borrowed Google’s new quantum computer and got a few laughs.   My goal was not to ridicule, but to recover from my sightly louder than expected comment.  Next, I basically said that I was impressed with what their technology did, actually do, but it shouldn’t be misrepresented as “everything on the Internet”.

Her comment was that she was not the “techie person” and that she got over-enthusiastic.  People laughed and that was the end of it.

The point is that Marketing does not need to lie, it would have been just as impressive if she portrayed, accurately, what they actually do and how.  This is a problem in many technology companies.  The process starts very much like a myth or legend.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke

The technologist creates something that looks like magic and Marketing tries to explain it and the legend grows.  Soon, Sales is fabricating any explanation that sounds good and a technology myth is born.

Don’t do this.  Technology, Sales and Marketing need to be on the same page.  If you don’t achieve unified messaging someone else is going to call bullshit and you will lose a sale.


LinkedIn is not a social network, Facebook will morph

After about 2 years of talking about this topic, I thought it best to collect some solid data before doing an official blog about it.

LinkedIn is not a social network.

A thing is defined by it’s major attribute.  While LinkedIn has aspects of a social network, it is actually a social database.

Hey Donato…But they say they are a social network!

In the early days they were.  As the network grew, savvy users realized they needed to grow their networks as large as possible to spread their reach.  In polls done over the last year in live webinars, I’ve asked groups ranging from 200-600 how they use LinkedIn.  Here are the questions and the responses.

1.  I get as many connections as possible and figure out how to contact people directly.

2. I use LinkedIn to as it was meant.  Connect with people through a series of connections.

3.  I don’t use LinkedIn.

69% of people choose option 1. Last year, it was only 50%. The trend is growing and…

LinkedIn is a social database.

Continue reading LinkedIn is not a social network, Facebook will morph

When Venture Capital Calls – Setting your own rules

Eight years ago, getting calls from Venture Capital was exciting.  They came in many flavors.  The most distasteful wanted to bleed me for information.  I was oblivious. Perhaps they funded a competitor to Broadlook and they wanted determine the competitive landscape.  Good business sense, bad moral compass. 

On the other hand I had some great conversations, where, very early in the conversation I was informed that Broadlook did not match their portfolio requirements.  Even though this was the case, they freely spent time giving great advice for a fledgling company.  Some of them are my clients today.  Like every industry, VC has the good and the bad.  A book every VC should read is Blue Ocean Strategy.  Yes, sometimes you must bloody the competition and create the red ocean, however, more often than not, there is a blue ocean potential.  The lack of seeing the Blue Ocean potential is due to lack of desire, creativity, or core philosophy.

To digress a bit, we once had a team member at Broadlook that stated there is no such thing as win-win negotiating and that there always a loser.  Myopic Idiocy.  He left.  We are better for it.  I now ask more philosophical interview questions when adding team members.  One of my mantras when interviewing and coaching other team members to interview is this:  First determine who someone is and then and only then what they know.  Translation: no pricks allowed at Broadlook.

Fast forward to today.  When a Venture Capitalist calls, I am still excited.  When I say VC in this article, I’m lumping in Venture Capital, Private Equity and Investment Banks together.  Each have their place and focus, but the outreach tends to be very similar.  I guess I should set the stage.  Today, Broadlook has steadily grown for 8 years, sometimes a modest 15-20% and sometimes 200-300% in a given year. 

Broadlook started in 2002 and self funded without any outside investment.  Our team members are proud of our accomplishments and we have fun doing our jobs.  We have talented people in all areas and we are continuing our growth path. Broadlook has thousands of clients and is starting to be recognized as the defacto “high bar” (not standard) for company and contact data for sales and recruitment.  (I don’t say “standard” because what is accepted as “standard” from traditional data vendors is Zombie Data*).   Broadlook is not, and will not tie itself to any single CRM vendor (Jigsaw is now salesforce), we are agnostic to all systems that may hold the data our technology provides. 

*Zombie Data is data that is dead, but still making walking around (D&B, InfoUSA, etc)

Over ninety five percent of Broadlook’s sales are from incoming calls, emails or client referrals.  We just hired our person in Marketing.  It’s a good place to be in. We are still very humble and realize that there is much more work to do.   Broadlook is not actively looking for Venture Capital, but we receive many inquires, thus I wrote this article.

Why not take VC?  I didn’t say we would never take it.  The approach we take is this.  We know that there will be a point that there will be a tremendous market opportunity with a limited window to execute; we must scale quickly if we want to capitalize.  The age old question is how much of the company to give up in order to have the investment?   The age old dilemma for the entrepreneur.

Over the last three years, as Broadlook was noticed in the market, we’ve had increased outreach from VC firms.  Along the way, I learned;  somewhere in that journey I realized that VC’s needed our technology for their internal due diligence process.  I learned what research associates at VC firms did.  It was an interesting turning point.  It changed the nature of the conversation from a one way discovery call into a real conversation.   Today, Broadlook powers VC firms with technology that fundamentally changes the due diligence research process.

