September 28, 2021
Three Key Frameworks for Innovation in Design with Bob MoestaEpisode 178 of The Innovation Engine podcast.
This podcast is part of the Product Mindset Leadership Series.
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Bob Moesta is one of the founders of the Jobs to Be Done framework for innovation and product development. As a close collaborator of the late Clayton Christensen, Bob is as qualified as anyone to shed light on what most of us are getting right and wrong when it comes to product innovation. His company, The Rewired Group, has worked on and helped launch more than 3,500 products, services and companies across a broad range of industries. This perspective gives him unique insights into how to build and sell products that will truly resonate with audiences.
Listen to the Episode
Looking at this interview with Bob through the prism of the Product Mindset, these are a few key takeaways you can use to ensure you’re thinking about building and selling products the right way:
“Build It, and They Will Come” Only Plays in Hollywood
- We’ve become accustomed to trying to sell customers on features and benefits of technology. While logical and often well-intentioned, nobody buys anything because of features and benefits.
- People buy because products help them overcome what Bob calls “struggling moments.” The best way to develop products that truly sell is to understand these struggling moments and how you can help address them.
Refine Your Solutions by Sharpening Your Awareness of Struggling Moments
- Once you understand the sources and causes of your customers’ struggling moments — and identify likely factors that will motivate them to search for a fix or prevent them from taking action — you can figure out how to address points of friction.
- Bob shares an example from his experience flipping more than 1000 homes in Detroit over 4 years. Once he uncovered the insight that packing and sorting belongings while downsizing was a major inhibitor of people buying a smaller home, he set up a storage facility where people could store and sort belongings for free for 2 years. The result? A 22% increase in sales.
- Another insight that he used to increase home sales was gaining an understanding that the “first thought” of needing to downsize often came due to the death of a close friend or loved one. By moving his ads from the real estate section to the obituaries section, his traffic increased by 39% and his ad cost decreased by 70%.
Innovation Doesn’t Require Technology, or Even Complexity
- Working in Japan early in his career opened Bob’s eyes to the elegance and simplicity of what he came to know as technology-agnostic requirements.
- “So, I might be able to solve the problem in 15 ways, but what’s the real thing they’re looking for?” Bob says. “They’re not looking for a product, they’re looking for an outcome. And so, how do we actually see the technology agnostic requirements? Think of it this way, we’re trying to find the hole that we need to fill, and once it’s there it actually becomes so easy to innovate.”
Read: Demand-Side Sales
About the Innovation Engine
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Jennifer Ives: [00:00:06] Hello and welcome to The Innovation Engine podcast. I’m joined by my friend and colleague, Scott Varho, 3Pillar’s Vice President of Product Development. Today, we’re sitting down with someone who you might call a one-man innovation engine, Bob Moesta. You may know Bob as a principal architect of the jobs to be done theory along with Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen.
Jennifer Ives: [00:00:29] Bob is the Founder, President, and CEO of the Rewired Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping companies innovate better, cheaper, and faster, and they’ve done so for over 3,500 different products and services across countless industries. They do this by training teams in how to take their disruptive ideas and quickly turn them into products consumers want. Additionally, Rewired practices demand-side innovation, which focuses on creating and expanding markets for new products to empower companies to grow.
Jennifer Ives: [00:01:00] We’re speaking with Bob about the challenges he faces in helping new companies rethink how they do business, and his new book, Demand-Side Sales. So, Bob, first of all, many of our listeners might not fully understand what it means to help clients bring their ideas to market or even to have them rethink how they do business. Can you walk us through this process, and the reasons why some people get it so right and some people miss the mark?
Bob Moesta: [00:01:31] Yeah. It’s a great question. And I’ve got a new book coming out and I talk about young Bob and I talk about enlightened Bob. And part of this is as young Bob, we’re taught, like first of all, I think we’ve been almost…I feel like I was lied to when I went to school. It was like, “Build it and they will come,” right? And so, everybody’s so worried about the process of innovation, and what are the steps that we take, and what are all the things that we do.
Bob Moesta: [00:01:57] And what I found is that part of this is to realize where we need to innovate is actually only where customers or the people we’re targeting struggle. And so, part of this is actually helping people reorient from talking about features and benefits of their technology or of their product to literally, “What are the struggling moments that people have around in their life?” And then, “How do they pull your products into their life?”
Bob Moesta: [00:02:23] And so, part of this is actually flipping the lens from pushing a product out to people to understanding where is their pull, where is their demand? And so, we have this notion of what we call the supply side and the demand side, where we have supply side language, where we can talk all our words, but the demand side is really, “How do people find us?” Nothing is random. Nobody buys anything randomly. So, what happens in their lives to help them see that and pull something in?
Bob Moesta: [00:02:48] And what are the dominoes that have to fall? And so, that fundamental premise is where we kind of help people reorient themselves from, and they’ll say that their customer-focused or customer-oriented, but they’re usually customer-oriented through their product, not actually truly customer-focused about people’s lives. And so, that’s where you start to actually pull people, almost pull them back out of—to get, in a way, a better perspective, as opposed to kind of using the product as the lens to see the world.
Jennifer Ives: [00:03:15] And so, do you find that most people and most companies who engage with you are receptive to some of those thoughts, are receptive to your guidance, or do you get pushback? And if you do get pushback, do you like the pushback, because then maybe that allows you to open up a different kind of dialogue with them?
Bob Moesta: [00:03:32] Yeah. So, there’s always resistance of some sort, right? And so, part of it is to realize like, I have four very significant mentors for me, and one of the things they talked about was this whole aspect of staying humble, you don’t know what you don’t know, right? And so, part of it is to realize, I take that from that perspective of people who have resistance, they either don’t know what they don’t know or I don’t know what I don’t know, and they’re right.
Bob Moesta: [00:04:00] And so, part of this is it’s all about being able to learn. And so, I think of innovation as a platform for learning. And those who can learn fast enough literally win the game. So, that’s pretty much what I do. The other aspect to me, the notion there is that I actually wait for people to struggle. So, somebody’s got a plan, and they’re already in the middle of executing the plan, and they think they know exactly what to do, it’s almost like that’s pulling teeth, very heartfelt. But when they kind of hit the wall or kind of like the road washes out, that’s where we actually start to engage.
