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**AMA NOW CLOSED** I’m the SVP of Product at Justworks. Ask me anything!

Hi War Room!


My name’s Camilla Velasquez. I’m the SVP of Product at Justworks, and here in the War Room at the request of Team Bravado.


Before my time at Justworks, I worked in product at American Express and Etsy. So for all of you sales pros who sell to product teams, ask me anything!


I'll be taking questions until Thursday at 10 AM Pacific.

🎈 Mentorship
🏹 War Room
💾 Product
61
InQ5WeTrust
Arsonist
+9
Sales Savages, what is our profession? Trauma!
Hi Camilla, thanks for offering your time. 

How do you go about evaluating an external solution when you're in the process of building a version internally? Is there anything from the sales side that we can do to make this comparison easier?  

I've faced this a few times in the past, and where I did win out, it tended to be after a significant delay once they had realised what they were constructing wasn't up to snuff.  

Keen to get your thoughts. 
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Hi, I answered something around this from a different lens, but from this lens, i.e, assuming I've now decided to evaluate, I want a sales person to make me feel like supported through the journey. It's obvious that something didnt go as planned, so I definitely dont want to feel like I failed  - I want to feel like whatever I'm now buying can seamlessly integrate with the team that was going to work on this, and make them feel empowered and still in control. So, something like "here's how we worked with existing teams to still keep them in the drivers seat and give them the control elements that building in house usually gives you"

I often find that building in house is about control. We want the ability to do things "our way," so if there can be a win win, that helps. All the control, none of the cost. 
Th
Thripe
Good Citizen
Head of Sales
But there is a huge cost? Labor costs money.
Show 1 more replies
CuriousFox
WR Officer
+13
Senior Account Executive
What's one thing you want sales reps to ask that we miss? 
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Hi  - thanks for asking. I'll go back to something I wrote somewhere else. Because I think similar culture and values is important for huge vendor investments, I'd want someone to suss this out. 

"What can I tell you about our company or our values that might help to show how we're aligned or good fit to work together?"
Kinonez
Celebrated Contributor
+9
WR Enthusiast
Hi Camilla, what question annoys you the most during a sales call and why?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
This is a great question. I should start by saying I prefer an email ---> call flow, versus a cold call. I respond the emails that make it clear the salesperson did their homework, which usually entails understanding both my function and my industry (who my peers and competitors are either for sales or for product talent). If the email is really personalized I tend to respond. Once we're on the call and it feels like its not the same preparedness, I tend to get frustrated. 

A blank "what are your biggest problems?" frustrates me. I can always tell if the person isnt an expert in what they're selling.  I like the feel the salesperson knows more than me. 
Kinonez
Celebrated Contributor
+9
WR Enthusiast
Makes sense, thanks again for your valuable time! 
AF
AFische
Praised Answer
+1
Director
Hi Camilla - thanks for your time.  

Why does it seem that product and sales are rarely on the same page?  It always seemed to me (I'm in sales) that product rarely understands what actually closes deals and brings client aboard.  I know product leaders often poll their clients/non-clients on different parts of their roadmap to help them determine what they should develop next but that typically steers them to bells and whistles rather than meaningful capabilities that drive business outcomes that can be aligned to prospect goals.  

It seems there is a misalignment with priorities.  Can you share the viewpoint from the product/engineering side?

Thanks for your ear!
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Ok, this is the best question. Here's my take. 


In Product circles, we're taught that Product-driven growth is a long term play and looks something like this:

1. Build for defined customer target
2. Delight them like crazy
3. They sell the business on your behalf via referrals, positive reviews, etc

We're taught that "staying" features > "buying features" because in a fixed customer target set, these two sets of features are closely aligned, so why not work with the customers you have? Evangelical customers eventually sell on your behalf, which is the least expensive CAC there is.

I believe this to be true as a general principle if you have enough patience (which may not actually align with sales incentives, I understand). HOWEVER, if (1) above changes, then we have to work with the sales team to figure out how to even get to 2, and find the initial product-market-fit for that new segment. 

Here's how this looks in real life as an example. 

1. Leadership aligns and says, our target customer segment is tech and the size is midmarket. 

2. Product teams find tech prospects in midmarket, and build something for them. These customers join, life is good for a bit. 

