Putting sales and product managers on the same team to create better products.
Product management is a highly cross-functional role. Product managers work with product teams, R&D, engineering, marketing, finance, and others, but the one group that is most often discussed, especially in B2B organizations, is sales. You’ll hear about it at product management meetups, such as how a salesperson keeps asking a product manager to do product demos for customers or how the sales team won’t sell the existing product but some feature that hasn’t even been discussed yet.
This creates tension between sales and product managers, but it can also be a very positive relationship. Salespeople can get product managers access to companies for customer site visits and other customer research. They can be a source of earlier indications of a new trend forming or an old trend changing.
To understand how product management and sales can work better together, Ian Moyse is here to discuss the topic with us. Ian has a technical background with a product mindset and a passion for sales. He is currently the Sales Director for Natterbox, a UK-based Cloud Telphony company. He also received the UK Sales Director of Year award from Institute Sales & Marketing. He shares what sales wants from product management and how the two functions can work well together.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[7:22] What do salespeople want from product managers?
Sales is often a mix of people who might not understand technology or the role of a product manager. They may need more help from a product manager to understand the customer’s need and how the product can fulfill it. A product manager defines the why, what, and when of the product and serves as the bridge between the customer side of the product and the engineering side. From a sales perspective, we always want everything in the product and we want it yesterday. Product managers and marketers can also take the insights that salespeople bring back from the field and use it to inform future iterations of the product.
[12:13] How can product managers gain meaningful insights from sales?
Sales needs to understand what value the product manager brings and how they can help achieve that value, and getting buy-in from sales leadership is essential to making that happen. Once everyone is on the same page, both teams can work toward shared goals. Product managers should have input in loss reports in terms of what data is collected and use the data as a catalyst to go back to the customers through the sales team. The sales team serves as the bridge between product managers in the customers.
[19:04] How can product mangers and salespeople work better together?
It all comes down to relationships and earning credibility among the sales team. You can ask the sales team how they view success and what that looks like 6 months or a year from now. This sets a product manager down a path where they have shared goals and expectations with sales. You can then go back to sales and tout the results that you were able to deliver with their help. Building relationships is an important element, too. Don’t just go to salespeople to request data; take them out for coffee and get to know who they are as people and what drives them. Breaking down silos between the two will lead to better products that provide more value to the customer.
[25:04] How can product managers help sales meet its goals?
Product managers should work with sales leadership to manage the team’s expectations. Every salesperson is going to have a different idea about a new feature that would help them with a customer; those expectations need to be managed and put into context with what the customer needs. Most salespeople and even sales leaders don’t understand the development process; product managers can help explain it and put it into context with the work that sales does.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Gymnast Dan Millman in the book “Way of the Peaceful Warrior.”
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social media network.