SaaStr Podcast #209: Amanda Kleha, Chief Customer Officer @ Figma Discusses How To Ensure Successful Cross-Functional Communication

Welcome to Episode 209! Amanda Kleha is the Chief Customer Officer @ Figma, the startup that allows you to turn ideas into products faster through design, prototyping and feedback gathering, all in one place. To date, Figma have raised over $42m in VC funding from some of the best in the business including Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Greylock Partners and former guests on 20VC, Daniel Gross and Adam Nash. Prior to Figma, Amanda held numerous roles at Zendesk including SVP of Marketing and Sales Strategy. Amanda joined Zendesk as the first marketing hire and over the next 7 years Zendesk grew to over 2,000 employees. Before Zendesk, Amanda worked on the marketing team for Google’s Enterprise SaaS businesses. If that was not enough Amanda is also an advisor at Airtable and Smartling.

In Today’s Episode We Discuss:

* How Amanda made her way into the world of SaaS and came to join Zendesk as their first marketing hire seeing the company scale to over 2,000 over the next 7 years.

* What were some of Amanda’s biggest learnings from seeing Zendesk scale from 12 to 2,000? How does one determine those that can vs cannot grow with the business? What is the sign a stretch VP is a stretch too far? How does Amanda balance between a culture of risk taking but also not accepting failure to easily?

* How does Amanda like to run the interview process? Why does Amanda like to not show emotion when interviewing a candidate? What are the benefits of this for the brand of your company? What single question does Amanda find most revealing in showing the abilities and character of a candidate in an interview?

* What does Amanda mean when she says “pricing is made up of 3 components?” Where does Amanda believe most people go wrong with pricing? Is there such thing as no man’s land in SaaS pricing? How does Amanda think the go-to-market has to change with every stage of development? What are the challenges with this?

* How does the structure of decision-making change with scale? What are the inflection points? When does both decision-making and communication tend to break down? What can be done to ensure seamless cross-functional communication across the org? Where do most people fail here?

Amanda’s 60 Second SaaStr:

* What does Amanda know now that she wishes she had known when she started in SaaS?

* Is there such thing as no man’s land in SaaS pricing?

* How to ensure customer support is strategic and not just reactionary?

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Jason Lemkin
Harry Stebbings
SaaStr
Amanda Kleha

Transcript

Harry Stebbings: You are back with me, Harry Stebbings at hstebbings1996 with two Bs on Instagram. And my word, what an episode we have in store for you today. An individual who’s seen the scaling from start up to multi-billion dollar public company. With that, I’m thrilled to welcome Amanda Kleha. Amanda is the Chief Customer Officer at Figma, the start up that allows you to turn ideas into products faster through design prototyping and gathering feedback all in one place. To date, Figma have raised over 42 million dollars in VC funding from some of the very best in the business, including Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Greylock Partners, and former 20 VC guests, Daniel Gross and Adam Nash.

Harry Stebbings: And prior to Figma, Amanda held numerous roles at Zendesk including SVP of marketing and sales strategy. And Amanda joined Zendesk as the first marketing hire and over the next seven years, Zendesk grew to, check this out, over 2,000 employees. And before Zendesk, Amanda worked on the marketing team for Google’s enterprise SaaS business. And if that wasn’t enough, Amanda is also today an advisor at Airtable and Smartling.

Harry Stebbings: I do also have say a huge thank you to Anne Raimondi for the fantastic intro to Amanda today. I really do so appreciate that, Anne. But that’s enough of my British voice drearing on, and so now I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Amanda Kleha at Figma.

Harry Stebbings: Amanda, a huge welcome to the show. I’ve heard many great things from Dylan and Anne. So a huge thank you for joining me today.

Amanda Kleha: Thank you so much, Harry. It’s great to be here and have a chance to chat with you.

