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4 Questions to Create a Competitive Advantage

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About This Episode

As business leaders, we can sometimes hear the term “go-to-market” and immediately think “marketing.” But that is only part of the equation and Sangram Vajre is here to tell us why.

 

In this episode, we are joined for a second time by Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist of Terminus. He offers his unique take on go-to-market strategies (aka, bringing new products and new business to the market). He will tell us about his four questions that help launch products, create ideal customers, and gain a competitive advantage. 

 

He’ll explain the basics of a go-to-market strategy and how leaders can effectively begin using it to take their organization to the next level.

1. There’s a new role emerging in corporations.

It’s called the Head of Revenue Operations. This is a person that reports directly to the CEO or CFO and is constantly helping them know where to invest their next dollars.

2. You have to be on the same page as your team or your go-to-market is broken.

Think about where you are, and without pushing, ask your team to go through one of Sangram’s assessments to determine where they think you are. If you can get the executive team to sit at a table and agree on what stage of business you’re at, then you can move on to the next stage.

3. The executive team is always responsible for the go-to market-strategy.

It’s not the marketers or the sales team – it should fall to those at the top to set the vision and work through the various stages of the business.

 

How would you describe your company’s go-to-market strategy?
Who (or what teams) are currently involved in your go-to-market strategy? Who might need to be involved who isn’t?
What might you need to adjust to create a more effective go-to-market strategy? 

Being intentional is way more important than being brilliant.

Sangram Vajre

You have to know what stage your business is in before you can successfully go-to market.

Sangram Vajre

If you and your team are not on the same page, your strategy is broken, and that's a bigger problem for you.

Sangram Vajre

The more intentional you are now, the better it gets!

Sangram Vajre

(02:42) Sangram talks about the advice he would give to his younger self. 

(04:38) What is a go-to-market strategy? 

(07:30) What’s the difference between go-to market and traditional marketing?

(11:36) How do audiences respond when you to talk about go-to market and the book?

(13:27) What is the 3-piece framework Sangram uses?

(16:52) What are the 4 questions?

(19:22) What is one small next step that a small-business owner could take in learning how this is applicable to them?

(22:37) This week’s download: Go to themovebook.com and access all types of resources from Sangram’s book.

Sangram Vajre:

Before Uber got built, somebody had an idea for BELAY. Before BELAY got built, but there are only a few people who actually take the stand and become intentional about it so much that they take action. So as a younger self, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to try this, and this, and this and this,” and I wish I just would have been more intentional early on. The more I am now, the better it gets.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to One Next Step, the most practical business podcast in the world, helping you get more done, grow your business, and lead your team with confidence with tips and tools you didn’t get in business school. Here are your hosts, Tricia Sciortino and Lisa Zeeveld.

Amy Appleton:

Welcome to the One Next Step. I’m Amy Appleton, Director of Marketing at BELAY. Tricia and LZ have the week off, and I’m excited to jump into the host seat and talk about a topic that’s incredibly important to every leader, what questions should we be asking to grow our organization?

Amy Appleton:

Today, we’re joined by our good friend, Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist of Terminus, a leader in account-based marketing. Sangram is an international speaker and host of the top 50 business podcast, FlipMyFunnel. If you’ve listened to our podcast since the beginning, you might remember him from one of our earlier episodes last year.

Amy Appleton:

So here’s a chance where he’s going to talk to us about go-to-market strategies, which is about navigating the unique challenges of launching new products and services. And he’s going to share four questions that can help improve how you launch new products, reach ideal customers, and create a competitive advantage.

Amy Appleton:

Sangram has a very unique view on this that every leader and marketer needs to hear. So with that, let’s get started with Sangram Vajre.

Amy Appleton:

Welcome back. It’s good to see you.

Sangram Vajre:

Yeah, thank you for having me. And I’m so excited to share about this because quite frankly this is my personal journey of navigating through when I was at Pardot, going through the acquisition of that, staying at Salesforce for a couple of years, and seeing how a big company like that goes through it.

Sangram Vajre:

Since then, starting Terminus, which is now about 50 million revenue and going through that again. In the process, I feel like I’ve seen the zero to 100 million a number of times now and I’ve recognized that it is not an easy path and it is a path that requires a lot of tenacity and learning. So I’m hoping this book can help people navigate where and how to go.

