#HowIBuy – Troy Goode, CTO, Lanetix

 In #HowIBuy

Troy GoodeTroy Goode, the CTO of Lanetix is a rare breed of exec who is both deeply technical, while also being extremely thoughtful about business.

I had the pleasure of working with Troy many years ago at Eloqua, and now that he has founded and is leading Lanetix, I had the pleasure of talking with him again for this week’s #HowIBuy interview. As with all CTO interviews in the series, it’s a very interesting view on a buying process that is very different than many “front office” execs’ buying processes.

I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

First, tell us a bit about your Lanetix to set context. What do you provide to the market and (roughly) how large of a business are you?

Lanetix helps commercial organizations digitize their legacy processes – like RFP responses and account planning – via a modern, collaborative platform that they can access from anywhere. Our customers are the enterprises across the globe that make, move, and market goods to the world – including more than half of the world’s top 10 Third-Party Logistics (3PL) companies. At four years old and around 50 employees we are edging out of “early startup” territory.

And as for yourself, Troy, what is your role and what kind of things do you spend money on throughout a year?

As CTO I lead our engineering teams while also filling the role of Head of Product (product management, product marketing, UI/UX) here at Lanetix. My responsibilities include roadmap planning, personnel management, technical architecture decisions, supporting sales engagements, supporting implementations & renewals – a broad cross-section of our company’s needs.

I’m easily the #1 purchaser of vendor products within our business. Our sales & service teams tend to only buy a few tools and stick with them whereas my department is responsible for building a SaaS product and we in turn rely on many SaaS products to help us hit our targets with a lean team – it’s turtles all the way down. With no dedicated IT team I also frequently find myself spot-filling as the resident nerd. I’m responsible for purchasing and renewing dozens of services within our portfolio of tools; we’re probably adding or swapping out a handful of them every month. Those products fall into a few primary buckets:

  • Infrastructure required to deliver our product to our customers, such as application hosting
  • Tooling that helps us in the process of building our product, like version control
  • Tooling that helps us service our customers better, like issue tracking
  • Tooling for general organizational productivity & collaboration, like email hosting

And how do you find out about what’s “out there” in terms of new products, services, and tools?

From a large variety of sources – my team, personal discussions peers in industry, social media recommendations, and (though I’m loathe to admit it) advertising. ProductHunt and Hacker News are two frequently successful vectors for influencing me historically.

What role do you play in the decision process? What role do your front-line leaders play?

I’m involved in the approval (and often selection) of all recurring spend in my department; in some cases the selection happens without me though I like to be intimately familiar with any tools that will play a significant role in our core architecture.

There are lots of great ideas and solutions out there. How do you prioritize what initiatives are “now” and what are “later”?

Like just about everyone else our prioritization comes down to an ever-changing mix of three things:

  1. Strategic projects to put us out in front of the puck
  2. Tactical initiatives that can help us hit goals this quarter/year
  3. Fire-fighting

We have to maintain investment in all three categories but the balance changes depending on circumstance.

How do you evaluate competing solutions? What is meaningful to you in terms of ways to evaluate?

We love it when we have a recommendation from someone we know & trust; in those cases we may not even significantly evaluate competitors unless our specific use case runs make challenges apparent early on. When the decision making process devolves into a dogfight between competitors of similar quality we absolutely leverage hands-on free trials when available – guided demos by a sales engineer are useful when we’re just trying to understand the possibility space but aren’t sufficient when we’re reaching the end of the decision making process. Unfortunately some technology (particularly infrastructure) doesn’t lend itself well to “trialing it;” in those cases published reviews and case studies are incredibly helpful.

What is different about buying today than buying a decade ago?

I frequently view products & services as far more “disposable” today than I did a decade ago. I’m quick to try new technologies – even from early, unproven vendors – but I’m not interested in high-cost solutions or ones that lock me into a long term contract. I’m looking to pay month-to-month and start cheap, but I’m willing to move fast. If a product delivers value we’ll be excited to explore a longer commitment that delivers value on both sides, but most of the time we’re looking to date before marriage.

Where do salespeople play a role in your overall buying process? What is the most valuable thing a salesperson can do in selling to you?

I love it when a saleperson acts as a liason between our company and internal experts within their business that can help us address our needs. I don’t need salespeople who are the A/V version of your website’s features & pricing pages – I can read – but I also don’t expect each rep to be a technical SME. If they can be smart enough to match me to the right person internally that can help me understand how to maximize the value we derive from your product, I’ll be thrilled and much more likely to not just get a deal done, but be sympathetic to that rep’s own needs at the end of the quarter.

What is the biggest mismatch between what you need and how salespeople try to sell to you?

Look, I’m hyper aware of when I’m part of a cold-email campaign or have ended up in your drip campaign. I know those campaigns drive revenue, but I get half-a-dozen each day and don’t have time to consider each of them. These days I use Spark’s Quick Replies to send a “Please remove me from your list.” back to you before I’ve gotten to the end of the second sentence. Don’t call me; I’ll call you.

How do you leverage your network in understanding the landscape or individual vendor offerings?

Let me illustrate with a quick story: I’ve been a big fan of persistent group chat for years and have brought IRC, HipChat, or Slack to every engineering group I’ve led over the past decade. Early on at Lanetix we were a HipChat customer, but shortly after Slack launched a peer in my network mentioned his team was using Slack and loving it. I didn’t see much difference between the two products at the time, but given the strong recommendation we decided to kick the tires. We saw Slack had a HipChat-to-Slack migration tool so we ran it, tested out Slack for a few days and met to discuss our thoughts as a team. The result was “yeah, it’s about the same” but we continued forward with Slack instead of HipChat since we’d already migrated the data over and Slack had a few extra days of data in it. Slack wasn’t really the better tool in this case; it won as a customer because someone in my network was a vocal champion, the product was adequate, and the switching cost was low.

Those are great insights Troy, I really appreciate you taking the time to share!

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Experienced SaaS CTO. Founded and guided the building of Eloqua to a market leading position in Marketing Automation. Now Co-founder and CTO at Nudge. Author of the book “Digital Body Language" with a passion for innovation, cloud computing and software evolution.
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