Episode 3. Sell Your SaaS Products the Way Your Customers Want to Buy Them: Kristin Zhivago

by | Jan 24, 2019 | Podcast

How much time do you spend talking directly with your customers?

Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of American Express,  became top dog at IBM in the 1990s when the company was struggling.

He spent about 40% of his time with customers and turned the company around. 

How can you sell effectively to your customers if you don’t understand why they value your company and your products?

How can you direct product strategy if you don’t know what your customers want? 

My guest in Episode 3 advocates talking to customers often to learn how to grow your revenue. 

Sell Your SaaS Products the Way Your Customers Want to Buy Them. Episode 3.

by Kristin Zhivago | Hosted by Dave Vranicar

Show notes, highlights, and resources

About the guest

Kristin Zhivago is author of the book Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy. Forbes rated it as one of the all-time six best titles in sales and marketing.

She now runs Zhivago Partners, a  firm that provides coaching and digital marketing services to SaaS companies and clients in other industries.

For decades, Kristin Zhivago has been what she calls a “revenue coach.” Throughout her long career she has worked mainly with the tech.

She is a strong advocate of interviewing customers to learn what they want from you as a provider.

Highlights

“I am so tired of the buyer-seller gap stopping people’s revenue growth. And it’s stupid when the customer’s right there.”

———

...the problem is that vendors assume they know the questions that the customer’s asking, and they think they know what the customer needs to see.

But in my experience, interviewing literally thousands of customers over the years, what the company assumes and what the customer wants are always different in some critical way.

“And that causes what I call the gap between the buyer and seller.” 

———

...after your customers have purchased from you, they’re happy to help you. They want you to succeed because they’ve invested in you.”

———

“The enemy is you…  Actually, the enemy is us.”

Key takeaways

The SaaS industry is so competitive that customers usually have many choices other than the product your company sells. 

You can no longer count on your products features and functions to differentiate your product. A competitor will soon catch up. 

In choosing vendors of intangible products such as software, customers strongly consider the quality of their buying experience. So to differentiate your company, you can offer an unusually good buying experience.   

Customer buying behavior changes fast. 

You can’t guess how people want to buy products like yours. You can’t assume how or why customers buy your product. You must ask them. 

The best way to ask is through qualitative interviews. Surveys don’t give you the same insights. 

Interviews are not hard to do. By investing a little time and effort,  you can gain extraordinarily valuable insights. 

Links and resources

Link to Zhivago Partners: www.zhivagopartners.com  

Transcript

Introduction

Dave Vranicar:

Here’s a novel thought.

What if you sold your software the way your customers want to buy it?

What if you tailored your sales and marketing to your customers’ buying processes?

My guest today says it’s one of the best ways for all kinds of companies to increase sales.

I’m Dave Vranicar.

My guest, Kristin Zhivago, has for years been what she calls a “revenue coach” to the tech industry.

She’s also author of multiple books and founder of the marketing services company Zhivago Partners.

Kristin’s most recent book is Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy.

Published in 2011, it’s still 100% relevant today.

Forbes recently listed Roadmap to Revenue as one of the all-time top six titles on sales and marketing.

Kristin explains how a customer’s buying process varies with the amount of consideration they give their decision.

She breaks buying decisions into four of what she calls “levels of scrutiny.”

The differences among those levels are important to understand…

...because most listeners of this podcast sell to “intense” or “extreme” levels of scrutiny.

When companies evaluate intangible products like software…

...they tend to rate vendors by the quality of the buying experience they offer.

How do your customers prefer to buy your products?

And what do they value most about doing business with you?

You can’t guess.

You have to ask them.

Because their answers are not what you expect.

There are no shortcuts.

To help you talk to your customers, Kristin’s book provides a detailed, step-by-step guide for interviewing customers and distilling what they tell you. It’s almost like following a recipe.

Dave Vranicar:         

Kristin, I’m so happy to have you here today.

Kristin Zhivago:       

Nice to be here. Thank you, Dave.

The importance of understanding your customer’s buying preferences

Dave Vranicar:

Kristin, today let’s talk about customers’ buying preferences. Because that’s really the foundation of a lot of the work that you’re doingmaking sure that companies sell the way their customers want to buy.

