At the end of the day, the whole purpose of any product is for it to be a success. In the commercial side of the house, this means that it needs to be bought by customers and therefore more often than not, you need sales people. What strange creatures they are indeed!
In order for your product to be a success, you need to learn how to work with the folks in sales. Despite what TV and the movies tell us, not all sales folks are like WKRP’s Herb Tarlick. Instead, they are almost the complete opposite of your staff: outgoing, people orientated, not always good with details, multitaskers, and often befuddled by technology (but quite good with anything that they need to sell with — like cell phones). All too often, Product Managers are tempted to stand with the rest of the product crowd and laugh at them. However, you really don’t want to do this — you desperately need their support for your product to be a success.
So what’s a product manager to do? Simple: spend some time and learn to understand this beast known as sales people. One of the best ways to start is to attend a company-wide sales meeting. These are incredible events and they can be real eye openers. What you will discover is that a sales meeting is actually a recharging event for sales folks. Engineers look with amazement as sales people hand out awards to themselves and tell each other how great the company’s products are and how weak the competition is. What we don’t understand is just how lonely a sales job can be. Product folks get a chance to recharge every day when we interact with our peers — we all acknowledge each others skills and get respect for this. Sales people on the other hand spend their days being told “No” and having their products labeled as too expensive or not having the right set of features. A company sales meeting is how they recharge.
Realizing just how difficult a sales job can be means that a Product manager can change how you interact with sales. If you provide them with material and facts that they can just pick up and use with customers (no reformatting or rewording needed) then you’ve made their life easier. If you listen to what they have to say about your product and if you show them that their feedback is being worked into the product, then you’ll win a friend for life.
Getting the sales team to be on your side is the first step in being the Product manager for your company’s most successful product ever…