Harry Stebbings: Absolutely. But I want to kick off today with a little bit about you. So tell me, Amanda, how did you make your way into the world of SaaS, exactly 10 years ago from my stalking of the LinkedIn profile, and come to be the chief customer officer at Figma. What is that story?

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. You know I got started in SaaS really by accident. I was working in the back office of tech doing IT development work, and I realized I wanted to get closer to the customer. I ended up pursuing an MBA at Yale and as that was wrapping up, an alumni talked me into joining a security SaaS company called Postini. So after grad school, I took a job in marketing at Postini because it fit the goal of getting closer to the customer. And right as I started, Google acquired the company, so I ended up working at Google for a few years, and then I got introduced to Mikkel, the CEO of Zendesk.

Amanda Kleha: And joining Zendesk really changed the trajectory of everything for me. I didn’t know how much my career was going to change at the time, but Zendesk had a great product market fit, and I was on a growth path there that was just unstoppable. And for the first time in my life, I actually jumped out of bed on Monday mornings. So I was just in love with learning how we would evolve every six months. And I think that combination of me loving my job and being at a successful place took me to a lot of new places. I really wasn’t concerned with what my title was or what my job was even, I was just really excited to be there every day. And I think that attitude helped me be successful, as well as just outlast the change of every phase.

Amanda Kleha: And so by the time I left Zendesk seven and a half years later, I had the marketing experience I needed to go run marketing, but I also knew I could do more because I’d started a cross-functional business unit there that was focused on online sales. I’d also run sales strategy for the company right before I left. And in addition, for support, because we sold to that buyer and department, I learned a lot about support. So I really felt like I was a potential candidate for a COO type role at the right place. And now here I am at Figma, in charge of all go-to-market, which is super exciting for me.

Harry Stebbings: I mean such an exciting company, and I’m also very excited to have Dylan coming on the show also. I do have to ask, you mentioned the incredible journey there with with Zendesk. I believe you joined when there were 12 people, and seven years later when you left when you left there were 2,000. So really seeing the hyperscaling of the company in numerous different roles, can I ask you a really unfair question? What were the one or two really big takeaways for you from that experience that maybe you’ve taken with you to Figma today?

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. I find that I came to really appreciate great service and preferring to do what’s right for the customer. I think it’s really easy to forget that customer perspective, but Zendesk taught me to make it second nature. Just last week, one of my colleagues was presenting to me three options for solving a problem, and without skipping a beat, I asked, “Well, which option’s best from the customer perspective?” It was really obvious to pick out the choice with that criteria, and it wasn’t the easiest one to implement, but when you tie the discussion to the customer, it makes it really hard to justify taking the easy way out. I like to nerd out in customer experience like how long does it take a user to get to a goal? The experience you design, if you will, matters quite a bit. And I think if companies mapped out their processes from the customer perspective on a regular basis, they’d learn a lot.

Harry Stebbings: Can I jump in and ask, how important is that time to value element when kind of crafting the customer experience?

Amanda Kleha: I think it’s important. I don’t think it has to necessarily be short all the time, but I think you have to be deliberate and intentional with every step. So really analyzing every step along the way is important to do, not just once, but on a regular basis.

Harry Stebbings: Absolutely. And I do want to stop and say I titled this element being Growth, Growth, Growth, and especially growth when it comes to the people, as we said from 12 to 2,000, so all the people and kind of almost running it as a funnel, if you clarify the objective before we dive into the process of kind of that incredible growing team … We’re in an early stage start up in our metaphorical process here, okay, Amanda? And we’re hiring people for stage or do you think maybe people can fundamentally move and transition with the different stages of the company? Is there that plasticity?

Amanda Kleha: Well, the short answer is I do think top performers can fundamentally scale with the business. And ideally, you want to hire top performers, but maybe that’s hard to do when you don’t have the brand recognition or much traction yet. My longer answer is I think about it from two different angles. So you’ve got the candidate mindset, and then you have the company needs. When you’re a startup, you’re naturally going to attract a certain kind of person that’s okay with risk. They’re going to expect change, and they can deal at least somewhat with ambiguity. So I think early on it’s easy to hire for that mindset. The second part is can you find the people with the skills you need, not just for today, but the skills you’re going to need in two to three years, for example.