What have you seen change in the way of buying preferences in the past few years since you’ve written your book?

And how can companies provide a good buying experience for their customers?

Kristin Zhivago:

Well, it’s actually accelerating, but it’s a trend that’s been going on for a long time.

For some years now I’ve been saying that the buying process has shifted where the salesperson has become almost irrelevant.

Not quite completely irrelevant, but almost.

Especially for the low-scrutiny and the medium-scrutiny products and services. Or products in this case.

But the customer spends a lot of time researching and trying to figure out which product is going to serve their needs best.

And a lot of people in SaaS community are saying, you know, the product should be able to sell itself. And I agree with that.

But if you do that blindly, if you don’t really understand the specifics about what people want and the questions they have as they’re buying, it won’t sell itself. It will unsell itself.

So just putting it out there and putting a demo up or trying to do a little video that shows, you know, snappy commercial doesn’t work.

So if you‘re going to have a product-led sale and your navigation sucks… Excuse my language… Then you‘re not going to make a sale.

I remember a software company that did so well with their user interface.

And the CEO told me that what he did is the developers and the customer support people and the marketing and the sales people…

Pretty much everybody in the company…

Once a week got on the phone with a customer and shared a screen.

And the customer said, “Here’s my day. Here’s what I do. I go through here. I go through there. This is what I… I wish this was a little easier to get to because kind of non-intuitive.”

Kristin Zhivago:

There’s something I call the gap between the buyer and the seller.

And when you’re a buyer, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You go to try to find a product. You can’t find the information you want. The reviews might be biased in some way, even.

Or you can’t find reviews on the product, which happens with some of the higher-scrutiny products.

That’s changing with sites like G2 Crowd and GetApp and Capterra and so on.

But it’s hard to find unbiased information.

And the problem that the vendors have is they assume that they know the questions that the customer’s asking and they think they know what the customer needs to see.

And so they give that to them.

And in my experience, interviewing literally thousands of customers over the years, what the company assumes and what the customer wants are always different in some critical way.

And that causes the gap.

And so you can do all that marketing and put all that effort into demos and everything. And you’re just…

If you’re just even slightly off, customers have the attention span of a gnat and they’re just going to click out.

Say, No, that’s not it. Can’t get my questions answered. I’ll go back to Google and see what else I can find.

Or go back to my friends and, you know, have them tell me what they think.

Even early in the buying process, they’re trying to make a decision quickly.

And in a lot of cases, especially with B2B products, they have to justify their decision to their boss.

Because the first thing their boss is going to say is, “Well, did you check this? Did you check that? What about this other thing?”

And if they don’t have answers, then their whole argument for that particular product falls apart.

And the meeting falls flat and the boss says, “Well, go back and do some more research before we decide.”

Kristin Zhivago:       

So not only do you have to sell to the original user, customer, manager, whoever’s making that core decision, but the people below him and above him who are going to be using the product or paying for the product.

And you need to provide… You need to arm that person with the right information.

And the advice from all of this is you absolutely have to know exactly what your customers are looking for and answer those questions.

And then everything else is secondary to that. If you’re doing that, you‘re going to get further than your competition.

Dave Vranicar:

Well, Kristin, you raise a really, really good point there.

Which is something that I’ve seen in enterprise sales. Again, these higher-consideration sales.

The person who often is making the initial decision…

It’s not a big decision about whether to recommend this software vendor or that software vendor over another…

The first decision they often make is it’s a scouting decision.

Someone, often somebody at a lower level in a company, is sent out to look for a short list of vendors to evaluate.

Kristin Zhivago:

That’s right.

Dave Vranicar:

So that’s the first hurdle you need to get past.

And often that person is not an expert. He or she is often a lower-level person.

And what they’re looking for is simply vendors that meet a certain set of criteria that they’ve been given.

So they have kind of a mental checklist in mind.

And one of their personal goals is not to be embarrassed by anything they recommend.

Kristin Zhivago:

Yeah. Now you’re coming back to my whiteboard theory.

I’ve done a lot of marketing and sales department turnarounds in my years as a revenue coach.

