Secrets of a childhood Strider Balance Bike. A great reminder for us all Why Less is More.

When I was a toddler, my parents bought me a traditional bicycle with training wheels. A balance bike at the time was not invented yet. The training wheels were there so I would not tip over and hurt myself. The traditional childhood is like this when it comes to learning to ride a bike. We all remember that 1st bike. How it felt, the freedom to move faster and further. But to move you had to pedal while relying on the training wheels to keep us upright. It was tough at first.

Rynek in Sandomierz, Poland - birth town
Rynek in Sandomierz, Poland – my block on the right

The pedals kind of got in the way. Brakes were activated through the lever on the handlebars and sometimes moving the pedals backwards would also activate the brakes. Oh boy, that was a lot to take in. But we did right. I remember the early wobbles as I tried to learn to balance. Knowing the training wheels were there helped, but it still made the hair raise up on my back. Then once I got enough courage I would ram straight into a wall of the building where we lived, many times. Arms and knees were bleeding. What an experience.

Enter the Balance Bike

Fast forward to today; when I became a father, and my kid (Josh) was ready at a ripe age of 2 we did something different. We got him a balance bike. Have you heard of Balance Bikes? Yeah neither did I until Urszula kids occupational therapist from SensoryLifestyle.com mentioned it. Few Googles later I was up to speed.

“A balance bicycle, or run bike is a training bicycle that helps children learn balance and steering. It has no pedals and no drivetrain.”.

The bike has NO pedals. NO drivetrain i.e. chains or gears. And NO brakes! It’s as simple as it gets. A frame with wheels, a seat and handlebars. Even the wheels are basic. Heck, the WHOLE bike is basic. It’s like they started with a standard bicycle and said… let’s strip it down till we cannot anymore. Down to the core essentials.

Less is truly More!

Strider Balance Bike Standard Bike
Balance Bike Normal Bike

Unlike a traditional bicycle where you might have to push the child or support them, with a balance bike there is minimal supervision. Josh started sitting on the seat and walking the bike. Like the Flintstones. Then he progressed to pushing his feet off from the ground and balancing. Soon he was coasting around turns and speeding along pathways. All in about a month. A child learns to balance faster when they don’t have to pedal. Pedals also get in the way. I saw Josh fall over few times trying a normal bike with pedals, before ending up on the seat and looking at me to push him.

Check out this video I made of Josh riding a Strider Balance Bike in Shoreline Park, Mountain View

The Power of Simplification in Software Development

As a software engineer and a maker of many things, I am always intrigued by simplification. In software we often “refactor” code to make it smaller, better and faster. When working on technology products, we often say to blow away features to make a large application light. Less is More. Products users love often simple. Not complicated. And usually serve a single purpose.

When we discuss product design, we also talk about building habits (ref Hooked book). What is the simplest behavior which can lead to a reward. It’s hard building sticky products feature heavy. People get overwhelmed and lose interest fast. Many books, many blogs and many words are exchanged by makers in Silicon Valley about the power of simplification. Most products suck because this simple approach to simplifying the product is often ignored by the ego. If you want to learn more about features vs. benefits, please read my prior blog post on SPIN Selling.

Less is More

And right here in front of me stands the BEST reminder of the power of simplification. It may not be a technology product, but it sure carries the same weight. Less is More.

Necessity > Novelty. For a 2-year-old learning to balance is a fundamental motor skill development milestone. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend you read SensoryLifestyle.com or google this topic.

1. knowing the rules of the game and 2. using the right tools; is how we get results.

Technology Products

When we think of the two best technology companies in the world, no doubt Apple and Google fall into that spot.

  • Remember the beauty of Apple’s iPod? It was its simplicity.
  • When you visit Google.com, the page is simple. The only thing you can do is Search. Simple right?