Amanda Kleha: And the skills you need today, I think, are still relevant to what you need in two to three years. It’s just the differences in the future, you’re going to need something else as well. So if that person doesn’t end up having that, then you’re going to need to add someone who does. And you need to add people along the way anyway, so that’s fine. I think where it gets funky is if people have expectations that you weren’t going to hire above them or maybe they aren’t willing to give up part of their job to someone else, and then they’re dissatisfied. So that’s where strong self-awareness, maybe low ego, or just a love for the company above all else I think plays a role in the longevity of the employee and why I think the candidate mindset is just as important as the business needs.

Harry Stebbings: I love the word longevity there. I mean in terms of kind of determining the abilities of each candidate, can I ask how does one determine between those that maybe can, and those that cannot scale with the company I guess both in the pre-hire process when you really have quite a limited time with the candidates and determining their skills there, and then also maybe when they’re in the role and determining whether they have that plasticity? Are there leading indicators that suggest they can scale?

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. Well, I think it’s hard to foreshadow if someone can scale, but I do think it starts with the candidate’s motivations. I like to see indications that the person is looking to make a home somewhere for a while, and then are they bought into the product or the mission, or are they just attracted to working with someone they know, for example. It’s hard to make people fall in love with your company and product, but if you’ve got that baseline passion there already, I think the person has a higher chance of wanting to evolve with the changes. I also like to look for creativity in people. For example, a candidate might answer a question about us solving a particular problem, and then once they answer how they would solve, I also like to ask them, “How would you solve it in a different way now?” And if people can come up with more than one solution, they’re, I think, a little more likely to scale.

Harry Stebbings: You mentioned there the elements of expanding that thought process for the candidate in that interview question. I’m a super nerd when it comes to interview questions and structures of them. Do you have a single question that you maybe find most revealing of a candidate’s kind of mindset and potential?

Amanda Kleha: Well, at the end, I always ask if people have questions for me, and I think the questions people have for me are super revealing. I learn a lot about how much homework they did if I haven’t figured that out already. I learn how passionate they are for the business. People who are passionate for the business will do and say very unnatural things that standout in a unique way. And surprisingly, people who are trying to fake that passion, they don’t get very creative in the interview process. In addition, I think the questions people ask me tend to tell me a direct path of what’s important to them. So, for example, a common question people might ask is, “Tell me about the culture here.” I just find this so boring and unimaginative. This is a question you can get an answer to if you do some searching on the internet. So don’t ask me things that you can find the answer to on the internet.

Amanda Kleha: A better question maybe in the same vein would be, “Amanda, if I had an idea to make the business better, does the culture support hearing my idea?” To me, that’s a little more interesting. I learn that you’re already wanting to make the business better. You might have some creative ideas. You’re not shy to bring them up, so you might have some leadership capabilities. You want to be heard. You want to be part of a community that’s healthy, and join a place for the right reasons.

Harry Stebbings: I totally agree with you there, and I completely also agree with grinding it out and getting that one level deeper. I do have to ask, we mentioned the elements of the questions that one asks in an interview there, is there a right way to run an interview process and kind of have that hiring plan mapped out, so to speak? As I said, you’ve hired so many. Is there an optimal process to run?

Amanda Kleha: Well, the best processes are when the hiring manager is highly engaged. So they take the time to be clear with themselves or with recruiting on what they want. They’re thoughtful about who’s on the interview panel, and they brief that panel on what the role is and what a good candidate looks like. They’re also decisive about when to cut bait with someone or keep going. And they’re just generally organized. I think mistakes are made when the hiring manager isn’t organized. Personally, I like to make interviews a little difficult for candidates. I do this in a pretty simple way, which is I don’t give feedback on whether I liked an answer or not, and people automatically think an interview is difficult if they can’t tell whether the interviewer likes them.

