“In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.” – Charles Revson, Revlon Co-Founder
Sachin Rekhi went to work at LinkedIn in 2011 after Connected, the business he had built, was acquired by the social networking giant. A few years after joining the company, Sachin found himself in charge of building the product that would eventually become LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
At that time, LinkedIn had a general subscription for sales professionals, but it didn’t have a product wholly dedicated to sales. The new product was going to be quite a departure from LinkedIn’s core product. Because of this, it would have to be built mostly from scratch.
To reduce risk and make sure that the investment would be worth it, Sachin and his team decided to focus their early efforts on finding the right value proposition. They wanted to get product/market fit on the concept before starting to invest significant resources in engineering.
They knew their value proposition had to convince the sales leadership and sales operation leaders—the people responsible for rolling out new tools across sales organizations—if they were to find traction in organizations. It would be difficult to get anywhere without their support.
Value Proposition Testing at LinkedIn
To ensure that their value proposition got better over time, Sachin and his team set an aggressive goal.
To be able to move to the next step, a majority of the sales leaders they were meeting had to agree to their ask:
“If this product existed today, would you put it on your road map for next quarter to implement it?”
They presented their concept, explained the pain points they perceived, shared how LinkedIn data could help, asked open-ended questions, and proceeded with their ask.
All meetings followed the same structure. Discussion after discussion, the objections came out:
“We have all these other high priority things going on. Probably not next quarter, maybe a couple quarters from now.”
Once the team began hearing the same objections over and over, it became clear that the value proposition wasn’t quite compelling enough.
To drive forward momentum, the team iterated, organizing interviews with five potential customers each week. After each session, the team talked about what they heard during the session, refined the pitch and the value proposition.
As the value proposition began to really connect with sales leaders, the team changed its ask to:
“We’d love for you to sign up for a pilot.”
Although the pilot program was free, sales leaders had to sign a contract, agree to onboard their full team, and commit to monthly feedback sessions.
Again, they faced resistance and more objections came out, but after several more rounds of value proposition testing, Sachin’s team found a value proposition and a concept that resonated with sales teams.
Within a few years of its launch, LinkedIn Sales Navigator reached $200 million in annual revenue. Through constant iterations, the team had laid solid foundations and created a product that the market was willing to embrace.
This post in an excerpt from Solving Product. If you enjoyed the content, you'll love the new book. You can download the first 3 chapters here →.