I don’t care if your product turns lead into gold, if your salespeople don’t go out there and do a good job of selling your product then you won’t be a product manager for long. I’ll agree that you are not running the sales department, in fact you are probably not even part of the sales department; however, your product’s life depends on what that department does with your product so you had better start managing your salespeople.
Walking A Very Careful Line
For those of you who may be thinking “All right, now I’ve got permission to go in there and tell the sales folks how they really should be selling my product!” I’ve got one word for you – don’t.
Sales people are a very different beast from product mangers and because of this difference, there is always the possibility of conflict when we interact. Our motivations are different (your product is probably only one of many that they have to sell), our timelines are different (you are thinking about the next version of your product and they are thinking about the approaching end of the current fiscal quarter), etc.
The salespeople at your company already have a boss – they don’t need you to be another one. However, you have a vested interest in their success in selling your product. This means that you’re going to have to get clever here.
The Three Keys To Getting Sales To Sell More Of Your Product
In order to start to mange the sales teams that are responsible for selling your product you are going to have to find ways to work with the sales department without making it look like you are trying to tell them how to do their jobs.
The first key that you will need in order to be able to do this is to get access to your company’s sales tracking application. Every company has one of these and if you ask the right people, as a product manager you should be able to gain access to it. Once you are in, you will be able to track how sales of your product are going by sales person, by region, by time period, and potentially even by country.
After looking up some sales numbers for your product, you may be tempted to go running off to sales and start to show off your new-found knowledge by telling them what they are doing wrong in regards to selling your product Once again – don’t.
You need to realize that sales tracking applications always have at best partial data. The story that they tell is not always correct. If you do see a downward trend for your product’s sales, then perhaps scheduling a lunch with a salesperson in order to find out what is really going on would be a correct next step (you pay for lunch!)
The Importance Of Sales Metrics
The next key that you will need in order to start managing your sales team is sales metrics. The worst thing that can happen is for your sales teams to set their goals for your product without any input from you. A lot of different factors can cause things to change: weather patterns, time of year, market conditions, etc. The factors that affect your product are unique and only apply to your product. You need to work with them to set the sales metrics for your product
Take the time to identify the metrics that will affect your product’s sales and then share them with your sales teams. Make sure that they know what metrics will impact how they can go about doing their job.
How did your sales force learn about your product? Did you have a big product launch, throw some product brochures at them and then tell them to go out and sell it? Great – what kind of success can you really expect from that?
As part of your product manger responsibility you are going to have to take the time to develop an on going coaching program for your sales teams. The tone of these coaching sessions is going to be very important. You are not part of the sales department so you need to make sure that you don’t come across as sounding as though you are trying to tell them “how to sell”.
Instead, what you are going to have to do is to talk to the sales teams in a supportive manner that recognizes the challenges that they have and offers them information that will help them to succeed. You are a provider of product and market information, not a sales trainer!
What All Of This Means To You
As a product manager you are effectively the CEO of your product. As part of being the CEO it is your responsibility to make sure that the company’s sales teams do a good job of selling your product.
Although you don’t work in the sales department, managing the sales team that is selling your product is something that you have to do. The trick to this is doing it in a way that motivates the sales team to sell more of your product without coming across as being condescending.
You have three keys that can unlock the sales team to your message: the company’s sales tracking application, sales metrics, and hands-on coaching that you provide. Each of these keys will provide you with additional insight into the sales process and will help you to make your product be even more successful.
What is the one thing that you could do to get your sales team to sell more of your product(s)?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Just shut-up and buy my product! In fact, while you are at it, buy a lot of my product. If only we could really tell our potential customers this then life would be so much simpler. However, try this little verbal outburst just once and then you’ll have a chance to sit back and spend some time polishing your resume as you look for your next product manager job.