Harry Stebbings: Does that not struggle in terms of the rapport building, so to speak? Often one might become more confident if they see a smile and a laugh, do you know what I mean, some form of approval?

Amanda Kleha: Sure. I don’t do this with everyone, and my assumption is that in this case, I have a panel of people, so they’re getting that rapport other ways. But here’s the thing, I want people to think that we have a high bar of quality for the people who work at my company, and if they think it’s easy to get a job here, then I worry they’re going to lose a little bit of respect for the brand. And I suppose I have this viewpoint because I have been that person who had a really easy time getting a job offer, and I did lose a little bit of respect because then my assumption is, “Oh my gosh. Do they not have any other good candidates? I’m the only one?” So I don’t do this with everyone. I mean if I’m in sell mode, then I’m going to be in sell mode. But it is funny for me to hear what people think of interviews with me because it’s not that I do anything super hard, it’s just I don’t give people feedback all the time they want.

Harry Stebbings: No, I do totally get you, and I like the element of kind of that maintaining a bar of quality and a stamp mark of kind of respect.

Amanda Kleha: Oh, I was just going to say another lesson I learned over the years is to do reference checks and wherever possible a back channel reference. I learned this lesson early on when I could have saved myself a lot of heartburn had I done it. I find reference checks are really helpful in identifying if you have a top 10% kind of candidate. It’s just very obvious in a reference check that an employee was amazing because they’ll use a lot of emotional superlatives that go above and beyond a positive referral. It’s just hard to fake that.

Harry Stebbings: No, again, I couldn’t agree more with the [inaudible 00:14:49] of reference checks. Before we move to a more granular aspect, being the communication within the people that we hire, I do have one final question. I had spoken to Anne before the episode, and she said that you’re incredible in terms of strategizing around the hire and kind of thinking in terms of very high growth environments and if it’s just a case of adding bodies. And how do you think about, and this was her question, how do you think about the right people at the right time?

Amanda Kleha: Well, I definitely never think about just adding bodies because that feels a little sloppy, right? As we all do, I’ve made a couple mistakes early on, and as a result, those experiences really taught me how to evolve my hiring processes. But I do have to say at Zendesk, while it was high-growth, we didn’t have the employee growth that some other high growth companies do. Once we got to maybe 50 employees, we didn’t more than double the number of employees each year. And sometimes when I hear about companies that 3x or 4x their employee count in 12 months time, I just have to imagine that has to be messy and hard to keep the culture in check.

Amanda Kleha: I think early on it can be hard to find quality candidates, so depending on the role, I might consider hiring a contractor in the meantime or hiring someone for a short term start to try them out. I’m not sure I would have had the insight to do that 10 years ago, but with the Zendesk experience under my belt, I feel a lot more confident in knowing when to hire people. Occasionally, I remember Mikkel having us hire people what felt like before we needed them, but now in hindsight, I just think his experience allowed for him to already know and be one step ahead of where we were. So today when I think about where I want Figma to be in 12 months time, it’s somewhat easy for me to identify what the gaps are to get us there people-wise, so I think when you allow yourself time with that high level perspective, it’s more easy to figure out those gaps.

Harry Stebbings: I’m so pleased with what you said there about when you see 3 or 4x growth in employee head count, and you think, “Wow, that must be an interesting situation in terms of culture,” because I do want to talk to you on the element of communication throughout the team. And my partner, Fred Destin, always says that effective decision making is key to scaling teams. Can I ask, how does the decision making structure change with the scaling of the org in your experience?

