You are close to launching a new product. As CEO, ask yourself a question. “How are we going to make the year 1 goal with this new product?”
Here’s an answer based on experience. Don’t over-compensate the Sales team to sell the new product. Reward Product Management and Customer Support with sales incentives. This may sound counter-intuitive, but I’ll explain in the rest of the article.
Why should you reward your Product Managers? Because the good ones, I mean the truly visionary Product people, are entrepreneurs. They’re creative types with a keen sense for what the market wants. They are “business” owners who have a passion for developing great products. So give them a piece of the action
Tie part of their compensation to sales performance. Reward a percentage of their compensation only if Sales makes their number. There are several benefits to doing this:
- Pre-launch: Product Managers will be incentivized to develop products that sell. They’ll naturally align better to the Sales team and the market. Products will be developed to sell.
- During launch: They’ll be more inclined to reach out to Sales and collect customer feedback. To do this, use real-time feedback mechanisms such as win/loss or post-mortem calls.
- Post-launch: Product Managers will be more inclined to roll-out customer-centric product improvements in the future.
A plan like this will attract and retain the top product talent. Otherwise you’ll be stuck with bad Product Managers. Bad Product Managers will continue to shuttle requirements between themselves and the developers. In the end, a mediocre work ethic will produce a mediocre product. And Sales will be left holding the bag.
Customer Support Why should you reward your Customer Support team? Because your Customer Support reps are listening to the customer on a daily basis. And usually what the buyer wants is what the buyer will buy. So facilitate the transfer of information to Product and Sales.
Your Product and Sales leaders should provide a short script for Customer Support. Every call is an opportunity for research and development. Just like Product, some compensation should be tied to Sales performance. There are several benefits to doing this:
- The mini-win/loss call: Get feedback on Sales issues. How can Sales become more effective? Did Sales align with the needs of the buyer? What can be done to win back the business?
- Product requirements call: Get feedback on the product and features. An initial product launch is more like a pilot. With quick iterations based on customer feedback, the product can evolve more quickly.
- Account development: Cross-sell/up-sell opportunities can be sniffed out during all customer interactions. With the right incentive and feedback loop, Sales can get leads on new business.
Sales Typically Sales leaders don’t offer product-specific incentives to their team. I’m going to reinforce that norm. Otherwise, your team will stop listening to the needs of the buyer. Instead they’ll aggressively push the new product whether or not the buyer needs it. The “product pitch” is the quickest way to miss sales opportunities and your number
One of my largest clients made this mistake as they entered the fourth quarter of 2012. While we were rolling out a buyer-centric sales process, the COO compensated one product. On cue, Sales stopped listening to the buyer and forced the new product. What happened to the line of business in question? Topline revenue declined 1% year-over-year and the COO was fired. Surely there were many other factors at play. But if the buyer is no longer the focus, Sales will not hit their number
Implementation As you launch your new product, here’s how to make your year 1 goal. Widen your focus beyond Sales. Include Product Management and Customer Support in the success or failure of your Sales team. Give these teams a performance incentive
Here are the recommended next steps:
- Stay focused on the needs of the buyer and eliminate a product-pitch culture. This is the first step toward a successful product launch.
- Mandate a weekly cross-functional call. (Not a huge all hands meeting) Just a call between three leaders: Product, Customer Support, and Sales. This will facilitate the exchange of vital information.
- Draft an incentive plan for Product Management and Customer Support. It should be just enough to motivate them without creating conflict with Sales.