13 min read

28 | Being an Empathetic Leader w/Shamail Tahir, SVP at Buildout

Jan 23, 2023 2:00:00 PM



1. As a product leader, you care about daily average users, user journey, and product analytics. 
2. For product-led growth companies, it's key to put your product data into the CRM. 
3. Speaking the language of finance is key as a product leader. How is your product roadmap impacting business outcomes?
4. Having empathy is key as a leader, for your coworkers, your customers, and being on the executive team. 
5. Marrying product ops with revenue ops is the way of the future. 


Shamail Tahir is the SVP of Product Management at Buildout and has spent over two decades bringing innovation to life that solves real world challenges, at scale, across numerous industries. As the head of product at Buildout, he is focused on improving all aspects of the commercial real estate deal lifecycle from prospecting, marketing, to post-close activities with a focus on empowering brokers to leverage software and data to create value and efficiency in every transaction. Shamail and his family are based in Dallas, TX and recently relocated from Boston, MA.
Connect with our guest, Shamail Tahir, on LinkedIn



[00:00:20] Islin Munisteri: . Okay. Hi, this is Islin Munisteri, host of the Rev Ops Careers podcast sponsored by Theia Strategies.

[00:00:28] I'm excited to have Shamail Tahir here with me today. Welcome to the podcast.

[00:00:34] Shamail Tahir: Hey, thank you Islin, nice to be here. Awesome.

[00:00:38] Islin Munisteri: Shamail is the SVP of product management at Buildout and spent over two decades bringing innovation to life that solves real world challenges at scale across numerous industries. As the head of product at Buildout, he's focused on improving all aspects of the commercial real estate deal lifecycle from prospecting, marketing to post codes activities[00:01:00] with a focus on powering brokers and his family are based in Dallas and recently relocated from Boston.

[00:01:10] Great to have you on the show.

[00:01:12] Shamail Tahir: Thank you.

[00:01:14] Islin Munisteri: Awesome. Why don't we talk about your career a bit? Like how did you get started in product management? You started a solutions architect. So why don't you tell me a bit more about. How you got, your

[00:01:28] Shamail Tahir: start. Yeah, absolutely. So it's been a journey.

[00:01:31] I, I actually started more from the systems administration, systems engineering side. Originally worked for a small vendor, authorized reseller in Atlanta. And then from there I would say I joined E M C later on, which is rice kind majority of my career. But at EMC I got to do a variety of different roles, which I really appreciated the opportunity to have, to be able to do that.

[00:01:52] And so at E M C I did post-sales roles, which were like a solutions architecture role that you mentioned. I did pre-sales roles in terms of managing a [00:02:00] pre-sales team. Worked a little bit in technical marketing to interface between our field in engineering teams, and then eventually started working as a technologist where I was focused on looking at technology trends, looking at our customer.

[00:02:13] And really understanding, given where technology's headed specifically in data storage and cloud, at that point in time. What does that mean for our customers and for our organization in coming up with experiments and ideas that we can try to determine the viability or desirability of leveraging that new innovation or trend into our customer base and our products?

[00:02:34] At that point, again, I was a technologist, but I was playing more or less the role of a product owner, product manager. I just didn't have the title at that point in time. And so ultimately after I got my mba, I started looking into roles where I could leverage all the different experiences I'd built up over time.

[00:02:50] Having experienced being on the presale side, post-sales and engineering. And I found that product management was a career path that would allow me to [00:03:00] leverage all of my skills and all of my experiences at the same time. And so that's really what got me on the product management track. And then since then it's been a journey where I worked at, I b m as a product manager for a while, worked at Athena Health Accrument

[00:03:13] and then finally I'm at build out now working commercial real estate.

[00:03:18] Islin Munisteri: That's interesting. And I guess is there like a certain. Theme in your career that you've seen across different industries?

[00:03:28] Shamail Tahir: Yeah, it's generally solving customer problems and honestly like by having, while I was at emc, I interface with customers in all different industries of all different sizes.