And one of the first things I noticed about corporate life is, one, I had to calm myself down by about 80%.

Because everything goes much more slowly in a corporate environment than in the entrepreneurial environment.

And two, the minute you walk into a corporation and start to work, you basically end up with this little tiny whiteboard that goes… It’s like hung on your neck around… You know, in front of you on your chest.

And every time you make a mistake, there’s a black mark on your whiteboard.

You know, everybody knows how many black marks everybody has.

And they’re not erased. No one ever forgets that you made that mistake back in, you know, 2015 or something.

And the people with too many black marks on their whiteboard are completely disregarded.

Dave Vranicar:

They lose credibility, right? But-

Kristin Zhivago:

Yeah. People just roll their eyes, “Oh, that’s Bob. He    always says that. Remember, though, that he made that mistake back in, you know, 2001.”

So the fear of corporate embarrassment is actually one of the most driving factors in all of the

Especially the high-scrutiny sales where there’s multiple people involved and…

And, you know, literally, people’s careers can be based on the decision that they make about software.

You know, there’s examples where people decide on a particular eCommerce system, for example.

And you start building the website and everything’s great.

And then you discover, three or four months in, that that particular platform, that eCommerce application, only handles a hundred variables for a product.

And your client has only five or six products, but they have 20 different sizes or 40 different sizes for each one. And so they’re over the limit.

And things like that really put a big black mark on your whiteboard.

It’s a big mistake because now you have to stop the whole thing and go back.

And you should have known, you know, hindsight, you should have known that that was going to be a problem.

Yeah. And I want to bring something up that I haven’t seen anywhere but I’m really observing lately, which is that when you’re marketing now, it used to be that as long as you took care of your customers…

And there weren’t very many companies that did that…

But let’s assume that you understood what they needed. You spent a lot of time interacting with them.

You interviewed them regularly, that kind of thing. And you learned what they needed. And you continually gave it to them.

Now, those companies are very rare. They tend not to do it. But that was enough. Now it isn’t enough.

The new competitive environment is like warfare

Now the whole competitive landscape is so intense that I honestly think that when you get into this business, you are in a war.

This is war and it takes a general-like way of thinking and that kind of toughness to succeed.

You have to be vigilantly looking around for ways to improve.

You have to be digging all the time.

The problem is the enemy is not your customer, the enemy is bad perceptions about your product.

The enemy is you, actually. The enemy is us.

Because we get immersed in our little company club. And we spend all day with our company people.

And I keep going back to Lou Gerstner, who was a customer of IBM before he became the CEO.

And I worked for IBM before, during, and after his tenure. And during his tenure, those 300,000 people working at IBM became very customer-focused.

And he literally spent 40% of his time with customers.

How many CEOs can you say spend 40% of their time with customers?

So it does work. It can happen, but the customer’s not the enemy, the enemy is us.

And then when I say that, then you have to…

And part of what I do as a revenue coach is you have to realize that the company will reflect your weaknesses.

So the things that you put off, the things that you’re not comfortable with, the things that you think you should learn more about but you’re not getting somebody to help you with, those become company flaws that make you less effective in the marketplace.

Dave Vranicar:

Kristin, could we bring that down… I mean, that’s a really good and effective insight, I think.

It’s still a little bit at a high plane. It’s a little bit abstract.

Can you think of any specific examples? Any stories you might share about organizations where you’ve seen that happen?

Kristin Zhivago:

Where I’ve seen what happen?

Dave Vranicar:

Where the CEO avoids doing things because they are things that he or she isn’t interested in or doesn’t know much about or doesn’t care to learn about.

Kristin Zhivago:

Well, I’m laughing because it’s true of every single company, including my own.

I mean, I’m watching this happen. I’ve got 25, 28 people working for me, right now.

And I’m watching myself and seeing that the things that I don’t do that well or that I’m not that comfortable with are becoming bigger problems than they would be if I was just really good at it and I could just, you know, run up every morning and say, “Oh yep. Got it, got it, got it, got it.”

So you really have to overdo. You have to over-discipline yourself, overmanage yourself.

And get help in those areas.