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. Well, I think in the early days, it’s common to make decisions as a group, and for the most part, the CEO would have the final call. But as the number of [inaudible 00:17:14] increase, you obviously have to evolve that decision making. And I think leaders just need to be clear on what decisions employees should feel empowered to make on their own, and then actually go let them make those decisions. People that are effective early and later on I think are good at knowing when to just run with things or when they need to get buy-in. And I always felt like that was one of my greatest assets after being at Zendesk for a few years, just knowing what the CEO would care about or want to preview. I spent my first year reporting to him and getting to know what he cared about, so in hindsight I think that experience gave me an advantage over other new leaders that didn’t report to him or just didn’t get that one on one time with him.

Amanda Kleha: I like that my team can feel like they can make decisions on their own, but in order to do that, I need to educate them on what’s important to me. So I need them to be able to channel me into their decisions. So if they know how I would react, then they’re going to feel more comfortable making a decision on their own. So I spend a lot of time telling people how I came to certain conclusions, maybe what my pet peeves are, or perhaps tell stories that illustrate my philosophies on certain topics. I know I’ve done my job when I hear people say, “Amanda, I knew you would agree with me, so I went ahead with this.”

Harry Stebbings: Yeah. Absolutely. An internal Amanda within everyone. I totally get you. It’s that what would Amanda do style. Can I ask, where does decision making tend to break down? You’ve worked in some of the behemoths of Google to the incredible scaling of Zendesk to now the scaling journey of Figma. Where does decision making tend to break down?

Amanda Kleha: Well, I think that decision making breaks down when it’s not clear what the goals are. So a company can do themselves a favor by setting goals and priorities because often times there’s just no shortage of ideas, so the hard decisions are around what not to do. If you do goal setting right, it’s just going to make it a little bit easier at least for people to make decisions on how they spend their time each day. I’m interested in enabling everyone on my team to work on high impact initiatives. And if they aren’t spending time on high impact projects, then it’s time we review what’s preventing that and stop doing things that aren’t making a difference.

Harry Stebbings: I totally agree with you in terms of that high impact. I am also super interested in terms of the communication there because we said about a new element of education within the team and knowing exactly what and how to empower them in the right way. In terms of kind of communication across function, how can one foster maybe true cross-functional collaboration in a company, so to speak? Let’s start on that.

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. At Zendesk, I feel like I achieved cross-functional nirvana at a certain point in time. So this is what happened: I was asked to create a cross-functional team that focused on our online sales. And I seeded the team with a group of 12 people. It ended up growing to about 60. It had a few engineers in it, a product manager, marketers, data analysts, a couple operational experts. So it was very cross-functional. And at first I wondered what would people think of this team because it was very unique within the company. This was right after we went public that I did this. And I was wondering what were these engineers thinking because all the other engineers were in the core engineering department, so it was very unusual. But I decided that I was going to provide these engineers exposure to the business in a way that no one else in engineering would get. It was almost going to be like getting a mini MBA at work.

Amanda Kleha: So the first thing I wanted to do was get everyone speaking the same language. That was very important to me. So we spent an afternoon together white boarding and brainstorming about the end to end customer journey. So when someone first comes in contact with our brand all the way to certain milestones like signing up for a trial or making a purchase, and then maybe finally, potentially, leaving us as a customer. And we talked through all the things we thought worked well and what we could improve. And everyone brought a very unique insight to the process. So during that session and the weeks after, we all learned things like what’s MRR, and why is it important? What are the basics of agile development? So it was a lot of learning happening on all sides. We also set really clear goals for what we wanted to do and the tone of our team culture, which was going to be around experimentation and iteration. So we wanted to learn together, but we wanted to learn fast.

Amanda Kleha: And once we had all that, we started to really gel on what were the most impactful things that we could work on together. And while people had roles, everyone had been read into the big picture, so it was really encouraged to think beyond your scope of work and come up with ideas for the bigger goal. It was just a really amazing group of people that all brought a piece of the puzzle to the table. And it was really my job to help guide them to a common table. I think when you frame the conversation in the customer’s viewpoint, it’s easier for people to contribute ideas. For example, people aren’t intimidated to solve funnel issues when you couch as them as, “Hey, what do we want the customer to do next?” So just a little taste of how I approached cross-functional cooperation.