3. Sales does their jobs and like the great entrepreneurs and tip of the spear you are, you find that maybe enterprise doctors can use this product and are coming into the lead funnel, and they get a little bit of traction, but relatively low win rate ensues.  Sales team wants to convert existing leads so puts in a lot of requests.

4. Product ignores the requests because doctors and enterprise arent the target customer. 

5. Animosity ensues. 

6. Eventually leadership comes together and says lets look through the data of low win rates, and now the customer targets are redefined, and a new cycle begins. 

If the communication is low across teams with misaligned terminology, or the organization doesnt have an aligned leadership team on target customer, this cycle can take a really long time. 

Does this help at all? I dont mean to throw any leadership teams under the bus but...
Jamiroquai
Opinionated
+6
Chief Check-in Officer
This is excellent. Thank you.
TheMatador19
Fire Starter
+2
Head of Sales
Hi Camilla--awesome of you to volunteer your time here!

When an initiative pops up to begin evaluating external software, do you spend a considerable amount of time reviewing independently before engaging with a sales team?  If so, what are the main avenues you'll use to research (online reviews, Gartner MQ, talk to peers, etc.)?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Hi  - thanks for the question, and thanks again to everyone for having me. 
When I need to look for a vendor I start two processes simultaneously - (1) I ask my network of peers and investors informally, and (2) I start a google search and start looking at reviews. At the nexus of those two processes a group of 3-4 players will come out and then I start a review process with key stakeholders, using a small grid of qualifications, and bring stakeholders together to ask where each presentation or proposal fell on each of the criteria. 
TheMatador19
Fire Starter
+2
Head of Sales
Very helpful--thanks again, Camilla!
MCKush
VP of Sales
Hi Camilla, appreciate the bravery!

My question is similar to @InQ5WeTrust.

What are the key aspects you're evaluating before making a decision - whether to build in-house solution or to outsource it? And especially when it comes not to complete SaaS products, but more of frameworks/APIs on which you build your own products on top of it (e.g. custom reporting module/embedded analytics/APIs for data collection from different sources/etc)?

I've had the same experience as my brother-in-arms mentioned above, that they are keen to do it themselves and after quite sometime they realise that they're not even close to their timeline and end result. Ending up with wasted development effort for non-core functionality and strugling to launch the core ones on time. So I'm very curious to learn whether there is something from our end that we could do about it. 

Thanks again for willing to help us out!
InQ5WeTrust
Arsonist
+9
Sales Savages, what is our profession? Trauma!
Thank you for turning my simple words into a more enhanced and erudite version. Currently stuck trying to make sense of the boards suggested KPI's for 2022. 

I need wine. 
CuriousFox
WR Officer
+13
Senior Account Executive
Might I interest you in a Claw 🧿
Show 1 more replies
AlphaCharlie
Politicker
+5
Account executive
What made a product in Etsy stand out?
mitts2
Politicker
+8
Account Executive
Hi Camilla - thanks for taking the time today. 

As a team, we are constantly trying to understand what exactly executives like yourself care about when receiving cold emails / calls. What resonates with you from a cold outreach perspective that encourages you to respond (regardless of whether you take the meeting or not)?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Hi! Thanks for the q. I think I answered this elsewhere but to elaborate, its really about the sense the salesperson cares, which manifests in personalization and some pre-work (versus a cut and paste). I believe the salesperson is an extension of the company and the product itself so if the work is put into the cold email, I trust its a sign of the culture of the company. 
ju
justatopproducer
Politicker
+4
National Consultant
1000%
NoSuperhero
Politicker
+7
BDR
Hi Camilla, what would you consider a successful quarter?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Hi! 
Successful quarter is same as year, same as career for me
 - create value
 - learn something new
  - have fun

Very specifically to Product (and we are an Agile team) its about making meaningful progress towards an outcome, and generating learnings. 
NoSuperhero
Politicker
+7
BDR
Thank you Camilla! How do you impose fun within your team?
Show 1 more replies
Kinonez
Celebrated Contributor
+9
WR Enthusiast
Asking the real questions!
GrizzleMcThornBody
Politicker
+10
EVP - RevOps
Hi @CVelasquez_ProductJustworks,

Thank you for taking the time to join us on Bravado!