Bob Moesta: [00:04:34] And so, in a lot of cases, I’ve learned not to push my services on people, but wait for people to be ready for my services. And so, that’s that real aspect. So, when people kind of struggle, that’s the real opportunity to jump in and help. Clay would always say, so one of my mentors is Clay Christensen, he would say that the teacher appears when the student is ready to learn. And so, that’s really what I kind of wait for, because I’ll say, early in my career, I ended up being kind of a bull in a china shop and trying to run over people in terms of trying to get things done, and I realized, it just doesn’t work.
Scott Varho: [00:05:07] Yeah. They have to be ready to receive the message. It’s kind of you dogfooding your own philosophy about product development, which is pretty proven.
Bob Moesta: [00:05:14] Exactly. And we drink our own Kool-Aid here. I mean, at some point, like right now, I’m in the middle of building four new products, and we’ve done a lot of work to understand, “Where is the struggling moment?” exactly what the cause is. This book I wrote, Demand-Side Sales, think of it as going to business school, and the reality is at some point, you learn all these different tools, and methods, and approaches, and whatever, but they don’t teach you sales. Like I’ve been an entrepreneur seven times over and I’ve worked in over 3,500 products, but the reality is like sales is actually the hardest thing of all, and yet they’re like, yeah, we’re not going to teach that at business school.
Bob Moesta: [00:05:54] What? So, those are the kinds of things where we found a void, and that’s why, to be honest, I could have written a whole bunch of other things earlier, but I wrote that one first, because I think that’s the biggest void and where the struggling moment is for most entrepreneurs, most inside innovators. Most people try to do—I think they have to learn how to sell their ideas and help understand the progress that the people they’re serving actually are trying to make progress, so you can fit into their lives, whether it’s the executives, whether it’s the customer, whether it’s suppliers. All of them have to think about progress.
Jennifer Ives: [00:06:22] I really appreciate that you mentioned struggling moments, because so often, and I think it may even switch to struggling moments, because I talk about pain points, and the best moment in a conversation is to hear someone’s pain or that struggling moment that you just mentioned. Because once you can identify what the struggle is, then you can help them to the next phase. And your point about until they understand, until they get to that themselves, it’s really difficult to bring forward new ideas or to help guide them where you think or you know they might be headed, but until they understand their own struggling moment, it can be challenging.
Bob Moesta: [00:06:22] Just helping to be aware. One of the reasons why I turned it away from a pain point, because one is that a lot of times, people say, where do you have pain, and someone will be like, I don’t have any pain, but I will say, where do you struggle? Oh, I kind of struggle with these four places. Like it’s almost like things I haven’t figured out or things that are there. And the other part is, certainly, moments are about the fact that it’s the sense of struggling moments that cause people to change.
Bob Moesta: [00:07:25] It’s not just one. And so, a lot of time, we say, where’s your pain point, or we think about a pain as like that pain has to be there? And part of it is it’s almost a system of how people decide to change. And if you view it as a system, you realize there are multiple pain points, there are multiple sequences of the pain points. And if they have them in a different sequence, they actually might do completely different things.
Scott Varho: [00:07:48] Yeah, absolutely. For our listeners, can you make your process a little more tangible for them? Are there aspects of how you go about flipping that lens, as you said earlier, that will help them connect with your approach on this?
Bob Moesta: [00:08:05] So, there are three key frameworks that I use. And so, a lot of times—so one of the things I did when I was very early in my career, I had just the joy to be able to work in Japan, and they talked about process. And process somehow got translated, I’ll say, incorrectly or in a different manner to the US or to the West. Process for them was the fact that here are the boundaries by which I can then innovate inside.
Bob Moesta: [00:08:31] So, I’m responsible for the process. And we’ve taken the notion of process and saying that process is a set of best practices that everybody should do. And the moment we get best practices, we stop innovating. And so, they have something called continuous improvement and we have best practices. And so, I use what I call a set of frameworks to actually help people continually improve the way they look at the customer.
Bob Moesta: [00:08:53] The first one is the supply-side, demand-side notion, is that there is this world of what I call the supply side, where I say I grew up, right? Build it and they will come, where you have a system that builds products, and that product has features and benefits, and experiences, and attributes, and ultimately, how do we build specifications for the product? And then, we figure out, well, who wants to buy this product? Right?
Bob Moesta: [00:09:19] But when you actually flip over to the demand side, I think of a wall that’s 10 feet thick and 100 feet high. And when you flip over to the demand side, and kind of realize like, how do people really decide, for example, today’s the day I need a new mattress? Right? Well, if I’m building mattresses, I can say, well, hotels need mattresses, and colleges need mattresses, and furniture stores need mattresses.
Bob Moesta: [00:09:41] But all of these different people, they end up seeing it at a very macro level. They don’t see the micro reasons of what causes you to say, today’s the day I need a new mattress. And so, part of this is to look for where consumption really happens. The other framework then is basically around the timeline, like what happens? And what you start to realize is that they actually have a process for figuring out how to buy a new mattress, a new CRM system, anything.
Bob Moesta: [00:10:07] And there are six phases to it. One is there’s a first thought. If there’s no first thought, they actually cannot see any of your advertising. They can’t kind of really do anything. But that first thought creates, as Clay would say, questions create spaces in the brain for solutions to fall into. And so, in a lot of cases, it’s marketing asking a question or showing something that basically they can’t do today, that they want to do tomorrow kind of thing.
Bob Moesta: [00:10:33] And it’s about creating that space. And then, there’s what we call passive looking. This is where they didn’t see it before, but now that they have a space, they actually start to see, oh, yeah, they’re doing that and somebody else is doing this, and they start to collect to understand the problem space, but then also to understand the solution space. And then, they move to what we call active looking.
Bob Moesta: [00:10:51] And this is where they’re very explicit about kind of, I want this, I want that, but it’s very, I call it orthogonal or a magic wand thinking. Like they want everything. They don’t realize there are tradeoffs that they have to make. Like I want it to do this and I want it to do that. I want it to be this price and I want it to be this way. And it’s like it’s all magic. And then, they move into what we call deciding.
Bob Moesta: [00:11:12] And deciding is actually about making tradeoffs. And most people can’t frame tradeoffs very well. And so, a lot of times, they’ll want something, and then they can’t make the tradeoff, so they never decide to do anything and they don’t make any progress. And so, deciding is this notion of actually helping give them options, so they can eliminate, so they can actually make those tradeoffs explicit.
