Organic Product Adoption vs Top-Down push: A GTM story — Part 1

There are plenty of challenges surrounding innovation in large companies; Generating viable new product ideas and translating them into reality is hard. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In many cases, unless companies make fundamental changes to their org structure, change their philosophy around go-to-market approaches and incentive models, and recognize fundamental industry trends, new product launches may not be successful.


Lesley had always wanted to be the kind of super-smart, immensely productive and a OMG-she’s-SO-valuable-to-the-team product manager that is stereotypical in large and successful software companies. And, to be fair, in the last 4 years since grad school, she had been a crucial voice on all the major releases to her company’s flagship software product in the Developer Tools division, which helped thousands of other software developers in large and medium enterprises. She worked well with customers, gave speeches about her product at conferences, and even managed to keep her sales team happy with features they wanted. She knew the B2B sales model, and her product always made its way into the customer’s Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) renewal contracts. She thought of herself as a rising star, the next Marrissa Mayer even. The sky is the limit!!, she told herself. After spending a few years working on the company’s legacy products and proving herself, she was now eager to innovate and build a product using cutting edge technology.

So, she was over the moon when Paul, the VP of products and her immediate boss, called her into his office and asked her if she would be interested in leading the development of a completely new product. “We need more innovation here”, he said. “The market is moving in a new direction, and if we don’t move with it, we are going to lose all our customers. We need to come up with a product that is going to appeal to our customer base…”, he trailed off

“That’s awesome, I can do that!”, thought Lesley. “Paul, you know I have worked on major upgrades, the product now looks completely different from when I joined the team. I am now ready to work on building something from the ground-up, and I am confident I can do it.”

Paul nodded. Well-known for getting to the point quickly, he responded with an un-characteristic half-smile / half-grimace, a face that that Lesley recognized from past experience. All was not well, something was up…

“Yes, BUT, here is the gotcha Lesley. You have to make the customers adopt the new product, without relying on the enterprise sales mechanism we have in place. Today’s developers don’t want to be sold anything..they want to try it, feel it, touch it, and THEN, decide if they want to use it and / or pay for it. This is a VERY different model, more like a B2C model within enterprises, although we are a B2B company. This means that our sales people will NOT be calling on the CIO / procurement manager to sell them the product, and we cannot rely on any existing contracts or other ELA agreements. We will HAVE to reach the customer online, educate them on value of the product, allow them to try it out, and then finally sell it to them, all this, perhaps one developer at a time. Talk about a 180 degree shift in our go-to-market strategy! Frankly, Lesley, I am not sure if this model is right, if it will work, or if it even makes sense, but guess what, this is what Josh, (the GM) wants…”, said Paul

Lesley felt herself slowly coming back down to earth. While she was all for innovation, learning new technologies etc., she wasn’t expecting this curveball. She knew the existing B2B enterprise sales model, and ways to leverage it to her advantage… “ This Go-To-Market model Paul is suggesting does not make ANY sense”, she thought to herself. “Why would individual developers within an organization decide what products to buy?” She was getting slightly irritated at her customer base. “Wouldn’t their management team make these decisions for them? That is how it has been for years, what has changed now? and WHY would we not leverage the terrific sales team we already have in place? Organic acquisition of customers sounds all good, but this is also exponentially harder. True, Josh was brilliant, and I guess he is almost always right in his decisions, but he could also be a little nutty. We all put up with his eccentricities and sometimes strange ideas, and now this? How am I going to do this?” She felt annoyed at Josh, and in a weird way, almost felt betrayed by Paul as he put her in this seemingly unwinnable position.

She decided the only way to learn more was to go talk to Josh. With his experience and background, perhaps he could shed more light on this new sales channel / go-to-market approach he seemed to be advocating.

Continued in Part 2

Product Director @ Lowes. Prior similar roles at Walmart Labs, Broadcom(CA), and IBM