The Wells Fargo Scandal and Setting Quotas

What can salespeople learn from the Wells Fargo scandal?

First, a recap

At this writing, the Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf has resigned. His departure comes after it was revealed that the bank he managed was fined more than $185 million for allegedly opening more than 2 million bank accounts or credit cards without people’s knowledge or consent.

stressful salesperson trying to meet quotaThe fake accounts were opened because salespeople were under pressure to meet cross-sell quotas. Each salesperson had to cross-sell at least 8 accounts per customer. If they didn’t achieve their goals, they were fired.

Or, as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said at a Senate hearing last month to Mr. Stumpf – “You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket.”

So what’s the lesson here?

Answer: Don’t create unrealistic quotas.

There is nothing wrong with quotas, per se. You want to motivate your salespeople to achieve their goals. And frankly, most salespeople want something they can shoot for. It makes the job more interesting and exciting. From a company point of view, you want to drive revenue. What better way of doing that is by putting a carrot on the stick, and encouraging salespeople to chase after it.

The problem occurs where you create quotas that are so unrealistic or aggressive, that salespeople are forced to lie in order to survive. In the short-term, salespeople will keep their jobs, but in the long-term, the scam will be discovered and people will be fired. Not to mention having your company’s reputation torn to shreds.

For example, I once worked for a publishing company that sold printed bid information to construction companies (this was before the internet was popular). In order to get a complete order, the customer had to sign a contract. So you would fax the contract to your client. Get his signature. And then that’s it – a new customer! Nothing wrong there. This is a standard practice for a lot of publishing companies that sell premium information services.

However, one new salesperson felt he couldn’t reach his quota. I’m unsure why this was the case. Maybe he didn’t receive the proper training, maybe he was lazy, maybe he wasn’t confident, maybe he felt the quota was too high, but for whatever reason, he decided to lie. He gave his manager contracts with fake signatures. Eventually, the home office caught on when they started receiving a lot of complaints from angry customers. The salesperson was terminated and his manager was reprimanded.

Setting quotas isn’t rocket science. But sometimes you feel like you have to be a rocket scientist to set quotas.

Eight is GreatThe problem with Wells Fargo was that there was no method to their madness. The “Eight is Great” goal of having customers sign up for eight products made no sense.

Why “Eight is Great” – because it rhymes? Really?!? You must be joking. But that’s how Wells Fargo decided to set their quota for low paying, overworked, stressed-out salespeople who had to grind out their numbers or get canned.

Is that anyway to work?


So how do you go about setting sales quotas?

Opinions vary.

Some say don’t have any quotas. But if you don’t have any quotas you’re only going to encourage laziness among your sales team. Or worst, you’re going to attract poor or mediocre salespeople who don’t have an incentive to make a good living. You know the type – they come to work late, take long lunch breaks, play computer games at their desk, and only make enough sales calls to barely break even.

The other problem with working without a quota is that salespeople have no power. Think about this for a minute. If you don’t have a quota, then it’s going to be very difficult to persuade your boss to purchase tools to help you sell better. From your boss’s point of view, why should he invest money into his sales team if they don’t have any quotas to meet. Don’t like using Excel spreadsheets to manage your accounts? Too bad. He’s not going to purchase to help you.

See my point?

So if having quotas is the answer, how do you set them? Here are some suggestions –

1). Get salespeople involved. Quotas shouldn’t be handed down from Mount High by an out-of-touch CEO or the Finance or Marketing Team. You need to get input from your sales team and their management. Since salespeople are serving on the front lines every day, they usually have a better sense of the market, their customers, and their competitors.

2). Not all salespeople are created equal. Each salesperson has his own pipeline and defined territories or market segmentations when it comes to selling. As a result, not all territories or market segmentations are going to be equal. Depending on what you’re selling, some territories may have more prospects than others, and some market segmentations may have more money than others. For example, a salesperson selling to academic institutions may have a tougher and longer time to close sales vs. another salesperson selling to for-profit companies. A salesperson selling in California is going to have an easier time finding a lot of prospects compared to someone selling in Maine.

