A 3-Step Product Manager System To Make Your Product Successful

by drjim on November 17, 2008

Product Managers Need To Work With Sales To Find Golden Customers

Product Managers Need To Work With Sales To Find Golden Customers

As the CEO of your product, at the end of the day you are the one who is responsible for it being a success. Not the sales team, not the developers, not the CEO. You.

This is one of the HUGE differences between a project manger and a product manger. Project managers can complete their tasks, make sure that everything is checked off, and then have an immense feeling of satisfaction. A product manger doesn’t get to feel this way unless his/her product is a commercial (or internal) success.

At too many companies, the process for making a product a success are way to complex and appear to have been designed by a project manger: they are littered with lots of steps and dozens of milestones. Making a product a success is actually a relatively simple process and a product manager can make it so if you follow the following three steps.

In a nutshell, making your product a success comes down to doing three things correctly: improving the quality of the prospects that your sales teams generate, improving the presentations about your product that are given to potential customers, and increasing the number of potential customers that your sales teams call on. In order to simplify the life of a product manger, improvements need to simultaneously be made in all three of these areas. Now here’s how to do that:

  • Improve The Quality Of The Prospects That Your Sales Teams Generate: Help your sales teams out by getting existing customers to provide referrals to new customers. Hey, the job of selling any product let alone your product is a difficult task. When a salesperson shows up on a new customer’s doorstep, do you think that that potential customer is happy to see them? No.
    However, if you can get existing customers to open the door for your sales team then the prospect’s guard will be down and your salesperson will actually have a fighting chance of getting them interested in your product.Direct your sales teams to only meet with decision makers. You know better than anyone else what kind of job title is going to be required to shell out the cash needed to buy your product. Tell you sales teams what to look for. This will help your sales teams make the best use of their time – if they can’t get access to the right person, they’ll know to move on to the next prospect.

    Guide your sales team toward the big buyers and away from the little buyers. Every deal takes about the same amount of time to close and if it turns out that a prospect does not have much money to spend, then in reality they are a poor fit for your product. Remember that just a few big deals is much better than a whole bunch of little deals.

  • Improve The Presentations About Your Product That Are Given To Potential Customers: Help your sales teams out by equipping them with the material that they need for multiple meetings with a potential customer. Rarely will a deal be closed on the first meeting so you are going to have to teach your sales teams about the flow of the conversation as it relates to your product.A key part of this is to help them identify goals for the first and second meetings. If possible, as a product manger you should practice with your sales teams in order to ensure that they aren’t repeating themselves due to nervousness nor are they bringing up objections before the customer does.
  • Increasing The Number Of Potential Customers That Your Sales Teams Call On:You are the CEO of your product. It’s up to you to guide your sales teams towards the right potential customers and then let them work their magic. Ensure that your sales teams are only meeting with decision makers – meeting with anyone else will allow your team to be identified as a salesperson instead of potential business partners.Have your sales teams take charge of their schedules. Have them agree to meet with a prospective customer at whatever time works best for the customer and then call back later to move it to a time/date that works best for your sales team. This way they can pack more customer contact into a given day. This is how they will eventually end up selling more of your product.

Finally, make sure that the sales teams that are selling your products are out of the office during prime working hours. If they are in the office, then they are not in front of a customer selling your product and this is bad for both of you. All though this may seem like a lot of sales work for a product manger to do, remember that you are the only one in your company that will ultimately be judged by how successful your product is. You need to be able to do it all…!

How much interaction with your sales teams do you have today? Do you help them qualify leads so that they are only working with high potential customers? Have you spent time with them coaching them how to give presentations on your products? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

April November 17, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Great post! I agree that helping the sales force figure out the best customers to call on and the right customers to call on inside those accounts is one of the post important things that product managers can do. In my mind it is critical for the sales force to understand your segmentation and good segmentation should make it clear what the profile of a great prospect is.
April

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Dr. Jim Anderson November 18, 2008 at 11:51 am

April: bingo! Just like all other product managers I can sometimes get too caught up in “the product” and forget about the work that needs to be done AFTER the product has been created. I guess in some ways we all need to be good teachers…!

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Stewart Rogers November 27, 2008 at 1:19 pm

As I read this I kept thinking… product marketing, personas, win/loss analysis and call reports. With respect to product marketing, the product manager will have to evaluate whether they have the skills to assist here. With respect to personas, identifying the buyer personas can be a great tool to help Sales and Marketing target the right prospects. With respect to win/loss analysis and call reports, working with sales can be a great way to get the right introduction to do your win/loss analysis for problems (either in the product or sales process) and call reports for those key pains that may not be on your roadmap yet.

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Dr. Jim Anderson November 27, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Stewart: bingo! It really comes down to sales and Product Management working together. The picture that comes to my mind is from those movies of old time sea battles where the cannon crews were divided into “loaders” and “fire-ers”. When it comes to products, I think of Product Management as loading the sales cannon and aiming it, while Sales is responsible for the actual firing of the cannon and, of course, they are responsible for the results!

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