For 30 years Chris Beall has led software start-ups as a founder or early-stage developer. He believes the most powerful part of a software system is the human being, and that the value key is to let the computer do what it does well — go fast without getting bored — in order to free up human potential. Chris is currently CEO of ConnectAndSell, Inc., based in Silicon Valley, and hosts a podcast at MarketDominanceGuys.
Most passionate about
- What I’m doing now, and I’ve been doing for quite a while, is running a company called
- It helps companies dominate their markets by leading with the human voice.
- I’ve been passionate for a long time about having computers and humans work together in a way that unleashes the strengths of each.
Chris’s career and story
- I was raised out in the desert in Arizona, pretty far away from most people.
- I was raised by animals—by horses and dogs and cats and goats and all manner of creatures like that. I think that’s how I learned how to sell. My first sale ever, where I was successful, was getting a bridle on a horse when I was seven years old.
- I was very interested in mathematics and the physical sciences.
- Kerry Wilcox took me aside and said, “I want to let you know something that might change your mind about teaching.” Here I was with this dream of being a teacher. She said to me, “You are an entrepreneur by nature.”
- “I invest in my former students’ companies.” This was all a revelation to me, that she was an angel investor. She said, “You can teach if you want to, but I don’t want you to go off into industry, get a job in some field where there’s a lot of opportunity.”
- I reluctantly followed her instructions when I got a job at an NCR computer company in 1979. Sure enough, I was dissatisfied. That led me down a path where, within four years, I was starting my first company.
Best advice for entrepreneurs
- One thing I find that’s the number one mistake that entrepreneurs make is that they build the product before they sell the product. I think you should do it the other way around.
- I highly recommend that any entrepreneur who wants to be a product entrepreneur, especially in B2B, start by having conversations—sales conversations, not survey conversations. If you’re not doing it under pressure, you’re probably not really doing it. So, try to sell your product before you build it and be serious about it.
The biggest, most critical failure with customers
- I can go back to 1984. The company was called Unison software. Unison was an ERP system before there were ERP systems. So, it was called an MRP II system. It was intended to help primarily manufacturers with their processes around Bilson material and so forth, but it had a complete accounting system in it.
- The biggest failure was that we could go after two kinds of markets. We had discrete manufacturing folks who put parts together in order to make up a product. And then there was what’s called continuous or flow manufacturing.
- So, there are no parts; there are inputs and outputs and then control conditions and all that kind of stuff. What we failed to do, rather dramatically, was focus on one or the other. We could have done very well.
- We had impatient investors who drove us down a path that was impossible. It ended up shrinking the software.
Biggest success with customers
- It was in 1998 and I was at a company called Requisite Technology. Requisite had the world’s most advanced (at that time) electronic cataloging technology for business to build.
- First, we had to invent a whole new cataloging technology from scratch, which we managed to do in six weeks. We did it by simplifying and accepting something that everybody said was true, which was that it was impossible to build this kind of technology on top of a convention.
- The big triumph, the big success, was in focusing on only four customers for the entire year and having only one salesperson.
Chris’s recommendation of a tool
- I’m such a huge believer in the human voice that I think the trick to technology is that it needs to be effective. It needs to help you make human connections and build trust.
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a fabulous technology, but you need to have conversations.
- The data from ZoomInfo, Cognizant, and Apollo is fabulous.
Chris’sone key success factor
- I am a very, very internally driven person. I’m dissatisfied internally with almost everything. It’s kind of driven my career as, I would say, an innovation-oriented entrepreneur.
- If you’re going to innovate, you must have patience because other people are not going to see your innovation as being particularly valuable.
Since we believe that the best way for entrepreneurs to get fast, big, and sustainable success is by leading your (new) market category, and the entire entrepreneurial journey reminds me of mountaineering, I want to ask you: Is there a mountain you dream of climbing or a mountain you have already climbed?
- You get tons of stories, but I have two that come to mind. It’s the story that shaped me. I fell down a mountain when I was 14 years old. I fell on ice and snow and cliffs and stuff for about 800 feet. It took me about three days to walk out and I was fairly damaged. It taught me something, though, which is: You really do have to take only one step at a time.
- My world changed from seeing things in the distance or summits as something you look at and think about being there and instead saying, “Okay, that’s where I want to go. Here’s the general idea. Now, what’s the next step?” And even if the step hurts or is inconvenient or whatever, go ahead and take that step and then look at the world again from that position.
The best way to connect with Chris
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