Bob Moesta: [00:11:33] And then, there’s the first thought or the first use, where first use is kind of like, alright, because everything prior to that is almost in the mind. And then, they actually get to buy the mattress and sleep on it or they buy the CRM and they start to load data into it, but they don’t do any of that prior to this. And so, part of this is, what are they hoping for when they actually buy this new CRM system?
Bob Moesta: [00:11:54] And so, we can actually translate what they’re hoping for, what are the real things we actually have to go do. And then, there’s ongoing news. And so, we teach people basically how to see that journey that they go on, and then we talk about, how do you actually structure the sales process, by the way, in which they want to buy as opposed to the way in which we want to sell?
Bob Moesta: [00:12:15] And so, that’s the premise of demand-side sales, is flipping the lens, so you can actually help your customers make progress as opposed to just selling your product. And then, there’s a third framework, which I’ll just touch on, but it’s about this notion that nothing is random, everything is caused, and that we understand the causal mechanisms behind what make people stop using this mattress and start using that mattress or stop using this CRM and buy a new CRM.
Bob Moesta: [00:12:41] And so, there’s what we call pushes of the situation, which is like the pain points, what’s going on in their life that they say, “I got to do something different?” If there’s no push, then we’ll actually do nothing, right? Because at some point, it’s like we’re actually creatures of habit. And if it’s good enough, we have a lot of other things to work on. And so, there has to be some push on the situation.
Bob Moesta: [00:13:03] The second, though, is that there has to be a pull, a desired outcome of what they want. The interesting part is most people think of them as symmetrical, like there’s symmetry between, well, if they have this problem, they want this answer. And it’s, a lot of times, you’re like, no, I’m very frustrated with this and what I wanted to do is save time. And you start to realize that these are very different languages between what I call the pain side and the outcome side.
Bob Moesta: [00:13:27] And then, there are two forces that we call as kind of the frictional points that basically hold people back from making progress, the anxiety of the new, and then the habit of the present. And so, we’re trying to actually understand how those four forces play together to enable people to make change. And so, that’s how we really dive into helping people look at it from the consumer or customer side, and understand why people are buying something and how people are using things.
Scott Varho: [00:13:55] What I love about everything you just laid out is it seems to me it is the third way between the we’ll build it and they will come, or we’re just going to build a product that users ask for or that the consumers ask for, which I can tell you firsthand that consumers don’t know what the product should look like. They don’t understand what the technology or whatever can do, but they know they have a problem that is in need of a solution. I’m curious what your thoughts are about going from working with consumers and talking to them, and then how you turn those into insights. It feels like these frameworks are designed to do that.
Bob Moesta: [00:13:55] Yeah. So, the interesting part here is that, also, maybe a little controversial here, but most people think of an insight as something that’s new, you’ve never seen before. And they’re digging for like the needle in the haystack of the new insight nobody saw. But the way we define it, an insight is an actual causal mechanism, when this happens, and that happens, and they do that, that’s an insight.
Bob Moesta: [00:14:58] And so, how do we actually see how the sets of insights come together? And so, we’re actually capturing the forces. We’re capturing the tradeoffs they’re willing to make. We’re capturing kind of what we call the hiring criteria and the firing criteria. And a lot of times, people don’t know what they want, but they can tell you what they don’t want. Like they’ll say, make it easier for me. Well, what does easy mean?
Bob Moesta: [00:15:19] And like, just make it easy. You’ll say, well, what’s hard? Oh, hard is it takes too long, it’s too many steps. And so, a lot of times people can tell you what they don’t want, which then starts to build the space for what they do want, right? The other thing is that in Japan, one of the things they also taught me was this notion of technology agnostic requirements. And I’m like, what in the world is that?
Bob Moesta: [00:15:42] And they’re like, I want to know what the customer wants irrelevant of the product I give them. So, I might be able to solve the problem in 15 ways, but what’s the real thing they’re looking for? They’re not looking for a product, they’re looking for an outcome. And so, how do we actually see the technology agnostic requirements? And so, think of it this way, we’re trying to find the whole that we’re trying to fill.
Bob Moesta: [00:16:04] And ultimately, I need the boundaries of that whole. And once it’s there, it actually becomes so easy to innovate, because now, I don’t actually—I understand that, look, I can’t build the perfect thing, but I can actually build out what I call a kickass half versus a half-ass whole, right? We have to keep everything in it. And so, the aspect here is like, how do I actually define the whole that people are really looking to fill before I go and innovate?
Bob Moesta: [00:16:27] So, nine times out of 10, people are always trying to innovate from the technological side or from the supply side of the world, and what I realized is there’s an overabundance of technological knowledge and product out there. And the problem is not a supply-side problem, it’s a demand-side problem that people don’t know they have the struggling moment or they don’t actually know how to get rid of the old thing to create the new thing.
Bob Moesta: [00:16:50] And so, that’s where you start to realize, I look at the numbers [of products] that I’ve been able to kind of work on, and part of it is because I’m actually bound, I don’t believe in the blue sky kind of notion of strategy. I believe in framing the right constraints, figuring out where are the struggling moments, and then it becomes almost really easy to innovate, because your insight is balanced.
Scott Varho: [00:17:12] Yeah. As you’re talking, it’s really striking to me in my own—so I’ve been at product companies most of my career. 3Pillar is actually a weird deviation from that into the services world for me. But it is amazing to me how many times I’ve had to say to people inside product companies that have been mostly in B2B companies, I was like, we need to understand why buyers buy and why users use, and they’re not the same people.
Scott Varho: [00:17:36] They don’t have the same agendas. They don’t have the same struggles, if I use your word. And the obviousness of this to me, but the level of like, what? Wait, what are you talking about? Customers are monoliths. And I was like, that’s the most incredible misconception, how can you be here as an executive and not understand that they have different agendas?
Bob Moesta: [00:17:56] So, imagine being able to teach the salespeople why buyers buy, why users are looking for new things. And then, understanding and explaining to them, here’s the conflicts they have amongst themselves. And so, a salesperson comes in and doesn’t just speak features and benefits, they ask them questions like, why are you doing this now? What else are you looking for? They have a whole set of questions, but at the same time, they’re going to actually highlight like, well, you want this and they want that.
