As product companies we build products to meet a need out there. Along the way, we follow the standard practice of reaching out to existing customers, prospects, experts in the field to get validation of the problem, our proposed solution, market, pricing etc.
But having met someone (physically or online) and requested feedback, accepting the feedback is a skill that many of us don’t possess. It is an area all of us need some training in. The natural tendency is to immediately react to feedback (specially when it is negative). The result of that is it will block any additional feedback from coming your way.
How does one rein in the urge to react and make the best use of the time with someone who is helping you? Here are some things we learnt as part of numerous sessions.
As companies continue to figure out the true role of a Customer Success Manager(CSM), various aspects of the job keeping coming up for debate. As such the Customer Success Manager job is an overarching role that touches various functions such as sales, on-boarding, implementation, training, support, product while continuing to be the single point of contact with the customer.
One such responsibility that gets debated repeatedly in the many discussions I have had with SaaS company leaders is – should CSMs carry a quota? Should they be responsible for up-selling, renewals ?
To set some context and understand how companies have attempted to fulfill the need for Customer Success function will yield the following
- Large majority of companies have converted their Account Management team to Customer Success Team
- A smaller minority have all but renamed their support representatives as Customer Success Managers while continuing to expect them to manage their help desk function.
- Another slice of companies the Customer Success
Continue reading "Should Customer Success Managers carry Quota ?"
All products need validation before they are built to ascertain the real problem they solve. They need early supporters/evangelists, after they are built, to prove their worth in the marketplace and to cross the proverbial chasm.
Getting people to try your product is tough but let us assume you were lucky and found some early adopters through some hustle and/or network. How should you engage with them? How do you deliver value to them in return for taking the risk on you ?
Early adopters are like gold dust. It is paramount that you treat these early customers as special in return for them risking their money, time and decision equity within their company. Your future strategy for customer acquisition, customer engagement, pricing and marketing will depend a lot on how successful your early adopters were.
However, before you engage with them, it might be prudent for you to put a process in place to manage that relationship, and maximize
Continue reading "Early Adopters and the value they bring to your product"
A day-in-a-life of a Product Manager involves a variety of interactions, sometimes it is customers, sometime it is the marketing team and most times it could be the engineering team. As a product manager one is required to seek out information from one channel, synthesize it and feed other channels. It could be understanding the requirements from a set of customers, rationalizing it and validating it, crafting it to feed the positioning, messaging initiatives of Product Marketing while simultaneously translating it into functional specifications for the engineers.
Two of the most critical skills of being a successful product manager (I would dare say, most jobs) are asking open-ended questions and listening. Listening involves processing information and cataloging them properly in your memory for recall later. But it starts with the questions you ask, how you ask them and how you follow up.
A typical mistake most people make here is they imagine/rehearse the conversation going a
Continue reading "Mastering the fine art of open-ended questions"
We have all heard and know about Buyer’s Journey. The process they go through from the time a technology need arises, all the way through the decision process, involving inputs from all the stakeholders, till they make a purchase. While that journey has been analyzed and optimized and then some, I don’t think SaaS companies have paid a lot of attention to the journey a customer goes through post-purchase till they realize the value from the product. Consequently, the widespread lack of customer satisfaction in large majority of enterprise software customers.
P.S. In this post, when we refer to Customer Journey, Purchase process etc, we do that in the context of Software-as-a-Service. While there might be a slight difference in the way other industries manage customer success, the core principles remain the same.
By itself, Customer Success is not a new concept. The term “Customer Success” might be new but Industries like Telecom,
Continue reading "Have you mapped your Customer Success Journey yet?"
Sales discovery call is an important event in the sales process. Assessing and gaining an in-depth understanding of the prospect’s real need will have a big bearing on how (if at all) you close the deal. While everybody involved in the sales process knows the importance of the discovery call, how it gets conducted leaves a lot to be desired. Having said that, everybody is busy and they will only give you one (maybe two) sittings to discuss the needs. So it is important that you do a thorough job of discovery so you don’t miss out on the opportunity. The key goal of a discovery call should be to understand their current state and what they don’t like about it and the future state and what they would like to see a product do to help.
NOTE: As much as it is a discovery call for you to gauge the prospects interest
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Bringing a product to the market is difficult. Convincing others to buy the product or use the product is even more. It is critical that the positioning of the product and messaging the value it delivers is done right. The Value Proposition of a product or service has a major impact on the success of the product in the marketplace.
Note: Product here is a proxy to a product or service or a hybrid solution.
It all starts with a problem. A problem that is faced by the creators of the product in personal life or in a business situation. It could be a problem that has long been not solved or a problem created by an event. Then the creators of the product will seek out others to see how prevalent and widespread the problem is. After establishing the need and expectations of the product, the creators embark upon
Continue reading "Value Proposition – Should it be Problem focused or Result focused?"
Product Demos start much before the product has come into being. Startups would do well to follow Steve Blank’s customer development, in arriving at the definition of what the product would be. While most of the demos with prospective customers would be around the problem, the degree of pain, day-in-a-life of the end-user and the benefits of your proposed solution, a demo to prospective investors would be slightly different.
Judging from demos of 20+ companies from two accelerators I was part of, in the last week, it was clear that this is one area where startups/entrepreneurs have to do some work. As I was giving my inputs/feedback, I thought it would be useful if I created a template for a early-stage startup demo.
Notice that I am not saying it is “early-stage product demo”, with good reasons. As an early-stage startup, while you might have an incarnation of your product ready, it is bound to change.
Continue reading "Anatomy of an early-stage startup demo"
With increasing number of software solutions moving to SaaS, the way to charge, collect the fee for the service is also changing. License (lump-sum) fee is being replaced by (monthly/annual) subscription fee. If the architecture, data management, service uptime (SLAs) are not challenging enough, SaaS companies now also have to deal with subscription pricing, billing and tiered offerings which is not the core competency of most SaaS businesses. To meet this this challenge, a new category of software offering called Subscription Management (aptly also SaaS) which specialize in providing robust billing, pricing capabilities has emerged.
A friend who runs a SaaS company, which is growing fast and has outgrown their in-house process/technology of managing subscriptions, was beginning to evaluate a Billing Service. He asked me to help with characterization of what an ideal service should be capable of and baseline the needs that they need to assess. Thought it might be
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Product Management teams have always had to deal with competing priorities when it came to defining the roadmap and what goes into it. A product roadmap is fluid and evolves as the customer base expands or based on larger market demands. It is easy to get into a product features’ arm race with the competition in an effort to check all the boxes.
Requirements come in all shapes and forms. They could be Executive whim, one-upmanship with the competition and if nothing else there is always the Gartner “magic” quadrant that compels teams to build things that in hindsight would look stupid.
With all the barrage of requests for new features/enhancements, how does a Product Manager prioritize? The budget implications and schedules of people come later. First thing that has to be decided is what makes it to the train. We have all had this quandary. Back when we were
Continue reading "Prioritizing Product Requirements using T"