[00:03:37] And so that gave me a lot of perspective on industry dynamics across a wide spectrum of industries as well as understanding, what are the real business objectives and drivers for companies of various sizes. And so I think that helps me when I come into a new organization and a new industry in particular, be able to a, work with the team to understand what's the state of our product, our industry, our customer [00:04:00] base and where we trying to go.

[00:04:01] But then also, Having experienced in other industries, I can usually draw parallels on. Okay. First off, missed a problem in commercial real estate. There was a similar data challenge in healthcare that we might have tackled in the past as well. And so I'm really good at I guess like cross pollinating and adapting experiences from the past industries into industries that I'm in currently.

[00:04:23] Islin Munisteri: Wow, that's amazing. That's a good, that's a good skill to have. . And, what is your philosophy on how Rev Ops should interact with their product marketing and the product team.

[00:04:37] Shamail Tahir: Yeah I think there, there should be a really good alignment between rev ops and the product team in particular.

[00:04:42] I think the data and the processes that the rev ops team manages the whole sales cycle, as well as collecting the data on prospects and how we qualify leads as well as going all the way to knowing what's the stage of a deal and where it's at and what's its likelihood to close.

[00:04:56] All that data is really important for the product team. [00:05:00] because specifically if you're managing a product that is already in market as an existing customer base, understanding signals in terms of is our win rate changing over time are the reasons why we're losing business for winning business changing over time as well and getting those signals so that way product and marketing teams can go dive deeper with like win loss analysis, for example.

[00:05:22] serves as a really good feedback mechanism for the product team in terms of understanding what. Roadmaps and outcomes should be that they need to deliver, given the evolving state of the customers and the industry as a whole. And that's one side of it. I think the other side is when, I'm working on a business case to potentially evaluate a new investment being able to really understand.

[00:05:45] Which customers we have, how much are they paying, how often are we discounting how many customers own one SKU versus multiple SKUs. And being able to leverage that data to be able to drive cohorts in the decision making process. So that way when we are talking about investments, we can talk [00:06:00] more specifically about which cohort are we targeting and what are the signals that we're seeing that are making us consider this investment.

[00:06:07] All that data lives in systems managed by Rev Ops teams

[00:06:11] Islin Munisteri: gotcha. And when you say signals, are you talking about whether you should make an acquisition as a company or is it like what is the challenge?

[00:06:20] Shamail Tahir: Yeah, no, what I'm looking at signals is like I'm looking at our renewal rates, for example, I'm looking at our close rates and I'm looking at, Retention, for example, on an upward or downward trend.

[00:06:30] And is there any sort of if we're capturing, for example, in our sales CRM who we're facing competitively, I can look at that to see, okay, is there a certain competitor that's popping up more often and is that competitor have a different, win rate when we're going against them versus like our average win rate, for example, to be able to see, okay this company has something that I gotta keep an eye on and may need to build additional value propositions to, to mitigate.

[00:06:56] Islin Munisteri: Gotcha. And I guess when you're building those additional value [00:07:00] propositions, is it going straight to the product and building out new product features or something like that? Or is it repositioning existing

[00:07:07] Shamail Tahir: product? It can actually be a bit of both. Packaging and pricing plays a role here.

[00:07:11] So if we look at is this. A situation where a competitor's coming in and really they're, cost cutting us pricing could be a discussion point at that point. It could be a packaging conversation of, okay, what customers are looking for requirements wise is no longer satisfied by one product in our portfolio.

[00:07:28] And we really need to provide them these two or three products together as a bundle to complete that value proposition that we want in the that we wanna deliver to them. It could be that, or it could be to your point. A gap in product market fit and functionality, and that would require us to actually go and develop something against our roadmap.

[00:07:47] Islin Munisteri: Gotcha. So it's really both things you'd have to look for. And I guess when you're trying to understand all of this data, do you have someone on the rev ops team do you, that you rely. To get [00:08:00] this data or do you do the analysis yourself or how's that

[00:08:02] Shamail Tahir: work? Yeah.

[00:08:04] Generally I rely on the rev ops team to acquire the data set that, that I'm looking for and that I need. And then after that it's usually the product team that does the analysis of that data to come up with, the right insights that we need.

