fighting the lack of good ideas


I am a huge believer in unsales. And not in the pharmaceutical industry sense.

Because “shipping is a feature“, and because I intensely dislike the “do it for me, then hand me the keys” mentality, I routinely follow the unsales methodology.

What is unsales? It is [almost] only selling what a customer can use today. I want to give a customer something they can both use and play with. I want to give them something at the end of any engagement that does actually accomplish something. But I don’t want to do everything for them – I want them to learn, explore, and discover their own use cases. As they discover what can be done with the tools they’ve purchased, they can start to engage in the paradigmatic shift from “automating” to “automation“. And as they explore, discover, and build, they’ll start to see where further services, training, or products can be brought in to do more.

Some people believe in the “moneyball” approach – sell everything (especially the big-ticket, high-margin products), and then let the customer more-or-less fend for themselves after some extended period of services work.

This is good for the vendor doing the selling … but only this quarter. If you sell “everything”, you have no basis to come back to the customer. You’ve developed no relationship. You’ve only “made a sale”. You’ve followed the Walmart model – sell what you can, when you can.

The better model, in my opinion, is the relational model wherein you spend time getting to know the customer’s employees: the engineers, managers, officers, etc. Get to know them personally, and become someone they can turn to as a “trusted advisor” regarding their pain points.

Relational selling (and working, for that matter) tend to lead towards long-term partnerships, engagements, repeat business, etc.

You can take the short-term view, or you can take the long-term view. One yields consistent returns, one may only ever give a single return.

Be relational.

evaluating “work from home” “opportunities”

It seems the number of advertised “work from home” “opportunities has gone ever higher since the advent of prolific social networking.

A not insignificant portion of these opportunities really are legitimate – 31, Avon, Mary Kay … – but a lot of them at the very least feel scammy.

The good ones tell you everything you need to know up-front:

  • “franchise” or licensing fees
  • buy-in cost
  • required sales to maintain active status
  • expected monthly commitment
  • growth paths
  • etc

The scammy ones do not – they have poorly-written, ambiguous, or unstated expectations, require lots of cold calling, expect you to pay-in an enormous amount with little-to-no understanding of how you will get paid later, they’re really “affiliate” marketing, etc. They’re the timeshare of the ‘independent consultant’ business. They’re the 2AM infomercial of the “work” world – you know the type, “for the low low cost of 3 easy payment of $39.95 I will teach you how to make money sending envelopes!” Btw, the way you make $1000s sending envelopes is by promising people to teach them how to make money by sending envelopes.

Many people I know have a tendency to get sucked into the more scammy of the varied wfh things – using the common catchphrases of “if you’re tired of being a Just Over Broke (aka “job”) worker, this is for you” or “in just 10-15 hours a week, earn $500-$2000 a month” or “I’m getting ready to launch a great new product, and I need you to be on the secret board of directors in the prelaunch stage” and more similar to them.

Let’s look at the the first one I mentioned: “10-15 hours per week to ‘earn’ $500-$2000 a month”. If you work (whatever this involves, it’s always left very nebulous), 40 hours a month and make $500, you’re making $12.50 an hour – about 50% above minimum wage, but you haven’t paid taxes yet – and you’re on the hook for all of your SSI (not the half you usually are by being a “real” employee). That means you pay 15.3% to SSI and Medicare (and remember, still no income taxes taken out yet). 15.3% of $500 is $76.50. Compare that to working for a “real” employer where you only pay 7.65% (because they pay more than half of it). 7.65% of $500 is $38.25. That’s a major difference.

What if you’re at the high end of the mentioned range? $2000 a month (which is only $24000 a year, btw – a third less than teachers start in the state of Kentucky), and we’ll say it took you 60 hours to earn it. That’s $33.33 an hour. If you could sustain $33.33 an hour (by, oh I don’t know, having a real job?), you’d be earning $69333 a year (2080 work hours in the year). The problem with these types of “opportunities” is that they’re not consistent. And the hours range always (in my observation) corresponds to the bare minimum of the “earnings” range. If it takes you 60 hours to make $500, you’re only making $8.33 an hour – a dollar more than minimum wage, and you’re on the hook for double the SSI/Medicare taxes – which, over the 60 hours, shows a difference of only 44 cents per hour more than minimum wage. 44 cents. Why not just get a job?

What if you’re truly successful with one of the “work from home” thingies? Well, then you start making the infomercial rounds, and you’re the guy they show with the 12 mansions, the 8 yachts, the cars, the women, etc. But you’re also not working “10-15 hours a month” – you’re engaged with the “opportunity” full-time+. You’re probably operating your “business” 70-90 hours a week.

If you’re going to work 70-90 hours a week, why not start your own company and own *everything* you do? You will, most likely, pay far less in taxes than as an independent contractor.

Are “work from home” “opportunities” all a scam? No. But do they consistently yield the earnings levels advertised for the hours put in? Not that I have witnessed.

