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How do you get autonomy for prioritizing your roadmap when your sales process is very sales heavy, and sales leadership wants to dictate priorities?

14 Answers
Marion Nammack
Marion Nammack
Braze Director of Product ManagementFebruary 8

Good framing is essential for effective prioritization, especially in cases where departments have different perspectives on what to prioritize. In many companies, including my own, the sales team is an important stakeholder in the product roadmap.

When working with other departments or teams, you want to ensure that there’s a common language in which to communicate. For example, are both departments aligned on the prioritization of high level business goals? Is there a clear ownership model?

Once there's tentative alignment on these topics, it's much easier to have an objective discussion about the opportunities to influence a goal. At Braze, feedback and observations from Sales and Sales leadership is one of the many inputs that we incorporate into forming a perspective on the best way to achieve high level business objectives.

6826 Views
Krishna Panicker
Krishna Panicker
Airbase VP ProductMarch 8

What are your company goals for the year, and how much is dependent on new sales vs retaining exist customers and growing customers?

It's important to know, as It can cost five times as much to attract a new customer, than to keep an existing one. But if there is no clarity on this, ask the execs - What % should we allocate to new sales? An effective leadership team should be representiative of other voices too , like marketing, customer success, support etc. Make sure you reflect that voice back effectively.

Bring your data to the table so that you can share your perspective on the risk to losing existing customer as well as the oppotunities to upsell or cross sell to them.

Bear in mind that sales typically drive incremental growth not exponential growth, so manage expectations accordingly The Roadmap is a reflection of your leadership's priorities, and it's your role to help them make informed decision on investment priorities.

1083 Views
Jacqueline Porter
Jacqueline Porter
GitLab Director of Product ManagementApril 13

Well, I often incorporate multiple sensing mechanisms into the roadmap - the field and sales team are definitely an important lever to drive revenue, which really is why product managers exist. 

So, a tactic I use is to show how much of my engineering capacity is dedicated to enabling revenue, technical debt, and long-term vision. The long-term vision is often a "big bet" that is about making a splash in the market or analyst review. Oftentimes, sales and the field are supportive of carving out time for long-term bets because analyst ratings, whitepapers, and affirmations of the product in the market are great supports for the sales cycle. 

590 Views
Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Buffer Staff Product ManagerAugust 16

Autonomy is certainly a desirable aspect of product work, but it comes with time. To gain autonomy, you need to first build trust. Start by not assuming your sales team is wrong (I realize this is blunt, but worth saying). They spend their days talking to users and prospective users and probably have a good idea of their pain points. They may not always be thinking about creative solutions to those pain points, or have a good product sense, but it's unwise to assume those ideas are fundamentally wrong - they may just not be ideal, or quick to market, or they may be a red herring for a different underlying problem.

Engage with your sales team and really invest in learning their perspective, offering your own fresh insight and perspective and working together on the solution. This helps build camaraderie and trust, builds your understanding of the customer problems you need to solve, and potentially gives you some quick early wins to work with. If the roadmap that results is not 100% "yours" and involves a lot of heavy input from sales, that's okay. It's important to note that no PM is truly fully autonomous - you lead and support a team of different people in different functions, and inputs from those folks are invaluable.

Over time, you'll have a more confident understanding of your users, and your sales team will trust you with that confident understanding.

304 Views
Marvin Green
Marvin Green
Splunk Director, Product ManagementSeptember 13

I like this question because it is such a classic situation. I’ve seen this played out at companies and it’s likely a culture issue that it’s very hard to change unless the Product and Sales leadership teams get together and have a heart to heart about it and come to an agreement on the best path forward. Getting the autonomy you are looking for starts at the top and it has to be a coordinated effort to address the culture and behavior.

On the other hand, it’s great to get sales input into your roadmap because they are out there daily with customers. If you are looking for a grassroots approach to autonomy, one suggestion would be to ask sales for a prioritized list of their requests (with a business case) and agree on a number of requests you’ll directly add to your roadmap each quarter. This provides sales a window to your roadmap while providing a balance for you.

1129 Views
Ashwin Arun Poothatta
Ashwin Arun Poothatta
Green Dot Corporation Principal Product ManagerApril 4

Reducing sales influence over a product roadmap can be challenging, especially for companies that rely heavily on sales to acquire and retain customers. However, it is critical to ensure that sales directives do not interfere with the company's long-term goals or vision. To gain some level of autonomy, PMs can take the following steps:

  • Revisit the strategy and vision with the executive team and sales leadership. This will help them visualize how sales-directed priorities will impact the ability to achieve long-term goals instead of a roadmap based on the needs of customers and the market.
  • Highlight the risk that a sales-directed roadmap could result in a heavily customized product that doesn't scale well long-term with real-world examples. This could threaten the company's survival.
  • Lastly, involve stakeholders that support your approach and share your concerns to ensure a holistic and customer-centric approach to product development and growth.
509 Views
Paresh Vakhariya
Paresh Vakhariya
Atlassian Director of Product Management (Confluence)June 22

Here are some ways to collaborate with Sales teams:

  1. Ongoing communication of the product strategy, vision and roadmap. Explain the importance of balancing sales needs, customer needs, market trends, metrics impact and technical development.

  2. Clarify your prioritization process so that Sales team is bought into your roadmap and what you will ship.

  3. Document all Sales feedback to ensure they feel they are being heard

  4. Get ongoing feedback and input from Sales teams. Regularly communicate updates on the roadmap, share user feedback, and demonstrate the progress made on previously prioritized features. This continuous engagement can help build trust and demonstrate the value of an autonomous prioritization process.