Harry Stebbings: I love that, and it sounds like an incredible environment to have been in. I am super interested. I’m a nerd when it comes to experimental cultures because the big question for me is how do you foster a culture of risk-taking and ambition with regards to the function that you’re operating on, but also ensuring that there’s not a willingness to accept failure too easily? How does one navigate that difficult balance of risk-taking, but then also where we sit on how we have a relationship with failure?

Amanda Kleha: I think it’s the tone you set for the team. It’s okay that not everything works. So if you set out that, “Hey we’re going to do a lot of things, and we expect some of them to not work, so it’s okay when some of them don’t.” You just have to set that initial tone, and then people don’t feel intimidated to fail because that’s part of your culture. You have to be willing to say that out loud multiple times though.

Harry Stebbings: No, I agree. And I agree especially with the repetition there. I think that’s key. I do also love what you said about the kind of mini MBA there and what is MRR. Before we move into the quick fire round, I do want to touch on the mechanics of SaaS. You have incredible experience with self-service and sales models working beautifully together. Starting from the beginning, when strategizing, how does one determine what to start with? I often have should I do low hanging fruit self-service, Harry? Should I do the high-enterprise sales model? So what are your thoughts here?

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. Well, I think it’s very challenging to do both models well together. There’s not many companies that are able to pull that off. They each take very different skills and mentalities, and the two of them are always at odds with each other, but I think if you ultimately know you want to do both, to get to both, I think you need to start with self-service, and then add sales later. And the reason why is with self-service, you have to be more precise with your customer experience. So, for example, you can’t experiment as easily with, say, pricing and packaging, so you’ve got to nail that. You also have to think through all the clicks that you’re going to make someone go through to get to a purchase and how you might simplify that to maximize your conversion rate, and then you have a main message on your homepage and if that doesn’t resonate, you’ve only got that one chance or people are going to bounce off. Your product onboarding has to be intuitive.

Amanda Kleha: All these things can be a lot looser when you have a sales driven model. You can almost be sloppy about it because you can rely on humans to talk the customer through any hiccups. So if you start with sales, and then you want to pull off self-service after, more often than not, you’re going to have to hire a whole cross-functional team that has self-service DNA because you likely don’t have it in your company, particularly in your product and marketing teams. And it’s really dangerous to assume that people all the sudden can start thinking about your business in that more precise way that’s required for self-service.

Harry Stebbings: Can I ask, when we mentioned kind of differing go-to-markets there, does go-to-market requirements change with the stage of SaaS development from maybe early days to post IPO? How do you think about kind of building that right go-to-market at the different stages?

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. Well, at Zendesk, we pushed off hiring sales for quite a while. Our self-service model was pretty strong and healthy before we layered in sales. We must have had ten or fifteen thousand paying customers before we invested too much in hiring a sales team. And then when we did decide we were going to hire a sales, we started with just a few reps to learn things before we had a plan to hire in volume. We wanted to prove to ourselves that sales would add value to the model. So we were hoping they would increase our average deal size or maybe shift our plan mix over to higher price plans or that we might be able to win some deals that were going to require, say a security review. And once we had the data to see what was working, then things progressed from there.

Amanda Kleha: And after I started the online business unit, that was right after the IPO, we did that because we were concerned that big customers were dominating too much thinking within the company. And we wanted a team that could give attention to our online business needs and felt that the only way to do that was to create a group of people that were focused on it. But overall I’d say before IPO, after IPO, through the different stages, your strategy is going to just start to feel more and more complicated, and you need someone who helps ask the questions that force you to think through how to keep things at least somewhat simple as you face more and more complexity.

