"We've made it to where we are with absolutely no sales or marketing spend" often does not send the signal that founders hope it will send.
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 7, 2015
It’s not uncommon among startups to maintain a blissful ignorance or a general disdain for Sales and Marketing. With so many tools and theories about how to run a marketing org, who can blame them? It’s much easier to focus on code. No customer meetings, no complex analytics tools to evaluate.
It’s about listening, people
I have met some salespeople that upon initial inspection, seemed as dumb as a box of rocks. Then I heard them on calls and discovered how many questions they asked each customer. I saw how intently they listened, reframed a customer’s needs, and then patiently explain how a product could meet those needs. They followed up when it made sense. And shocker, these people could close. It’s not voodoo — it’s about listening.
It doesn’t matter how technical you are as a founder. If you can’t name your customers’ top five pain points, you could be coding features no one is using. It’s possible that customers just don’t know about these features, but it’s also possible that customers never needed them in the first place. I guarantee a good salesperson can both name pain points and tell you how savvy customers are with your product in seconds — can you?
The “If a Feature Falls in the Forest” Test
1. Install Google Analytics across both your website and your documentation. Let this collect data for at least a few months.
2. Find the pages in your documentation and website that mention the features that differentiate your product from other solutions on the market.
3. Go to “Behavior” -> Site Content -> All Pages.
4. Search for these pages across your online presence. Look at the percentage of visitors who have even seen these pages, much less actually read about these features and then purchased your product.
Is this percentage less than two percent? Even half a percent? Think about it — have you spent thousands of hours coding features that prospective customers don’t even know about?
Playing to an audience
Sales and Marketing is not about shoving a message down customers’ throats. Solid sales and marketing people listen more than they speak or write. They know which features customers want and know about. Good sales and marketing people don’t dictate what a Product team does, but they can and should serve as allies. After all, why even bother building features if no one actually needs or knows about them?