Let’s also look at Cars. Who is the most innovative car manufacturer? I believe it is Tesla Motors. They haven’t done anything revolutionary. No, really they haven’t. They just simplified the car. If you know a bit about engines, you will know that a piston motor is complicated. It has many moving parts. And many things that can and do go wrong. Now, the electric motor is winning. It’s simple. A magnet, coil and apply electricity.

Benefits > Features

I’m going to finish on a final note. When we simplify, we remove features. Features do not sell. So don’t worry about stripping down your product. Instead, focus on the benefits. And sell on those. The stripped down bare bone balance bike Josh rides cost ~$130 while a regular bike with gears, pedals, balance wheels et al, cost ~$80. The price difference is nearly 50%, yet guess which one wins hearts?

~ Ernest

The secret art of SPIN Selling. Why traditional sales models don’t work for larger sales. Let’s retrain your brain to sell like a boss.

SPIN Selling, a book by Neil Rackham has been on my shelf for the last 3 years. Never touched. No, actually I did. I wiped the dust off it few times. And each time I looked at it I got a feeling deep down that I needed to read it. Well that day came. This month (February 2016) actually. Ever since I improved my reading speed from 300 to 480 wpm, I have been on a mission to read more books.

SPIN Selling teaches why traditional sales models don’t work for larger sales. With real-world examples, informative cases and clear lessons learnt, the book develops on what turns into a successful SPIN strategy. This book is a must for anyone. Even for software engineers who may have no intention to sell. You don’t have to be in sales to find value in this book. The books journey takes you to a better place where you learn that selling is simply problem solving for a prospect. Instead of spending time with a machine you spend time with a human.

Entrepreneurship

In the early days of a startup, entrepreneurship can be summed up into 2 words: hustling & hacking. You need to be selling and building product that fits user expectations. Selling doesn’t require a product to be ready, as you will soon find out. Selling, or Hustling begins with problem solving. Especially large sales. You need to understand existing customer situation, problems, difficulties, dissatisfactions, points of dissatisfactions with existing solutions and/or general difficulty. This will lead you to uncover their true core needs so that you can offer a better, faster and cheaper solution.

Common selling mistake

Focusing on Features and Advantages instead of Benefits.

Focusing on Features creates Price concerns. Let me repeat this again..

Don’t f**kin focus on features!

Only exception is when you are seeing something of little value. And where the customer has a disassociation between the product and you. If you mess up and the customer gets into a price discussion you will end up dropping the price to meet them. Dropping price is a path to business disaster. You are in sales to make money not loose money. Plus a bad sale creates a liability on the company’s book. It would have been far easier & smarter to learn how to sell Benefits to avoid price concerns and objections.

The SPIN Selling Framework

SPIN Selling is a nice framework any hustler should follow to close most sales. Especially a large sale. Small sales are relatively easy to close.

SaaS (Software as a Service) world

In the world of SaaS (Software as a Service) what may at 1st appear to be a small price point (eg. $5 per month) is actually a large sale when you consider the LTV (Life Time Value) could be 1-2 years and thus the actual sale is $120 x the number of seats purchased. Therefore, having the tools to close such deals could be a business changing opportunity.

To visualize the SPIN Selling Framework, I created the following 1 page chart. Read it left to right. The process starts on the left with Situation questions and ends at the Need-Payoff (far right) side. I still recommend you read the SPIN Selling book to learn how the theory works in practice.

SPIN Selling Framework
SPIN Selling Framework – Click image to enlarge it

Before you call the prospect

So now you are educated in SPIN Selling and can’t wait to hit the road. Hold on a sec there soldier. There is 1 more step in your training.

To be prepared is half the victory.
~ Miguel de Cervantes

Before you make a sales call to a client, get prepared. This means: 

  1. Write down at least 3 potential problems which the client may have
  2. Write down some actual Problem Questions that you could ask to uncover each of the potential problems you’ve identified
  3. Write down what difficulties might arise for each problem. This means Implication Questions that might get the prospect to see the problem as large and urgent to solve and
  4. Write down 3 Need Questions for each implication

Now you are ready. Go and solve problems!

~ Ernest

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