Product Management Rule #24: Salespeople Don’t Just Want to Make Lots of Money

42 Rules of Product Management

Product Management Rule #24 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Management, was written by Dave Dersh, Former VP of Consulting and Training, 280 Group

Helping salespeople win is a primary role of the product marketing team!

Marketing often refers to salespeople as being “coin operated.” While it’s true that a large portion of a salesperson’s income is tied directly to what they sell, money is not the only thing that motivates them. First and foremost, salespeople want to win! Salespeople are competitive by nature, and winning gratifies their egos and enriches their bank accounts. Money is just one way of keeping score.

Helping salespeople win is a primary role of the product marketing team.

Helping the sales team is not just about fancy data sheets or slick presentations, but it must include a deep understanding of the customer buying process. For example, why do customers buy our products or services vs. competitors? Who are the real buyers vs. end users? What are the customer problems, issues, and needs that our product or service solves? What is unique about our product or service that the competition truly cannot match, and how does this tie back to the customer’s value equation?

If the truth be told, salespeople use very little of what product marketing provides. This is mainly because it focuses on generic features and benefits and not what the salesperson’s customer views as unique value.

Want to really help your salespeople win? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Go on sales calls and ask prospects and customers what their definition of “value” is (not yours).
  • Spend time getting to know various sales representatives, their customers, selling styles, etc.
  • Read the win/loss analyses included in most customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Knowing why a deal was lost can often be more valuable than knowing why it was won.
  • Ask salespeople if they actually use any of the sales collateral. You might be surprised!
  • Always reach out to salespeople before you speak with their customers. Nothing irks salespeople more than knowing you’ve spoken to their customer(s) after the fact.
  • If you are a product manager pitching to a prospect or existing customer, meet with the salesperson before the sales presentation. The salesperson can help you zero in on customer value definition, competitive situation, etc.

As an example, I was once involved in a situation where a product manager pitched a new high-tech product to a prospect. It was a new product category, and we were both anxious to tell the prospect why our offering was superior. The product manager was briefed about the customer situation beforehand. However, it became obvious that the product manager was more interested in discussing the product’s unique features, most of which provided very little unique business value to that prospect. The presentation did not go well and the sale was lost to the competition. Suffice it to say that I never put that product manager in front of a prospect again.

In summary, salespeople are motivated primarily by winning.

Money is simply a yardstick to keep score. Focusing on your product or service features and benefits without tying these directly to business value is a recipe for failure. In the example above, the product manager might have spent more time really getting to know the prospect (perhaps by taking me to lunch) or going on a sales call early in the buying process. Had he done so, it might have helped him better tie back to the customer’s value equation or present a better approach if his offering could not solve the customer’s problem (i.e., changing the rules). In any case, understanding what really motivates most salespeople will help win acceptance and drive more revenue for your products and services.

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