Our one mistake was to underestimate the importance of go-to-market like hiring salespeople, building customer success, account management, and even simple things like investing in paid advertising. Both Sparsh (Gupta, co-founder) and I, being engineers, we’re knee-deep into building great products and thinking that the product will do everything by itself. But over time we realized that we are in the business of delivering value to humans, and the product is one way of delivering that value, but humans like to get on a phone call and talk to people; interfaces and screens can only go that far in doing that. We hired our first salesperson very reluctantly, and that is when we realized there is a ton of value we can create if we focus there.
You can’t hire salespeople because you think I have some basic stuff, let me start selling this now. You can’t sell half a car. If you are trying to build a car, don’t try to say, see, half the car is built, the other half will get built too. If you are building a cycle you can
WE ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF DELIVERING VALUE TO HUMANS, AND THE PRODUCT IS ONE WAY OF DELIVERING THAT VALUE, BUT HUMANS LIKE TO GET ON A PHONE CALL AND TALK TO PEOPLE.
– PARAS CHOPRA
do that, you can sell a two-wheel cycle. But if you are building a car, you have to in your head know what your minimum viable product is, what your product looks like. You have to solve a certain problem, and until that is achieved, don’t hire salespeople, don’t try to extract value from the customer, and all that. You will have enough time to do that once your startup survives. You will have a lot of time to do that. What you will not get is the opportunity to interact one on one with your customers, to learn from them.
That is what happens—everyone is in a rush to grow. A lot of startups do that. They are like, well, we have collected money, let’s grow, let’s hire this leader, COO, etc. I want to say, wait a while, what is the hurry. What happens is, if you are very successful and you grow rapidly, like we were growing 3x and we did not have our head of HR, we did not have ahead of marketing, we did not have ahead of sales. We had a lot of vacant C-level positions because we said if we hire someone at $1 million ARR, and if we tell them you are at C-level, their mindset is going to be very different than, say, when we are at $25 million, and that is when some C-level is thinking of the $100 million journeys. The C-level at $1 million ARR is thinking of the journey to $5 million.
Don’t be in a rush, take your time. It is all right to go slow to go fast.
Understanding the value proposition and key differentiator, and why you are winning is the key to building a core for your sales organization. A lot of times when sales do not work out we tend to think the sales leader is wrong. Most often you have got the market wrong or value proposition is not clear or some part of the product does not have a good experience. GTM needs investment. Having a proper budget outlay is equally important. Indian companies tend to underinvest in GTM.