Pete Kazanjy Talks Product Development, Sales Stages and Being Sure You Solve Problems for Customers

Collin Stewart, CEO

24 August 2017

It’s completely understandable. You’ve built a product that you’re extremely proud of.

Hour after hour of development work, coding at all hours of the night – finally, you have something that works. It’s time to share it with the world, right?

Well, almost. You just need to start selling it.

It’s at this important point in the growth of a company, however, that sales leader, product guy, and author Pete Kazanjy says founders and early sales employees routinely make a critical mistake: they don’t think about the people they’re selling to.

And that mindset will make it pretty hard to grow your company.

“A lot of times, founders screw up by simply showing up and throwing up. ‘Here is this feature, here is this feature! I have this really exciting thing – and I want to show it to you!’ That’s what people say,” says Kazanjy, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“But, you’re not thinking about the problem it solves. Often times, people have the features, and they regale people with them, but they haven’t written down the problem they solve.”

So, how do early stage salespeople (more often than not, a co-founder) ensure their sales process reflect the pain their product solves? How do they escape the knee-jerk, feature-focused pitch?

According to Kazanjy, it requires an almost symbiotic relationship between sales and product management.

“All of the answers are baked into the product. But, those problems and solutions often haven’t been written down in text, or turned into pictures. So, probably the first thing you could do if you feel that you don’t a good handle on the problem that the product solves, then you should be able to go to product management to document that,” says Kazanjy.

“Product management is the voice of the customer in an organization. And, if the answers you’re getting from that team aren’t right, because customers are saying you aren’t solving that problem, then probably the product doesn’t fit that market. The product teams need to know that.”

Relying on the product team for clarity and to define the ethos and purpose behind the company’s product doesn’t mean the sales team shouldn’t do some of the legwork as well.

For example, early stage salespeople can, and should, do as many interviews with potential prospects as possible. Find out what their day-to-day looks like, and where their problems and bottlenecks lie. From there, you can ask them, point blank: “if we offered you a way to fix your problems, would you be interested? Would that be something you’d consider purchasing?”

Once you’ve completed dozens and dozens of such interviews, patterns begin to emerge, says Kazanjy. And from those patterns, the basis for a product, or changes to a product, can be derived.

But that’s not all –  these interviews will form the basis of an effective sales narrative, focused on helping people and solving business problems, that can be told to prospects during calls or demos.

You’re just recounting that tale that you’ve heard. When we talked to these people, everyone said ‘this is a pain in the ass, so we built this.’ Have that empathy up front,” says Kazanjy.

“That’s how you make sure it’s real. If you’re not in charge of that product mangement thing, and that product is already baked, then you have to get into the shoes of the prospect.”

Once you nail down an effective sales narrative and form that strong bond with product management, the focus should be getting people to pay for your product. But, adds Kazanjy, the sales journey you’re embarking on will, more than likely, come in stages.

First, you need to know whether anyone will pay for what you’ve got. Then, the questions becomes: will many people pay?

“Early on, a small group may pay. You have a network, and you can cobble together prospects,” says Kazanjy.

“But that doesn’t prove you can scale. You have to prove a statistically significant amount of people will pay.”

If you can do that, then it’s time to see whether you can get hire and train others to sell for you. Can the job of the early seller be replicated by another rep? By another two reps?

Such expansion will require producing more materials, more marketing collateral and more sales decks. But it has to be tested because if it works, you can continue to grow. Without that small expansion test, though, growing a sales team is a gamble.

A big sales team will cost the company a fair chunk of change, and the co-founder who has likely been selling up to this point, will need to embrace a new administrative role.

“This is a critical juncture. You want to get it right before you pour on the gas. Make sure the cylinders are firing properly. If not, you’ll bur cash. Don’t try and jump too far in advance,” says Kazanjy.

“That’s a common case – not doing the work required to set these people up for success. But if you can get Rep A and Rep B to do this, you can probably get 10 or 20 reps to do this.”

And if 20 reps are selling for you, your dream of sharing your product with the world is coming to fruition. You just needed to check off some important boxes before it making it happen.

You have to walk before you run.

For more on Pete Kazanjy’s sales and product philosophies, check out his edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

Kazanjy will also be releasing his book “Founding Sales,” that will bring together all of his thought on early stage sales.