Amy Appleton:

I have read it and I can guarantee you that the framework, everybody likes a nice framework. It was very, very helpful, even for our own organization. But before we jump into all of the four questions and all of the goodness, I do want to start with just a fun question, a softball question.

Sangram Vajre:

Sure thing.

Amy Appleton:

So if you could give yourself, your younger self, one piece of advice, what would it be?

Sangram Vajre:

That’s a good one. I have been saying this now a lot to myself and to people that I mentor and the founders that I consult with and even the boards that I’m on right now is this idea of just being intentional as opposed to being brilliant. And there’s a nuance to that. And what I’m realizing more now is that being intentional is way more important than being brilliant.

Sangram Vajre:

And the reason is, we walk in, we think we are the brilliant, we are the smart one, and we always want our ideas to thrive and go. And the reality is that no matter how many amazing, brilliant, somebody I’m sure had an idea for Uber before Uber got built, somebody had an idea for BELAY before BELAY got built, but there are only a few people who actually take the stand and become intentional about it so much that they take action. And only those things that you’re intentional about in life actually have meaning and of value that is created as a result of it. So as a younger self, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to try this and this and this and this.” And I wish I just would have been more intentional early on. The more I am now, the better it gets.

Amy Appleton:

So it’s the focus, is what I hear you saying?

Sangram Vajre:

Yeah, the focus, yeah, the focus, finding your lane of genius, whatever that is. Everyone has that. And if you don’t know, ask your spouse. If you’re married, she will or he will tell you. If you’re not married, ask the four friends that are around you. They will tell you, “You suck at that and you’re good at that.” And I think that’s how you find it.

Amy Appleton:

No, that is a great piece of advice for all of us, I think, regardless of age.

Sangram Vajre:

Yep.

Amy Appleton:

So thank you for sharing that. I do want to jump in, like I said, this book was great, so I do want to jump into it. So the book again is called MOVE: The 4-question Go-to-Market Framework. So for our listeners who might actually not be familiar with what go-to-market strategy is, can you give an explanation of that?

Sangram Vajre:

Oh, sure thing. Quite frankly, I thought I understood go-to-market, Amy, because I’ve been part of, as I said, Pardot, and through the acquisition of Salesforce, and building a company called Terminus and others, but I was wrong. In this process in the last two years, the research that has gone into book has been incredible. As you have seen on the book and the quotes from the people, we have interviewed and spent time with Geoffrey Moore who wrote Crossing the Chasm, which is a classic in the marketing and company CEO space.

Sangram Vajre:

We have talked to Brian Halligan, who was the CEO of HubSpot. Recently became the chairman. Scott Dorsey, who sold his ExactTarget company for 2.5 billion to Salesforce, to tons of VCs like Mark Roberge, who’s now a Harvard Business School professor, and Kelly Ford who had 200 plus companies that they have exited.

Sangram Vajre:

So, these are some of the very few people that we have talked to in this conversation. And what’s interesting is, the research showed, and people can go and do a research on this today. You can go and look for SaaS value of depth, just type in SaaS value of depth. And what you would find is that right after a company hits about 10 million in revenue, Amy, you would think that, well by 10 million, you kind of are good, right? That’s a good number.

Sangram Vajre:

Right after 10 million, what’s found in the research by McKenzie and all these other SaaSters and others is that after 10 million, you enter what is called as the value of death. Meaning very few companies actually get from 10 million to 50 million. As a matter of fact, the number is like 0.04%.

Amy Appleton:

Wow. That is, yeah. I’m actually shocked it’s that small.

Sangram Vajre:

Yeah, it is that small. And the McKenzie study specifically alluded to that it’s not that your vision all of a sudden became outdated and you need a new vision, it’s typically not. The vision continues to be good and true. It’s not that you can’t hire great people. Like companies if all you want to hire different people of different skill set, but it’s not like you stop hiring great people if you don’t know how to do that, it’s because your go-to-market hasn’t evolved. Your product evolves, everything evolves, but you go-to-market, for some reason, companies don’t evolve that because they don’t think about that as a thing that they need to almost look at it like a product in and itself and it weighed on it over and over again. So, this book is really recognizing how important go-to-market is. So the number one reason why companies fail is because their go-to-market is not evolving and that’s really why we wrote this book.

