May 31st, 2016
Why product managers and salespeople should be friends
In most companies, the product/service managers have limited interaction with the sale’s team except for the introduction of a new offering or at an annual customer summit. At Acumen Management, we believe that is unfortunate as there a great opportunity being missed.
Generally, the product/service manager (PM) is responsible for determining what the future offering should have from a feature/function capability . They will gather customer feedback, listen to the market thought leaders, consider competitor products and try to foresee future needs. The missed opportunity is the sales team’s immediate understanding of the current market and what prospects are seeking.
Typically the sales organization is concerned about the now – what is missing from your company’s offering versus the competition. That is why any organization relying on sales as the primary input to the product/service development cycle either wants to be a market follower or will be one.
However, the distinctive value sales can provide the PM can be:
(1) Insight to how the marketplace reacts to the competitor’s alleged differentiators
(2) What might be a better capability than that offering
(3) Testing receptivity to new capabilities your company is considering
(4) Soliciting from prospects what all vendors are currently missing
(5) Access to certain customers and their insights
Certainly an effective PM is striving to gain this insight through other means (surveys, interviews, industry pundits) but what an active sales cycle provides is a snap shot of the current state of the market.
For example, Competitor A has been touting a service no one else offers and it seems very compelling. What the PM may learn through the sales team is for the customer to really benefit, they must purchase another offering as well – and that is a turnoff. The opportunity may be to create an all-inclusive offering and although it may not be as complete, it is good enough and easier to acquire. As another example, sales may discover that the prospect investigated the new offering and found it is not as effective as touted. In this case, creating a comparable capability will not be enough – it will need to be demonstrably effective. Herein lies the opportunity.
As a PM, the challenge is to find the right people on the sales team to become friendly. These will be the most experienced, top sales people. Not the most experienced or the top sales people – it is the combination. These salespeople are very knowledgeable about what their prospects want and what they need. They can act as both a sounding board and a source of current market and competitive insight.
As a PM, you can do three things:
- Make it easy. Don’t wait for sales to contact you – reach out to your key sales contacts periodically, say monthly, with a simple request for any insights.
- Formalize. With sales management approval, schedule a quarterly meeting of less than an hour with the key sales contacts. It is also an opportunity for sales feedback on future the plans and schemes as well. A dinner meeting on you outside of selling time may work best
- Acknowledge. You should know by now that sales people love recognition – give it when the product/service has been announced.
As the Sales leader consider:
- Status. Selecting the sales people for this role can be looked upon as a burden or a recognition of status. Celebrate the latter and you will have another way to praise.
- Your role. As a key manager, this is an opportunity to help the company and your team. Better product/services released quicker helps everyone.
- Customers. Engaging key customers as part of the process is both a chance to sell and to appreciate your key customers.
If you wish to explore further, we always welcome opportunities to speak about your specific situation.
John Moroney is an energetic operations and sales management consultant with over 30 years of experience in high technology products and services with a particular passion for sales process design, deployment and improvement. Increasing productivity, driving revenues with a focus on execution, John brings his clients practical and creative solutions that are designed to impact. He is an Associate Partner with Acumen Management Group, a business and strategic sales management consulting firm focused on a world-wide audience.
You can reach him at JohnM@AcumenMgmt.com or LinkedIn: John J Moroney 651-402-4342