We deployed over 1.62 million lines of code to add functionalities and security to the data. But one thing that doesn’t change is this:
As an entrepreneur I play joker. I try – I fall – I stand up again for the next stunt. Whatsoever, I have to keep everyone entertained.
This article is a part of a 3-article series, where I would share 3 most vital lessons as I grew as an entrepreneur, our product grew as an offering and our team grew into a force.
Lesson 2: Sell to learn. Learn to sell.
Things you build – Things you sell = Junk
No one will pay for junk. We created a lot of junk during the initial days of VoiceTree, and soon realized that most of our efforts were wasted. At that point we segregated what would sell from everything we had built and concentrated on building MyOperator. We had built a small sales team by then (remember, our hiring funda) and started selling even before we completed building it.
1. Sell before you build
Initially we offered product delivery only after 2 months and had a very basic product. Most of you won’t even consider that as a product. It was a single page application covering only the basic need of managing incoming calls on a virtual IVR. But that helped us access what was most important to our customers and we stayed relevant. By the time we released the first version of our product in March’13 we already had 25 paying customers. More amazingly, we acquired another 25 customers within a month of the launch. Our sales team was more than ready by then.
2. Iterate more initially
Every team and process needs iteration. When you start selling early you have enough time to make mistakes as well. We changed our CRM twice; we changed the sales pitch 8 time; we let go 2 people and hired 4 more in sales; by the time we had first version of our product. We had even figured out our sweet pricing spot.
An early sales team meant we had the immediate cash flow needed to hire more people while bootstrapping. More importantly, the initial set of customers gave us good understanding of the problem set in our domain and were building only the relevant features. Moreover, with a funded competitor we could closely understand the problems their customers were facing in product adoption. This led us into smoothing our own product adoption, providing some unique differentiations to our offering.
3. Product moves parallel to sales
We took a year selling the initial version of the product, delving deep into customer requirements, and identifying the problem set we should address further on. We have recently launched the next version of our product, MyOperator 2.0, which has evolved with respect to product usability, user experience and features. We are growing 430% Y-o-Y in a market which has often been described as “not-so-great” by our competitors.
We are now on the verge of launching MyOperator 2.0 as a global product and we are repeating the same process of selling before properly launching.
Things will go wrong, but what counts is how fast we can make mistakes and learn from them. In startup, speed counts more than you think.