Years ago in the mid-70’s, when I was young and adventurous (Read naïve, stupid, reckless) and living in northern California, I bought a hang glider. In the interest of full disclosure that is NOT me in the picture above. That guy actually knows what he’s doing.

The backstory is that I had been obsessed with flying after seeing some friends of mine hang gliding at a New Hampshire ski resort a year or so earlier. So I jumped at the chance to sign up for flying lessons held on the sand dunes near Point Reyes. I mean, why not entrust your life to a certain death machine made up of an aluminum alloy frame and a sail of thin woven polyester fabric? What could possibly go wrong?

After learning how to set up the kite properly, we were taught the basic theory of flight and then the key operational and safety skills we needed to get airborne. Then it was time to move over to what was, in effect, the takeoff “runway”. I put on my helmet, strapped myself in the kite and then it happened.

Years ago in the mid-70’s, when I was young and adventurous (Read naïve, stupid, reckless) and living in northern California, I bought a hang glider. In the interest of full disclosure that is NOT me in the picture above. That guy actually knows what he’s doing.

The backstory is that I had been obsessed with flying after seeing some friends of mine hang gliding at a New Hampshire ski resort a year or so earlier. So I jumped at the chance to sign up for flying lessons held on the sand dunes near Point Reyes. I mean, why not entrust your life to a certain death machine made up of an aluminum alloy frame and a sail of thin woven polyester fabric? What could possibly go wrong?

After learning how to set up the kite properly, we were taught the basic theory of flight and then the key operational and safety skills we needed to get airborne. Then it was time to move over to what was, in effect, the takeoff “runway”. I put on my helmet, strapped myself in the kite and then it happened.

Lesson #1: It’s not enough to know what flight looks like. In order to fly, YOU have to fly.

What seemed so attractive and sensible from afar now seemed terrifying. I started questioning why I needed to do this. I visualized all the horrible things that were surely going to happen to me if I really committed to this idiotic flight attempt, and I quickly marshaled all the logical reasons I shouldn’t be doing it. Could it be that I was not unlike Icarus in Greek mythology who, in his hubris, flew too close to the sun and his wings melted?

Application:

In the SaaS world today there is general agreement that the customer buying process has radically changed, with customers completing upwards of 70% of their evaluation process before they ever engage with a sales person. Most leaders agree that the cost of sales must be reduced and that migrating to an integrated inbound methodology has the highest probability of success. But agreeing to something in theory and actually strapping yourself into a new business model is a very different thing.

Lesson #2: Having the right equipment doesn’t mean you know how to use it.

Waiting in line for my opportunity to take off I realized how really inexperienced I was and how practically ill-prepared I was to start flying around like Birdman. Sure, I had done massive research regarding every aspect of hang gliding equipment. I purchased a high quality kite, wind meter and helmet, yet they all seemed completely foreign to me now. Why? Because I had no experience-based frame of reference, no muscle memory.

Application:

In today’s SaaS world it’s not hard to identify top rated software tools to facilitate a modern inbound sales and marketing approach. But having the right tools, aligned and integrated in the right way, so that there is a cohesive revenue driving machine that is woven into the fabric of your company’s day to day execution is not easy, but absolutely critical for your success.

Lesson #3: You must do a combination of things at the right time and in the right order.

It was time to fly. I stepped into position with my instructor right next to me. He reviewed with me the take off checklist and the basic instructions to get airborne. The instructions were simple: check the wind speed, level the angle of the kite, run fast, when the wind begins to fill the sail gently push the control bar out to increase the angle of the nose, then, when you are airborne, gently pull the control bar back towards you.

With my mind racing I started running. Next thing I remember I had crashed the nose of the kite into the sand. It was both scary, bewildering and humiliating. But I tried again…and again…and again. Same result every time. My instructor pleaded with me to understand that I was prematurely pulling the control bar inward, causing the nose to dive, causing the crash.

Application:

Knowing what to do is today’s business climate is not enough. You must also combine the right sales and marketing elements together in the right way, so that you are prepared to step on the accelerator at the right time to optimize your revenue driving efforts and your company’s growth.

Lesson #4: Ultimately there is only flight or non-flight.

After my repeated crashes my instructor finally said to me, “Do you want to eat sand all day or do you want to fly?” Good question, I thought. At this point I was frustrated, embarrassed and frankly angry, mostly at myself. I figured I hadn’t invested all this money and time just to eat sand. It was all a waste if I never got airborne. The only way you can call yourself a hang glider is if you actually fly.

I determined I was going to fly this time. I started running. My instructor was running beside me. The wind filled the sail. This was it. I heard my instructor screaming “Push the bar out, NOW!” No question he was a sadistic psychopath enjoying every moment of my very public potty training. But this time I listened. I did the counter-intuitive thing and pushed the control bar out and then I was airborne! My flight lasted maybe 15 seconds. It was exhilarating. It was otherworldly. For a moment I WAS Birdman!

Application:

In the Hang Gliding world, there is only flight or non-flight. Similarly, according to Bessemer’s Cloud Computing Law #4, SaaS companies must “Grow or Die” (http://www.bvp.com/blog/bessemer-cloud-computing-law-4-grow-or-die). There is no middle ground in the SaaS world. If you are not growing you are, in fact, in the process of dying.

Your Personal Flight Check:

  • Have you strapped yourself into the inbound, customer-driven business model? How big is your knowing/doing gap? What specific steps can you take now to close that gap?
  • Have you aligned, integrated and leveraged the right tools, the right sales and marketing approach, in the right way, so that you have a cohesive revenue driving machine woven into the fabric of your company’s day to day execution?
  • Are you are positioned and prepared to step on the accelerator at the right time to optimize your revenue driving efforts and your company’s growth? For an excellent article on this topic see “Setting The Startup Accelerator Pedal” by David Skok,http://www.forentrepreneurs.com/setting-the-startup-accelerator-pedal/
  • Do you want to eat sand or fly? I know I didn’t want to eat sand, but my actions were causing the very thing I didn’t want. I was inadvertently sabotaging my own forward progress by my fear and my refusal to apply flying best practices and proven principles. In what ways might you be sabotaging your own SaaS sales success and growth? This matters. Because, after all, in the SaaS world there is only flight or non-flight.
  • The first practical step to make sure you are flying in the right direction is to insure you are operating your business off an accurate picture of reality. For some helpful thoughts on this topic see my blog post “Is Business Radar “Drift” Preventing Your SaaS Sales Growth?”http://www.executiveanswers.net/subscription-growth-blog/drift-preventing-your-saas-sales-growth

Happy Flying!