Product Intelligence: Rely on Presales, Not Customer Bribes

Matt Darrow Matt Darrow

Billion-dollar companies live and die by their ability to guide and shape their product, and you’d think that they would have highly sophisticated market research and data mining tools in order to help them accomplish this. Well, I’ve been on the receiving end of several of these research initiatives lately, and the answer is…not so much.

You know how they derive critical product and market intelligence? They bribe me.

Oh, the bribes can be somewhat different. One organization with a multi-billion dollar market cap offered to donate $10 to the charity of my choice. The other wanted to drop me in a drawing to win a $200 Amazon gift card. In both cases, the ask was a “simple, quick, 10-minute survey” in which I explained what I thought of their products and how they could be improved.

I passed.

The reality is, I know both of those companies very well and I have a lot to say about those products. But I’m 1) extremely busy and even 10 minutes is a high ask, and 2) although I absolutely support charity donations, neither the donation nor the drawing are enough to entice me to drop everything I’m doing and tell these desperate product research teams what’s on my mind.

And I shouldn’t have to. The answers these teams seek isn’t in a $10 Starbucks card, but in the experiences and interactions that presales already have as part of a daily cadence of trials, demos, and deliverables. Product and market research teams already have the knowledge and insight they need—it lives within their own company, in the world of presales.

Only presales has the interactions required where prospects and customers are compelled to tell them what they think about the product, at exactly the moment when they are considering a purchasing decision or trying to implement and scale the solution. Presales hears, all the time, the answers to questions like:

  • Why are you buying/what is your use case?
  • What has your experience been?
  • How are you planning to meet a key technical objective with this product?
  • What would justify this purchase, or buying more?
  • What will make you stay?
  • What are our technical gaps and how severe are they?
  • What do you want this product to look like in 6 months, a year, in 5 years?
  • When you tell your peers about us, what exactly do you say?

If organizations truly had a way to tap into this intelligence, they would not need to make charitable donations (although I hope they still do) or plead for feedback via gift cards and surveys; they would have a massive storehouse of actionable information and data that would feed the roadmap for years to come.

So why don’t they? Aside from the fact that presales’ unique access to product intelligence is generally ignored or not understood, it’s because the sheer amount of information that presales captures is overwhelming; it’s a massive store of unstructured data that can’t be parsed as easily as, say, answers living in SurveyMonkey. And yet, this product feedback is worth 50x more than anything communicated by survey respondents.

One of the key strategic drivers for adopting Vivun is to give beleaguered product and market research teams a way to access the product information that presales already understands. We do this in three ways:

1. Intake. We give the individual presales contributor an easy, productive place to manage their day-to-day work—all of their POCs and trials, and deliverables—without having to either drown in spreadsheets or cram their life into a custom Salesforce field. This work includes granular feedback about the product gaps and technical blockers causing friction in each individual engagement.

2. Categorization. The data contributed by individual presales people generates a tsunami data, but we’re able to use our AI technology focused on raw text and natural language processing to make sense of all that raw information. Then we turn that data into easily digestible presentations by…

3. Applying business metrics to the categorized data. This is what you see in our pre-built Saleforce dashboards—key, actionable insights into product gaps and what the business needs to do in order to close in process opportunities as well as win more deals.

Only Vivun creates this flow of content between product and sales via Intake, Categorization, and Business Impact Metrics—turning the insights captured by presales into invaluable, accurate information for the product team. The data bubbles up into master dashboards that give a clear overview of the major product gaps that the field is experiencing across the board. And because Vivun understands the value of each opportunity that the team is pursuing, it’s able to put a revenue number on those product blockers—meaning, how much the company would make if those gaps are removed. 

Furthermore, due to our tight integration with the worlds in which product lives—GitHub and Jira—we even know how close a company is to closing those gaps. (Which in turn tells the presales team how close they are to victory, and even whether to go in and revive a dormant opportunity that may be the beneficiary of a newly refreshed product.)

The bottom line is this: the best companies in the years to come will have the tightest alignment between sales and product, because those organizations will understand the incredible value of a bi-directional flow of information between the groups. And the starting point? It’s not gift cards, surveys, and email blasts. It’s the smart people on the front lines who are already the binding force that brings together sales and product: the presales team.

Matt Darrow Matt Darrow September 18, 2020