As CEOs and product owners, we are effectively outsourced team members, contract force accelerators. Yet more often than not, we act like clueless employees, sleepwalking through the day, hoping that our actions align with our employer’s goals or, at worst, praying we don’t fuck up enough to be noticed.
Time for a case study! To follow up on last week’s advice, Sell It Before You Build It, we’re turning to Chris Oltyan, founder and CEO of Rebric. After years of pivoting from building one product to another with no success, recently Chris found a client that needed a problem solved and secured a six-figure commitment — without building anything.
I’d say many people who build products do so in part because they want to AVOID dealing with other people, much less try to sell them anything. But eventually, you’ll have to talk to customers. The question is, do you do it before you build anything and validate they’ll pay for all the work you’re about to do, or do you do it after you’ve spent all your time, money and effort to create something, only to find out no one cares.
There are several reasons why business owners are afraid of asking questions. I’ll tell you right now, all of them suck. But here they are:
* They’ll get answers they don’t want.
* They should already know the answer.
* They’ll frustrate the other party by asking.
Customers aren’t looking for features. They are looking for solutions to a problem, and your entire product or service must solve that core problem. Features can, at best, solve a subsection of a problem, but once you start down the road of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” you’re no longer dealing with the big issue.
Your goal in this first meeting is not to have your counterparts think “dang, we have to acquire them right now” but “wow, this is a really thoughtful person who I can see working with on a regular basis.” The barrier to the former is insane. The bar for the latter is simply being yourself and taking the occasional breath so that the other person has an opportunity to speak.