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Founded and Funded – Building a Customer Satisfaction Team (and a lot more) with Oliver Sharp

In this episode of Founded and Funded, Tim Porter, speaks with Oliver Sharp, co-founder of Highspot about the journey of building the company.  They talk about the inspiration behind Highspot (corporate content you need for your job should be as easy to find as a how to YouTube video), building a culture of customer satisfaction from day one, and how people from large companies transition (or don’t transition) to startup life.

Highspot has raised $120 million with their most recent round of $60 million announced in June of 2019.  Highspot is a sales enablement platform that helps sales people find the content they need to close deals.

The team came together at Microsoft and the transition to a startup was a return to their roots as hands on learners.  Though senior contributors and managers at Microsoft, as Oliver says “a startup doesn’t care how senior you are – you have to learn it all yourself” and they all had to re-learn the hands on work of creating and marketing a product. Customers were at the center of this.

Some lessons from this discussion:

  • Customers have crucial insight, though you have to figure out which ones to pay attention to early on.  Oliver talks about how they learned more from the customers who passed than the ones who bought the product in the very early days.  The ones who passed had reasons they didn’t and understanding those were key to building the product.
  • But while focusing on the product is crucial it’s not the way you succeed.  You have to take your technological masterpiece and tune it to the customers’ needs.
  • And the words are important – How you define the problem may not be how they define it.  Highspot originally set out to create the best content search out there to help marketers and sales people identify the best content for a given situation.  But your customers “don’t think about search problems, they think about the making more money problem.”
  • So you both need a great product and you need the story you are telling your customer to fit with what they are looking for, or the pain they are feeling.  You aren’t selling search (in this case) you are selling the solution to their problem (which you know is mostly search.).
  • CSAT or Customer Satisfaction measurement is not a new thing in business but with SaaS it is more tightly woven into the software renewal cycle.  And it’s so much easier to measure and to react quickly.  SaaS puts more emphasis on the customer satisfaction as a direct ingredient in sales.
  • Building a successful CSat team starts with the product creators. Start with the people who helped design the product.  Those people are the most invested in what the product is now – hearing from customers is the most powerful way to learn where you went wrong.
  • Other topics of interest are building a team from junior on up – how hiring college grads has worked out extremely well for HIghSpot – and Oliver covers what not to say in a startup interview!

You can listen here or on any of the platforms you prefer – iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, SoundCloud, and Stitcher

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