Many times companies miss their revenue growth targets because the product and sales teams are not on the same page. Products are brought to market with no input from the sales team. And this results in poor return on the R&D budget. On the flip side, there are also fantastic products being released that are not generating revenue. Why? Because the sales team does not know how to sell them.
To combat these problems that plague many product and sales leaders, SBI spoke with Inna Kuznetsova. Inna is the president of INTTRA. 24% of the worlds trade begins at INTTRA. As the company’s president, Inna has responsibility for product, marketing, sales, ops, customer service and strategic alliances. The topic of our conversation was aligning the product and sales strategy in order to hit revenue growth objectives. She shared with us a few key steps that make her organization unique.
Inna’s team successfully adopted the concept of a product council to ensure strategic alignment between product and sales. The nature of the product development process, while led by the product management team, has to have input from all functions in the organization. “Sales, marketing, development, and leaders of services teams play an important role in signing off on certain milestones in the life of a product,” explains Inna.
So, who makes up the product council? At INTTRA, Inna’s team consists of:
- Head of product management
- Head of sales
- Head of service delivery
- Head of development
Every time the product moves through the next stage of its lifecycle, the plans must be signed off by the council. Essentially every team member has a role in the product lifecycle. For example, if the sales leader doesn’t believe his team can sell the product – the product council presents an opportunity to speak up.
Developing a Product Roadmap
The product roadmap is a complex document. There are a lot of factors that can change and influence its development. How does Inna’s team develop their product roadmap? First and foremost, they start by collecting the customer’s requirements. And they start with the requirements for the product itself. What is it that their customers need? What functionality would make their lives easier?
Inna also makes a point to speak with the sales people. What are they hearing in the field? Are there things about the product that prospects and customers would like to change? Her sales team is closest to their customers. It is common sense to include their feedback. Their input is vital to developing the right product road map.
New Product Launch
Inna begins thinking about a new product launch by thinking about the product itself. She asks herself questions like:
- How many people need to know about the product?
- How new is this product for its audience?
- How new is the audience to the company?
This allows her to determine if it needs to be a full-blown launch, or more of a soft launch. Larger launches include more planning and execution. You will need things like sales enablement training, customer service training, and more marketing efforts. Soft launches require less effort. For example, it may be an update to a current product. In this case, preparation by the sales, customer service and implementation organizations would be less.
Either way though, it is imperative to ensure the sales team is in alignment. They must be prepared to take prospects and customers through the process, no matter if it’s big or small.
Inna wrapped up the interview by providing sound advice for her peers in order to make sure the product and sales strategies are integrated. “First, you must ensure that the functions work well together,” stated Inna. There should be a balanced approach that starts with collaboration between the departments. Additionally, she recommends being sure to have a good business case for every product. This ensures accountability and early involvement of all functions. And finally, really spend time thinking through your process and rely on a proven methodology. Bringing new products to market is mission critical to hitting your revenue goal. It is imperative that you get it right.