Bob Moesta: [00:18:23] So, think of Salesforce. Salesforce wants all the data. They want to be able to see how the sales process is running. They want to know the effectiveness of it all. But the salespeople just want to sell, the marketing people just want to market. And if you make it too hard for them to do it, then it doesn’t matter the fact that you want the data if they’re not going to use it or it literally cuts my productivity of sales in half, well, I’m not going to use it.
Bob Moesta: [00:18:43] And so, part of this is to realize there are tradeoffs that you have to make along the way to make this actually a very successful thing. And you have to realize like, sometimes, you have to satisfy one, and then the other, or the other, and then the one. And so, this is where understanding kind of how they work together. And again, think of them as two different systems that have two completely different sets of requirements and outcomes, then you can really understand.
Scott Varho: [00:19:08] Yeah. No. Oh, my gosh. That resonates with me so much. Because we tend to learn from successes and from failures, I’m wondering if there are any notable failures that have shaped some of your lessons and some of your thinking on this.
Bob Moesta: [00:19:21] Yeah. So, one of the other things, so like I’ve—how do I say, like if I can’t find a struggling moment where people want to make progress, and they’re not just complaining about it or bitching about it, but they’re willing to actually try to make efforts to make changes. Like that’s one thing, is like at some point, there’s a lot of times people will complain about stuff, but they’re just not willing to do anything about it. And there’s a big difference between what we would call a pain point, which is like, damn, this is inconvenient, to like, no, I got to do something about it.
Bob Moesta: [00:19:49] So, to me, it’s that threshold. I think the other thing to realize is that when they have no choice, there is no job, it’s now just a requirement. So, for example, if you think of auto insurance versus health insurance. Health insurance, you actually don’t get to choose. You pick it, right? And so, a lot of times, we know more about our auto insurance than our health insurance, because we have to shop for auto insurance.
Bob Moesta: [00:20:18] And so, when there’s no choice, so I always say, jobs doesn’t work in a communistic world, right? Because when there’s no choice, then there’s no hiring and firing criteria, because I have to do it. And there’s the illusion of choice, which is gold, silver, and bronze in terms of your health care provider, but the reality is that that’s it. And actually, it’s really about how much money you’re willing to pay, and how sick do you think you’re going to be?
Bob Moesta: [00:20:41] And it’s those three criteria that help you pick, but you have no idea what’s going to happen. But in car insurance, like I got a 16-year-old I drive this far, I rarely use the car, like you have way more knowledge and understanding when there’s a free market. So, this is one of those things where I’ve been able to say like, if it’s something where there’s no choice, pretty much doesn’t work. And if there’s not struggling moments, I won’t innovate there either.
Bob Moesta: [00:21:04] Makes a lot of sense. And to be honest, I’ve learned them all through really hard ways, right? You’ve tried to crack the nut, there’s got to be a way, and you just realize they complain, but they just don’t have the—they can’t let go, the friction is so high that they don’t know how— think of it as I don’t know how to migrate the data from this CRM to that CRM, so as much as I love that CRM and I know our old would suck, I don’t know how to do it and I can’t move. And so, they can just complain about the old CRM, but nobody can do anything about it, because they don’t know how to manage the data.
Scott Varho: [00:21:35] Or they can imagine that it would be doable, right?
Bob Moesta: [00:21:38] That’s right. My favorite is banks, like nobody, everybody, if you talk about bank, they go , oh, my God, I hate my bank. Oh, God. It’s like, yeah, but if I switch, it’s a lot of work to switch. By the way, it’s not a lot of work to switch anymore. And the second is the fact that at some point, we just know that everybody’s going to be worse, or the same or worse. And so, it’s like, I’m just going to live with it. So, to me, there’s a huge opportunity to really reinvent banking right now, because at some point, everybody’s so complacent with how bad it is.
Scott Varho: [00:22:09] Yeah. I mean-
Jennifer Ives: [00:22:10] And when you remove those barriers between whether it’s a digital product or a physical product, I love how you put that, if you remove those barriers, the companies that can do that, that see forward and kind of sit between, as you mentioned, kind of the doers and the buyers, and when you can remove those barriers, and you can feel what that friction point is and remove the barriers, you’re golden. There’s no excuse why that person who’s having this struggling moment or the company that’s having the struggling moments, there’s now no reason why they can’t make a switch.
Bob Moesta: [00:22:39] So, one of the things that I did, I always say that, what I call the anxiety force is where all the gold is, right? So, I have one of the things I did, I built houses here in Detroit for a little over four years. And I built a thousand homes. And one of the things that I realized is that I would build for first time homebuyers, divorced family with kids, and then downsizers like your parents.
Bob Moesta: [00:23:01] And the whole aspect is that one of the things that I realized was the huge friction point for them is, how in the world am I going to pack up all this stuff from 3,000 square feet and move into 1,500 square feet? I can’t even clean out a closet. So, what I do is, and you had people literally sign up, and they literally put a deposit down, and they come back three weeks later, go, “We just can’t do it. We can’t figure out how to get the basement empty.”
Bob Moesta: [00:23:24] “It’s going to take us years to do this. We’re going to have to cancel the contract.” So, what I did is, actually, I built a small storage place, a long-term storage place across the street from the developments. I gave them moving and two years of storage and a place to sort all their crap in the clubhouse when you come to visit, 22% increase in sales. It wasn’t about a feature, right?
Bob Moesta: [00:23:48] And the people, all my competitors were asking, Well, we’ll give you free granite, we’ll give you stainless steel appliances,” and I’m really coming back, and saying, “I’ll help you, moving is included and storage, as well as a way to sort the stuff through, so you can move now,” because most people downsizing are doing it, because there’s a health problem or they want to travel more and they want to do all that, and they’re so stuck that they don’t know what to do. And by simply adding moving, it made everything work for them.
Scott Varho: [00:24:14] That’s an amazing insight and an amazing example of what you’re talking about. That’s awesome.
Bob Moesta: [00:24:18] Well, so here’s just one other example in the spaces that I realize that if you think about the timeline, the first thought, turns out that first thought of moving seriously happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, which is like they’re setting up for the holidays, they’re thinking about next year. I turned off all my advertising, right? And what I realized is that the other thing is that the thing that made them go from a passive-looking to active-looking was one of them or one of their friends either got sick or passed away.
