In Episode 3 of the From Vendorship to Partnership podcast, Ross interviews Alexa Grabell, CEO and Co-founder of Pocus, a product-led sales platform. Pocus helps sales teams harness product usage data without relying on engineering, so they can prioritize the best opportunities.
Alexa saw a need for something like Pocus while leading sales strategy & operations at DataMiner, where she built DIY solutions internally to provide sales with the data they needed. Then, while at Stanford’s business school, she dove deep into the customer discovery process, and Pocus was born.
This is a great episode for very early-stage founders or those who are just getting started with their idea! Alexa and Ross discuss:
- The importance of customer discovery
- How to prioritize what you build
- Those critical early hires
- Enjoying the journey, not just the milestones
4 Tips for Early Stage Founders from Alexa Grabell, CEO & Co-founder of Pocus
1. Focus on being helpful during discovery
While at business school, Alexa started her customer discovery for Pocus by talking to over 300 salespeople in about two months, spending hours on LinkedIn reaching out to leaders at product-led growth companies. “I was just relentless and frankly kind of annoying,” she says. “I wanted to know how I could help them.”
Once Alexa made it clear that she wasn’t trying to pitch anything and just wanted to understand their problems, some sales leaders were willing to give her an hour a week to help her strategize and build Pocus. They reviewed her mockups and gave real, valuable feedback. Those early conversations and discovery sessions were critical for getting Pocus started and for Alexa’s second piece of advice…
2. Prioritize based on real needs
“The biggest hurdle for us is that there’s a lot we could be building right now,” says Alexa. It can be challenging to decide what to focus on when there are so many opportunities to build for product-led sales, and when different types of businesses need different solutions.
“Your gut reaction is that you want to build what you think is cool and fun,” says Alexa. “But you need to build what your customers need now.”
Part of that process is focusing on an MVP rather than a best solution for all the problems, says Alexa, and actually validating that real people want and need it.
3. Spend a LOT of time on your early hires
Early-stage founders don’t only need to prioritize what they build — they also need to prioritize who they hire when they only have room for a few people at the beginning.
“The first hires will really set up your culture and what your business is going for,” says Alexa. “I think some founders think it just happens magically, but for me, 80% of my early days were spent on hiring.”
One piece of advice given to Alexa was to figure out what needs to be A++ and what can be B+ at this stage of Pocus. She needed Pocus’ marketing to be A++ in order to educate people about the new category of Product-Led Sales, and hired a Head of Marketing to take over her content and community building efforts.
“Obviously I was looking for skill set, but finding the right personality fit also has such a high impact in the early days,” Alexa says. Choosing someone who didn’t have an ego, fit with her company’s values, and were able to experiment and get things done was more important than finding someone who had 20 years of expertise.
4. Cut yourself some slack!
Alexa’s advice to her past self?
“Don’t take everything so seriously,” she says. “Obviously Pocus is my baby. But at the same time I want to be enjoying the journey and not just the milestones.”
Her goal is to shift her mindset from feeling like a failure if something doesn’t go as well as she’d hoped, to being grateful that she learned from the experience and can use it moving forward.
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Alexa is the co-founder and CEO of Pocus, the first product-led sales platform. Pocus enables sales teams at PLG companies to identify, prioritize, and understand their self-serve users to ultimately convert them to high-value customers. Alexa’s passion for product-led sales started when she led sales strategy & operations at Dataminr, where she built internal solutions to empower sales teams with data.