Bringing the HEAT
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn on December 31st, 2018
The other day I was on the phone with a prospective customer for the first time. I asked him if he had ever heard of Amperity and his response was “I know what a Customer Data Platform is, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the space.” Not sure he heard me correctly, I said, “That’s great you know the space, but have you heard of Amperity?” His reply was humbling, “Of course, you’re one of the best.”
When I joined Amperity in January 2017, we had 0 customers and $0 of annually recurring revenue. And unbeknownst to me at the time, we were only on the cusp of a functioning product – much less one that could be put into the hands of a customer. When I tell people now that we work with brands like Gap, Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom and so many other household names, they inevitably ask me either how we’ve done it as a company or what’s made me successful.
As such, I started thinking about the traits that have made our organization successful and hopefully those I also personally possess. I came up with humility, empathy, analytics, transparency. That led me to the acronym H.E.A.T. which was just corny enough to work…
Keeping pace with the changing expectations of consumers and trying to capitalize on that shift, is about as complex and pervasive as a problem can be for B2C brands. The problem is organizational, technological, strategic and even philosophical.
Organizationally: We never claim to have all the answers and that mentality has earned the respect of our customers. We recognize our solution is one piece to the puzzle and we work with organizations to identify how we fit into the pieces they already have and how to find the ones we don’t solve.
Personally: To sell technology you need to really understand it and that’s incredibly difficult. It’s not something that comes easily to me so I spend a lot of time asking questions. I don’t like to pretend I know something I don’t. Being effective in selling a foundational technology across a host of stakeholders, necessitates selling as a team. It means bringing in the right players for the right situation and not caring who presents, who sends the email, or even who negotiates the final detail – it’s about having the right teammate deliver that message in the right way. Our team closed a particularly strategic deal last week which was the culmination of the efforts of about 20 world-class individuals, each of whom provided meaningful contributions to progress the sales cycle.
It turns out that the people we’re selling to are people. They have rational (and irrational) fears and aspirations like everyone else and being able to understand their point of view is instrumental in closing business. While you hope everyone buys your product for capabilities alone – it’s likely not enough, especially in a landscape where every vendor claims to have every capability.
Organizationally: Our technology does not replace jobs but that does not stop IT or Analytics employees from having that fear. Rather, Amperity augments a portion of the work that people are doing so they can focus on higher level activities. Why spend 80% of your time connecting customer records into profiles when you can spend that time thinking about how to better engage your customers? Our biggest and most vocal champions are often those that were most skeptical at first. To overcome the fear, we often have conversations with them about what Amperity means to their job and how they can leverage Amperity to actually grow their careers.
Personally: I see my job as figuring out what people are buying and helping them understand why Amperity helps them achieve that goal. Are you buying a vision? … a team? … a capability? …a solution to a specific use case?… thought leadership?… an organizational catalyst? Etc.. Amperity can legitimately be any of those things and for each sale it’s about recognizing what’s important not only to the organization but to the people writing the checks and using the tool.
In a data-driven world, it should be no surprise our champions are the people that know to access & analyze data is the only way to derive strategic insights and deliver truly unique customer experiences.
Organizationally: Our product speaks to the data-driven marketer, to the technologist who is tired of silos and the data scientist who just wants clean data for modeling. These people demand evidence our technology works so we prove time and again, quantitatively, that Amperity leads to more complete, accurate, and timely customer profiles.
Personally: My success has come from being able to dig into an organization’s business, understand what drives revenue for them and map that back to our capabilities. At the end of the day, organizations need to know you can replace enough costs or drive enough revenue to justify the spend. If you can not only fill out the spreadsheet but also convey what the numbers mean, you can stand shoulders above your competitors.
Companies are tired of buying roadmaps. They’ve been burned too many times. Yes, companies care what you’re working on, but if your current capabilities cannot deliver meaningful business value today, they’ll tell you to come back in 6 – 12 months, and, in the meantime, they’ll sign with the best available product in the market today.
Organizationally: Our CEO, Kabir Shahani, loves the phrase, “We only sell what’s on the truck.” We believe we’ve solved the hard version of the problem to unify customer data and, as such, have only recently begun putting capabilities directly in the hands of our customers. Many solutions like to release skin-deep UI functionality while glossing over the foundational tech. Seeing as we serve as the foundation of our clients’ customer data strategies, we didn’t think it appropriate to paint the house until we knew it could stand up.
Personally: I’ve been in meetings where my prospective customer explains back to me a capability they think we have which differs from my explanation. They do this because they have a problem they’re dying to solve and allow their desire to color what I’m actually saying. While it would be easier to sell them Amperity based on their misguided interpretations of our capabilities, it would obviously hurt everyone in the end. Rather, I stop the meeting and make sure it’s abundantly clear what capabilities we do and do not have. Admittedly, it helps that I’m immensely confident in our actual capabilities.
The last element to the success of Amperity and my role in sales has been passion. As such, the acronym “HEAT” again works well. The ups and downs in the startup world are magnified compared to corporate life, and I’ve found the only people who are crazy enough to believe it’s a rational career choice have an immense passion for doing things differently.
The last two years have been fun, challenging, and inspirational. Thank you to my customers and teammates who have made it all possible. Here’s to closing out 2018 with a bang and to bringing the HEAT in 2019!