Bob Moesta: [00:24:48] And they have this very awkward conversation of, “Oh my gosh, our friend, their husband passed, and now, they have to—I don’t want to do that, we need to get—”so I moved my advertising from the real estate section to the obituaries. And I literally said, time to move, need some help? 39% increase in traffic, 70% reduction in my advertising cost, because I knew the path that they were headed on. And I wasn’t talking about specific homes, and solutions, and all the different designs I had, I basically just said, “Look, want to move? Struggling to figure out how to make it all work? Give us a call, we’ll see if we can help.” That’s it.
Scott Varho: [00:25:29] That’s incredible.
Bob Moesta: [00:25:29] Right? So, these are the kinds of things where, if you — so what happens is we end up spending way more money on things that aren’t necessarily features people want. And we end up realizing, I realized I was in the building business, but over time, I realized, I was more in the moving business than the building business. So, I would actually buy people’s houses, and fix them up, and sell them to other people who couldn’t buy my houses.
Bob Moesta: [00:25:50] So, we’d have people, first-time homebuyers who had small houses or condos, we actually buy their condo from them, they’d moved into ours, and then we’d actually fix theirs up, and then we split the profits with them, right? And so, it was that notion of, how do I help people move as, really, the progress of helping people do. They’re not buying a house.
Scott Varho: [00:26:07] I have a follow-up question, if I may. I’m sitting here thinking about how—I mean, this resonates with me so much, and so much of my career, I’ve been a product leader. And so, I don’t care who says that the product manager is the CEO of their product. I’ve never been the CEO of anything. I am the manager of tension, description of the role that I have played.
Scott Varho: [00:26:31] And so, all of this resonates with me, but to someone who’s in a position like mine, who is trying to navigate an organization, and get the organization to fall in love with the problem, and meet the consumer where they are, rather than the brilliance of their idea, their solution, what are some ways in which someone like that can navigate the organization or start to notice that changing?
Bob Moesta: [00:26:55] Good question. So, one of the things we do is we actually have people be part of the interview process, because what happens is it’s almost like the line of telephone, where everybody say it’s easy, and then you’ll say, oh, I know what easy means. And Mark, you’ll know what easy is, and somebody else will know what easy is. And then, you all use the same word, I call it a dictionary problem, we all have the same word, but we have different meanings for it.
Bob Moesta: [00:27:19] And so, what happens is when we do these interviews, we don’t interview people and talk about the product. We talk about what was going on in their business that said, today’s the day I need to do something new, and to realize, what’s the set of things that had to be true for them to actually go do something? And then, what were they hoping for? And what you start to realize there is there’s language, and people will use the word healthy or I want to be more efficient.
Bob Moesta: [00:27:45] And you start to realize that there are so many different definitions that you have to learn how to unpack what that means. And so, when we do an interview around just about anything, we take at least an hour to get people’s stories. So, think of it as extracting their story of why they bought what they bought and what happened. And then, after that interview, we actually then do another hour of arguing about what the hell we heard.
Bob Moesta: [00:28:11] And so, what it does, though, is it forces everybody to have the same language and for us to unpack the words to mean easy is about easy onboarding, or easy is about getting somebody else up to speed fast, or easy is about migration of data, because there are now 27 different dimensions of easy, and oh, by the way, as a product person, I can’t do all of them, so which five do I do? And what five do I do well?
Bob Moesta: [00:28:33] Well, the other ones, I know they’re going to complain, but it’s not a big deal, right? And so, those are the things that you have to realize that there’s always going to be tradeoffs. And so, to me, the biggest misnomer is that most people feel like they can build the ideal customer experience with the ideal product. And by the way, it never is on price, and it never comes in on time, and it actually never hits the ideal customer, because they don’t exist. Sorry.
Scott Varho: [00:28:58] This is too much of my lived experience.
Bob Moesta: [00:29:01] But that’s one of those things where I like to say, we need a—I’m like, no. So, the other joy of being able to work in Japan was they taught me about variation. And it’s like there are things called control factors, which are things that I can control that will impact the product. But then, there are noise factors, which might be preferences. So, how do I actually figure out what are the control factors and noise factors of the system I’m responsible for?
Bob Moesta: [00:29:25] And that by having the engineers—nobody has taught the engineers how to listen to a customer interview, by the way, right? And so, they’re listening for the product, and then they want people to dive into the product, and the reality is like, no, you have to think about the context by which your product, the noise factors that your product has to work within, oh, and you start to realize like, I’m trying to give you the requirements beyond the requirements before we have the requirements.
Bob Moesta: [00:29:49] And then, through pattern recognition, we can start to see where the important requirements become really hard. And what’s interesting is most people feel like there’s 27 or 50 kind of requirements, and what I would say is it really comes down to like five or six, and there’s not a lot of them. And there are a lot of other things that people want, but they don’t really care about. But if you get those five or six, then they’d kill it.
Scott Varho: [00:30:15] Yeah. My gosh, I’m such a fan of the concept of essentialism and bringing products down, no matter how complex they are, at its core is some sort of a value promise. And you always want to stay true and return to that value promise, and evaluate every feature, every design, and everything around that value promise. And we have to accept that’s going to resonate with a cohort and not with everybody.
Bob Moesta: [00:30:40] And there will always be someone who complains. And so, for example, when I do seminars, they always ask like, what’s one thing that could be better? There’s always going to be somebody who says, oh, I wish it was this or I wish it was that. So, I literally run every seminar at 62 degrees, because my constant complaint, which I’ve designed for, is it’s too cold, all they can come up with.
Scott Varho: [00:31:04] Well, you pre-loaded the complaint. That’s amazing.
Bob Moesta: [00:31:05] Definitely. And so, I know I don’t have to do anything about it. And so, it says, next time, like bring us—so in my reviews, they’ll say like, it’s always usually really cold, bring a sweater. Perfect.
Jennifer Ives: [00:31:14] Engineered the complaint. I love it. With the jobs to be done, you have a theory, you have a philosophy around jobs to be done, and you pull that through into Demand-Side Sales. We’ve talked about it a bit today, but can you just talk a little bit more about why you decided to write Demand-Side Sales now? And if you want to touch on anything that you’re working on in the future, but why Demand-Side Sales now?
Bob Moesta: [00:31:41] So, there are two things. One is, so I’m dyslexic, I think I was born an engineer out of the womb. I was breaking things by the time I was two. I was fixing the things by the time I was five. And I was building things by the time I was 10. I’m 56, so I’ve been doing this a long time. And so, part of this is to realize that in that process, I end up having three close head brain injuries, which very much inhibited my ability to read and write.
