The concepts behind structured customer visits are powerful tools that allows the product manager or marketing team to quickly validate their assumptions, and ensure that the market matches the internal view.
However, since you often must rely on groups that have an underlying agenda to select customers to visit, and also to coordinate the visits, there is a very real risk in this process. No, not the “familiar well” risk, where you run the risk of only visiting a small group of friendly customers, thus limiting the variety of opinions you listen to.
I am referring to the risk of being ambushed or trapped in your meetings.
One advantage of my many career stops, and the multitude of different industries I have been associated with is the wide range of experience with different sales organization structures.
When you are putting together a business, the sales channel is one of the crucial early decisions to make, and your early choices can have lasting ramifications on your long term business.
While it is not strictly a product management responsibility to define and implement a sales strategy, you likely do have a seat at the table during the discussions, and with it, some influence. Regardless of the structure, it will affect much of your strategy and roadmap. Particularly your pricing and cost structures need to be aligned with the sales structure you will work with.