Involving Sales in the Product Process

You want to know as much about your customers as you can, and your sales team is often a great source of that knowledge. Unfortunately, there are some risks that come with sales being so involved in the product development process, including that they might try and exert too much influence. It’s a matter of balance, and it may become a matter of keeping your customers close and your salespeople closer.

Product managers and sales: the alliance that leads to a better product. At the end of a tough quarter, you’ll often have some salespeople who are extremely happy and those that are not. The unhappy sales reps will often blame the product, more specifically the features that you chose not to build. “Hearing your product broken down into missing features and lost deals is enough to make any product manager wary of working with sales.” Except, sales have some good insight into the market and they are very aware of your product’s strengths and weaknesses. You exclude them from the product process at your own risk. Julia Chen explains how you can collaborate with sales to get their insight, create better products, even if there are some features missing.

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The slippery slope of sales-led development. Is your organization a product company or a professional services company? According to Rich Mironov, a “product companies build packaged, standardized products that they can sell many, many times to many, many customers with little or no customization.” Whereas professional services companies “take on projects for individual clients, and price each engagement for profitability.” If you’re in an enterprise software company that is sales-led you can often find yourself in a mixed model that has the worst traits of both. Rich explores this situation in detail and explains how you can effectively involve sales in your product development process without becoming sales led.

(via @RichMironov)

Why should product managers invest in sales enablement? “Product management can be an exciting, wild and fun adventure, or it can induce stressful, scary, sleepless nights. Outside of the daily effort working with the engineering teams, there are three key areas that add to the pressure cooker environment that is product management. These include supporting the volume of information request, getting visibility and support from marketing, and managing the financials.” Laurie Harvey explains why you should embrace sales enablement tactics to empower a virtual team and ease the pressure.

(via @toptal)

Hey product, your salespeople know something you don’t.  “On any given day, the sales and product teams play by different rules. Despite their inherent differences and business functions, these two teams have one major thing in common: they both live and die by numbers, whether it’s leads versus lag or dollars versus downloads.” Jo Johansson takes a look at how the sales and product teams function independent of each other, and how they can work together.

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5 Questions product managers should ask their sales teams.  As an effective product managers, you employ all sorts of strategies to gather actionable intelligence about your products so you can continually improve them. But do you fully tap into one of the richest sources of useful and up-to-date information about your products: your own sales team? Maddy Kirsch suggests you “implement whatever processes you can to regularly receive this information from your sales team” and suggests these five questions to ask your salespeople to get at that information.

(via @ProductPlan)

Kent McDonald
kentjmcdonald@gmail.com

Kent J McDonald writes about and practices software product management. He has IT and product development experience in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, nonprofit, and automotive. Kent currently practices his craft for a leading agriscience company and provides just in time resources for product owners and business analysts at KBP.media and Product Collective. When not writing or product managing, Kent is his family’s #ubersherpa, listens to jazz and podcasts (but not necessarily podcasts about jazz), and collects national parks.