Tom ONeillManaging Director at Libertas Capital

Think of me as a master mechanic for businesses. I love diagnosing and troubleshooting growth, competitive and customer jigsaw puzzles. Keynote speaker for Wharton Business School, Institute for Private Investors, published by Dow Jones, Buyouts Magazine, and others. Have advised on over $200B in operating assets for some of the wealthiest investors in the world, including household names. Nickname: "Toogle" – if you need an important business result fast, call me.

Recent Answers

As high as possible, but at a minimum, contact someone whose compensation is at least partly based on online sales, because that's the factor you'll be most likely to influence. Titles will vary by company, but depending on the company, it could be the VP of Marketing, VP of Online Marketing, etc.

To eliminate guesswork, several of my portfolio companies have had great results by contacting the CEO's office (you'll get their assistant usually), with something like: "I have a visualization technology that can help your company increase online sales, who would be the best person to contact." Now you're 1) getting to the right person, and 2) coming from the CEO's office, so they can't blow you off.

If you haven't already, also consider how you can build up an intellectual property "fence" around your technology by filing for copyrights, trademarks and patents, as appropriate. This will help you minimize competitors down the road if you're successful, and also increase the enterprise value of your business in the event you ever want to sell it.

Book a call to get more detailed strategies on how to sell larger companies as a small startup and ways to protect your idea from vultures (both customers and competitors).

The first thing to determine here is what is a customer worth to you? In other words, what's the net present value (sometimes referred to as "lifetime value") of a customer?

Roughly, the calculation is: (MRPU - MCPU) * AMOS

That's (monthly revenue per user - monthly costs per user) * the average number of months a user remains active. If you're too new of a service to know how long the average customer will stay, then start by using the average for your industry or a related one. If you can't find it published online, you can find it out by buying a few beers at the next industry gathering.

For example, that might be something like: ($50 - $3) * 15 = $705. Personally, I also like to discount this figure for time value of money, since that money is coming to us over time. So, let's say the net present value (NPV) of a customer in this example is $670.

This is hugely significant when it comes to making determinations about your maximum allowable costs to acquire a user. In other words, how can you know what you can afford to pay for a user, until you know what they are worth to you in economic terms?

Now that you know you're making about $670, on average, for every new customer you sign up, you can apply this knowledge to salesperson compensation. The pay in Boston is largely going to be dependent on your competitive pay. Ballpark, I'd say you'll want to be at $80-100K+ in total compensation to attract someone good, but you can scan services like to get more intel for your area. In my opinion, the best salespeople are the ones who are highly motivated by commissions, so I'd personally want to find someone who would work for about a $60k base, but could make $200k+ if they hit their numbers. In the above case, where you're customer LTV is $670, you know you can offer something juicy, say $250/user as a commission. So, with a $60k base, they're paying for themselves at 240 users/year, and then another 560 users a year gets them to $200k. Find the numbers that work for you, but knowing your LTV as context is critical.

As a bonus, if you're in the market for capital, this will impress the pants off of prospective investors, since most entrepreneurs can not convey this level of understanding about their economic engine.

I'm available for a call if you want additional insights on this along with strategies for rounding up all the best salespeople in your field.

The best way to show professionalism and respect is not to waste the listener's time. Let them know you're good by providing an example of your service for them. This takes your experience and references out of the equation, and eliminates the risk of them giving you a shot. It also differentiates you from 99% of your competitors who are too lazy to do this.

For example, if I were a copyrighter, I might write:

"Bob, I'm a professional copyrighter specializing in helping online artists get more sales for their art. I've rewritten listing #17 for you in accordance with proven marketing principles to help you get a greater response. Try it out, and if it works for you, the only compensation I ask for is 2 referrals to other good artists you think would appreciate my service. And if you want additional listings rewritten, I'd be happy to redo them for $50 each."

Once you get your first few clients this way, you'll have to do less of this and can rely more heavily on your references.

Good luck!

Not necessarily, but certainly, the more the better. Ultimately, we're looking for 1) proof that the market cares about your offering, and 2) management traction.

Essentially, we're looking for ways to remove risk from the investing equation, so anything you can do to remove risk from the equation makes your investment more attractive. This translates into increased investor interest and greater valuations for you.

Put your investor cap on and find all of the things you might be worried about as an investor (adoption/attrition rates, customer acquisition costs, etc.) and have/create good answers for how you can mitigate or have mitigated those risks, or why the trend is positive. Back it up with numbers wherever possible.

Forget specific numbers, and make sure the underlying business trends are positive.

The trend is your friend. Good luck!

I have experience at building companies in spaces where our innovation was not 1) widely understood, and 2) actively sought by the prospects (i.e., we had to create the market for it).

Podcasting and putting out some educational materials is a great start, which obviously doubles as lead generation for you if done well. Rule of thumb is to make sure that 80-90% of the time you're just putting out good info and not expressly soliciting business.

The other important undertaking before you is to distill your value proposition to a point where people DO understand how it works without a lot of education. This will take a lot of trial and error, but how well you can translate the technical aspects of your field into something that can be well-understood by the mass market will be a key success factor for you.

Which are you more likely to buy: "fused deposition modeling technology," or a "3D Printer?" Find the parallel for your field and it will add serious rocket fuel to all of your marketing and education efforts.

Good luck!

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