3). History is not always a good predictor for the future. Times change. Market conditions may be worse now than ever before. You are fighting against more competitors. The quality of your products or services was recently rated badly by an independent publication. The Marketing Department isn’t providing the high quality prospects that you obtained last year. For whatever the reason, past performance doesn’t always equal better future results. Take a hard look at your data before setting quotas. Just don’t come up with an arbitrary number and expect everyone to meet it.

4). Consider using sales forecasting/quota setting software. Rather than come up with “pie in the sky” numbers, why not use software to determine quotas.

Here are some examples of what’s on the market –

Xactly Quota & Territories
IBM Quota Management

To help you further, here are some helpful articles about setting  quotas –

“Tough Truth about Quotas,” by Renee Houston Zemanski
“How to Use Sales Metrics to Set More Accurate Quotas,” by Cara Hogan
“Sales Operations and Quota Setting: Use the Right Data,” by Joseph Schroeder

Whatever you do, please don’t base your sales quota on how it rhymes. Because if you do anything illegal or unethical, your next rhyme may be —

“I’m in jail, where’s my bail?”

How to Stay Employed in Sales

There are hundreds of books and blogs on how to stay employed or find a sales job.

I can save you a lot of time and summarize in two sentences what you should do –

Always be learning.

Always be networking.

Always be learning in salesOne of the biggest mistakes I made early in my sales career was not learning or networking enough.

I worked for a tax software and publishing company for more than 10 years. I loved my job. I thought I would be employed at the company forever. But then something happened – our company got sold down the river to a major competitor. Within three (3) years, the competitor screwed up our research software, dropped a good CD-ROM version and replaced it with a crappy one. We also went through a series of billing, shipping and production problems that caused a lot of cancellations.  They did more, but I’m giving you the broad strokes.

Frustrated and tired of dealing with angry customers, I quit my job.

At first, I was glad and relieved. Then it dawned on me – where do I work now?

Sure, I had a plan B, but I quickly realized that I didn’t network enough or learned enough about my sales craft to land the job that I wanted. After a series misfires and missteps, I finally landed a good job. But could I have found something sooner? Sure, if only I had networked and learned more.

Always be networkingWe all get into our comfort zone. We all get lured into thinking that we have a great job and nothing can happen to you. We all think we are on the perfect career track.  But just when you think you have the prefect job, somehow, someway, someone is going to come along and screw up your life.

Maybe it’s a merger or acquisition.

Maybe it’s a reorg. (Which is another way of saying your company is going to lay off high salaried employees or people who upper management doesn’t like).

Maybe it’s a new manager. (Who decides to give you the boot so he can hire his friends).

Maybe it’s a recession.

Whatever the reason, you have to be prepared.

The best way to be prepared is to always be learning and networking.

What do I mean?

Read books, articles and blog posts.

Watch videos on YouTube and other sites.

Become active on LinkedIn.

Attend networking events like Meet-up.

Join a local chapter of a sales organization like AA-ISP.

The more you learn and network, the better chance you have to staying employed or finding a better job.

Below are some links to helpful articles about networking –

“6 Ways to Network More Effectively” by Drew Hendricks

“How to Network Effectively at Events” by Eric Samson

And here are two links about popular sales books –

“The 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time” by Mike Renahan

“The 9 Best Books about Sales and Selling” by Lee Bob Black

Can Sales and Marketing Get Along?

can sales and marketing get along?In one of the most famous quotes from 1990s, Rodney King asked “Can we all get along?”

That same question could also apply today for sales and marketing departments.

Are there really any conflicts between sales and marketing departments these days? Or are some people just hyping the conflict to sell books, promote seminars or…write blog posts.

It depends. Company leadership, culture and personnel can either create harmony or animosity between both departments.

Jen Kern, CMO at Tracx, and John Evans, Director of Sales at Celerity addressed some of the challenges they faced while working together at Celerity during a recent AA-ISP DC Chapter meeting on “The Dynamic Duo – Fueling an Integrated Marketing & Sales Engine.” (The event was hosted by WeddingWire in Friendship Heights, MD).

In a question and answer format, both Ms. Kern and Mr. Evans discussed how they were able to successfully increase sales at Celerity by forging a working relationship between sales and marketing. In fact, there were no real marketing efforts at all prior to Ms. Kern’s arrival at Celerity in 2011. Together, she and Mr. Evans were able to overcome some initial skepticism and resistance by demonstrating how marketing could help sales grow through lead generation.

