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How do I protect our product strategy from sales pushback? Our sales team doesn’t focus, and is trying to make our product easy to sell to anyone, rather that our target market.

4 Answers
Sandeep Rajan
Sandeep Rajan
Patreon Product Lead, Member ExperienceFebruary 23

This sounds to me like your sales team doesn't believe the target market is big enough and/or the right market. It's hard to believe in a product strategy unless you agree on who it's for, so the first thing I'd do here is to get everyone aligned on who you're building for & why, and then articulate why your strategy is the best way to win in that market. 

814 Views
Aleks Bass
Aleks Bass
Typeform Chief Product OfficerAugust 10

Sales can be a tricky organization to work with, but I invite you to leverage a bit of empathy for the sales role to help solve this scenario. 

Sales teams are rarely going off and selling to whomever they want. Usually they are operating within a specific book of business or working specific leads that an organization has generated for them, or that they have generated themselves using materials the organization has provided. They are also consistently enabled on the product, the process, the value prop, the market, and more albeit not always effectively. Therefore a sales alignment problem is usually a bigger issue that is rooted in the executive team. Let’s go through some questions and discuss tactics available to you to help address the root cause of the issue. 

Has the company articulated a specific ICP in the company and product strategy?

  •  If the answer is yes, then the issue lies somewhere else. Is the team not enabled effectively, are the materials not sufficiently aligned to the ICP, is the objective not clear or being measured properly. Here you have many options for mitigating this situation. Measure volume, close rate, time to close, and other metrics for the ICP vs non ICP deals. Hopefully those data points surface a positive storyline that leads the sales team to see the positive financial impact of focusing on the ICP. 

  • If no, consider elevating this point during a leadership team meeting. Advocate for alignment on the ICP and propose measuring deal volume and close rates for the target ICP. If these strategies falter, consider leveraging positive reinforcement and incentives. Can you publicly recognize a salesperson who secured the most ICP deals this quarter? Institute incentives for generating a high number of ICP deals or adjust quota attainment and commission terms for ICP vs. non-ICP deals.

When we are not seeing the traction we are hoping for in converted deals for a particular product line, I’ve seen cross-functional deal review meetings work well. These meetings typically include R&D representation, marketing, sales, and sometimes services depending on the type of product. In these meetings we surface new capabilities that are almost done or have been released, new marketing campaigns or pieces for content and their performance. We also cover the deals in the pipeline. If we see too few deals with our ICP we have a very open conversation as a team about why that is happening. It’s usually something productive that we can act on, like our materials don’t really help us land that story with the ICP, or they miraculously improve in the next month or so. 

430 Views
Jonathan Gowins
Jonathan Gowins
Openly Director, Product & DesignJuly 26

It would be pretty challenging to go against sales and try to change their mind. I recommend,

  1. Talk to them and really, really listen to understand their concerns and why they believe what they believe. There's got to be some truth in there somewhere you can use.

  2. If you need to educate them, show them video clips from user interviews to make your case.

  3. Ultimately, be ok disagreeing and make the leadership team accountable. Does someone in the C-Suite (CEO?) need to understand the fundamental delta between the groups and make a decision? If so, that is fine, but don't go to bat until you really understand the sales perspective and have customer validation. Then make your case and let the accountable exec make the call.

398 Views
Jacqueline Porter
Jacqueline Porter
GitLab Director of Product ManagementNovember 23

The question I usually ask back is "How much ARR or money is that market or target worth? The target I am building for is worth $XXM and if I slow down, we won't be able to deliver on that. If you think it might be worth changing directions we can definitely to some market validation to see if the business case is there."

At that point, the sales team then understands that in the end the product has to be built for the future and we can not keep reacting to every shiny object syndrome. Sometimes I also like to compromise and find the features that may be scheduled later in the roadmap but appeal to wider audiences and say to the sales team "we can pull these features in earlier because these features would benefit your targets as well."

332 Views
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