Mistakes I’ve made as a technical founder
#1 The “one more feature / bug fix” mentality
Sometimes when my product isn’t launched yet, I ask myself why. I kick back and say to myself that the product isn’t ready, it has too many bugs, or that it doesn’t have this one core feature. That’s how I know I’m probably in the “one more feature” denial state. As technical people, I think we have a tendency to want things to be as perfect as possible and end up delaying for as long as possible.
Selling things can be scary and having people use your products that you know is broken is even scarier. We’re builders and building things is fun and safe, so we often times I find ways to really convince myself that all it takes is just “one more feature”.
#2 We’re quick to think that our problems are rooted in a technical flaw rather than non-technical one
Everyone has a bias and when trying to tackle a problem, rather than thinking from first principles we often draw from heuristics. Since my past experiences have been predominantly technical, I naturally have a tendency to want to solve my issues in a technical way.
“Why aren’t we growing fast enough?”
– “Well, we don’t have features x y and z” rather than “We aren’t marketing it well enough”
“Why are people leaving our site?”
– “It’s buggy and hard to use” rather than “The experience is lackluster and is confusing to use”
“Why do people use our competitor rather than us?”
– “They’re well funded and offer these features where we don’t have!” rather than “We just suck at selling”
This leads back to point #1 where I might just keep on recursively building and building and building.
#2.1 Build it and they will come
This sort of relates to points #1 and #2. As a technical person, I’ll admit that I’ve neglected and failed to acknowledge the importance of sales and marketing early in my career. Because of my “one more feature” mindset, I get into the mental state that somehow, once this feature is done and the product is perfect, we’ll launch it and everything will be fantastic and everyone will want to use it.
Obviously, this has never worked out for me.
#3 We’re quick to pitch features rather than solutions
Technical founders with no previous sales experience often make pretty poor sales people. It makes sense because as a builder, sometimes I can be more focused on the micro rather than the macro. I’ll talk about things that personally excite me and don’t realize when other people just don’t care.
I’m sure we’ve all been there before. You spent a week working on this feature and you’re super proud of it. UI / UX wise, it might not be the most impressive thing to show, but holy crap, look at how fast it is!
I think often times, it becomes a huge problem when technical founders take this mindset into selling their product. They sell the components and features of the product rather than the solution: “Look at how pointy this spear is!! It’s proven to be 2x more sharp than a regular spear! The stick of the spear is made from a special wood that makes it so you’re a lot less likely to get splinters!”
Rather than, “When Mongolians are barging into your front door, this spear will offer you the best chance at saving your life”.
You have to know what problems your users has and pitch directly to that solution. I’ll write a blog post on selling as a technical founder later.
#4 We have lower pain tolerance and quick to beat ourselves up
One thing I realized about myself before I started getting more into sales is that I have a lower pain tolerance than my sales person counterparts. Whereas sales people will often hear “No” or even “No, this product sucks” several times a day, if we’re technical, particularly if we’re sheltered, we might only get to hear it once every couple weeks or once a month. When we DO hear it, it feels terrible. We start questioning our competency, we beat ourselves up, and its a huge hit on our morale.
Part of the lesson on becoming a good sales person is having a short term memory and realizing that negatives comments about the product does not reflect on your competency.