According to its website, during the past 13 years, Celerity has grown to 8 regional offices, is generating more than $80 million in annual revenue, and has more than 500 employees. Not a bad track record.

Some of the key takeaways I got from the discussion –

1). Sales and marketing need to work together – not just in terms of achieving common goals, but also by proximity. The days of assuming that  marketing employees work in some mysterious ivory tower, sipping tea, submitting leads, and treating salespeople like a bunch of boorish louts are long gone. And the days of assuming that salespeople work in some windowless drab basement, gulping coffee, ignoring leads, and treating marketing employees like of bunch of clueless snobs are also long gone. Sales and marketing teams need to literary work together in the same office space – the closer, the better. By doing so, both teams will develop a better appreciation and respect for each other’s work.

2). Marketing employees must either like sales or get out of marketing. Period. Marketing employees need to understand what drives most salespeople. For salespeople, that motivation is usually earning a lot of money and being number one. For marketing people, the motivation is developing and fine tuning a process of generating qualified leads, and handing them off to salespeople.

For example, I once worked at a small company where the marketing department was sitting on more than 11,000 prospects. They acquired the prospects from list brokers. Eager to pursue those prospects, we were denied access because the marketing team couldn’t figure out how to export the prospects from Excel to our ancient CRM without creating duplicates.

In addition, they didn’t know how to develop a marketing plan to turn those prospects into qualified leads.

A few months went by. Nothing happened. Then the head of marketing decides to go on a one week vacation, with a vague promise of solving the problem she returned.

When she returned, again, nothing happened.

Frustrated, I left for another job and never looked back.

To this day, those prospects are probably still in Excel.

hungry salesperson waiting for prospectsThe lesson? Sitting on prospects and not giving them to your sales team is cruel. It’s like denying food to a hungry dog, and then laughing at him as he begs for a taste…just a taste to satisfy his appetite.

Don’t do that. Because salespeople, like everyone else, need to eat.

If you work in marketing and don’t respect salespeople, it’s time for a career change.

And I would add that in this post 2008 Great Recession era, all employees are now salespeople. If you have any employee who doesn’t think that way, fire him. You either work or sink together. It’s that simply.

3). Old School isn’t always bad. Frankly, I think it’s a myth that older salespeople don’t “get technology”. I’m an older salesperson – not only do I get technology, I embrace it. The same is true with social media. (I even taught myself to write and publish this blog). In short, anything that I can help me sell better and exceed my quota, I’m all ears.

However, there are still some old school salespeople that give the rest of us a bad name. You know the kind – they don’t use LinkedIn, they never heard of Twitter, they don’t enter sales notes in a CRM, they don’t use an Outlook calendar to schedule appointments, etc. However, over the years, many old school salespeople have developed enough relationships and goodwill among their clients that are essential to a company’s growth. That’s OK. Leave them along. As the old saying goes “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Too often, new managers will come in and try to “shake things up” by imposing too many new rules too quickly without first learning how the sales or marketing departments are operating. As a result of their heavy-handed tactics (mostly a result of their insecurity and arrogance), good employees leave and the new managers have to start building their teams from scratch. Most companies can’t afford this costly and time consuming mistake.

(And BTW, where do a lot of those good employees go? You guessed it – your competitors).

Work with who you have on your sales team. An old warhorse may be old – but he’s still a warhorse. Yes, introduce new methods. And while you’re at it, hire new employees who will understand and appreciate modern technologies and marketing efforts. In the end, both old and young salespeople will prevail.

4). Marketing and Sales compensation must be closely aligned. Simply handing off leads to the sales team and washing your hands of them are now over. No matter how qualified the lead may be in the eyes of the marketing or sales department, the only good lead is one that becomes a paying customer.

Leads that are converted into customers – not just leads themselves – should be the determining factor in compensation for both sales and marketing employees.

Thus, dumping unqualified leads on your sales team is no longer tolerated. You are only hurting yourself and the employer. Do some research. There are plenty of tools out there to help you better qualified leads. Use them.

Examples include Marketo, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and ActiveCampaign.