They have been great clients.  Some of the absolute smartest people coming out of the best Universities and go to work for these firms.  Bright people early in their career who absolutely “get” what Broadlook does.  I like people who get it.

Yes, this is a unique position to be in, but what was the *real* change in how I took those calls? How can someone else that is not in Broadlook’s position get the most out of an outreach from a VC?  Read on.  I am sharing my learning process and my stumbles.

The reality is that a more experienced executive (yes, I consider myself fledgling) would have entered the conversation with a greater level of  equivalence. Venture Capitalists are typically very smart.  They go right for the heart and will chew you up and spit you out to get the information they want. I’m basically a nice guy.  I’m still a nice guy, but now, after many calls that ended up in one-way conversations, I’ve established a set of rules for talking with VC’s. 

1.  Quality outreach

The best outreaches by VC’s that I have seen have come through referrals.  A mutual connection that can attest to the quality of an individual.  An email that looks like a form letter should get ignored.  This is my weak point… while I know I should ignore it, I usually write back and let them know how poor their outreach was.  Since I teach classes on how to use the Internet to make a quality outreach, I can’t help myself.  

2.  Equivilance

When the conversation starts and they only want to know your revenue, remind them that they called you.  Remind them they need to sell you first, and then there is no guarantee that you will be interested.  If if gets to the point of sharing confidential information, if they won’t sign an NDA…stop.  Think.  If they don’t want to sign one because they are making investments in your space, ask them for specifics.  This is all the more reason to sign an NDA.  If they are really interested, they can customize and NDA with specificity to protect both parties.  If they flatly refuse, remember, you are more unique than they are. 

3.  DWYSYWD; Do what you say you will do.  To be a liar you need to have a perfect memory.  If you slow down the process of discussion over several conversations, you have the chance to observe behavior.  If the VC outreach is of the class “Drain you for information”, he will have plenty of rope to hang himself.   The best VC’s will disqualify you openly if you do not meet their criteria.  I have had my share of liars calling.  Conversely, I regularly talk to VC’s that long ago disqualified Broadlook for not being a fit.  

4.  Revenge.  In a fun way.  Keep track of VC’s that were pricks.  Watch which companies they invest in.  When you have the chance, take extra pleasure in winning business from those companies.  If the portfolio tanks, send a nice “thanks for the motivation” card.   Recruit their analysts.  Robin Hood!

Missing an analyst?  Ever wonder why that analyst left?  Does it seem like you keep losing them after they are trained?

Yeah that’s right… it was me  *#&%!

(You should have been nicer.)

Will Broadlook take VC/Private Equity/Investment Capital?  My answer: Absolutely!   Some day.  Will any potential investor run the other way when they read this?  Hopefully not the ones with a sense of humor.  Every industry knows the good and the bad within itself.  I’m trying to kill 2 birds here.  Share a bit, prepare a bit.
This is not a soliciation for capital.  While I may chase away potential future investors, I won’t have to search through my email to send my engagement criteria to reply to the next canned outreach. 

Broadlook’s Venture Capital Engagement Criteria


 1.  Do your homework.  I guarantee I will talk to any VC that takes the time to at least review our website, bad as it is, there is a good deal of information there. Read this blog: 11 rules to sell to me

2.  Don’t have a first year analyst call unless they are brilliant. Remember, I may recruit them.  If they sound like they are going through a checklist when talking to me, they are not ready.  That can be cured for $10,000 and a one day training session. 

3. Demo.  Take a demo of our technology.  If you don’t get it or don’t like it.  We are not a match.  When Broadlook takes capital, there is a high likelyhood it will be from one of our clients.  Include a decision maker on the presentation.  If this is not acceptable, there is not reason for us to talk.

My guarantee(s): 

  1. You have no idea what Broadlook does (think iceberg)
  2. You have never seen anything like it

4.  Portfolio.  If you invest in grain elevators you probably don’t have the connections, expertise and potential adivsors to help a software company making the transition to SaaS.  Show us high tech.  Show us software that scaled from 5 to 8 to 50 million.

5.  Enthusiasm.  Money is easy.  Thus far we are a lifestyle company where people love coming into work every day.  Show us passion for building great companies.

6.  Contribution.  aka Smart money.  People, people, people.  Who can be brought to the table in stategic positions as well as an advisory capacity?  While a marketing person that ran a billion $ division from IBM may sound like a great idea, it is not…not yet.

7.  Ideas.  What markets can Broadlook’s technology be leveraged…that we haven’t thought of yet?

8.  I don’t work on Isaac Asimov’s Birthday

9.  As long as I work at the company. The dog(s) stay.