How Your Sales Team Can Improve Product Development

by Sean Boyce

Everyone understands that the main purpose of a sales team is to sell your product.  Few understand just how important your sales team is to successful product development.  When we think product development, the positions that come to mind include UI/UX designers, software developers, and quality assurance personnel, among others.  However, the team that should come to mind immediately (and often doesn’t) is your sales team.  The sales team plays a critical role in successful product development.

Make Sure the Sales Team is Selling Your Product

This seems obvious, but it’s often taken for granted.  The team most frequently interacting with your customers is…you guessed it – the sales team.  First thing to consider should be whether or not your sales team is telling the right story?  The sales team is responsible for qualifying the problem/solution fit for your customer.  They interview the customer and categorize the problems they are experiencing.  The next step is to paint a picture of the solution, which should be what your product does.  Problems arise when the sales team struggles to sell.  The sales team is often incentivized through commission, which means if they can’t sell the current version of your product then they’ll sell a different version.  It’s not their immediate concern to address the fact that your product doesn’t do that yet.  To your sales team it’s just another carrot at the end of the stick.  It’s what they had to do to get their job done.  Translation: you have a problem/solution fit issue that needs to be addressed immediately.  Is your sales team doing a poor job describing your product to the customer or are you building the wrong product?  Regardless of what’s going wrong, your sales team has identified it.  Recognize this and start fixing it.

Your Sales Team Gets Customer Feedback Too

Customer success and product support are designed to handle customer issues once a sale has been made, but that may not be the where your customer goes first.  Oftentimes your customer feels they’ve developed a trusted relationship with a member of your sales team and as such they reach out to them first to complain or give feedback.  Most of the time the sales team will forward this information to product support, but information is often lost in translation.  For example, if your sales team receives feedback on a call and turns around and emails product support a version of this information much can be lost.  You need as much of the valuable information from that call as possible.  Your sales team is not incentivized to care immensely about that call, but I’m telling you that losing the information they get is a huge missed opportunity.  Getting customer feedback on a product (especially once it’s live) can be difficult so you need to capture this information the best way that you can.  However, you must do this without slowing down your sales team.  A suggestion would be to build a short form for your sales team to document the findings from these calls.  Allow them to quickly document and send the findings to the product team so that you may use this information to drive product innovation.

The Product Development Team Can Also Help the Sales Team

As valuable as sales can be to your product development so too can your product team help sales.  A representative for your product team should periodically sit in on sales calls so they can hear directly from the customer.  I’m an advocate of rotating every member of your product team in this exercise.  Besides being an invaluable way for each member of your product team to gain additional sense of purpose in their work, you can potentially provide tremendous feedback on the sales process.  Maybe members of your sales team are having difficulty connecting with certain customers for reasons that are more obvious to the product team.  Maybe your sales team doesn’t quite understand the customer’s problem.  Regardless of the inefficiency, your product manager can easily translate this concern into an action plan that should generate some positive results immediately.  

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Lots of attention is given internally to the product development team when trying to improve its efficiency, but to really make an impact it’s best to look outside product development.  Your sales team presents a tremendous opportunity to improve product development.

If you’d like to learn more about product management or talk more about the services I offer as a product management consultant please feel free to reach out to me at sean@nxtstep.io.  Keep disrupting.

 

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