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How to gather customer feedback in a way your product team can actually use
Use call reports to create structure
One of the most important jobs of a sales leader is to bring the voices of customers and prospects into your organization. It helps inform strategy, validate hypotheses, build messaging and drive the roadmap.
Salespeople are seldom shy about voicing the needs of their customers if it will lead to closing a deal. However, feedback from sales teams tends to come in piecemeal or at best biased by recency.
This makes it hard for your product counterparts to detect the patterns needed to prioritize what to build and can pull your product development resources in too many directions at the same time.
A way to solve this problem is to gather feedback systematically with call reports.
What is a call report?
A call report is a structured summary of a client meeting, containing the following information:
Customer name, attendees and titles—be sure to capture all attendees and map them to your known buyer personas e.g. champion, power-user, exec sponsor, influencer.
Meeting objective—e.g. “Demo product to new personas”, “Review proposal with stakeholders”, “QBR to pitch expansion of product Y”.
Key insights—bullet point summaries of customer reactions, objections, additional needs, features, integrations etc.
Materials used—list the enablement materials used on the call (can also link to the presentation if online).
Next step—state the objective and due date.
Link to call recording—optional but can be useful for folks who weren’t on the call who want to listen for additional context.
What are the benefits of using call reports?
From my experience using versions of call reports at Polyvore, Quora and Ethena, there are numerous benefits:
Insight into the last-mile of your GTM, where the ideas of product development meet the realities of customer needs. This is equally valuable for early-stage companies trying to find product market fit as it is for later-stage companies where internal-facing employees are distant from customers.
Insight into how customers describe the problems you solve and the impact they are looking for. This is crucial for building messaging and making the transition from a product-centric to a customer-centric company
A record of feedback on your product, enablement materials, common objections and competitors, for later analysis.
Clarity for salespeople on their next step with a customer. Like all goals, writing them down helps make them clearer and more accountable.
A forum for discussion, which is even more important in a remote-work environment.
How do you implement call reports?
I’ve seen three levels of implementation work effectively:
Basic (teams of <5 salespoeple): send call reports in email to a group alias or a slack to a group channel. It creates an instant forum for discussion and the volume of reports is manageable for summarizing. We did this at Polyvore with 6 salespeople and it worked great as everyone was selling into a similar customer profile.
Pro (teams of 5-10 salespeople): attach the call reports to Salesforce opportunities. We did this at Quora because we were an inside sales team having a lot of meetings. We created a form in Salesforce with fields for customer name, attendees, insights and so on. It mades sending the call report an integral part of updating the opportunity after the call. We also set up Salesforce to email the report to a group alias for discussion (can also do this via Slack).
Enterprise (multiple teams): once you get to multiple teams, or salespeople focused on different market segments or different verticals, you need to segment who sees the reports in real time from who sees the summary. For example, if you have an SMB team and and Enterprise team, or an Entertainment team and a CPG team, you need to create two aliases or two slack channels.
How do you drive adoption of call reports?
Driving adoption, like any new process, takes time. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the past 10 years:
Lead from the front—you won’t get 100% of your team to start writing call reports as salespeople are naturally skeptical of new processes. But attending calls yourself and writing reports shows your team what is expected and the value of doing so.
Engage with call reports—reply to reports highlighting good insights, ask constructive questions around gaps in the report and encourage others to join in. It shows that the work is important.
Use in 1:1 coaching sessions—if a salesperson isn’t hitting their goal, reviewing call reports is a useful way to diagnose the conversations they are having, the materials they are using and the objections they are running into.
Show the value—once a quarter, summarize the findings and review with your team. I did this with my teams at Polyvore and Quora and we do this at Ethena as part of our quarterly retro and planning process. It helps everyone see that their voices (and those of their customers) are being heard and acted upon.
Evolve the process—if types of problems come up frequently, turn them into dedicated fields in your CRM. For example, at Quora we were often asked for new targeting capabilities so we turned that into its own field. Similarly, at Ethena we often get asked to integrate with HR systems so we now track those requests in dedicated fields.
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