Harry Stebbings: Speaking of kind of complications there and related back to your Zendesk days, I know you lead the efforts … as I said, a little birdie helped me with these interview questions. I know you lead the efforts at Zendesk around the elements of pricing, which is often a big bone of contention or unknown for early stage founders. Can I ask, how did Zendesk evolve pricing and packaging as it grew, and were there any big learnings for you from seeing that experience?

Amanda Kleha: Absolutely. I learned a ton about pricing. Most of the decisions in the early days, for better or for worse, were by gut instinct. In 2010, we made a pricing decision that helped inform a lot of subsequent pricing decisions for a while. And what we learned was that customers don’t like pricing changes forced on them, but they are willing to entertain new prices if you give them a choice. So for many years, we decided that the price you bought into was the price that stayed with you until you upgraded your plan or added more products, and as a result, we changed our product strategy to consider things like add-ons rather than force customers into a new price for more functionality on their existing plan.

Amanda Kleha: At some point, we ended up hiring Simon-Kucher, a consultancy, to help consult on a proper pricing research project. And they told or taught me a lot of things about pricing, in particular, leaders, fillers, and killers. Do you know what those are?

Harry Stebbings: I don’t. No. Leaders, fillers, and killers? Tell me.

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. So leader features are the main reason you would buy a package. So if you’re going to go buy a Happy Meal at Burger King, you’re going to buy it for the burger. The burger is the leader feature. And fillers are the nice additional things that you want as well, so the fries and the drink. And then killers are the features that actually devalue your bundle. Most people don’t want killers, and so they feel like they’re paying for something that they won’t use and therefore shouldn’t have to pay for. So if you had added, say, a cup of coffee to a value meal, that would a killer because most people don’t want a coffee as well. Some people might, but most people don’t. And we really tried to teach the whole company about these learnings because we thought it was a valuable framework for everyone from product to sales to understand.

Harry Stebbings: No, I just wanted say I’ve never had such a brilliantly concise description of those three different personas of pricing, and it’s 210 episodes in, so. But, sorry, I interrupted your play there.

Amanda Kleha: Yeah. No. Glad I taught you something new after 200 episodes. Well, pulling off pricing changes as we got bigger and bigger became a much bigger deal, so the last pricing project at Zendesk had a humongous amount of employees involved to make it successful. And I learned a lot about how it was just important to be very clear with the goals of the project, what we expected, what we wanted to measure, and also just how to get buy-in to prioritize the project within the company. So all that organizational change stuff that we didn’t have to think about in the early days.

Amanda Kleha: Another thing that we did that I learned was that we ended up writing a philosophy on pricing internally. So it talked about what things were sacred and why, and it really helped our pricing strategy meetings to keep in perspective of what things were important. I also kept a log on changes we made each year and why, which became an important part of onboarding certain new employees to have that historical background and philosophy.

Harry Stebbings: Absolutely. I mean I feel like pricing is episode in itself to be quite frank, Amanda, but I absolutely love that. I’m always going to remember that leader, filler, and killer for sure. I want to move into my favorite element though of any episode, being the quick fire rounds. So essentially, I say a short statement, and then you give me an immediate answer in about 60 seconds. How does that sound?

Amanda Kleha: That sounds good.

Harry Stebbings: Okay. So what do most SaaS companies get wrong with product marketing?

Amanda Kleha: I think they make it overly complex. I remember when we were prepping to localize the website into a dozen different languages and what became immediately obvious was that our messaging was way too advanced and nuanced for certain markets, and it was a good reminder that at times our website didn’t easily achieve the simple task of just telling people what we sold and who it was for. I think it’s tempting to get fancy, but companies with good product marketing keep things simple.

Harry Stebbings: I have to say, localization must be a brilliant litmus test for kind of simplicity of message.

Amanda Kleha: Absolutely.

Harry Stebbings: Is there such a thing as no man’s land in SaaS pricing, Amanda?

