May 7

Getting Go-To-Market Alignment Right

The following insights were gleaned from a presentation at INDUSTRY given by Brianne Kimmel, Startup Growth Advisor and Investor @BrianneKimmel. Download Product Management TACTICS eBook for more.

It’s no secret, the fastest-growing software companies in history have all started with a product-led growth strategy. And while many billion-dollar companies like Dropbox, Slack, and Zendesk didn’t start with a sales team, they did eventually add traditional go-to-market channels like sales and business development — as self-serve growth rarely lasts forever.

You’ll know it’s time for a change when your dollar per customer starts to flatten out. Revenue will keep coming in, but the growth will slow.  When this happens, some solutions to augmenting purely organic growth include adding sales, customer success, and support teams.

Sales-led growth increases utilization, feature add-ons, target account growth, and can help prevent churn.  But at this point, power dynamics can begin to change.  Because sales is customer-facing 100% of the time and is responsible for bringing in revenue, which is the lifeblood of a company, much of the organizational power can move to sales.  To avoid power conflicts, it’s critical that product and sales align even when the very first sales professionals are being hired. When these teams work together, the company benefits.  After all, conversations will happen every day between sales teams and customers, and the transfer of knowledge to the product team is critical.

When product and sales are not aligned, power conflicts start to appear. These conflicts could result in blind spots in your funnel, channel conflict between self-serve and sales-assisted growth, and expansion revenue including plan upgrades and product add-ons are an afterthought.

This kind of alignment can’t happen on its own, though.  It must be worked on.  And there can be a systematic way to drive alignment, over time.  Consider a Go-To-Market alignment loop that looks like: Educate, Activate, and Iterate:

— Educate: Develop shared language and goals, product methodologies, and user research.

— Activate: Develop self-serve tools for sales, invest in data literacy sessions, and create product-related incentives.

— Iterate: Conduct weekly post-mortems, provide market insights and competitive intel, and establish industry benchmarking.

While getting sales and product management aligned is no small feat, if it’s done successfully, it can create quite a competitive advantage for your organization and everybody will be better for it.

To view Brianne’s full presentation, visit

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


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