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When your sales team are already having daily 1on1 conversations with clients, what is the best approach in engaging with these clients for market research without being interruptive?

9 Answers
Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Gem Head of MarketingDecember 18

If your sales reps are already having daily conversations, you’re in luck! It means they aren’t short on time with their customers and giving you 20-30 minutes shouldn't be a big deal. 

You might have the best chance positioning the market research ask as something that can strengthen the relationship with the customer. If they’re already taking the time to meet with your company often, they likely are heavy users of your product and would value the opportunity to provide input into your strategy. Even if you’re trying to do research on messaging, rather than collect product feedback, you can expand the conversation to include product feedback as a way to get what you want. I've seen this work lots of times as long as it's framed the right way and you're straightforward about your intentions.

I used to get nervous making these asks, but have found more often than not that customers appreciate being asked. It makes them feel like a strategic partner, and when the customer is happy, the sales rep is happy.

841 Views
Agustina Sacerdote
Agustina Sacerdote
Square Global Head of PMM and Content Marketing, TIDALMarch 25

I would start with getting information from Sales first. At Square, I rely very strongly on Account Managers to get a sense for the needs and attitudes of larger merchants. I'll talk to them directly first and then will try to partner up with them on specific conversations to close very specific knowledge gaps. Try to coordinate with your Sales / AM counterparts to make the 30 - 45 minute call with customers productive for everyone. 

1836 Views
Daniel Palay
Daniel Palay
3Gtms Head Of Product MarketingMarch 31

I love this question, partly because it allows me to address what I consider to be one of the great misconceptions of product marketing-related research. In my opinion, and experience, your engagements need not be with existing customers and, in fact, sometimes it's better if they're not. When I was consulting, rarely would I talk to my clients' actual customers when helping them build personas. Why? Two reasons:

1. The questions I had applied equally to customers/non-customers.

2. No existing bias to creep into the conversation.

Conventional wisdom says that it's important to understand your customers, and their experience with your product. And that's true. But what's more important is knowing what problems are constantly on their minds and figuring out how you can help solve them. Those problems should be universally present, so non-customers that are representative if your target demographic are just as good to talk to. They also won't be subject to the confirmation bias associated with affirming they made the right choice in picking your product in the first place.

455 Views
Alissa Lydon
Alissa Lydon
Dovetail Product Marketing LeadApril 28

I am hoping that some of my other answers have made this clear, but in case they haven't - market research, just like everything else in Product Marketing, is a team sport. The more you can show the value of this kind of research (i.e. how it will help sales win more deals), the easier it will be to recruit sales to join that team. From there, you can find a process or cadence that works for everyone to ensure that you are getting the engagement you need without stepping on any toes.

But there is an even better solution to this - you can get sales to do some market and competitive research for you! When I build competitive intel materials (e.g. battlecards), I like to schedule a working session with our customer facing teams. We start with a working draft of all of the information we have gathered so far, and then give sales, success, support etc. the opportunity to collaborate, contribute, and give feedback. This lets everyone feel like they are part of the process, but more importantly enables them on the framework we are using for thinking about our competitors and the market. From there, encourage those teams to continue to share what they hear, either in a shared Slack channel, or even on battlecards themselves. This ensures the content stays fresh, and that you have a truly cross functional research program!

487 Views
Ambika Aggarwal
Ambika Aggarwal
Culture Amp Senior Director of Product MarketingSeptember 23

Honestly, with the rise of tools like Gong you don't even need to necessarily ask your reps to join in on customer calls. If there are specific questions you want to ask you can always ask your rep to weave it into the call, or ask your AM or CS rep to schedule a call with an existing customer to aid with the market research. As long as customer calls are recorded in Gong you can always use that as a vehicle to go back and listen (and take advantage of some of the cool analytical features that Gong has!) 

If you have a particular set of questions you want to ask, I would recommend starting with existing customers rather than joining in on sales conversations since reps are really in discovery and pitching mode and you wouldn't want to interrupt the flow. You can work with your CS team to identify really strong customer champions who would be willing to talk to you. 

350 Views
Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Twilio Vice President Product MarketingDecember 3

If your company uses a tool like Gong.io that is the most non-intrusive way to glean insights from sales conversations. It's a great tool that lets you search key topics in an easy way. 

If Gong isn't an option to you, then work through your sales team. Be intentional about which customers you’d like to speak to and be clear about why you want to speak to them. Always get permission from your sellers to reach out to their customers. Depending on the stage of the deal cycle the sellers may or may not want you to be involved so it doesnt disrupt the sales cycle. You have to be ok with that, and keep moving. 

398 Views
Grant Shirk
Grant Shirk
Cisco Head of Product Marketing, Cisco Campus Network ExperiencesApril 14

Join the conversation. As a PMM, you should have a seat at the table in any customer conversation. You bring a different perspective to the discussion and can often ask different questions than your account exec can. 

One thing that's important is to separate these customer conversations from "market research." Due to their in-depth nature, sales and customer conversations are more qualitative than quantitative. Listen, ask questions, understand their existing conditions and frustrations, and lean into what's not working for them. You'll also hear the traps any competitors have set for you if they're leading the account.

These qualitative conversations will give you more context than any quantitative research can, and you can use sales listening tools (Gong, Chorus, etc.) to audit more conversations at scale, once you know what to listen for.

Once you're in the conversations and have a relationship with a few prospects, you'll earn the chance to follow up later, too. It's much easier to do a loss review with a customer you were helpful towards than flying in as a new person later. 

314 Views
Jeffrey Vocell
Jeffrey Vocell
Panorama Education Head of Product MarketingAugust 5

Good question. As with everything, a lot of the answer is it depends.

If you have a customer marketing team, I hope they're doing some level of "air traffic control" and have a sense of which customers are being reached out to with specific asks (i.e. beta requests, market research, company speaking opportunity, etc).

If not, I'd work with Sales and CS to ensure you're talking to the right customers, and on the right cadence. Come-up with a list of customers you're going to reach out to and collaboratively share it with them ahead of time, and then set the appropriate expectations with the customer.

283 Views
Tracy Montour
Tracy Montour
HiredScore Head of Product MarketingAugust 5

The sales team have so much knowledge and one of the biggest risks for an organization is trapping this information in a silo. Work with your sales ops team to determine whats to disseminate this information strategically throughout the organization (for example, adding fields in Salesforce where necessary). Listening to Gong recordings is a great way to glean customer sentiment and feedback without being interruptive, and it never hurts have valuable 1:1 time with your sales team.

257 Views
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