Find it, face it, fix it

Kristin Zhivago:

I have this mantra the last few years which is, “Find it, face it, fix it.” You have to figure out that…

And by the way, your people will not tell you, “This is a problem. ” Because you’re the boss.

So that’s where part of what I do as a revenue coach is I’m the one who speaks that truth without being worried about being fired or whatever.

I just tell CEOs the truth.

And then you have to find it and then you face it. Which is the hardest part.

You can actually identify it, but then say, “Oh, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Or, “No, I can overcome that with my personality.”

Or whatever. You think that your strengths will overcome your weaknesses, but they won’t.

They’ll just get bigger. There’ll be bigger problems. It’ll permeate the company.

But then when you fix it…

What you do is you find people who are really good at that, people you can trust, and you work with them.

And you learn from them.

You know, it comes back to the E Myth books where they talked about if you’re a baker and that’s all you do, that makes you good at baking but it doesn’t make you good at running a company.

It doesn’t make you good at accounting or at sales. So you need people to help you with that.

Now, here’s the problem. If you’re weak in that area, you won’t be that effective managing it.

People will be able to pull the wool over your eyes. People will come in… This happens in marketing all the time…

Where they say, “This is what you need to do. I’m an SEO guy, so you have to do SEO.”

Or, you know, they have some theories that you follow through with, that don’t necessarily apply to your business.

The number of questions to answer on your website

Dave Vranicar:

Now, you make the point in your book that these high-scrutiny sales typically involved many, many more questions than a low-scrutiny sale. So for example, you know, if you’re selling…

This would be a B2B sale… Let’s say you’re a Staples or Office Depot and you’re selling rubber bands and paper clips on your website.

You know, you don’t have a lot of questions to answer there.

But, of course, if you’re an enterprise SaaS software provider and you’re providing let’s say a warehouse management system that‘s going to run three or four warehouses.

Wow. You’ve got an endless number of questions to answer.

And I think in the past, organizations have tried not to answer so many questions online because they have the goal of driving the customer to talk to a sales rep.

And the sales reps endorse this because, of course, they want to talk to the customer earlier.

What are your thoughts about providing this information online versus reserving it and encouraging or trying to force, in fact, a prospect to talk to a salesperson?

Kristin Zhivago:

Well, you can’t force a prospect to talk to a salesperson anymore. It’s just not going to happen. You either give them the information…

And you can gate the information. You can have it be a downloadable white paper or something like that.

But honestly, the ones who win are the ones who answer the most questions to the customer’s satisfaction.

It’s not enough to just do a pitch, you actually have to show them.

So, you know, I keep… I watch people who insist that you see a demo, but they never show a couple of working screens.

They should at least do that. Because we all buy software based on the screen.

And we’ve all… We all run our lives on software now. The whole business world runs on software now. So-

Importance of interviewing customers

Dave Vranicar:

Kristin, let’s focus in on this topic of interviewing customers, because you’ve mentioned that a few times.

It sounds… It might sound perhaps a little off-putting or more involved than it needs to.

In your book Roadmap to Revenue, one of the things I love about that book is it’s not just a calling card for somebody who wants to sell you consulting services.

It has really practical, detailed advice, including advice on how to conduct interviews with customers.

So let’s take a few minutes and talk about that process.

In some arenas, people call this Voice of the Customer.

I’m not sure what you’re suggesting is quite that fancy, but how do companies…

How do you recommend that companies get this insight from their customers? What’s the process?

Kristin Zhivago:

So before I wrote the book, I had done this for hundreds of companies and thousands of customers.

And I worked it out.

I just kept trying to improve it because we didn’t…

No one ever has a lot of time. It shouldn’t be too complicated.

And I went through and rejected a number of ways to do research.

One of them was the survey.

The problem with the survey is you’re asking questions based on what you already know and you’re putting them in a box.

And the best example of that that I have is the gal who was calling me once on the phone. You know, just a research call.

And she said, “Okay, multiple choice. Is it A, B, C, or D?”

And my answer was, “None of the above.”

But she didn’t have a slot for that, so she said, “Oh, I’ll just say B.”

And I thought, somebody’s making decisions down the road on that…

Dave Vranicar:

Oh, great.

