Today, I had the opportunity to hear an excellent talk on Product Management from Tien Tzuo. Tien was one of the “original forces” at salesforce.com, where he was the 11th employee and FIRST product Manager. In his 9 years with the company, Tien personally oversaw the vision, direction, and design of the first 17 releases of salesforce.com’s award winning product line, including the CRM, SFA, Reporting and Platform products. Tien went on to found Zuora in 2008 and currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer.
Tien shared his thoughts on product management, sales, and marketing to an audience of approximately 70-80 MIT Sloan students interested in tech and entrepreneurship. A very brief summary of his thoughts below:
- Product Management: Great product managers have good decision making ability and the ability to move the product forward. Tien compared product development to an onion. It's all about figuring out what the core of the onion is and then layering additional functionality on top of it. The secret is identifyingwe optimal sequencing for your onion.
- Sales: It's essential to understand and align (1) how customers buy (is there one decision maker or does the entire organization need to be on board?) and (2) how the business model for your product works (optimal price point, etc.). Once you have these two things figured out sales is all about the numbers. More sales resources = more growth.
- Marketing: One key takeaway from Tien's comments on marketing is the importance of customer marketing. He emphasized the fact that current customers can be your strongest advocate. That being said, it is not enough to have customers advocating for your product - you also need to focus on customer engagement to train customers on the key messages they should be sharing.
In his closing thoughts, Tien recommended that MBA students interested in product management gain exposure to consulting, sales, or any other role that can teaches effective customer engagement. While this event was open to the entire MIT Sloan community, it is also a great example of the types of speakers students often hear from as part of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation track.