[00:08:18] Islin Munisteri: Cool. So that's definitely different cuz usually the product team.

[00:08:22] Always do the analysis, but that's pretty cool. . And then I guess what, sorry what's your best piece of career advice you would tell your younger self?

[00:08:35] Shamail Tahir: I think. It would be that, learn what others do honestly, because no matter what role you're playing in a company we're all part of a bigger organization and we all have dependencies on each other and we all have value that we can create for each other.

[00:08:50] So I think as you learn what others do, , it'll help guide you towards area in the business that fulfill you. And even if you're on the right path already in the role that you're in, it'll at least give you empathy and the [00:09:00] ability to think more broadly about implications of decisions that, and actions that you might be taking in your specific role.

[00:09:07] Islin Munisteri: Gotcha. And I guess like being a svp, like how does empathy play in your role?

[00:09:16] Shamail Tahir: Oh, it's, empathy is something that I think plays a role, both professionally and personally for me at all times. Just cause I feel like you, you have to first of all be able to. Understand when you're reacting to a situation, just out of instinct versus when you've processed and let your consciousness come up with a better rationale and response, if you will, to what's happening around you.

[00:09:39] So I think you always gotta have that Emotional intelligence thing going on at all times. And then from an empathy perspective, I think, being able to understand that sometimes when you're looking for data or you're looking to do something, it might be urgent. And just because you are saying it, someone might react and say, okay, I gotta drop whatever else I'm doing and I gotta go do this now.

[00:09:57] And that's not always the case. So being able to like literally understand, okay, [00:10:00] what's the workload on this other person's play? What are they expecting of me? What's urgent versus what's something that's critical but not as urgent? And being able to kind. Leverage that to make sure that you're making all parties feel that, we're going in the same direction and we all have the same priorities.

[00:10:15] It takes a lot of empathy to kind, like to connect both with your peers and your reports and even customers, and in product you definitely need empathy because what you're building ultimately is for your users and customers.

[00:10:28] Islin Munisteri: That is true. It's, yeah, that, that is true.

[00:10:31] Like you gotta put the customer first. Like in talking with a lot of rev ops leaders there's this customer centricity that that comes into play. So yeah. The empathy is huge. I guess what are some other I guess besides emotional intelligence and empathy that plays?

[00:10:51] Role in, in your job at such a high

[00:10:54] Shamail Tahir: level financials, like being able to speak the language of finance matters a lot. I think at this [00:11:00] stage in your career oftentimes, as a product leader, you are responsible for the product function, but then you're also a member of the executive team responsible for collaborating with your peers that might run marketing or might run finance or might run sales.

[00:11:14] And being able to connect with them in a way that kind of measures the business at the end comes down to finance. And so you have to be able to, you. Convert any sort of like value proposition, any sort of feature outcome that you're driving, being able to take that and go, okay, what does that really mean for the business though?

[00:11:32] Is this gonna lead to a higher win rate, which leads to more revenue? Is this gonna impact, our costs and therefore our margins increase? And being able to kind of translate, product roadmap into, okay, what's the business outcome that's gonna deliver at the end of the day?

[00:11:49] Islin Munisteri: Gotcha. And I guess, What are the important metrics for you in, in commercial real estate

[00:11:57] Shamail Tahir: software? For [00:12:00] us, I guess are you asking more specifically for the industry or are you asking specifically for the product team?

[00:12:05] Islin Munisteri: Yeah, that's a good question. I would say for your product team, like what are the important metrics?

[00:12:12] Shamail Tahir: So for us, as I mentioned win rate's pretty important. I like to look at, and then I'm talking more from the things that are external to us first. So win rate's important. Looking at discounting trends and discounting tiers that are being applied to new sales to see how are we doing in the market and is the price to value adequate or not for what we're offering?

[00:12:30] And then I think from a product perspective we look at obviously like monthly active users, daily active users. We look at, how is the user journey once someone's in the product and they're completing a certain task, like creating a new listing in marketing what are the pages and feet and buttons that they're clicking along the way to get there?