Kristin Zhivago:

Okay, so that’s a problem. The surveys are your questions. You’re not allowing them to enlighten you with their issues.

And by the way, I just finished what I call a reality check research for a client. And I wouldn’t say anything…

They’re pretty close to their customers.

And I wouldn’t say anything that came out of that was Earth-shattering where you just went, “Oh, Lord.”

And I have had that happen, where people are like, “Whoa, we thought this and they thought that. We’re really off target.”

That does happen. But in this case, pretty close.

However, there was a priority and a, you know, “This is what we’re focused on and this is what we really want them to do.”

This is what I normally find is that the customer has a particular focus or gating factor.

“If it doesn’t have this, I‘m not going to buy it.”

Like, for me, in two seconds, maybe less, I can say, “This note-taking program isn’t going to help me because spend too much time on this round and not enough…

I don’t have enough space for my notes.

Okay, right away, make a decision.

But people who make those note programs don’t even realize that’s the gating factor.

So you have to find the gating factor.

Kristin Zhivago:

But anyway, after all these different focus groups, I mean, everything, I found that if I just got a good list from the client…

We had to work on the list together.

You always have to get a proper mix of happy and unhappy customers and big and small and whatever your criteria is.

And they have to be people who have already purchased from you.

Because if you try to talk to people who haven’t, they don’t know your company’s weaknesses.

They don’t know how you screwed up or helped the sale.

And they’re playing poker. They’re still a potential customer.

And potential customers won’t tell you the truth. That’s just the way it is.

They will not tell you the truth. They’re negotiating.

So they have to be existing customers.

And then it’s harder than ever to get them on the phone.

People aren’t, you know, as open to that as they used to be.

But it is possible.

And the goal is to get five to seven people of a particular type.

And believe it or not, that is statistically valid information that you get from them.

Because you’ll find after even the third, fourth, or fifth in-depth… Open-ended questions.

How do you feel about us?

“If you were the CEO of our company tomorrow what’s the first thing you would fix?”

“What was your buying process?”

“What would you type into Google?”

You know, just asking them these open-ended questions, which I worked out over thousands of interviews.

And they’re all in the book.

Chapter Three is an absolute prescription. I did not hold anything back in this book. Because I want every company to do this.

And I don’t necessarily have to be hired for every company in the world to do this.

I am so tired of the buyer-seller gap stopping people’s revenue growth. And it’s stupid when the customer’s right there.

And by the way, after they’ve purchased from you, they’re happy to help you.

Because they want you to succeed because they’ve invested in you.

So it’s actually, they’re your friends.

The president of a software company got big value from loss-review interviews

Dave Vranicar:

I’ve seen that myself. Kristin, interesting…

You know, interesting example. I think I’ve shared this with you in the past.

I had a client five years or so ago.

I recommended that they conduct some interviews based on having read your book.

I thought it would be a really, really good idea.

The CEO… Or excuse me… he was the president of this company.. was a little reluctant to do it.

He wasn’t sure whom he could talk to.

Wasn’t sure how much effort it would involve or anything of the kind.

But I…

We finally agreed on interviewing customers…

Or excuse me, not customers, companies where they had chosen against this company.

So they were basically loss-review interviews.

And so, again, the president went along with this reluctantly.

I came up with a full report. I followed your prescription. Did it exactly by the book.

And about a year or so after I submitted this report, I ran into the president. Hadn’t seen him for a long time.

And he said, “Wow.”

He said, “This is the best marketing money I have ever spent.”

And I said, “Wow, I wish you had shared that with me a little bit earlier.” Because, you know, I could have used that…

But I asked him, “Why?”

And he said, Because we were going down absolutely the wrong path with our development priorities.

We didn’t realize that the reason we were losing sales was that we had these old green screens.

Even though it was the most fully featured and functioned software on the market.

And we had a million customers in their niche.

During the demo, everybody looked at this and said, ‘You know what? We don’t want to use software that looks like this.’

“And they chose a competitor often who had an inferior product.”

So that insight from this little study that I did caused the president to blow the whistle on his current development strategy and completely rearrange them.

And he was delighted.

Kristin Zhivago:

Yeah. And lost sales… You can do those as well.

