Manuel Medina | Crain's Portland

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Manuel Medina

Background:  

Outreach is a sales engagement platform that automates and personalizes communications for sales teams, allowing them to hit customers with the right content at the right time. Outreach is based in Seattle.

The Mistake:

Andrew Kinzer, Wesley Hather, Gordon Hempton and I – the four co-founders of Outreach – met at an accelerator called TechStars, where we started working on this concept called GroupTalent, which was a recruiting service. With our talent-matching product, we were trying to solve a marketplace problem for companies that were trying to find top engineers.

In reality, the problem had nothing to do with matching, and everything to do with value. It wasn’t a product problem – it was a marketing problem. But every month that went by, we came up with more product solutions that we thought would help solve their problems. It ultimately took us more than two years for us to realize that the problem wasn’t something we could solve with a product.

The easiest way to make money is to do what customers ask you to do.

The Lesson:

For starters: Realizing that our superpower was building and selling products, not marketing.

After those two-plus years, as a last-ditch effort, we decided to build an engine that would allow us to sell our way out. I was company’s sole sales rep, but we needed the ability to sell like a team of 10. So the engine created this workflow that allowed us to sell faster, and started generating meetings for us right away – to the point where people were more interested in how we were getting so many meetings than they were in the recruiting service, itself.

People were like “We don’t want to buy your recruiting service, we want to buy the tool that you used to get into this meeting.” And that’s when it dawned on us that we, as a team, were product people.

So we pivoted. We turned our product into this customer-facing product and sold it, and we got traction with that. That’s how Outreach was born. Had we realized where our true talents sat to begin with, I think we would have started Outreach earlier.

Another good lesson: The easiest way to make money is to do what customers ask you to do. Build what customers want. If you do that, you’re in good shape.

Follow Outreach on Twitter at: @outreach_io

Pictured: Manuel Medina | Photo courtesy of Outreach

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