Andreessen Horowitz’s Mark Cranney: Key Advice for Sales and Product Teams

Sales, Videos, Product Management, PM Confessions

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In our final interview with Mark Cranney, he talks to Wizeline’s Matt Pasienski about working with the sales teams of Andreessen Horowitz portfolio companies and where he sees the future of enterprise sales going.

With enterprise software sales experience at companies like Hewlett-Packard, Opsware, and Parametric Technology Corporation, Mark Cranney is a seasoned executive with valuable advice for tech professionals, including:

  • “The best place to sell something is where you’ve already sold”
  • Product managers should always be getting requirements from the field - whether that means engaging with the sales team or talking directly to customers
  • Why it’s important to introduce products to the right companies in the right verticals
  • How to identify the leaders versus the laggers in adopting new technology or products
  • The times when “we didn’t have the best product; we had the best sales force” and how a company’s go to market model is an opportunity to differentiate

Missed Parts 1 and 2? Catch up below:

Part 1: Mark Cranney of Andreessen Horowitz: 4 Ways to Create Value as a Sales Leader
Part 2: Mark Cranney of Andreessen Horowitz: Enterprise Sales Tips for Startups

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Full transcript:

Matt Pasienski: Other ones, and if you sell those that's six times more revenue.

Mark Cranney: You know where the best place to sell something is?

Matt Pasienski: Where you've already sold.

Mark Cranney: Where you've already sold something. You know the people, you know the process, you've got relationships. As a startup when you're landing your first ten to a hundred customers that's not as obvious.

Matt Pasienski: It seems so obvious if you're a product manager, but you should be getting requests and requirements from the field. It isn't the product manager who comes up with the requirements. It's the product manager going to the customer, getting on site, learning about the other parts of the existing customer business, and finding those requirements with the sales team who's going to understand.

Mark Cranney: Yeah, then it's a rationalization and priority type issue. You also need to weave in the strategic piece and vision. I mean it's going out and building a bunch of requirements for a particular customer that we know are not going to be able to do … horizontally throughout all the other customers. I mean it might help us get that one deal. I mean being mature and rational about that as the sales leader, and understanding that we as a sales team may need to overcome with some help for marketing. Look, the reason we're not building these is because we're taking it to a different place that those aren't going to be required, and if your sales team ... I mean sometimes the sales team wants to go the easiest, the path of least resistance.

Matt Pasienski: Sometimes in can be one company where really what your business needs is to sell to 50 or 100 different-.

Mark Cranney: We might need it, we might be spending time at the wrong company. Another thing that I focus on when I was an operator, and really helped, and one of the things my group does here at the firm is kind of help our portfolio companies get to the right companies inside the right verticals, because there's different levels of adoption. There are different adoption curves based on companies. Based on what your value proposition is, it could be a completely different adoption curve.

Take for example if I'm selling the next big, the next-gen virtualization technology, and I want to focus on the financial services vertical, where do I go? I mean I would probably go to a Goldman or a JPMC. They'd probably try to build certain things to take costs out and improve efficiency. If I've got some gee whiz new Spark type functionality in the big data world, I don't know if I'm going to go there. I might go kind of where I wouldn't go with virtualization. I might go to State Farm for a big data type. Understanding what the financial rewards, or the ROI is for these different companies inside the different verticals, and then who are the leaders from a technology adoption standpoint are versus the …? That's an art and a science that really needs to be paid attention to, from not only a sales standpoint, but product management and product marketing need to spend a lot of time on it too.

Matt Pasienski: That's probably another thing that an experienced sales leader whose been in those industries before is going to realize that a State Farm is probably your best play, even though at first glance the big banks stand out.

Mark Cranney: If you start with kind of more a junior type sales leader, it might be you might have more mature product folks or marketing that help do the segmentation and then define what the targets are for the accounts based on adoption curve, and what might fit us now, but also having that longer term vision of where the product's going.