I have a lot of sales consulting friends who do a lot of that lost-sales kind of research.

And I do like it. It does bring you good insights.

But it won’t tell you what the experience was for the customer after they bought from you.

Dave Vranicar:

Oh, absolutely.

Interviews can help you discover your weaknesses

Kristin Zhivago:

Which is where you can lose a lot of sales because...

I mean, you talk about these software comparison sites like G2 Crowd and GetApp and Capterra and so on.

Customers then talk to each other and say, Well, it was great. You know, we thought it was going to do this, that, and the other. But then once we…

“Anyway, I can’t get in touch with them. They keep… Their site keeps going down.”

You know, all the bad experiences that they have.

But they also know… They know your weaknesses.

And this comes back to that issue of the CEO having a cold and the whole company has pneumonia as a result, because of that one weakness.

And you just don’t know about that weakness until you start talking to your customers.

And even the ones… You know, these are people who’ve stayed with you in spite of it.

But they know it. They’re aware of it, and they will tell you about it.

You can learn why customers buy your product

So I think you can do both. And you can learn… And you can even put those two results together and say, “Wow, they didn’t buy because of this. They bought because of that, which isn’t what we thought why they were buying.”

And I have a good example of that, by the way. There was a client we worked with who was…

Made a software program for companies that had techs out in the field. So anybody who’s doing field service kind of work.

And the CEO who was a developer, brilliant guy, thought that the reason people were buying their software was because of how well elegantly they integrated with Quickbooks.

And everybody said, “Oh, yeah, yeah. Everybody integrates with Quickbooks.”

To them, that was what I call an industry baseline promise.

You know, boats are supposed to float, airplanes are supposed to be on land at the right time.

Food isn’t supposed to poison you. And all of that.

So they were just taking that for granted.

But the thing that they thought was exciting, the customer thought was exciting, was when you entered the customer information at the beginning of the relationship, that information automatically went everywhere else.

It was the directions for the text, it was the invoicing program.

All of that stuff just automatically went everywhere.

And, you know, the guys who made the program thought, “Well, of course. Well, why not?”

But that… That’s like the Holy Grail of those kind of programs.

So we ended up renaming the company. It was like Pioneer something or the other.

We changed it to FieldOne.

And they ended up selling themselves to Microsoft.

It’s just… It can make, as you’re saying here, it can make an enormous difference in your overall revenue.

So just picking away at the little things.

Like, you know, changing your logo from blue to orange isn’t going to do it.

It’s actually understanding. it has to come from the customer.

What Zhivago Partners does

Dave Vranicar:

Kristin, could you talk a little bit about what your company is doing today?

I mentioned earlier on you’re in charge of a company called Zhivago Partners.

So from listening to this, people might get the impression that you’re primarily in the business of doing interviews and qualitative market research.

I know that’s one of the things that you do, but it’s just a small facet I believe of what you’re doing today.

Kristin Zhivago:

Yeah. I was… As we know, I was a revenue coach for decades. Mostly to tech CEOs.

We started the company about a year and a half ago. In our first year we tripled our revenue and doubled our client list, number of clients.

And my goal was to set up an organization that did the best of each of the specialties.

Because digital marketing… Especially now, most marketing is digital… is a conglomeration of specialties.

And you just… I honestly don’t believe there is such a thing as a marketing generalist anymore.

Because if you‘re going to do SEO, you have to live, eat, sleep, and breathe SEO.

You have to be part of the SEO community where Google changes their algorithm, which they did recently and everything went haywire and nobody knew what was going on. They’re still trying to figure it out.

So these people…

We just keep finding the best people in those fields.

And if they’re not the best people, we keep going until we get the best people.

And the goal is results.

And it’s not as easy as it used to be.

It really isn’t. You really have to have… You have to be at the top of your game. You have to be willing to try things.

And you can’t just scattershot. You have to pick your niche.

You go into it. You do the right things within that niche.

You do interview your customers. You do know what they want.

And then you’re in the war.

And while you’re in that war state of mind, you have to be caring for your customers and caring for your workers, your employees, your managers.

And being very open about your own weaknesses and fixing them.

