How I stopped myself pitching during research calls

Tim Dalton
Apr 14, 2019 · 2 min read
Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

We’re currently running a high rate of research calls in my teams. A 45 minute conversation and follow up session every day is about normal for the last quarter. The frequency has allowed me to focus on something I’ve wanted to improve about my own practice for some time.

Research calls are for learning, not for pitching my product.

The theme of our current calls is around on-boarding and value awareness. It’s a perfect topic to force myself to avoid the pitch because every single day a customer will:

  • Tell me about a feature they’d love that already exists
  • Describe something in the product they’ve misunderstood
  • Explain a problem they have I know we can already solve

The reason jumping into the pitch is bad is because it’s when the learning stops. I need to understand how they missed that capability, or why they’re not using it as expected.

Research is all about exploring the problem space. My goal is to alter our user experience so the same situation doesn’t arise again, not fix one customers issue during a call.

As soon as you start pitching you alter the flow, the tone, of the conversation. I’ve tried to pitch and then jump back to the original problem but in their mind my participant has already moved on.

The challenge here is it’s a natural instinct to help customers. A thirty second explanation could save a whole load of pain for that user. It would increase the value of the product to them, making that next renewal all the more likely.

It’s not a particularly sustainable way to onboard thousands of users though…

How I actually stopped pitching during the calls was really simple (and inspired by a colleague…).

During a previous session we had one of our content editors helping out with note taking. As part of his notes he made a list of useful resources to send to the participant after the call.

Exactly the same strategy works for the product itself. I make a note, continue down the same question path, and then in closing summarise a list of things I’ll follow up with to help them out.

I’ve run this method for the last week of conversations. It’s a nice balance of getting the value we need from internal research, and giving the customer something from useful from their interactions with us.

Next up is a round with non or churned customers which will be a far bigger test for the no pitching rule. I’ll report back on the success (or not…) in a few weeks!

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