Amy Appleton:

What’s the difference between go-to-market and what we would consider just traditional marketing. “Hey, marketing, there’s a new product, go do your thing and let’s grow this company some more.” Like what’s the difference there between the go-to-market and traditional marketing?

Sangram Vajre:

Oh, my God. I’m so, so glad you asked that question, Amy, because I’m a marketer by trade, so I always thought it is about marketing and it is because it has go-to-market. And typically we use that phrase, as you said, when we are launching a new product, or we are having a new sales promo, or we are launching or creating a new market somewhere and opening an office. And that’s really when you think about go-to-market, but what I’ve found and in this research is that that’s just not true. That is a small slice of what go-to-market is.

Sangram Vajre:

So for example, when I was talking to Scott Dorsey as part of the research, he’s like, “What kept you up at night when you were going through the building of this multi-billion dollar company?” And he said, “What kept me up at night was this challenge of how do we expand our business? Do I go ahead and create a partner program and approve that like some of the folks in the company are saying, or do we actually hire more sales people because that’s what my Head of Sales is saying, or my marketing team is wanting to build a bigger brand and do a bigger customer event, so where should I invest my time? Where should I invest my time and money?” And what I found, Amy, in the research is that first of all, the biggest aha moment was who owns go-to-market? And every CEO I talked to said they own it. They own it. It’s not marketing, it’s not sales, it’s not customers, because it’s literally saying they own it.

Sangram Vajre:

And like again, in the conversation like Brian Halligan, he is like, you’re a public company CEO. You have a hundred thousand plus customers. If you’re saying that the buck stops at you, I get it from that perspective as a CEO, but you’re saying you own it? Amy, hear his response. His response was, “The only three things I focus on, I own. One is the vision for the company. I have to constantly iterate where we are going, where we are going, and think about it to the investors, the customers, to the employees. I got to be the most passionate person out there. Number two, culture. If we can’t have a great culture, we will never hire great people and that’s just not going to help anybody. And number three, the unsexy part of the business is go-to-market.”

Sangram Vajre:

He says, “Who else can make decisions of opening a new market versus acquiring a company versus partnering in an ecosystem versus creating an OEM model? Nobody in the company.” So really I think the sneak peek into that is the ownership was, I thought, for sure, as you said, a CMO might be the one owning it, but that’s like a sliver of it. It’s not even, because the CEO is actually who owns it, which makes it even bigger reason why this is such an important topic.

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Speaker 5:

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Amy Appleton:

As you have shared that message about the book, do you get this look of shock and awe from the audiences?

Sangram Vajre:

All the time. Now I literally walked in, that’s why I’m wearing a shirt right now. I don’t know if it’s a video. I don’t know if people can see this or not, but I just came back from TechVillage with a ton of founders and sharing the book and the stories with all these CEOs and founders, and I’m telling you over and over again, people are always like wondering, oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It’s like that aha moment. It’s almost you could see people’s wheels are turning and thinking about like, oh, you know, you’re right. The CMO might… For example, the worst question ever created in the history for a CEO is to ask the marketing team, “Hey, if I give you a dollar more, what would you do?” Well, guess what? The marketing team is going to say, “Well, I’m going to create more content or I’m going to add a designer or I’m going to run more ads,” something like that.

Sangram Vajre:

If you ask the same exact question to a sales leader, they’re going to say, “Oh, I’m going to hire a salesperson. I’m going to change the comp plan or whatever.” Product person, product features, engineer. But if you actually are thinking about where do you spend the money, these are silos out there at the end of the day. It is not something that they could. So in the book we talk about a new role that has emerged and I’m sure you’ve heard about it and maybe seen in BELAY and other organizations, it’s called the Head of Revenue Operations.

Amy Appleton:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.

Sangram Vajre:

A person who reports pretty much directly into the CEO or the CFO and helping them figure out where should you invest the next dollar? So there’s a lot of new learnings, but there’s a lot of like, “Oh my gosh. Yeah, the CEO owns it because they’re the only one who can make those decisions.”

Amy Appleton:

It makes perfect sense when you read the book and the framework there, so which really wants me to just kind of tee up because what are the four questions?

