Sales and Product are in constant tension with each other. Ideally, this friction is a catalyst for the two groups to rally together and drive top-line growth. However, this pressure can also lead to disengaged employee groups that resent each other and drag down your company’s growth potential. The “Product – Sales Engagement Scorecard” found here is a great tool to gauge your starting point on this continuum.
In order to create an atmosphere that allows the sales and product functions to rally around each other, you must follow 3 steps:
- Establish Open Communication Lines
- Set Cadence for Implementing Feedback
- Share in Each Other’s Success
Sales leaders are consistently thinking about how product strategy will drive growth. Recently, one CRO detailed his approach in SBI’s video blog, “How a CRO Balances Growth from Legacy and New Products.” For a CRO leading a transformation, one of the major challenges of evolving a product portfolio is preserving the core customer base while innovating. When rapid change occurs in the product group, it is critical for sales to remain in lockstep.
Get Teams Talking to Each Other
Frequently, sales and product communicate only when there is a problem. This cadence of crisis-only meetings sets a bad precedent and dissuades the teams from interacting. Creating a normal rhythm where the teams come in with defenses down is the first step in building trust.
For even better alignment, these meetings should include marketing should as well. The cross-functional alignment that occurs when sales, product, and marketing are meeting regularly will pay dividends later. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is becoming commonplace, and increasingly there is a product component as detailed in our blog: “How ABM Can Impact Your Product Lifecycle Beyond Top-Of-Funnel Activity.” Using the construct of ABM for bringing together sales and product will establish the necessary communication lines.
Build Trust Within the Teams
Sales is great at asking the world of other functions but often do not reciprocate those requests or clearly articulate exactly what they need. With a meeting tempo in place and time allocated for the groups to interact, meeting structure and objectives become the focus for building trust.
When setting the meeting structure, keep 3 things in mind:
- Less updating, more solutioning
- Active participation is key
- Track and follow-up on action items
The most common problem heard from clients is “I’m in meetings all day and don’t have time to do any actual work.” The root cause is a prevalence of “status update” meetings where cross-functional groups get on a call and simply give overviews of what they have been working on. Instead of reviewing past actions, there should be an emphasis on debating the merits of decisions to be made. Also, there must be active participation from all groups to guarantee everyone’s voice to be heard. Finally, taking inventory of the actions and gaining clear alignment on owners ensures all functions leave the meeting feeling productive and in sync.
Sales is gathering customer feedback daily and have their ear to the ground on what the needs and wants are in the field. Product is constantly innovating and trying to put the best available solution out to the market. The two groups need each other’s input but often don’t value the other’s contribution based on HOW and WHEN they typically communicate. With a defined cadence and trust-building structure to meetings, the last step is to ensure the groups are sharing positive experiences. The product team should let sales know that the feedback they gave last week led to a new feature implementation. The sales team should let product know that their customers were excited about the Beta version of the new product. Generating momentum via small wins will get the snowball started, and the two groups will look forward to and value interactions with each other.
Where to Start?
At leading firms, the sales team is excited about the product they get to sell, and the product team values the feedback they get from the field. Creating the “right” kind of engagement across those groups is difficult and takes time. As a sales leader, you cannot force sales to rally around your product, but what you can do is create a structure that allows for organic enthusiasm. To start, download the “Product – Sales Engagement Scorecard” here and find out where your organization stands. Download the tool and contact us for more details about engaging the sales team to rally around your product.