[00:12:49] Is that intuitive? Could that be streamlined further? Is there something where they're getting into a situation where they're having to go back and forth between different screens or different areas of the product to do a task that they need to do?[00:13:00] So product analytics is also a big one.

[00:13:04] And I guess, are

[00:13:05] Islin Munisteri: you guys at the point where you're actually putting product analytics into the crm? and and taking actions on what people are doing in the product. If they're getting stuck on something but they haven't yet called customer support do you proactively reach out with an

[00:13:21] email or something like that, or, no,

[00:13:23] Shamail Tahir: That's a great suggestion. I think that's a good direction to go in. Right now we're not at that level right now. We are getting customer insights and we can understand like what are, the trending pain points, if you will, within the product.

[00:13:34] And obviously support cases play a part there too, in terms of looking at what are people calling in for or emailing us about. But building that workflow automation to say, okay, we have this product metric. We know that this means that if someone's spending you. 10 minutes on the screen versus the average of five minutes, maybe we should email them or reach out to 'em, say, Hey, is everything okay?

[00:13:54] We noticed you were trying to do this task. Is there anything that we can help you with? But the workflow automation for that isn't [00:14:00] quite there yet. Cool.

[00:14:03] Islin Munisteri: Yeah, it's just, it's always interesting to talk to different companies and SaaS and see if all, if all of the data's actually going to the CRM or if only.

[00:14:13] Like sales marketing, feel like the next thing that's going to happen is getting that product usage data into the crm.

[00:14:22] Shamail Tahir: Absolutely. And then I think it also varies even within SaaS you've got like companies that follow sales strategies versus product-led strategies.

[00:14:29] And I think what you're mentioning is like almost critical. It must have for a product. Growth company where you oftentimes actions people are taking within the product. Did you have a free user or a trial user that took certain amount of actions in your product and therefore you now know that they realize the value of what your product can do for them.

[00:14:49] And so you package that up as a product qualified lead for your sales team. And you automate that workflow of logging down to CRM system so it can be routed to a salesperson. And they can follow [00:15:00] up in a product led growth organization. That's almost like a must have, I think for SaaS companies that are more like sales led.

[00:15:08] It's optional, but I think it still would be valuable to do. Cool.

[00:15:16] Islin Munisteri: That's something good to know. Do you have any other questions or do we wanna go deeper into anything we talked about today?

[00:15:24] Shamail Tahir: No, I think, the only other thing that I'll say is like your last question on metrics I think made me think of like an emerging field within product management, which is product operations.

[00:15:32] And so that would be really interesting to see what does, what's the pairing of product operations and Rev ops looks like in the future? Just cause the product operations team in a nutshell is responsible for basically being able to look at all of the health metrics that I mentioned from the SaaS application perspective.

[00:15:48] Look at user journeys and user flows, and they're also able to help execute, you know, Alphas and betas for the product team in general. It helps the product function scale and get much more operational in terms [00:16:00] of metrics. And that can, I think, align really well with a rev ops function as well.

[00:16:05] But I think I'd be interested to see where that goes in the future of like product ops plus rev ops.

[00:16:11] Islin Munisteri: Wow. This is something new that I haven't necessarily heard about yet of product operations. I guess what, what would be in product operations like is it just helping the product scale?

[00:16:27] Or is it getting all the data and doing data analytics behind the

[00:16:31] Shamail Tahir: product? It's a bit of both. It's doing the, getting the data, doing the data analytics behind the product, so you know, really focusing on the product analytics and product metrics that you can drive. But then ultimately it's helping to optimize the other functions.

[00:16:45] Just like Rev Ops is helping optimize sales and marketing, et cetera. Product ops is really helping product engineering and potentially customer success. Optimize their workflows and data feeds. That

[00:16:59] Islin Munisteri: sounds [00:17:00] like a good topic for future podcasts, . Great. It was wonderful having you on the podcast now, and I look forward to talking to you more soon.

[00:17:11] Shamail Tahir: Yeah, definitely. I really enjoy this. Thank you for having me on. Awesome.

Islin Munisteri

Written by Islin Munisteri