Sangram Vajre:

Well, before the four questions, I think in the book you probably saw, there was another framework, so it’s the bonus framework, like two frameworks for people to go through. And I want to share real quickly about that before we go to the four questions.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah, absolutely.

Sangram Vajre:

And the reason I want to share that, Amy, is because what I’ve realized, we almost wrote almost 85, 90% of the book without what I’m about to share, the other framework, the three-piece framework. And when we went through this framework of move and everything, we realized and we were re-sharing this with all these CEOs, they’re like, “This is awesome. This is going to help me work with my team. But I, as a CEO, need to know what stage of the business I’m in and be able to articulate that.” And that led to the genesis of these three-piece framework. So we literally re-organized the book and started with it.

Amy Appleton:

Oh, you did?

Sangram Vajre:

Yeah. It was so crazy amount. We were like, “We are ready. We are ready.” And we had to like go ahead and reimagine this, but it was very important because your CEO of your organization is going to need the answer to this question. And it would have been just an operating manual for the direct team, but it also needed it for the CEO. So the three Ps real quick are problem market fit, product market fit, and platform market fit. Those are three.

Sangram Vajre:

Problem market fit, meaning you’re trying to figure out my problem, is the problem big enough and is the market ready to pay problem market fit? Product market fit means you are scaling your business and moving it forward. You know a repeatable, scalable segment that you can go into. It makes sense for you. You can over and over do it again. You’re good at it. And then platform market fit is when the market pushes you into a platform, meaning the customers start expecting more from you. So you have to design and create more services or new products or new offerings for it. All of a sudden the market has new competitors, so you need to differentiate even further. So you need to create and move from a single product solution to a platform solution, which has multiple products. And hopefully the market will expand too because now you can tailor to multiple personas. So your market in a platform market fit would expand.

Sangram Vajre:

And the classic example is HubSpot, like they started with marketing and SMB and they launched into marketing automation, made that as their product market fit. And then platform market fit right now, they serve to marketers, sales people, like all the flywheel they talk about, customer success included, but you can think of it from a B2C example, think about maybe morning brew or skin. If anybody is getting those emails, they started with focusing on one newsletter for one type of persona, which was millennials. And they nailed that product market fit, and now they have multiple newsletters for multiple different types of retail newsletter, marketing newsletter, because they earned the right to become a platform.

Sangram Vajre:

Even, since we are on a podcast, think about Joe Rogan. He started with a podcast answering questions on Twitter, nailed it, became the top podcaster in the world, and using, again, a product market fit, just one product, nailed podcasting, and now he has a hundred million dollar deal with Spotify to do it as a platform now. So the three Ps are so important for you to recognize what stage of the business you are in. And what’s beautiful about the questions I’m about to share on the MOVE, the four questions is that the questions remain the same, but the answers will change based on the stage of the business you are in.

Amy Appleton:

Well, we’re all bated breath probably to get the four questions. Yeah, but I would agree that you definitely, if you go through whatever phase that that is in, then when you look at those four questions, I think reading the book, it made then perfect sense why you need to identify where you are in that in order to answer the questions correctly.

Sangram Vajre:

Right.

Amy Appleton:

So why don’t you share what the four questions are?

Sangram Vajre:

All right. Absolutely. So we started with 50 questions when we initially started the research.

Amy Appleton:

I’m glad there’s not 50 questions.

Sangram Vajre:

I am too, Amy. I’m too. We’re glad we were able to get it down to four, and that’s where the MOVE acronym comes from. It is market, operations, velocity, and expansions. So, market being, who should you market to? Operations being, what do you need to operate effectively? That’s where revenue operations really comes in place. Velocity is like how can we scale our business? How fast can we grow? That’s the velocity question every business leader typically asks. And the expansion question, which is what Scott Dorsey was asking or sharing earlier, which is where can we grow the most? Is it going to be in regional? Is it going to be in a new market? Is it going to be a new agency model to supplement with it? Is it going to be a new acquisition? Like where are we going to grow most?