As an SVP of of Product at Justworks. How do you feel about the direction the Roman Empire took after the unsuccessful coup attempt by Senator Lucius Sergius Catilina in 64BC when he lost his campaign to become Consular of Rome?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Poignant question. A lesson we can all learn from I'm sure in our jobs, but also in America. 

I think post failed-coup, Caesar got overconfident and parlayed that confidence into 2 British invasions, only to be assassinated by his own Senators 20 years later. It's a lesson in overconfidence and accumulation of power. 
GrizzleMcThornBody
Politicker
+10
EVP - RevOps
We’re not worthy!
Diablo
Politicker
+7
AE
Hi Camilla, could you elaborate a bit on cross-collaboration when it comes to launching a product or having a new feature rolled out. What are the challenges you face and from which team? How do you make sure all goes well?
KyloSellMeThisRen
Opinionated
+2
Account Executive
Camilla, how much are your AEs allowed to tell prospects about the Justworks roadmap? 
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
If they are here in this channel, maybe they'll chime in, but it's not a lot, to be frank. We share the roadmap thematically, but work with Sales Enablement to manage launch window communication and not overpromise to customers. This is partly because we really want to manage customer expectations but also because some of our communications infrastructure and tooling is breaking at the seams with our growth, so we're actually investing here. 
Ae
AessK
Politicker
+2
SDR
Hey Camilla, thanks for popping into Bravado. Which of the two approaches to a cold email would have a greater chance to have a meeting with you?

1. Referencing conversations and common problems that other managers/directors at Justworks have been echoing. 

Side note - Do you recommend name dropping or not? 

A lot of salespeople tend to use referrals but abuse fake conversations and it tends to turn off a lot of SVPs+ if they're caught. 

2. Keeping the cold email all about you (articles you might have written/engaged with, interviews, other forms of media) and then asking a pointed question around a common problem/pain point other SVPs of Product face? 

A ton of people say to go for the first approach but often times, SVPs and other executives don't have the same set of technical problems. I appreciate your feedback in advance! 
jefe
Politicker
+8
Sales Director
Hi Camilla,

Thank you so much for joining us here! No questions that haven't been asked really come to mind, but I did want to say something.

I truly appreciate how well thought out your responses have been - there are some very poignant thoughts and it's clear that you actually care about helping and guiding us all here.

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I wanted to make explicit how much value you're adding to the discourse here.

Cheers!

jefe
Sunbunny31
Politicker
+5
Sales Executive
+1 for appreciation.   Thank you for joining us here and answering questions as thoughtfully and thoroughly as you have.
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Wow, this is so nice, thank you for the feedback. I really have enjoyed reading through these, and I intend to go through many more of them today. You can always reach me on linkedin or at camilla@justworks.com (but maybe a light touch on the sales-ing?)
Show 1 more replies
SalesBandit
Strategic Account Executive
Hi Camilla,  here is one that I have been stumped with lately.  

I find that product teams seem to want to build EVERYTHING...lol....  many times even if the use case falls outside of core product capabilities, it seems that the go to answer is to start developing and building.    

My experience is that this often creates slow downs in innovation and the speed at which they can serve internal stakeholders and provide better customer experiences.    

If you were me, what language would help get a conversation started on why Product leaders should be on board for "Buy" conversation, especially when its unrelated to core product functionality?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
This is another good question. 

I think that builders (so PMs, Engineers, Designers, etc) are tech optimists, which is what has put them in this job. We tend to be over confident in our abilities - but if we werent that, we wouldn't try to build anything. 

So when someone tries to sell me something I'm trying to build, but I have a little traction, I might think something like "Oh, but I'm different; I won't fail." So theres an optimism bias; furthermore once someone gets started they become infected with sunk cost fallacy. 

Also, tech leaders in my experience arent usually the ones on the hook for buy decisions in my opinion, theres a corp dev or biz ops team that can look more objectively and then bring in the right functional partners- so in fact it feels to me like the defined buyer here might not even be the product team or the eng leader. 

But, if you were selling to me directly on this, I'd be receptive if I was facing resourcing constraints or insane competitive pressure (or low share price, for example). Then I can be sure my peers and CEO are concerned about burning resources so the build buy is top of mind. I'd be interested in testimonies from companies I recognize and are respected in my space. 
cw95
Politicker
+6
Pricing Executive
Hello! What’s the best hook you’ve ever received on a subject of an email or equally the most common ones that grab your attention?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
The absolute BEST hook for me was when someone listened to a podcast I was on, and wrote "saw you on x podcast talking about one of your challenges.." and actually quoted me in the email and said, "I would love to talk to you about this challenge, and even if you don't use our product, we'd love to have you join our advisory board so we can make the product better."