Kristin Zhivago:

So I set out to create a digital marketing agency that covered the bases.

So we do search engine optimization, content marketing, social.

And we’re getting more and more towards the conversion side. Working on campaigns.

Getting very intense about, you know, what they traditionally call the funnel, even though these days buyers jump around all like crazy.

But just making sure that we get to ka-ching. That’s my whole thing this year is getting to ka-ching.

For all of our clients. And being very focused about it.

And expecting from them the same kind of intensity that we’re giving to it because it does require that kind of intensity.

Our best clients are mid-sized companies. And because of my tech background, we tend to attract companies run by technical people, which is… I mean, that’s just in my ballpark.

Dave Vranicar:

Kristin, so are B2B SaaS software companies among the prospects, among the target companies that you would like to appeal to?

Kristin Zhivago:

Yeah. It’s right in our wheelhouse.

We have several already. And I’ve been in the software business…

I mean, honestly I’ve been in the tech business as long as the tech business has been on everybody’s radar.

Dave Vranicar:

Well, Kristin, I think we’re coming to the end of this. Or close to the end. Are there any parting shots or any key points that you’d like to make that maybe I have overlooked asking you about?

Kristin Zhivago:

No, I think we did a good job of covering it.

I mean, the idea that, yes, this is war. But your customer is not the enemy.   

The enemy is your own characteristics.

And the first thing you have to do to start increasing your revenue is facing that.

And then you‘re going to be open to getting help from other people who are better at that.

And understanding how your customers are going to be able to help you.

I mean, embracing outside assistance is really what this whole social thing… I mean, take it all down to the essence.

The essence of our current society is that people are willing to help.

Just look at GoFundMe and things like that.

People are willing to help if you make it easy for them to do so.

Dave Vranicar:

Well, that sounds like a nice summary and key takeaways. But if there were, you know, a couple of action items, specific action items that you could suggest, what might they be?

How to start interviewing you customers

Kristin Zhivago:

Well, first thing is start interviewing your customers. I mean, even CEOs can…

You can buy my book. It’s on Audible now. And try again, Chapter Three, is absolutely prescriptive.

You can get somebody in your company to help you set up, get the interviews or the appointments.

And start asking those very well worked out open-ended questions of your customers.

And again, you need to speak to five to seven of each type.

Like, a purchasing agent versus a user versus the manager kind of thing.

So that would be like at least 15.

By then you‘re going to see the commonalities.

They‘re going to surface. I’ve never done this where there wasn’t a common thread.

And where that common thread didn’t actually give you an enormous insight, you know, an “I could have had a V-8 moment, where you’re just like, “Oh, okay. I now understand what we’re supposed to be doing. I can ignore this. I’ll focus on this.”

And as a CEO, you then know what to do.

Once you understand the goal of the customer and what they’re looking for from you, you are already equipped to make it happen as long as you face your own weaknesses and get help.

Dave Vranicar:

I imagine you have had more than one CEO say, “Boy, I wish we had done this a lot earlier.”

Kristin Zhivago:

Yes, every single one. Honestly. Because you waste so much time and money and resources and effort and energy and morale, even, on doing things the wrong way.

And by the way, a lot of your workers know that you’re on the wrong track, but again, you’re the boss.

They‘re not going to tell you.

How to get in touch

Dave Vranicar:

Kristin, thanks again for sharing your insights with our listeners today. If any of them want to follow up with you, what do you suggest?

Kristin Zhivago:

Well, obviously, there’s our website, zhivagopartners.com. I blog-

Dave Vranicar:

And would you spell Zhivago, please?

Kristin Zhivago:

Yes. Good question. It’s Z like zebra, H-I-V as in Victor, A-G-O. So it’s zhivagopartners.com.

And we have a lot of information on there. We have some portfolio pieces…

We have pictures of our team members.

My blog articles, which I do as often as I can…

And there’s a lot of podcasts in there also as well.

And you can get to my book from that site. Or just go to Amazon and type in Roadmap to Revenue and you’ll find the book.

Dave Vranicar:

Terrific. Kristin, again, thank you so much. Have a great week.

Kristin Zhivago:

You too. Thanks.

 

>