Sangram Vajre:

So those are the four questions. And as I said, what’s interesting is, I’m so grateful that the questions didn’t change when the answers would change. So the book really says, if you’re a problem market fit company, the questions will still be the same. But in the problem market fit, as an example, you might be only thinking about TAM, your total addressable market in that stage as part of your market, but as you move into your product market fit, now you’re looking at segments, a specific segment that you can repeat and scale. And then as you move into platform market fit, now it might become customer cohorts because your customers, you have so many customers now that you’re now looking at within your customer base, which are our best customers and go and focus on that. So the questions remain the same, but the answers do change.

Amy Appleton:

Like I said, that was probably the biggest aha reading the book that it was like they were not going to change regardless of where you were in each one of those stages. So for the person who, they’re small business owner, and they’re just starting out, and they’re like, “This is great.” Like what would be the first step or the one next step that they would take in order to just kind of think through how this is applicable to them?

Sangram Vajre:

Well, I’ll tell you what happened just last week, Amy. We were having this conversation, me and my co-author, we were having this conversation with a bunch of portfolio CEOs of early stage companies, small business companies. And what was interesting is like half of them, almost half of them, I would say, were saying that, “Well, we think we are in a problem market fit,” when we ask the question, “What stage of the business you think you are?” And when we ask like, “Well, okay, you think you’re a product market fit, what do you think your team will say?” And some of them immediately, “Well, I think they probably think we are in problem market fit.” I’m like, wait, wait, wait, that’s the problem. If you and your team are not on the same page, your go-to-market is broken and that’s a bigger problem for you.

Sangram Vajre:

So what I would say is the next step for everybody is to like, one, in their own self assessment, think about where you are. And then without pushing it, ask your executive team to sit down and say, “All right, let’s just go through the assessment of our own thing.” And on themovebook.com, we have a lot of scorecards and templates that people can download, so just go to themovebook.com and you’ll see it. But you could literally, if you can get your executive team to sit around the table and ask these questions and say, “What stage of the business are we right now?” And if you can get alignment on it, you are actually a business that can transform to the next stage. But if you can’t get alignment at that, you got problems that you need to face and focus on and address right now.

Amy Appleton:

That is fantastic. That’s fantastic piece of advice there. And actually, I think we will stop at that wonderful One Next Step piece of advice. But if you wouldn’t mind to stick around, I do have a bonus question.

Sangram Vajre:

Sure thing.

Amy Appleton:

That I would like to ask you. Okay. fantastic. Well, the conversation has been so good so far. It’s filled with a lot of great information, so I’m excited for Sangram to come back and do one more question. So you won’t want to miss it. And then to hear the clip for this, subscribe to our email list, and we’ll send you a link to our bonus content, or visit onenextsteppodcast.com, where you can find a link in our show notes.

Amy Appleton:

That was such a great conversation with Sangram today. And I think for me, the biggest takeaway from our conversation was actually who needs to be involved in the go-to-market strategy. He kind of debunked the myth that it might sit in whether sales or marketing, but actually that it sits with the executive team, and the CEO, sales, marketing, and client success, all needed to be involved. I think that was the absolute biggest takeaway for me today from talking about the book, MOVE: The 4-question Go-to-Market Framework. And as always, we have a download for you so you can take your One Next Step. This week’s download is to go to the website that Sangram mentioned, themovebook.com, that’s themovebook.com where you can access all sorts of resources for the framework, the questions, and other assets from the book. So thank you for joining us. Until next time, lead wisely and lead well.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Next week on the podcast, we’re looking back at some of our most downloaded episodes of 2021. You’ll hear from Ian Morgan Cron, bestselling author of the popular Enneagram book, The Road Back to You, Krisha Buehler, BELAY’s VP of Human Resources, our fabulous executive assistants, Kate Sawtelle and Melissa Lawrence. And of course, as always Tricia and I will chime in with our thoughts as well! Here’s a snippet of what you’ll hear.

Tricia Sciortino :

First I will go down by saying I am a control freak, so this is a good lesson for everybody. Because I do not like giving up control. However, if I am going to be a healthy and thriving leader, I must. So all of you out there listening who think you cannot do this, you can, I promise. If I can do it, you can do it.

Speaker 2:

Thanks for listening to One Next Step. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or follow us on Spotify, then join us next time for more practical business tips and tools to help you get more done, grow your business, and lead your team with confidence. For more episodes, show notes, and helpful resources, visit onenextsteppodcast.com.

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