(A good source to find lead generation tools is Capterra).

This is why it’s so important to constantly test the waters with different email or other marketing campaigns to obtain the best qualified leads possible. Don’t be afraid of failure. If one campaign doesn’t work, try another. Experiment.

To learn more about how sales and marketing teams can work together, please click on these articles below –

“How Marketing and Sales Can Work Together to Close More Leads,” by Max Traylor

“Overcoming The Marketing-Sales Turf War: Six Strategies to Integration,” by Christine Moorman

And finally, if you are not a member of the AA-ISP, I strong recommend that you become one. Not only will you find great networking opportunities, but you will discover plenty of good resources on the main website.

Are you feeding the Sales Beast?

Are you feeding the beasts?If you want to keep a beast happy – feed him.

If you want to keep your salespeople happy – feed them too. But feed them with good leads and qualified prospects.

All too often, salespeople are told to find their own leads and prospects. There is nothing wrong with that. When times are slow, doing some research on the side is OK. But if your salespeople are spending too much prospecting, that means they are spending too little time selling.

Based on numerous studies, the average sales person only spends about 30 percent of his time actually selling. The rest of the time is spent on training, administrative work, account management and other tasks.

This is why it’s so important to have a marketing team on board to help your sales team. Using tools like KiteDesk, (formerly Jigsaw), RainKing, DiscoverOrg, Zoominfo, and others can help your sales team generate more business.

What’s worse than a bad salesperson? A bored one.  Why?  Because bored salespeople who are good in their profession start seeking other opportunities. And you don’t want that to happen.

So always feed the sales beast.

Should Salespeople use Glassdoor?

Should you use Glassdoor for job hunting?You are a recent college graduate and you’re trying to find your first sales job.

You got laid off from your last sales job, and you’re now scrambling to find new work.

You hate your job, so you’re now seeking a better sales position.

Where do you go for help? You could go to the usual suspects, e.g., friends, former co-workers, relatives, job recruiters, contacts, etc.

However, one source you may want to consider is Glassdoor.

What is Glassdoor?

For a job hunter, it could mean the difference of landing that dream job you always wanted and avoiding the job from hell.

According to its website, Glassdoor “holds a growing database of more than 8 million company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reports, interview reviews and questions, benefits reviews, office photos and more.”

What makes Glassdoor unique is that you get an insider’s view to find out more about a company’s culture and office politics. By looking through the glass door (get it?) you can read anonymous reviews posted by current and former employees. Among other things, reviewers can make recommendations on whether you should apply to a company, and offer star ratings like you see on Amazon or Netflix. Glassdoor also goes a step further and allows you to approve or disapprove of a CEO.

But you are not just reading reviews. You are also getting information on salaries for various positions. In many cases, you also have access to interview questions and hiring procedures, e.g., how many times were you interviewed, did you do phone and on site interviews, or both, what was your overall experience like, etc.

But can you trust the reviews?

When job hunting, you always have to read between the lines and trust your gut.

Here is how you can interpret reviews posted on Glassdoor –

1). The number of reviews posted –  If there are only handful of reviews, it’s going to be very difficult to understand the company’s culture or if you are a good fit or not. On the other hand, if you have let’s say  7 or more recent reviews, that could give you a some idea of what type of company you are applying to.

2). The timelines of the reviews – if you see an influx of very positive reviews posted within a short period of time mixed in with a lot of negative reviews, that’s usually a sign that the employer is asking his employees to post good reviews to counter the bad ones. In that case, you really have to read between the lines. I’ve actually worked at companies where employers asked people to post encouraging reviews in an effort to attract more and better job applicants. In other cases, outgoing employees were asked to post good reviews before they left. Is that fair? Well, it depends. If current employees are truly happy with their jobs and the company, they shouldn’t have any misgivings about posting upbeat reviews. But if they are unhappy and feel coercive, that could be a problem.

3). Employer Engagement – Believe it or not, employers can actually participate for free on Glassdoor. For example, they can respond to reviews, offer updates about the company, and obtain a demographic snapshot of visitors to narrow down recruiting efforts. (Glassdoor also offers fee-based packages for employers, including advertising and enhanced profiles).