Builders love adding value, and we're less comfortable with the natural dynamics of buying and selling things. 


I can also say that if I feel I'm being condescended to or being fed a super cheesy line, I turn away from the email. I recoil at things like "Do you hate me?" or "I guess I'll go now" - they have sexist echos that I find jarring. Furthermore I'm not a fan of the neg in general :)
cw95
Politicker
+6
Pricing Executive
That’s great, thanks for this! Really appreciate the feedback and advice!
GrizzleMcThornBody
Politicker
+10
EVP - RevOps
.
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
WE'RE ALL WORTHY
Robot
Politicker
+7
Account Exec
Hi Camilla, during your time as SVP, have you deployed your products into new markets? 


If so how did you handle the localization of your media platforms (i.e. website, app, docs, etc.) when you hit those new markets?

If not, then what kept you from reaching those markets?
Ry
RyHoller
Sales Leader
Hey Camilla,

thank you for all your insight! It’s fun and refreshing to see this type of candid q&a engagement with sales professionals.

Curious how do you ensure everyone in your product organization (UX, PM, CX, Engineering, product Marketing, etc) is on the same page during the various product lifecycles (planning, research, ideation, design and build) especially in this virtual/hybrid environment? 
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Smaller, tighter teams, more "membrane" roles that act as liaisons between big teams, and less projects per person. We don't have any special tools per se, just the usual Slack, Gantt charts, daily standups, etc. We're not so huge that this is really difficult. 
Jbeans
Praised Answer
+3
Director of Sales
Hi Camilla, what makes your team choose one vendor/partner over another? Price?  service? quality? Referrals?  What if pricing was the same? My team is operating in a saturated market and the goal to differentiate ourselves is a big focus. 
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Values and culture fit. I mentioned somewhere else where I think a sales or service team, or a leadership team, just "gets us?" It comes down to a company's values and how well does it feel that their operational teams live those - is there dissonance or is authentic? Because where theres a fire and everyone is at their peak stress, those values will come into play. 
Ch
ChooseUsername45
Fire Starter
+1
Junior SEO Specialist
Hi Camilla

How do one turn a consecutive no into a yes; lets say they already have a distributor to their products


Kind regards, ButterBusiness37
MV
MVPSales
SDR
Hi Camilla, What kind of books helped you build better products?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
We're big fans here of Marty Cagan, who I would say has written the best books on today's world of cross functional, agile product development processes. He has lots of workshops at Silicon Valley Product Group:  https://svpg.com/
j9
j9king
Sr. Account Executive
Hi Camilla, 

I've been told on a number of occasions by my customers/prospects that "we need to get Product onboard in order to get budget and approval." It seems Product has a lot of power and can help tip the scales. 

What are the most important things a Product Org/Team is measured on? 

As a Product Leader, what factors are you measured on? 

And finally, how do these factors inform your decisions on the tools/products you choose to purchase?
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Thats a good question. Most often, Product leaders aren't on variable comp per se (not at an individual level at least), unless its super relevant to the product. But we are measured on velocity, impact on company outcomes that Product can impact (increased sales in a new demographic or market or something like decreased cost to serve via automation, customer NPS or something else. Product people really care about customer experience though, and there is sometimes an impression that the best customer experience comes from things you develop on your own because you can control the experience - if you can convince us its not true, or even the reverse, then its easier to talk.  
Biznasty
Opinionated
+5
Lead Business Development Manager
Let's say a sales person is junior in their career and having a hard time breaking into your company. If they aren't 100% sure of what your needs/priorities are before outreach, what's the best way for them to go about getting a call with you? 
CV
CVelasquez_ProductJustworks
Catalyst
+4
SVP of Product, Justworks
Good q - I'd say finding anyone in your org who has sold anything to a similar company and then saying "I've heard companies like yours, i.e, xyz, face issues like abc, would you be facing the same ones?" I'm not likely to respond to a cold call unless i'm looking for that thing RIGHT at that moment. 
mw
mweber
Enterprise Account Executive
What is your product team's tech stack?
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