CEO at Vivun, making PreSales the heroes of the Enterprise through the industry’s first AI-powered platform.
Companies desperately want to find a winning product-market fit, but they can’t do so by simply sitting in an ivory tower, waiting for it to jump out of a Kanban board or emerge through financially motivated customer surveys. Winning product visions are the outcome of having a real-time pulse on customer needs without relying on tribal knowledge, gut feelings or biased market research.
Product-market fit is even more important as a result of the phenomenon of product-led growth. The dynamics are driven by self-service trials and freemium models that let customers use products before they even commit, resulting in highly educated buyers who expect perfection through the entire customer journey. As a result, it’s never been more critical for companies to get product feedback and iterate at a lightning-fast pace.
Yet, as CEO of a presales platform, I have found companies, in their search for the winning product-market fit, most often overlook the single most strategic tool they have to accomplish this: the presales teams themselves.
The Wild Wild West (Of Spreadsheets And Product Management Boards)
How and where a company amasses product feedback is essential to finding a winning product-market fit. The best market research is conducted in real time, through virtual or physical interactions with customers, and garners information about the industry, products and competition.
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However, I’ve found companies typically use one of three approaches to gain product feedback: They hire a plethora of product liaisons to wrestle with massive spreadsheets and tediously comb through call recordings; they open the Jira floodgates and hope a project manager can somehow sift through and make sense of a thousand tickets; or lastly, they use financially motivated customer surveys that are not sound research. All three are operational nightmares.
And some companies are notorious for listening to only the loudest customer or salesperson in the room, validating their qualms and feedback above all else without having the data to back it up. This can hurt a company’s efforts to find a winning product-market fit, as the product intelligence they gain is colored by gut feelings and personality rather than data.
Presales: The Team That’s Key To Unlocking A Winning Product-Market Fit
A more viable approach begins at the intersection of where people, technology, process and data collection meet to understand customer needs, or what’s better known in software as a service sales departments as “presales.” Presales, unlike any other department in a company, interacts with customers across the entire buyer journey, from evaluation to expansion, which gives them unparalleled exposure to the customer and their needs.
Presales professionals are ideally placed to see where the market is at and going within the next 12 to 36 months, as this team works with customers who have not purchased a product yet but are plotting their future strategies. Because of the close proximity to the product, presales teams can answer critical questions that inform product-market fit, such as: Why have prospects not purchased the product yet or perhaps never will? What will make customers stay? What are the technical gaps, and how severe are they? How much money are customers willing to spend on the solution?
Based on my observations, many modern, fast-growth software companies are forming and bolstering their presales departments, as product-led growth is creating a large demand for professionals who intimately know the technology and can help customers expand their use cases.
Despite the wealth of information presales professionals can bring to the table, they are often overlooked as no more than demo jockeys and a form of sales assistance. Companies are so accustomed to presales only providing demos and technical expertise for sales opportunities that when they look for ways to drive growth, they fail to see how presales teams can elevate their products and revenue. And instead of perceiving presales as a treasure chest brimming with product and market insights, many companies waste time and money with market research that yields little return.
The inherent value of presales, and the integrity and granularity of the product feedback they receive by being on the front lines of demos and deals, needs to be cultivated if companies want to get closer to identifying winning product-market fit. Only by reimagining what presales can deliver will the full potential of this strategic department be realized.
Take, for example, a leading data warehouse provider I observed that went from initial genesis to IPO in eight years. It has a presales department made up of more than 400 professionals and has been successful in identifying winning product-market fit because the presales team was able to influence the rapid iteration of products to meet customers’ needs in the field. By pitching and giving demos, listening to customers’ concerns, delivering practical feedback to engineers and then pitching again, presales professionals at this organization are highly responsive to customers and plugged into the market.
The company in this example is at the vanguard, but other companies can follow its example by using presales to capture reliable product feedback that will help product teams prioritize and build incredible new features at a lightning pace.
Product-led growth has resulted in a boom in presales, with customers hungry for technically minded professionals who understand the product, customers and customers’ needs. As the collectors of customer feedback and data, consider allowing your presales department to own the entire process of connecting products to customer needs in the field.
And remember: Although finding a winning product-market fit can sometimes feel like trying to spot a leopard in the wild, when companies employ their presales departments to inform the product road map with valuable and unique customer feedback, they can get closer to achieving it than ever before.