Amanda Kleha: It all depends. Your pricings are a reflection of your go-to-market strategy. I think people will certainly buy things in no man’s land price points, so the question is can you come up with a go-to-market strategy that will support those price points. From a sales perspective, if you have to do outbound prospecting and hire in-field reps to win deals, then that doesn’t bode will for no man’s land. But there are in between sales models, what I would call light sales, where you have a model that makes use of tactics like group demos or holding firm on no custom contracts to keep costs down. So your sales and marketing strategies are going to dictate whether there’s a no man’s land or not. But bottom line, buyers need to come to your site and easily self-identify with a product that’s right for them. So if they can’t do that, you lose. So if you have a package that doesn’t speak to anyone, you’re in no man’s land no matter what the price is.

Harry Stebbings: How to ensure customer support is a strategic team not just a reactionary one.

Amanda Kleha: Customer support holds the keys to the voice of your customer. So give them a voice in the company to share that perspective. They have valuable insights to your road map. They have valuable insights to what’s missing in marketing, and I think helping foster those cross-functional conversations with maybe even company goals that support them.

Harry Stebbings: This is so unfair of me to add an additional one, but I’m too intrigued. Should customer success be involved in the upsell process?

Amanda Kleha: I think they can. Absolutely. You have to have the right culture to pull that off, but I remember Spotify doing something like that that was interesting. I don’t know if you’ve had Spotify on before, but I like it as an idea. I don’t think it maybe works everywhere.

Harry Stebbings: Sure. Absolutely. I think there’s always nuance, but as an idea, it’s a great one. What would you like to change in the world of SaaS today, Amanda?

Amanda Kleha: Well, I don’t know. I wish there was maybe a little less VC money available. It doesn’t always breed the best products. Seriously, if you’ll forgive me for a small plug on Figma, I’d love to help change the design process. I think SaaS is changing our expectation when it comes to software, and I’d love to see the design process evolve to an open design model where it’s easy to collaborate across teams. And when I think about product teams embracing open design, I think we’ll see even more innovation in SaaS.

Harry Stebbings: And then final one, and this is probably the hardest of them all, but I’m giving you optionality around the start point. So what do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning? Now, this can be the beginning of your time with Postini, it can be the beginning of your time with Google, with Zendesk, or with Figma. What do you know now that you wish you’d known in the beginning of … ?

Amanda Kleha: Well, at the beginning of Zendesk, I don’t think there’s something I would say I wish I knew. I mean I didn’t know how to evaluate the company when I interviewed there. I just went on a gut feeling I had with the CEO, and I talked to a mentor of mine, But when I joined, I used that to my advantage that I didn’t know everything. I did well being the underdog, and I grew with the business because I didn’t fight other people’s experience, but rather I built off of it. So I used not knowing everything to my advantage. And at Figma, there’s an expectation that I have answers and that’s my advantage this time around. It comes with more pressure and higher expectations on both sides. So I’m not sure there’s something I wish I knew. I think not knowing things actually helped me along the way.

Harry Stebbings: No. Absolutely. I would have always said if I had known how hard it was to do podcasting, I would never have started.

Amanda Kleha: That’s right.

Harry Stebbings: So it was rather good. But, listen, Amanda, it has been such a pleasure to have you on the show. I heard so many wonderful things from Anne. And this has just been wonderful. So thank you so much for joining me today.

Amanda Kleha: So great to talk to you, Harry. Thanks so much.

Harry Stebbings: So fantastic to have Amanda on the show there and such exciting times ahead with Figma. And if you’d like to see more from Amanda, you can find her on Twitter @akleha. Likewise, if would be great to see you behind the scenes here at SaaStr on Instagram at hstebbings1996 with two Bs. That really would be fantastic.

Harry Stebbings: As always, I cannot thank you enough for tuning in, and I can’t wait to bring you a fantastic episode next week.

 

Published on February 1, 2019

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