[Startup Sofa Vlog] Souped-up Sales Strategy with Michael Zung

TSS is excited to present the Startup Sofa, a new video blog interview series created for the Taiwan startup ecosystem! In this episode our guest is Michael Zung, Marketing Director at Fung Global Retail & Technology. A full transcript of the interview can also be found below:

TSS: What makes really good sales culture?

Michael Zung: There's two schools of thought when you think about startups. There's the Google school of thought and, of course, they've obviously done incredibly well and so it's kind of proven that this way of doing things can work, which is:

Engineers build something absolutely incredible and it shouldn't even need salespeople, it should just sell itself. Some people should just come to the site sign up and if you do need sales people they are not put front and center.

Whereas another school of thought is - well we have a decent product, I think we compete with everybody else pretty well, but let's supercharge the salespeople.

Let's put them front and center. Let's really cheer on every deal that they bring in. Let's encourage them to get bigger and bigger deals. Let's take the top salespeople to an exotic island when they get the top sales. That's more of a sales culture and I think you could do both in a sense.

You could also balance the two. There's two extremes - one is a complete sales culture and one is a complete engineering culture and others are "Let's try to balance all that." When the engineers release a nice product they also go to a nice island or something like that and maybe it's not an island, maybe it's just a nice place to eat.

So just trying to reward the sales, trying to put them front center or at least on the same page or same table as engineers. Because sometimes, especially in tech companies, it's usually founded by engineers and controlled by engineers or controlled by technical people.

And so, the salespeople may not get sort of the attention that they deserve and I'm just saying perhaps it should be more equal, and perhaps it should also be more front and center of the organization.

Also, instead of you see a lot of startups come up with - Let people come to the site and then just sign up - $99, $199, $299, gold, silver, platinum and then they just sit back and say, "OK, let's wait for the money to be counted."

Usually, you're not getting the full value for the product because what enterprise sales people tend to do is you don't even necessarily have a rank card. You go into every single client, you understand what the value of your proposition is to that client, and then you help them calculate it.

You might have a price optimization solution, for instance, and you're selling to a $4 billion grocery store. And with your price optimization solution, they could sell their products for $40 million more. So $4 billion, they add $40 million more on their top line because of your product, and you say, "Okay, I'll just take 10%, I'll take 4 million."

Whereas if you don't solution sell it like that, you might sell it for only ten thousand dollars and so you're not getting your share of the value of that product if you don't have that enterprise sales culture, so you can sell yourself very, very short.

TSS: What are the challenges of entering foreign markets? Do you have any specific strategies?

Michael Zung: Every market is a little bit different. For instance, when you talk about Asia as a whole, you have Australia from one end of the spectrum - it's been called California with kangaroos - and then there's also China on the other end of the spectrum that has a different market completely, different ways of doing business, different ways of paying.

I still think it gets back to, "What value are you providing that local market?" and trying to prove it to the customer that value, so there is that undercurrent.

I used to be told it's a 70/30 rule. 70% is not changed by any market, whether you're in Japan, or China, or Australia, it's still that 70% whether it's DoubleClick or anything else. But 30% should be adjusted to that market depending on different cultures. Again, Australia maybe it's 10% and China might be closer to 50% needs to be changed, but that's just a rule of thumb.

Certainly from a sales perspective, like an enterprise salesperson, you really have to be conscious of - like in Singapore, nobody ever wears a suit jacket so don't even bring it. Nobody wears one. Whereas in Japan people still wear suit and ties to all their meetings. There are those standard things that you learn over the years in each of the countries that you do business with as an enterprise salesperson.

Then, there's other more technical things, like Chinese don't put tags on their site and it's very difficult. Japanese are somewhat reluctant to that, whereas Southeast Asia, Australia they don't even have an issue. There's certain other things like technical norms that you also have to be aware of with each particular country but that's what makes it interesting, isn't it?

TSS: Have you noticed common pitfalls that Taiwanese companies/startups face when entering new markets?

Michael Zung: I think, in general, marketing is a new art for Asia as a whole, whether it's Taiwan or greater China or Southeast Asia. They understand marketing because they've been marketed to. You look at how Apple markets itself, or you look at how BMW markets itself, Coke or Pepsi or McDonald's, they understand that concept.

Especially in the technology area, it's so classically been but OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer - We make stuff for people so the branding comes from the US or France or somewhere else; The design comes from US, France, or somewhere else and we just make it to their order.

Now, of course, there's companies that are coming out and owning that branding and design themselves and you're just beginning to see some traction in those areas, whether it's a Taiwan company or otherwise.

There have been some breakthroughs, certainly HTC has done a good job outside of Taiwan. All of the bike companies in terms of Giant or Specialize or otherwise have done well but I still think there's a long way to go.

It's just that look and feel, that attention. There's a tendency to put more money, like if I have a dollar, I'll spend another dollar on the engineering rather than spending that dollar on the market. Making it look good, making your brand look good, making your logo look good, hiring a copywriter to make sure that there's no typos.

Perhaps the companies, that's not their strength or the knowledge that they have, but then they tend to put that aside. But in some sense, that's just as important as making sure the technical aspects work well.

TSS: Why should Taiwan companies focus on "Marketing" and not only "Engineering"?

Michael Zung: I would say that when you look at the history of whether it's a SAAS firm or a software company, it tends to not be the first mover; It tends to be the one that marketed themselves better. You look at Salesforce in the way Mark Benioff markets Salesforce, when you look at Larry Ellison in the way he markets Oracle, he's done an amazing job.

When Bill Gates came out with DOS, it certainly wasn't the first operating system but it's the way he marketed and sold it to IBM and others Same with office, Excel wasn't the first spreadsheet software, Lotus 123 was and others. Word wasn't the first word processor, WordPerfect was. But he bundled it together, and he marketed the hell out of it, and he won the market, even though it wasn't the best.

So I think it's important to understand - “Don't let perfect get in the way of good,” as they say. You gotta get out there, you gotta put more money in marketing. It's a very rare case, I mean, Google is almost an anomaly where engineering can take a company that far.

TSS: Any final words of advice for Taiwan startups?

Michael Zung: I think it's just more about refinement - understanding your customer, understanding where you need to be at, looking at the landscape around and showing how you can be a global company.

When you look at how a French company, or an American company, or a Japanese company even markets themselves and refines themselves globally. I just believe the time is coming.

We're global world today, there's so many books written about this ever since like "The World is Flat" but many many others since then about "Nation is not important." There's nations in the world but it's almost globalizing to the point where the nation is secondary and in some ways it just needs to hit a global standard of look and feel and what people expect and really it's incidental that it's from Taiwan necessarily.

So I think it's just to take it to that level and we know that the people in Taiwan can do that so I'm excited to see since there's a lot of potential for growth here and a lot of potential for global growth.

About Startup Sofa

The Startup Sofa is video blog interview series created to provide practical knowledge and valuable know-how to the Taiwan startup ecosystem. We've sat down with successful startup founders, industry experts, mentors, and guest speakers to have honest discussions on overseas sales & marketing, breaking into new markets, differences with Taiwan's startup ecosystem, and more! Please let us know what you think at ask@startupstadium.tw!