Bob Moesta: [00:32:10] And so, I had to learn in a very different way. And so, part of this is that Clay Christensen in 2010, basically, he had—2009, he had a stroke, cancer, and I want to say a heart attack, all in the same very short period of time. And one of the things he—I went to see him, and he basically said, I can’t pass right now, because we need to turn jobs into a theory. I’m like, okay, so that’s where the theory came from.
Bob Moesta: [00:32:39] So, I’m the practitioner, Clay’s the theorist. But out of it, what we were able to do, and he wrote a book called Competing Against Luck, and a lot of the clients in that book are clients of mine through the years, because I’ve been doing this since the early ’90s. But just as we were building that out, one of the things that kept coming up is I had four hours a quarter for 27 years with Clay with no agenda, and we just started talking about things.
Bob Moesta: [00:33:07] And one of the things that came up is I said, why are there no sales professors? There are marketing professors and finance, why are there no sales professors? And it turns out that in the end, sales was seen as a trade. It’s like a combination of product knowledge and psychology. And it was very—but having done six startups by that point, I was really to the point of like, but sales is the hardest thing of anything.
Bob Moesta: [00:33:34] And when I try to go get training in it, it’s giving you techniques and all these different things, but it’s like, where’s the theory behind sales? And so, one of the goals was, how do I actually help the academic community start to include sales into its curriculum? And so, we took jobs theory and I flipped it into the sales realm, and I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I never thought about it.
Bob Moesta: [00:33:58] But the struggling moment was so large that I basically said, look, let me write a book. And to be honest, again, I’m a dyslexic, so how does a dyslexic write a book? You find a company called Scribe Media who has a process that extracts all the right information from me. So, all I did was talk to them for two hours at a time, 10 blocks. And within almost 120 days, we had a book, right? And so, I’m already doing it.
Bob Moesta: [00:34:26] I got another book called Learning to Build. I got another book after that about employees and basically HR in terms of, what causes people to switch companies? And how do you help employees make progress? But back to the sales one, the sales one really is about teaching people about understanding, how do people buy? What progress are they trying to make? And start from that perspective and reframe your sales process based on how people want to buy.
Bob Moesta: [00:34:53] And just by doing that, and using the frameworks of the timeline, and the forces, and the supply side, demand side, you’re able to actually change the way in which you actually interact. So, I have a company I worked with called Autobooks. And one of the things we did is they always complained about the demo, the demo was so hard, because they’d have a whole process set up in the demo, and then after the demo, they tried to close.
Bob Moesta: [00:35:15] And I kept saying, like, well, where is the prospect in their timeline of buying? And they’d look at me like, well, I don’t know. Well, let’s ask them. Well, you can’t ask them. I’m like, yes, you can. And so, you ask them like, oh, I’m up here. And so, when they’re doing a demo in passive-looking, they want to learn. They want to hear stories. When they’re doing a demo and deciding, they want to know tradeoffs.
Bob Moesta: [00:35:36] And so, what we end up doing is going from one demo to three demos, and literally, half the time, they close and we doubled sales. And so, it’s this notion of being able to actually understand how do people buy and knowing where, Jennifer, to your point, knowing where they’re at and being able to help them make progress. Was not about getting them to close, it’s giving them a passive-looking to active-looking. And then, from active-looking to deciding.
Bob Moesta: [00:36:01] But here’s what happens, is, sometimes, you go to active-looking, and they go back to passive-looking, because it’s way bigger than they thought it was. And so, a funnel works like this, where it just basically funnels things down. And there’s only one place, which is out. But the fact is in a timeline, where it’s straight, they wouldn’t go backwards because of context, because of new outcomes, because of new requirements. And so, that’s really what this has done, is help flip the lens from trying to look at the world through our product, to look at customer service practice, to looking at people’s worlds, and say, how does our product fit into their life?
Jennifer Ives: [00:36:35] And you do such a nice job in the book and in this conversation of discussing kind of that looping back, and that there is this process. It’s not a straight linear process from having an issue, figuring out that moment, and then pulling them through to making a decision.
Bob Moesta: [00:36:52] Yeah. So, the cool part is I’ve been able to coach a whole bunch of sales teams these days. And one of them will always say, “Oh my God, I have this problem where customers ghost me. They just constantly are ghosting me. Like we have great interaction and we do a demo, and then they just go away.” And I’m like, “So you think they’re actively avoiding you?” And they’re like, “Yes, they won’t answer my call, they won’t—okay.”
Bob Moesta: [00:37:18] Let’s get somebody else. And what happens is like four months later, they just, literally, you show up, and then they buy, and they’re like, they ghosted me, and then they buy, I don’t know how to predict with it. And it’s like, so then we go and interview somebody, say, “What happened?” It’s like, “Oh, when you showed us the demo, we realized we didn’t have the security compliance that we needed to do this, and this, and this, so we had to go off and do those things.And there was no reason to tell you, because we didn’t want you to know that we have that problem, and at the same time, the fact is at some point, we weren’t ready. And so, I didn’t call you back, because I wasn’t going to call you back until I had something to say, because we didn’t know what—and once you saw that I called you back, and we bought.” So, basically, you keep thinking it’s about you, it’s not about you ever.
Bob Moesta: [00:37:54] It’s about them. It’s always about them. And if they’re ghosting you, you have to actually understand what causes them to ghost you, because that’s really the underlying thing, is maybe they bought somebody else, but most of the time, they didn’t, they didn’t buy anything. We are collecting data around this night now, but it’s like right now, I think the numbers are about 82% of proposals given, there is actually no decision ever made. Crazy number.
Scott Varho: [00:38:22] A startling amount.
Bob Moesta: [00:38:23] Right? Think of all the work that’s done, like holy crap. So, that’s partially the reason why I feel like—there’s one other reason why I wrote the book is that from this paradigm or from this view, you start to realize, there’s a lot of people who sell, who don’t realize they sell. So, a nurse or a doctor sells a rehab program to a patient. They don’t do the rehab. The patient has to do it. So, they have to actually convince the patient to make progress. And a teacher actually has to help a student make progress.