Matt Pasienski: To finish up, and this has been a lot of great stories, but where do you see enterprise sales going in the next ten years? Because there's so much more information available. People have kind of gotten the feel that maybe we don't need it. Like you said they think about it as: I'm just telling you what the product does. Is enterprise sales becoming a bigger part of selling, or is it in spaces? How is it changing?

Mark Cranney: I think it's an exciting time to be in it. The kids I work with out of college, kind of guide them into the Valley and into similar companies. The products are just so much better now, right? I think where you're going because all the products are great, we're doing this freemium to premium type model, but the velocity of change in enterprises or in the technology market, because of mobile and social and cloud, I mean it's going extremely fast. It's actually I think, it's more important, and you have an opportunity to really differentiate your company based on your go-to-market model, and how crisp, how disciplined, how much time, effort, and money you're putting into your go-to-market sales marketing, product management, all that. That is the potential to really dominate. Look, I've been in several situations where I didn't have the best product. We had the best sales force.

I don't think that that's changed at all from now. Beingt first to market doesn't mean you're going to win it. Just because you have the best product, if you don't make that investment, hey you might land, but if you come in at a different level. I mean case in point, the last company I was with, at Opsware in a lot of cases we couldn't ... Early on at Opsware we couldn't win the users.

Matt Pasienski: …

Mark Cranney: No, we couldn't win the users. The startup competitor we had was ahead of us by several years, and they had a lot more boots on the ground. We didn't have any. Less than a handful and they had 20, 30 sales teams out there plus we had the big competitors to compete with, but what we had, we had one big customer that'd deploy the solution at scale that was exponentially bigger than the competitor. The competitor was getting these department deals landing, but they're going to the next one before they were expanding. With the solution I had I could go top down with an architecture story, and a scale story, and a roadmap for filling out all the user features. There's strategic opportunities depending on the situation you are. Top down, bottom up, some kind of hybrid.

For a CEO and a board to understand that your sales force can be one of your biggest differentiators, if not your biggest differentiator, and it's not always completely about the product, because again, these different levels have different sets of buying criteria. Winning at one level doesn't mean you're going to get the deal, or you're going to be able to get the whole account. I used to tell my guys, I said, "Look, it's great we can go win the CXO, but we've got to win the mid-level on scalability and architecture, and stuff like that. We got the CEO or CIOs type office because we're going to have a bigger ROI. If I win those two groups I've got a two-thirds chance of winning it. If I win all three groups we're going to win." Understanding all the different competitive nuances at these different levels is just crucial.

Matt Pasienski: There's no way you're ever going to know what it's going to take at those three different levels in that company at that time, unless you have someone sitting down with them.

Mark Cranney: No, you've got to be walking the halls. It's 90% discovery and asking questions, and then coming back with what your value proposition is. You've got a whole technical validation event process that typically is required before you can go enterprise-wide.

Matt Pasienski: POCs, and ...

Mark Cranney: POCs, and we used to call them proof of values, because we do the technical validation event at the same time we're doing the ROI diagnostic, and that answers why you over the competition, but it also is going to answer that last question the buyer has: why you or why now? Why now versus other things we could be putting all our resources as a company on? That is the big value of the sales force.

Matt Pasienski: For the companies that need to scale, that have investment and expectations around scaling, the why now, if you don't hit that, I mean you don't have someone in there driving that deal to get done this quarter, you're not going to-

Mark Cranney: That's where ROI comes in. Really understanding, and pulling product management and the product folks in and understanding why this is important from a financial standpoint over and above the technical, whether scale, or whether it's feature function, is something that to be frank it's missing in a lot of even mature sales organizations. I mean too many times they're too focused on the product, or too focused on kind of the high level marketing messaging.

Matt Pasienski: That's fantastic, Mark. The message is clear. If you're not listening to your sales team, if you don't have a sales team, if that sales team is not on the ground, you don't know what's going on. Thanks a lot. Appreciate your time.

Jen Chien Posted by Jen Chien on Tuesday, October 6, 2015.

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Apr 28, 2017

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