Happy Valley vs. Silicon Valley: Why are we behind and how can we get ahead?

01/03/2023

By Staff Writer

Ben Lawrence. Photo: Jim Valent.

According to sales professional turned author Ben Lawrence, Happy Valley has a problem: Despite being home to one of the nation’s largest research institutions and investing millions into startup business efforts, our region is still among the worst performers at spinning cutting-edge research into profitable business. Compare, for example, Stanford University’s business startup success to Penn State’s and it’s like comparing Tom Brady’s NFL career stats to Danny Wuerffel’s. It’s a painful gap to consider but according to local author and business leader Ben Lawrence, it’s one that Happy Valley can close and win.

“I’ve spent decades working with both Silicon Valley and Happy Valley startups,” says Lawrence, “and here’s the takeaway: Happy Valley has every opportunity to outpace Silicon Valley, yet Happy Valley is missing the boat on how to do it.  In fact, I read that Penn State is in the top 25 for research dollars but not even in the top 100 for technology transfer.”

And that’s a big reason why Lawrence just published a book on how to transform any business or community into a leading one on the business success scale.

Entitled The HEART of the WOLF: The Upside-Down Secret to Being a Kickass Salesperson, Ben’s #1 Amazon new release chronicles his 30 years of frontline selling and business experience on behalf of both Silicon Valley and Happy Valley organizations, while guiding readers through the steps that drive the #1 ingredient every business needs: revenue.

“Happy Valley’s R&D, talent pool, and community support are neck and neck with California’s,” said Lawrence.  “Where we fall short, however, is in our ability to elevate our area’s brilliant technologies and talent into real-world sales.  And after years of commercializing tech for both ‘Valleys’, I discovered a sales formula that lights up any deserving organization’s cash register.”

Proof of Lawrence’s sales formula lighting up business sits right here in Happy Valley, where Ben served as VP of Sales and Chief Business Officer at KCF Technologies.  Arguably the most shining example of Happy Valley-born and raised startup success in the last decade, the company grew 50X with Ben at the helm of its sales efforts, all while incurring zero debt and taking on zero outside investment.

“I’m so proud of our team at KCF because we proved that Happy Valley can build thriving businesses as well as, if not better than, anyone.  Why?  In short, because our region has not only great tech and skilled people, but we embody grit and thriftiness in quantities I haven’t found in other high-tech regions.  KCF and Happy Valley built business the old-fashioned way, by selling profitable contracts to good customers.”

The HEART of the WOLF: The Upside-Down Secret to Being a Kickass Salesperson is available now in hardback, paperback or e-book on Amazon and at leadthesalespack.com.

“So many startups and the regions who house them cling to government grants and outside investors to fuel their cash needs and in my experience, relying upon those third-party sources rips your company’s focus away from the North Star of sustainable business, customer success, in favor of investor success.”

But growing organically, which typically means hitting the streets and making sales calls and having to unseat established vendors, is a scary, difficult exercise for most startups and keeps many from ever reaching their full potential, according to Lawrence.

“As I write in my book,” said Lawrence, “too many startups outsource sales to third parties who never understand or are as passionate about the company as the founders are, and as a result, the company never gets off the ground.”

So what can Happy Valley organizations do to break the chains of meager tech transfer?  How can our tech and talent-heavy region soar to its highest peaks?  Lawrence offers a few recommendations, all of which are outlined in detail in his book.

“First,” offers Lawrence, “become intimately familiar with the real-world problem you believe your technology or startup can solve.  Not by surfing the internet and social media polling, mind you, but by seeking out and spending time with people on the front lines who feel the pain of the problems you’re ready to solve.”

“Next, learn firsthand with and from your dream customers at the decision-maker level what their true cost of the problem is.  Not just the dollars and cents but the cost in lost time, lost opportunity, safety, lifestyle, turnover rates, health, or whatever real-world value metrics actually matter to your customers. You need to become more of an expert on the problem and its real-world implications than your customers are.  In fact, you need to become more of an expert on your customer’s problem than you need to be an expert on your own technology!”

“Third, deliver provocative education to your dream customers, again and again, in every form imaginable including live, in-person briefings whenever you can land them, enlightening your customers on how they can improve their organizations and their lives by solving the problem you are uniquely capable of solving,” Lawrence says.

Are the steps straightforward?  Yes.
Are they steps we learn in traditional education?  No.
Are they steps most organizations usually get wrong?  According to Lawrence, “Most definitely.”

But if Happy Valley follows his guidance and replicates KCF’s success across more of our community’s promising businesses, our days of matching Silicon Valley’s accomplishments are well within reach.

The HEART of the WOLF: The Upside-Down Secret to Being a Kickass Salesperson is available now in hardback, paperback or e-book on Amazon and at leadthesalespack.com. The Kindle e-book version is available for $0.99 through January 9th.

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