Bob Moesta: [00:38:55] And so, it’s not about just sending the information, it’s about actually helping them understand the progress the student’s trying to make. And so, you start to realize, like at some point, there’s a lot of people who, I will say non-sales salespeople, who actually have to know how to improve their craft, where what they’re doing in schools is they’re trying to improve pedagogy. And my belief is pedagogy is more to the ideal way in which somebody should learn math, versus can we understand how the kid thinks and actually build a way in which to help them make progress based on how they see math, to get to the outcomes that both you need and they need?
Scott Varho: [00:39:31] I’m sorry. No, I was just going to say, I used to, when I lived in Europe, I taught English, and the people would come to me, and say, “Hey, would you teach me English?” And I’m like, “Well, actually, let’s be honest, I can’t teach you anything. I can guide your learning. I can challenge you. I can correct mistakes. I can do that. But the learning is yours. All I can do is provide some raw material.” And there’s a lot of those kinds of contexts where it feels like the verb is just wrong. I’m not actually able—I can facilitate your growth, but the growth is still yours, you have to take steps, then you can apply that to sales, and I love that.
Bob Moesta: [00:40:07] This is where I think where I’m spending my time now is I’m actually trying to figure out kind of like, how do we really learn? My belief is some people have to learn a subject from a macro level to a micro level. Some other people have to learn from a micro level to the macro level. Some people have to see it in very tangible, but like what you realize is — I have four kids, and one would learn history one way, and they learn math in a completely different way.
Bob Moesta: [00:40:35] And you start to realize, how do I actually start to build a language to talk about the way they learn, as opposed to starting to say, how does the brain work? Because I don’t believe that just understanding how the brain works is going to tell us how people learn, right? And so, this is one of those things, where I just think that it’s like—I mean, think about it. We haven’t actually—schools have standardized the way we teach and the variation of students that come through, no wonder we have such a big dropout rate and kind of like people not doing what they’re learning, because at some point, the variation of learning types is expanding and we literally don’t know how to actually adjust for it.
Scott Varho: [00:41:13] One compliment I wanted to impart to you and get your thoughts on, one of the things that struck me as particularly impactful about your body of work, as I look at all of it, is the integration. I’m a big fan of Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage, this idea of integrated organizations that operate together. And I’m sure you’ve witnessed, much as I have, that it’s oftentimes, I build the product and I throw it at marketing, and I’m like, “I don’t know marketing, figure out how to describe it in a way that people will buy it, create the sales. Yeah, go for it, guys.” And because we’re not working from that shared understanding of what is that need we’re filling, we then have to create language to go over the product in order to make it a product.
Bob Moesta: [00:41:55] So, having worked on so many projects, I always talk about this notion of the difference between imagined tasks and discovered tasks. And the fact is we can imagine, we have a project, we’re going to do this project, and if it’s truly innovative, we actually don’t know what we should be doing, right? We’re actually building a plan when we’re the stupidest about what to do.
Bob Moesta: [00:42:19] But then, what happens is we have to build a 12-month, 24-month plan with a budget, because the finance needs, I call it the Church of Finance, needs some way in which to account for our spending. But then, what happens is six weeks in, we realized, boy, here’s just something we discovered, here’s some discovery task, or here’s a place we completely missed, or, boy, any idea of switching the plan makes us bad managers, as opposed to accounting for us being bad guessers.
Bob Moesta: [00:42:46] And then, the fact is that what it’s forcing is innovation to be less and less innovative, because we only innovate on the things we can plan, and that has the least amount of what we call discovered tasks. And the other thing is most people only plan for discovered tasks or plan for imagined tasks. So, you end up with no time to do the discovered tasks.
Scott Varho: [00:43:09] Yeah. And I always wondered if some of this doesn’t—I was just talking about that problem recently with some folks in our product management practice here about the challenge that our stakeholders, our buyers have when they buy services from us, because a lot of times, they’re being funded by investors who invested in a business plan, where the only thing missing was capital and really accounts for the discovery. Like if you’re going to spend that money responsibly, I believe you have to go through a heavy discovery period. But that’s not the way you –
Bob Moesta: [00:43:44] So, I do a lot with Techstars and Y Combinator, and I try to advise them to go find investors who understand the difference between kind of proof of concept and getting you to a certain point, and then scaling. And at some point in time, a very good friend of mine, I’ve been helping them for almost 10 years, the moment that they got private equity, they went from venture to private equity, they couldn’t build anything anymore. They were only allowed to buy.
Bob Moesta: [00:44:14] And they’re all a bunch of builders, they’re used to building stuff. So, they’re like, wait a second, what’s going on here? And it’s like, because at some point, as long as it fits the plan or the fact is that we can buy something that will actually augment the plan, that’s fine. But we’re not building anything, we can’t handle the risk of building. And so, that’s where you have to realize that building and creating something is very different than assembling something.
Jennifer Ives: [00:44:37] That’s an excellent point, and one that I think, I believe, is overlooked so often on both the investor side as well as the business builder side. And excellent point.
Bob Moesta: [00:44:48] Yeah. Imagine how many times people go, “Oh, we can build that. Oh, yeah, we can build that.” And it literally is like they actually have no idea what they’re supposed to be building, but at some point, the notion of trying to actually go through all the work and they underestimate what it’s going to really take, and then all of a sudden, everything falls apart. And so, it’s one of those things where before they say, “Yeah, I can build that,” it’s like, “I know you can build that, but what it’s really going to take versus what don’t you—”it’s the unknown unknowns that really kill most projects.
Jennifer Ives: [00:45:17] So, Bob, we have a piece of the conversation that we ask all of our guests, and it’s a speed round that’s off the top of your head, some really quick questions before we close out our conversation. I’m going to start. What’s your favorite piece of technology?
Bob Moesta: [00:45:33] It’s not a popular one, but I think my favorite piece of technology, being from Detroit, is the internal combustion engine. I look at over the last hundred years of all the different things that have been possible and the expansion of growth from both product, and services, and agricultural, and everything else, it all comes from the internal combustion engine. And think about it. We have a device that does 4,000 explosions in a minute that takes rotational energy and turns it into moving something.
Bob Moesta: [00:46:10] And it allows us to do all the things that we do. And most people, it’s become such a basic thing, but I feel like it is literally, probably the single, if you take a step back, I know we have a lot of problems around it in terms of the consequences of it, but I don’t believe we would have expanded and had the growth of population and all these things over the last hundred years without that underlying technology.
Scott Varho: [00:46:39] What is your most used app on your phone, excluding any communication apps?