I believe the more engaged an employer is with Glassdoor, the more likely they are taking the reviews seriously and they want to improve their company. Most companies do want to hire the best people they can. If they suddenly see an onslaught of damaging comments, they know that could discourage good job candidates for applying to their company.

writing reviews on Glassdoor4). Age of reviews – I believe that the older the reviews, the less helpful they are going to be for job hunters. Why? With the passage of time, company cultures, policies and politics change. Sure, maybe 4 years ago there was high turnover in the sales department, but now under new management, the exits have now gone down to a trickle. While the occasional negative review may pop up, if you are reading mostly optimistic comments, that’s a good sign the sales department or company is in good shape.

5). Motive of the reviewers – maybe it’s me, but I believe the more people write negative reviews than positive ones. Sometimes destructive reviews are written by disgruntled former employees who have an ax to grind. Maybe they were fired or laid off, and writing negative posts is their way of “getting back at the man.”

However, what may seem bad to one employee may be good to another one. For example, I’ve read reviews where some employees complained about a company’s new open space office policy. (Please see my post on “Open Space Offices – Good or Bad Idea?”) They hate the arrangement because of the noise and lack of privacy. However, some employees may not care because for them an open space office provides a more collaborative and transparent environment. I read reviews where some employees have complained about using security cards to enter each floor of a building. But other employees like the arrangement, because in a post 9/11 world, they want extra protection from terrorists or gun slinging mentally ill people.

6). Length of the reviews – short reviews are really hard to interpret. Simply reading a review that says in effect “the place sucks, don’t work here” with few examples isn’t very helpful. The longer reviews that offer deeper insight and try to balance the pros and cons of a workplace can provide a more accurate picture for you. Also, long reviews are written by people who really care about their jobs and want to see real change. They are hoping their employers notice their comments and will adapt.

I actually know firsthand of employers who have changed their policies and hiring practices because of reviews posted on Glassdoor. For example, one employer was shocked to find that job applicants were upset by the amateurish ways interviews were being conducted. During an interview, the hiring manager would be openly reading the job candidate’s Facebook profile and asking ridiculous questions. The company quickly posted that the practices had changed. They even published the phone number of the HR department and encouraged anyone to call if they had any questions.

However, not all companies get the message. For example, one Washington, D.C. based company is consistently criticized in Glassdoor for canceling and then rescheduling job interviews at the last-minute. I guess the HR director isn’t reading Glassdoor that often to change the bad practice or doesn’t care.

7). Consistency – with some reviews, you may see a pattern of good or bad comments. For example, if you keep reading about high turnover in the sales department, or a lack of direction from upper management throughout several reviews, then that’s a sign the company isn’t making progress. For example, several people at one company complained that the owners were socially awkward and inept, and thus were hard to work with.  On the other hand, several people at another company commented on the owner’s open door policy, and his willingness to listen to advice.

On a personal note, I’ve used Glassdoor when applying for new jobs. I have found some of the reviews to be completely accurate, while others fell off the mark.

Glassdoor, like any job hunting tool, is a guide. While Glassdoor can give you a peek of what is going on behind a company’s closed doors, in the end, you still have to do some things the old fashion way – going on interviews, attending networking events, finding contacts within a company, working with recruiters, and doing basic research on Google.

For more information about Glassdoor and job hunting, please read the following articles –

“14 Little-Known Tricks to help you Land your Dream Job using Glassdoor,” by Julie Bort

“How Glassdoor’s Reviews Help you Find your Dream Job,” by Sarah K. White

Recommend: DC Tech Meetup

DC Tech MeetupYou are new to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and you would like to learn more about the start-up or tech community.

You are a bored salesperson who wants to work for a more innovative company than your current job.

You are a job seeker trying to find challenging work with a start-up or tech company.

You are a business owner who would like to gain free publicity about your company.

You are a hiring manager seeking new employees.

You are an entrepreneur trying to find ideas to create a new company.

Or, you are a patron of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library who took the wrong turn and found yourself listening to rapid-fire presentations. (Just kidding).

Seriously, if you fall in anyone of the above categories, attending or speaking at the DC Tech Meetup may be your solution to your problems.

What is the DC Tech Meetup?