For more information, this Money.SE question, “What warnings would you tell a friend about to enter a multi-level marketing (MLM) business venture?“, is a great resource:

  • MLM is not really a selling job
  • Be careful not to stockpile inventory, you’ll end up with $4000 dollars worth in your garage that you’ll never use
  • MLM is really a recruiting and training sales people job
  • Don’t think you are going to get rich at this part time
  • There are a lot of millionaires from MLM but they work a lot of hours recruiting and training
  • What does the business do
  • How do you make money
  • How do they make money
  • Why does this business need you
  • What do you bring to the table that the business doesn’t already have (skills, contacts, money)
  • How realistic are your time expectations – is this to be a part-time occasional endeavor, or your full-time occupation
  • Is there a product
  • Is the market saturated
  • Put as little of your own money into it as possible
  • Take as much out of it as you can as soon as you can
  • Don’t count your money as earned until you actually get it in your hands as ‘cold hard cash’
  • Remember if it’s too good to be true, it usually is – no matter how many of people assure you it’s not
  • Don’t go in thinking you’ll beat the system by trying harder than everyone else: the only way you’ll make any money is by recruiting lots of people, and selling products that can be obtained for cheaper elsewhere at a normal store
  • Make sure you are paid on volume, not people

the art of seduction by robert greene


This book contains, in places, intense terminology, and is directed at mentally-mature audiences

Now back to our regularly-scheduled bog post

After having read The 48 Laws of Power (and enjoying it), I decided to read some of Robert Greene’s other popular works. So, I read Mastery.

And then I read The Art of Seduction.

(I haven’t read his work The 33 Strategies of War – but it’s in my queue. I anticipate, perhaps wrongly, that it will be very similar to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (which I reviewed then reprinted hereon); but I’ll have to wait until I’ve read it to know for sure.)

This book strays quite a bit from Greene’s core strengths, in my opinion, ranging into an arena of thought and action that feels far more “reported upon” than “acted upon”. Maybe it’s just how I had gotten used to his previous style (or, at least, his style in the books of his I read previously), but I liked this book the least.

  1. Part One – The Seductive Character
    1. The Siren
    2. The Rake
    3. The Ideal Lover
    4. The Dandy
    5. The Natural
    6. The Coquette
    7. The Charmer
    8. The Charismatic
    9. The Star
    10. The Anti-Seducer
    11. The Seducer’s Victims – The Eighteen Types
  2. Part Two – The Seductive Process
    1. Phase One: Separation – Stirring Interest and Desire
      1. Choose the Right Victim
      2. Create a False Sense of Security – Approach Indirectly
      3. Send Mixed Signals
      4. Appear to be an Object of Desire – Create Triangles
      5. Create a Need – Stir Anxiety and Discontent
      6. Master the Art of Insinuation
      7. Enter Their Spirit
      8. Create Temptations
    2. Phase Two: Lead Astray – Creating Pleasure and Confusion
      1. Keep Them in Suspense – What Comes Next?
      2. Use the Demonic Power of Words to Sow Confusion
      3. Pay Attention to Detail
      4. Poeticize Your Presence
      5. Disarm Through Strategic Weakness and Vulnerability
      6. Confuse Desire and Reality – The Perfect Illusion
      7. Isolate the Victim
    3. Phase Three: The Precipice – Deepening the Effect Through Extreme Measures
      1. Prove Yourself
      2. Effect a Regression
      3. Stir up the Transgressive and Taboo
      4. Use Spiritual Lures
      5. Mix Pleasure with Pain
    4. Phase Four: Moving in for the Kill
      1. Give Them Space to Fail – The Pursuer is Pursued
      2. Use Physical Lures
      3. Master the Art of the Bold Move
      4. Beware the Aftereffects
  3. Appendix A: Seductive Environment / Seductive Time
  4. Appendix B: Soft Seduction: How to Sell Anything to the Masses

Skip all of the sketchy, individually manipulative material – and there’s nothing left to the book except some dry reporting … and an acknowledgements page that includes two cats and his parents.

I do still love the layout used in all of Robert Greene’s books (maybe it’s a “Joost Elffers Book” thing?) – with abstracts under each chapter title in the table of contents, callouts/sidebars in the margins and funkified* typesetting for emphasis in many places.

  • Is this a book worth reading? I believe that answer is a cautious “yes”.
  • Is this a book worth owning? I cannot answer that for you – borrow it from your library first, and then decide.

Come back tomorrow for chapter abstracts.

* defines this term in many negative ways – I definitely intend to convey a positive one here, eg entry 4 on UD

the failure of the technical sales cycle in enterprise software

Specifically in the realm of data center management and automation software, but applicable to all other niches, sales people are too focused on this quarter, their commission, and getting ink on the page.

In the broader context of the software companies producing tools / products, there is a general focus of getting to the next customer – forgetting about the ones they have now – so they can use previous sales as pressure to get you to buy, too.

And there is a perennial problem with having “products” which are at best half-baked trying to be shoehorned into a role for which they were never intended, or that the customer really doesn’t need.

For example – the growing prevalence of “cloud computing”. Cloud computing – which is really utility computing, an idea 60+ years old – is a useful endeavour … for some companies in some contexts. On-demand creation of compute resources to handle busy times, testing software, etc is a wonderful idea (all of the *aaS acronyms come in here – IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, DBaaS … what have I missed?). However, hopping on the cloud bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it is dumb.

Not everyone needs cloud computing and services. Some/many may and should employ them, but they’re not for everyone (an unpopular statement at this particular date).

Some companies will not need the “on-demand” aspects of ‘cloud’, and therefore should not have cloud-specific tools.

For example, if you want to do long-term provisioning (greater than, say, 6 months), you are not doing “cloud”, you are doing normal provisioning. If you want this to be subscription-based (like cloud offerings usually are), use a subscriptioning tool – don’t use cloud provisioning software.

Sales is an important part of software development – without sales (of some kind), there is no way to pay for development.

But it is absolutely vital to understand a customer’s environment, needs, wants, and abilities before selling them anything! Does a mom & pop shop with 8 systems need management tools? Maybe…but probably not. How about a company with 30 servers and 100 desktops? Possibly – but “enterprise” solutions will most likely be out of their budget.

Sales folks: learn your customers, become their friend, a trusted advisor – someone they want to write large checks to.