  5. Attend customer calls/visits. This helps reinforce Sales teams trust in you as the PM to help prioritize their needs.

Remember that achieving complete autonomy may not always be feasible in highly sales-driven environments. However, by employing these strategies, you can work towards a collaborative approach that balances the needs and priorities of sales with the long-term success of the product.

782 Views
Lukas Pleva
Lukas Pleva
HubSpot Group Product ManagerJune 8

This is a gross over-generalization, but in my experience, there are two kinds of product development cultures:

  • Sales-led, where you build what you sell.

  • Product-led, where you sell what you build.

The former is especially common in organizations that serve large enterprise clients. In those situations, you often find yourself building capabilities needed to close a specific deal or to fulfill a promise included in a particular contract (e.g., 'by the end of the next fiscal year, we'll build this capability').

One way to regain autonomy in this type of environment is to stay on top of market trends affecting your industry and to anticipate the problems and pain points your sales team will encounter in future prospect conversations. Show your sales leadership team how solving that problem will be a rising tide that lifts all boats, benefiting many existing and potential clients, not just 'the big fish.'

Ultimately, though, if this type of culture is ingrained in the company's DNA, you'll need to have a candid conversation with yourself about which environment will allow you to do your best work.

575 Views
Tom Alterman
Tom Alterman
Notable Head of ProductOctober 26

The simple answer here is prove that you're approach will make them more money.

Here are some more tactical suggestions:

  • Build trust and credibility with sales leadership. This means showing them that you understand their business goals and priorities, and that you are committed to helping them achieve them. If they see that you're opinions make it easier for them to hit their quotas, they'll trust your judgement.

  • Frame the conversation in terms of business outcomes. Sales leadership is ultimately interested in driving revenue and growth. When you are discussing roadmap priorities, focus on how your proposals will help them achieve those goals.

  • Be data-driven in your prioritization decisions. Use data from customer surveys, interviews, and usage analytics to show how your ideas will lead to the business outcomes the fastest


2147 Views
Rodrigo Davies
Rodrigo Davies
Asana Director of Product Management, AIOctober 25

Sales having a strong opinion about what customers want and being driven to advocate for it is actually a powerful asset! It sounds like where you're struggling is this energy is being directed into specific solutions. Try making time before solutions become an "ask" from sales to do upstream discovery of what they're hearing and are excited about, and work with them to frame their goals as customer problems rather than "build this specific thing". It could be as simple as changing a roadmap phrasing from "Build X" to "Solve Y problem by exploring solutions such as X". If this is a new muscle, it'll probably take some time to build up trust with sales that you'll execute on something that customers love just as much (or more) as solution X, and that you're not afraid to ship X as described, if that's the best option.

244 Views
Farheen Noorie
Farheen Noorie
Zendesk Senior Director of Product ManagementOctober 26

Prioritizing only for Sales teams can lead to traps where you are building Product one customer at a time and these products may not speak to each other. On the other hand by not including Sales you will be missing out on a core team that speaks to your customers every day. My recommendation would be to

  • Take Sales and other stakeholders along the journey

  • Conduct joint prioritization sessions with Sales, Customer Success, Strategy, Design and Engineering.

  • Get them up to speed on the strategies you are considering for your roadmap and any qualitative and quantitative insights for each strategy. These should include any feedback Sales or other stakeholders have provided in the past, what you have heard from your customers directly, and any new ideas that you want to test and iterate on

  • Brainstorm ideas against the strategies presented

  • Provide them with a framework for evaluating ideas eg: if an idea impacts more than 1 customer, it is a higher priority, high revenue impact leads to a high priority

  • Invite feedback and discussion


In addition to the above encourage a feedback loop for all stakeholders eg: When Sales is proposing an idea, partner with them on revenue modeling and commitments. Use the performance of previous ideas as an insight for your next round of planning.

2630 Views
Poorvi Shrivastav
Poorvi Shrivastav
Meta Senior Director of Product ManagementOctober 24

Love this question and have witnessed this scenario often.

I'd say try to establish a common framework with your sales leadership so noise doesn't misguide signal when it comes to prioritizing customer feedback. Maybe a feature gets priority if there are X number of smaller customers asking for it or a larger customer (provided we can platformize the feature) is worth Y ROI.

Whatever be the framework, you need a common understanding because these requests aren't one off so product and sales leadership needs alignment on why something is on the roadmap.

2224 Views
Anton Kravchenko
Anton Kravchenko
Carta Sr. Director of Product ManagementApril 11

Let me begin by emphasizing the problem. It's important to prioritize sales yet balance growth with sustainable practices that prioritize customer satisfaction and ongoing innovation within your product teams.

How to gain autonomy in shaping your roadmap heavily depends on your organization's culture. Understanding whether sales, product, or engineering primarily influences the company's direction is key. In a product-driven culture, for instance, your product leadership (CPO) can often support your decisions, provided you equip them with data, customer insights, and other relevant information to justify prioritization choices over sales-driven initiatives.

It's also a good idea to invest in strong relationships with Sales leaders who often influence your roadmap. By helping them grasp your product strategy, resource limitations, and overarching goals, you can bridge the gap between solving individual customers' needs vs. building a scalable product. In other words, you must align your x-organization stakeholders on a balance between short-term sales objectives with long-term product strategy.

386 Views
Didier Varlot
Didier Varlot
Product ManagerDecember 28

When departments have different opinions on prioritization, the product manager needs even more to have a transparent and data-driven prioritization method.

Sales is a very important source of prioritization, and the art of product management is to find the right balance between supplying features that will unlock further sales, features that will please existing users, and resolving bugs and tech debt.

The old say "it is less expensive to keep an existing user than to acquire a new one" remains true and needs to be embedded in the method.

But a good product manager is one who knows how to stay firm with his prioritization in front of all stakeholders without confronting them.

254 Views
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