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Bizzabo news | 16 May 2017

BizzaValues: How the Product Team Chooses Excellence

Amir Hofman

 At Bizzabo, we put people first. That’s why we launched the BizzaValues program to help us further cultivate our company values and culture. Here’s what VP of Products Amir Hofman has to say about it.

When I was a child, I found many heroic models to identify with: Batman, Tarzan, Steve Austin the Six Million Dollar Man (more remembered by the adults among us) and Superman—who for me was the greatest of all heroes.

He could extinguish a huge fire by creating an iceberg from his breath, could lift trains with one hand and, more than anything, he could fly. Superman didn’t hover or float, he flew faster than the speed of light! I wanted to be Superman. Bad. He was excellent at everything he did.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who adopted superheroic role models in childhood. But, at some point I began to wonder: Is Superman (or any superhero for that matter) a realistic model for excellence?

george-reeves-superman.jpg

The face of excellence? via CapeWonder.com

About two months ago, we launched the BizzaValues project. During the first month of the project, we focused on the value Better Together. You can read more about it in a wonderful (and funny) post by one of Bizzabo’s Accounts Executives, Massimiliano Scatarzi. For the month of May we are working on implementing our second value, We Choose Excellence.

There is an idea that excellence demands perfection, transcendence, or extraordinariness. If that’s the case, then Superman is definitely excellent. But for the rest of mere mortals, I prefer the idea that excellence is not action, but habit. It’s the constant striving for improvement, with dedication, commitment and involvement beyond the defined fields of action.

 

Excellence is the path, not the result

Each man’s life represents the road toward himself, and attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path.

—Herman Hesse

At Bizzabo, we constantly strive for excellence. It’s an important part of our day-to-day. It involves caring about everything we do. This includes the little simple things like the way we communicate with each other and our approach to our prospects and clients. But also it includes the large things like our vision, strategy, etc. Every aspect of what we do can constantly be improved to ensure that our clients and employees feel appreciated and taken care of.

To foster excellence there are a number of fundamentals that must exist in a company culture:

  • Common purpose and shared values
  • Open and flexible perspective that enables seeing and accepting the different, the other, and the new.
  • Progressive and developing teams that know how to manage their knowledge effectively, and learns from successes and failures.
  • A code of integrity
  • An endless cycle of improvement without end, dissatisfaction with the status quo
  • And finally, the idea that excellence is a habit rather than a one-time event

So what specifically do we do in the product team to cultivate excellence? A lot of things. Really a lot. Here are a few of the major ones:

Know The Data

In a company whose product is SaaS-based, the total number of meetings and calls with customers that occur within one day is far greater than just the number of meetings and calls made by Product Managers with customers. Indeed, Business Development Reps, Account Executives, Customer Success Managers and Customer Support Reps all speak to many customers on a daily basis.

“Each touch-point with an existing or potential customer can be turned into aggregative data that helps the product make better decisions.”

There is certainly no substitute for the qualitative calls that Product Managers carry out regarding discovery, exploration, usability and more. These are great and absolutely necessary. But in all of the other conversations that other teams hold with customers, there are huge amounts of knowledge and data that can help the product team make smarter and better data-driven decisions. For instance:

  • What were the requests of prospects who did not choose the product?
  • What were the requests of those who did choose it?
  • Why did a prospect end up choosing the product?
  • What business needs did the product help a customer solve?
  • What do prospects and customers define as success?

 

With the right guidance for all teams (i.e. knowing which questions to ask during meetings) and the correct logging of the data in supporting systems (i.e. doing so efficiently), each touch-point with an existing or potential customer can be turned into aggregative data that helps the product team to make better decisions. On the one hand, these decisions fit the real needs of customers; on the other hand, they yield the most benefits business results for the company.

The Bizzabo R and D TeamThe Bizzabo R & D team in all their glory.

Know The Customers

So let’s say you have all the data you need. Is that enough to really know your customers?

At Bizzabo, we believe the answer is a resounding “no.” To really know our customers we want and need to meet with them face-to-face—preferably in their work environment. Nothing else can compare.

In-person meetings mark a tremendous opportunity to learn about our customers and their day-to-day. During these meetings we get to discover what is really important to the, how they work with the product and what value the product brings to them.  These sorts of visits can lead to spontaneous encounters with other users of the product—whom you might not have known were using it—and get direct feedback from them.

Obviously, when the number of customers is large, it is impossible to meet with every customer or even most of them, nor is there any need to do so. It’s enough to routinely meet with a set amount of customers (choose the amount and frequency that works for you) so that you can absorb and learn valuable information that you otherwise wouldn’t know.

Know The Product

I am not talking about product knowledge by the product team. I’m sure (or at least hope!) that the product teams know their product well. I’m talking about product knowledge by the other customer-facing teams.

It takes a village to deliver excellence. Fortunately, we have two. 

During conversations with customers, and especially during the sales process, customers try to envision exactly how your product will make them more successful on a daily basis. When they ask about features (existing or missing) they need to know exactly what the product can do.

The “features talk” only gives the sales reps a superficial idea of what the customer wants. They need to dig beneath the surface by asking questions to reveal the needs behind requested features. Sales reps have to be experts on the product.

“Product teams need to develop new forms of product training that help sales reps anticipate and answer questions prospects might have.”

They need to ask how the requested features will improve the customer experience, ask open questions, learn the customer’s real needs and advise how the product can fulfill those or, if it can’t, identify the gaps very accurately.

To deal correctly with these type of challenges, sales representatives need a thorough knowledge of the product. A product training that go through a long list of features and benefits is impossible to memorize and not sufficient. Product teams need to develop new forms of product training that help sales reps anticipate and answer questions prospects might have.

Consider the below:

  • How does the product help clients achieve business goals?
  • Which features correspond to achieving these goals?
  • How does the product compares to similar products?
  • What are the product sweet spots?
  • Which areas and use cases are NOT covered in the product?
  • What is the product roadmap approach for these cases?

One way that we are tackling the above is with a training program called “Pitch the Product.” The goal of the program is to help sales reps improve their product knowledge and expertise so that they can give customers solutions that are as relevant and accurate as possible to their needs.

Each quarter we set up calls for each sales rep, AE and BDR where a product manager simulates a real client. During the call, the product manager outline his needs, ask questions about the product’s benefits, features and overall value. At the end of the call, the BDR transfers the “opportunity” to a specific sales rep and includes all the details about the customer and from there, a product demo call is held by the sales rep. The conversations are recorded and at the end of each conversation we dedicate time for feedback .

Wrapping Up: Real Heroes, Real Excellence

At Bizzabo, we see excellence as an important component of our personal and organizational DNA. To us, excellences is not a single point of destination that “absolves” us of the journey to excellence. It is a way of life, a constant process of self-examination and improvement. It tests and sharpen the direction, the being and the action! It is the journey. 

The “Excellence” phase of the Bizzavalues project has given me and the entire product team  the opportunity to reexamine how we operate and commit to a continuous process of improvement that impacts our product and the ways that we work with it. Additionally, we now better recognize that excellence can not be achieved by one person alone. Working together—within the product team, with other teams, with our customers and partner—is a prerequisite for walking the “path of excellence”.

Superman may be excellent in his own way. But here at Bizzabo, we choose a different sort of excellence. A real sort of excellence. Superman was on a mission to save the world from rogue Kryptonians and mad scientists; we’re on a mission make events rewarding and impactful by providing people with the world’s best event technology platform. In the words of my childhood hero: Up, up, and away!

Ready to Choose Excellence? Click the button below to explore careers at Bizzabo. 

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