In SaaS businesses across the world, Salespeople and Accounts Managers (OK, mainly salespeople) will be making the claim that a missing platform feature will help them close a deal or save an account.
“If we can build an integration to [insert niche platform name here] they said they’ll sign our contract this month.”
But as many or most Saas companies have found, the loudest voices don’t necessarily provide the most universally valuable feedback or suggestions. From experience, one of the top causes of friction between Sales and Product teams is the age-old question of - who works for who?
Product teams thrive on developing features, updates and enhancements that provide genuine value to ALL clients current and future (or at least the majority - there is no pleasing some people) - yes there’s a case for the one feature that will ‘help us close our biggest deal ever’ - but not if it stalls or stops production of several features that could benefit 20 other customers.
How do you level the playing field without discouraging suggestions?
The Crowdicity platform was designed to capture ideas, feedback and insight to create a democratic innovation process, not only in idea suggestion but in the scoring, selecting and prioritizing of what receives investment.
Here’s how we approach prioritising what goes into our product roadmap in four simple steps:
Step 1 - Present a single place for enhancement suggestions, ideas for new features, tweaks or additions - from across the business
Whether a huge change (“let’s rebuild using blockchain”) or a small tweak (“can we allow users to tag in teams?”) every idea and suggestion captured from customers and prospects arrive into a single challenge.
Ideas can be a few lines of text, or a complete spec doc added as a powerpoint, attached to a specific theme or simply an insight posted following a thought-provoking client meeting.
Regardless of the individuals' seniority, tenure, experience, client size, each and every suggestion is given the same exposure to the wider Sales, Accounts and Product team to discuss (politely argue) the merit of the enhancement.
Step 2 - Prove the value and gain support
Great ideas can easily be missed and terrible ideas are often rushed into. A simple exercise in refinement and evaluation helps to separate good concepts from essential additions.
- Will this feature benefit all of our clients present and future?
- Will this feature increase our ability to sell our product?
- Will this enhancement save our customers time or money when using Crowdicity?
- Has this been requested by a client (or have you plucked this idea from thin air? - which is fine - if it's a great idea!
Step 3 - Fair and independent review
Product teams don’t look to trip up Sales and Accounts teams and often get a bad rep within Sales and Account teams for not immediately building everything that is thrown (over the fence on fire) at them.
Open evaluation allows all to see why a feature will or not be pursued - we use a scorecard which reflects the above questions, but includes variable such as ‘time to build’, ‘time to market’ and ‘complexity’.
Step 4 - Communicate the outcome & celebrate the contribution
Let the entire business know which have been selected and why; when to expect them and what to communicate to clients and prospects.
Celebrate how engaged your workforce is in the development of your product and the success of your clients.
Get the features into your roadmapping software.
Rinse and repeat.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing every opportunity that may appear to offer huge rewards.“if we just...change the entire platform, host locally, add really specific functionality…. “ all appear fair requests at the time and they shouldn’t be discouraged - instead allow all teams to see why enhancements are selected (or not - it's critical to give feedback to foster trust) and where they can suggest them in the future.
- A democratic process for enhancement suggestions creates:
- Valuable collaboration between teams - removing the head to head of Sales and Product
- A history and knowledge base of all suggestions, their authors and the reaction from the business
- A neatly catagorised collection of market feedback, process improvement ideas and a valuable knowledge bases to mine in the future
Salespeople aren’t offended if their product suggestions aren’t built in favour of better ideas (that will help them sell more).
Salespeople are offended if their ideas are simply ignored because they didn’t shout loud enough.
Good communication and a democratic process for idea evaluation are key to striking a balance between immediate sales need and future product value.