Bob Moesta: [00:46:45] Probably Speechify, which is, it’s an app that allows me to hear, and because of being dyslexic, I can literally read things and give things. And so, it’s that or Siri. One of the two, because though I might text, I always talk the text. And so, I’m almost always using something that goes—because it’s such a text-rich world that I use something that helps me convert my thoughts into words.
Scott Varho: [00:47:12] Nice.
Jennifer Ives: [00:47:13] What was your first interaction with memory that was related to technology?
Bob Moesta: [00:47:19] So, again, most people will have a very strict definition of technology. I think of technology as an embodying principle, set of principles or products that change something, right? And so, when I was three years old, I figured out how to climb up on the mantle and get a mantle clock. And the babysitter was there. I remember vividly sitting on the floor and I was taking apart this clock. I had a pair of pliers.
Bob Moesta: [00:47:48] I had two screwdrivers. She didn’t know what I was doing. She thought I was playing with a toy. And I remember just like trying to understand how did this thing work. And then, as it was time to go to bed, it was one of those things where I could remember how I took it apart and I could reverse it to put it back together. I missed two parts, but I was so young, I had this uncanny ability to kind of recreate what I had done.
Bob Moesta: [00:48:15] And so, that is like my first real kind of thing of taking something apart. And again, I get in lots of trouble, because I wasn’t supposed to play with it, but it was like this first memory of like, wow, how does this work? Why does it work this way? And then, realizing, oh, like I got to put it back together. Okay. And just being able to do that. I think the other one is my idea of fun was going out on big trash day. So, I grew up in the ’70s, and so a lot of people would throw out the big old console of record player, and hi-fi, and one cabinet.
Bob Moesta: [00:48:47] And so, my mom would allow me to get those. And so, I had collections of amplifiers, and speakers, and all kinds of different things. And so, I built many different kinds of things out of it. But I just remember always figuring out what was a vacuum tube, and what was a transistor, and how do they work, and shocking myself, then having 120 volts running through my veins, and all that kind of stuff. That was very young as well, but those are my two vivid memories. Nothing I would let my children do ever, by the way.
Jennifer Ives: [00:49:18] Exactly.
Scott Varho: [00:49:19] Oh, fantastic. For early people in their career, what’s a common piece of advice that you tend to give to early professionals to help them on their journey?
Bob Moesta: [00:49:30] So, I have a phrase that I use over and over again, and I would say, context creates value and contrast creates meaning. And what I mean by that is that at some point in time, I always say, do you like steak or do you like hot dogs? And people go like, I like both. I’m like, okay, but think about the last time you had a hot dog, did you want a steak, too? Well, no. And last time you had a steak would a hot dog fit in?
Bob Moesta: [00:49:55] What’s the context that makes things valuable? And so, can you actually understand that value is not absolute, value is always in context? The other thing is to realize that most people, they learn by contrast, so they don’t learn by seeing one thing, they learn by seeing multiple things. So, the example there is I always tell people to give people three different proposals, three different ways in which to work together, or three different ways. And what happens is most people eliminate one of them right off the bat. So, you actually give them one you know they’re going to eliminate.
Bob Moesta: [00:50:28] But then, when they have the two that are left, they don’t compare them to each other, they compare them to the one that’s out. And ultimately, they don’t pick the one they want, they eliminate the two they don’t want. And so, realize that choice is actually about contrast. Choice is not about yes or no, choice is about actually convincing yourself that you need to do something. And so, any time you can’t do something, bring two other things to the table that basically give you motivation to then figure out how to eliminate what not to do.
Scott Varho: [00:51:02] That’s fantastic.
Jennifer Ives: [00:51:04] I was just going to thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It’s been a real honor. Scott and I have been wanting to talk to you for a long time. Your new book gave us the opportunity to reach out to you, and invite you to be part of the podcast, and share some insights with our, and I do call them insights, insights with our community of listeners. And I’ll use the word again, it’s been a true honor. Thank you for joining.
Bob Moesta: [00:51:34] Thank you both. So, I have a next book that’s coming. It’s about the five skills of an innovator, right? It’s like the five skills that helped me. Basically, it’s the things that most people don’t talk about. Oh, they’ll talk about courage, they’ll talk about humbleness, but one is empathetic perspective, being able to see things from many, many different perspectives, being able to have uncovered demand, see the struggling moments, if you will.
Bob Moesta: [00:51:58] It’s causal structures, understanding cause and effect in how to build, prototyping to learn, and then identifying and managing tradeoffs. Those are the five skills that if you take the best innovators or the best strategists you’ve ever worked with and put them in a corner, you’ll find that they don’t know how they got the skills, but they all have the skills. And it’s like the skills that nobody else is talking about because they all talk about, “Oh, well, they do this, or they’re lean,” or they see what they want to see in it.
Bob Moesta: [00:52:27] And I just literally pull aside like, what can these people do that other people can’t? And that’s what this textbook is about, because if you think about it, I’m an illiterate dyslexic kid from Detroit who didn’t really have much hope to even going to school, and my mentors implanted into me those five skills that allowed me to be involved in over 3,500 products and services, and to start startups, and to do all these different things. And most people will say, “Well, how did you decide to become an entrepreneur?”
Bob Moesta: [00:52:55] And I’ll say , “I didn’t decide, I was unemployable,” right? Like I couldn’t even do the resume. Like you get the resume, and they’d give you like, here’s the application. I couldn’t fill out the application. Because in those times, the people who are dyslexic weren’t seen as — it was just seen as a learning disability, but the fact is that nobody wanted to hire somebody who was dyslexic, where today, there are so many ways you can get around it, which is great. So, thank you for having me on as well.
Jennifer Ives: [00:53:20] And on that, there are so many perspectives that those with dyslexia and different ways of looking at the world actually bring to projects, to conversations, and leadership, and all of these pieces that are incredibly beneficial, and you’ve described a number of them today.
Bob Moesta: [00:53:36] Well, thanks for having me on. I hope to come back and talk about the other book, because I think that your audience will enjoy that one even more. Because, again, who really wants this stuff?
Scott Varho: [00:53:48] Yeah. We can go ahead and put it in the calendar.
Bob Moesta: [00:53:51] Good. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Jennifer Ives: [00:53:57] This has been an episode of The Innovation Engine, a podcast from 3Pillar Global. If you have questions, comments, or guest suggestions, email us at email@example.com.