From the website –

“The DC Tech Meetup convenes technologists, entrepreneurs, investors and the broader innovation community regularly to learn and share. Each month, 400+ innovators gather to see demos, launch products and meet their future co-founders, partners and funders.”

It is also one of the largest Meetups in the D.C. area, listing more than 16,700 members, Founded in 2011, the meetings are usually held once a month or so at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library (convenient to the Gallery Place Metro). (Locations may change, so please check the D.C. Meetup page).

(I’ve been a member for three years and try to attend on a regular basis).

To date, there have been 53 Meetups.

While the agenda has changed over the years, the meetings normally have 6 to 10 companies that give about 5 minute demos, with a Q&A session after each presentation. Sometimes a sponsor will also speak or a special guest will give a short presentation. Each meeting also begins with “10 Things you Need to Know about #DCTech” (which I enjoy listening to).

The major theme of each Meetup varies. Recent examples include “Women in Tech,” “Tech Inclusion,” “Virtual & Augmented Reality,” and “College Demos.”

Why should you attend and how can you benefit?

Let’s break this down from the attendee and speaker point of view.

start-up companies in Washington, D.C.Here are some tips about being a good Attendee

Whether you are new or a veteran to the D.C. start-up or tech scene, this Meetup is a great way to network. Don’t be shy. One of the best ways of networking at a large event like this is simply sit next to someone, introduce yourself and shake hands. The last thing you want to do is sit by yourself staring at your Smartphone pretending that you’re too busy to speak to anyone. (Sorry, your secret is out). Really, no one is going to bite. This is a friendly crowd who share the same interests and passions you do. So why not talk?

Here are some tips on how to be a good attendee

1). Come early. The seats do fill up quickly.

2). Walk up and introduce yourself to one or two of the organizers. Sure, they may be busy getting things set-up, but shaking hands and thanking them for organizing this event will only take a minute. It takes a lot of time and effort to organize these events, so I’m sure they appreciate you thanking them.

From the website, here are the current organizers – DJ Saul (@DarienJay100), Brandon T. Luong (@BrandonTLuong),  Christopher Beene (@GoForTopherB) , Jessica Ryan (@SirJesstheBrave),  Shana Glenzer (@ShanaGlenzer), and Zvi Band (@skeevis).

3). Sit near the front. You can see the demos better and you will have an easier time being selected if you have a question. (However, the organizers make a good effort of selecting people from the back of the room).

4). Bring business cards. You never know if you are going to meet someone who can help your career or offer you good advice.

5). Do your homework, especially if you are a job seeker. If you notice a company or two on the speaker list, check out their websites and LinkedIn profiles. Write down a couple of questions you may want to ask during the event. If the company appeals to you, try to meet with some of the employees at a local bar after the event (These days the after hour event is usually at Brick & Mortar on 918 F Street NW). You can also meet the employees in the back of the room after the presentations are done.

6). Be prepared to give your own pitch. Yes, you can give your own pitch during Open Mic – but for only 20 seconds. So plan ahead on what you are going to say.  The announcements include seeking work, available job openings, new websites or blogs to read, or upcoming meetings or events to attend.

7). Networking, like learning, should be a lifetime commitment. While attending a recent Tech Meetup, I met four students who were taking courses from General Assembly. Their instructor required them to attend one DC Tech Meetup to learn more about the tech community. Only one? Look, if you want to stay current or just meet new people, attending only one Meetup isn’t going to cut it. Sure, you may think you have a secure job and several connections. But then one day your company gets acquired, or your manager is fired, or you go through the classic department reorg, and then suddenly you’re out of the street. Don’t make attending networking events a one time deal. Make it a lifetime commitment. Because the next person you meet could be your lifeline to a new job or a better opportunity.

For more advice about networking at events, please check out these links –

“Meetup Tips That’ll Have you Networking like an Expert” by Cori Morris

“Use Meetup to Start a Networking Group, Even if You’re Unemployed” by Alan Henry

D.C. TechHere are some tips about being a good Speaker

1). Know the ground rules and follow them. For example, each presentation is no more than five (5) minutes long.

