Taking an idea from The Toyota Production System, Steve Blank explains the principle of Genchi Genbutsu (go and see) as it applies to product development, entrepreneurship, and the startup. Founders as the sales team – simple, but so correct.
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Steve Blank Customer Engineers as First Sales Team Transcript
Steve Blank: The most radical thing I make companies do is actually sell their product. Now web product, you could decide to going for eyeballs, for users, you can go for ads, or you can actually decide to do something radical and actually charge money for something. Or for physical product, that’s almost the given.
Before we do anything, let’s see if the founders could go out, not a sales team, but the founders can go out and generate some revenue with his company. That’s what I call “customer validation.” I want you guys to actually sell something. How many of you were in engineering? Okay. All right. How many of you had actually sold something? Okay. Not just a pencil. Not girl scout cookies.
A team asks me earlier, what was the best advice I think I’ve ever gotten or given? And that was even if you’re in engineering, if you decide you’re going to be part of an entrepreneurial start up, if you’ve never been out trying to sell your idea or be part of a sales team, you will never ever be a great entrepreneur, ever. I really don’t want to get all of you angry, who were great engineers, great architects. That’s great. But you will always be dependent on someone else.
Great engineers understand what customers need. I don’t mind you need to learn how to go to dinner and drink and whatever, but you really do need to understand how people buy, why they buy, how they process information, and how they think about your product. And also, how they think about the problem you think they have.
In sum, he says (and I agree), that when the company founders and the engineers spend time and receive feedback from real customers, that reduces market risks, product risks, and increases customer delight.