2). Dress to impress. Yes, I know that in the start-up and tech world, the casual or grunge look is commonplace, but when giving a presentation before your peers, you may want to dress more professionally. Maybe it’s me, but I tend to listen more acutely when someone is sharply dressed. In my mind, they are signaling that they want to be taken seriously. (BTW, occasionally investors do sit in the audience. You may have a great product or service, but if you looked like you just rolled out of bed, your presentation may fall on deaf ears).

If you don’t have the money to buy good threads, invest in T-shirts with your company’s name and logo. This will keep your company’s name upfront while speaking, and give an esprit de corps vibe about your company.

(For example, all the employees from TrackMaven wore their company T-shirts during the DC Tech Meetup #26: Hacks, Code and Creative. They all stood out from the rest of the crowd. At one point, they cheered their one of their employees while he was giving a demo).

3). Know your audience. Most people sitting in the audience have had a long day. Working 50 plus hours a week or fighting a long commutes, they are tired but still willing to take time from their evenings to listen to you. So please, don’t be boring. It’s not about you, it’s about them. No one wants to hear war stories of you toiling away for hours in your parent’s basement, trying to acquire investors or avoiding bill collectors. The best demos I’ve seen are sprinkled with humor, offering lively visual presentations, and just enough information wanting people to learn more. The two most recent good examples of presentations that stick out in my mind were conducted by Carey Anne Nadeau with Open Data Nation, and Kate Glantz with (They both spoke at the DC Tech Meetup #48: Women in Tech Edition).

So if you love what you are doing, make sure you share that passion with your audience.

4). If you are having difficulty coming up with a good short pitch or demo, try to answer the following questions –

Why did you start your company?

What pain points or problems are you trying to solve?

Who are your target customers?

What is your business model?

How does your service or product work?

Why should anyone care?

5). Be prepared to answer some tough questions. While everyone is civil at the Tech Meetup, I’ve heard some challenging questions in the past. Remember – your audience may include investors, or your next great employee waiting to be hired by you. If you don’t feel you can handle difficult questions, make sure you have a back-up on the stage to help you.

For example, I once attended a workshop where Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was speaking. (This was long before he ran for president). When faced with a difficult question, he asked one of his aides, who he called “his brains”, to step forward and answer it for him.

No one expects you to know all the answers. So having a little help on the stage doesn’t hurt.

6). Don’t hesitate to announce job openings at your company. Save that announcement at the end of your presentation, but it doesn’t hurt to let everyone know you are hiring. Remember – if someone is a regular attendee at the Tech Meetup, that’s a person who takes the industry seriously and maybe a good fit for your company.

7). If you are unsure how to give a good presentation, start by becoming a regular attendee of Tech Meetup. Believe me, after going to a few events, you will pick up pointers on what’s effective or what’s not when speaking. I’ve gone to enough Tech Meetups and start-up pitches in my career that I can predict within the first two (2) or three (3) minutes of a presentation which companies have a good idea and which ones need to go back to the drawing board.

8). Give away free samples or swag. If you have free samples or swag to give away, announce it at the end of your presentation. Invite people to stop by after the end of all the presentations to pick up what you have to offer. For example, GateKeeper gave away free their security lock on a first come, first serve basis after the DC Tech Meetup # 36: Demos, Demos, Demos. Or better yet, set up a small display table of your free samples, swag, or marketing literature. (However, make sure you get permission from the organizers before you do this. Display tables were set up during the DC Tech Meetup #43: Virtual & Augmented Reality Edition, but that may have been an exception to the rule).

Or, you may want to follow Pendo’s example. As a sponsor, besides giving a short presentation, the company also gave away free Georgetown cupcakes at the end of the DC Tech Meetup #48: Women in Tech Edition.

As a speaker, you are following in some big footsteps. Previous presenters have included Framebridge, Aquicore, Encore Alert (which was recently acquired by Meltwater), FiscalNote, Social Radar, Social Tables and Quorum.

For more advice about speaking, please check out these links –

“7 Tips for Giving the Best Tech Talks at Meetups” by Katie Richard

“Why You Should Speak at Meetups and Conferences” by Michał Śliwoń

So what do you think? If you feel that attending or speaking at the DC Tech Meetup is worth your time, please go. You never know what you can learn or who you will meet that could help your career.

Top photo is from Gil C /