Category Archives for "Go-to-market"

Sales Team Missing Quota? It’s Not Their Fault

Successful customers, quality product, but bad sales

When I started as the Director of Product Management at my last company, they had a lot of successful and enthusiastic customers, a product that worked – although a bit long in the tooth – and a good lead pipeline.

But they had one big problem. The sales team was missing quota, every quarter!

The sales engineers brought me in to help them articulate the product story better, especially for the demo. When I drilled down, I realized the one big thing that was holding sales back. The sales process and demo were about us and our product, not about the prospect and their pains.

Sales is about your prospect, not about you and your product Click To Tweet

I realized that until I got there, the only product knowledge they were getting from the product team was lists of features and functions. Well, that clearly wasn’t working well, was it? Over the next quarter I helped sales fix their process by giving them better product knowledge.

In this post, I give you the components of a product knowledge package that will help your sales team make quota.

If you give sales the right information, everyone can make quota!

There’s nothing more frustrating to a sales person than knowing the prospect will benefit from the product, but having to pitch from the wrong information, or having to make the pitch up themselves. If all they have is a list of features, they are not going to be successful. And that means the company is not going to be successful.

If your product team doesn’t provide the right information to sales, your sales people can’t make quota Click To Tweet

We know that features and functions are there to solve problems. Those problems are what prospects care about.

The minimum viable product knowledge for making quota

The following four items are the minimum product knowledge the sales team requires:

  • The value proposition – who the product is for, the problem it solves, how it solves the problem (its features and functions), and why it’s superior to alternatives, both competitors and “business as usual.”
  • The market segments to attack – that is, the people who have the problems our product solves, along with specific qualifying questions to ensure we’re talking to the right people.
  • Product-specific objection handling guides.
  • Competitive information – key differentiators, hit sheets, pricing.

These are the foundation pieces of sales enablement. With a good value proposition and good qualifying questions, sales engineers can create a demo that converts. Marketing can create programs that pull the right prospects. And sales can position competitors out of the deal.

Results

By improving the product knowledge shared from the product team, our sales and marketing results took off. The sales people now use their initial discovery calls to uncover the prospect’s key problems, using the improved qualifying questions. I coached the sales engineers to refocus their product demos to show how we tackle those problems specifically.

And these changes had an impact! After we implemented this new approach, sales started beating their quota. In fact, business was so good that the company was acquired by a competitor, who felt us nipping at their heels.

Three things you can do today

To sell your product successfully, the sales team must have more than a list of features. Here’s what you can do today to make your product more successful.

  1. Observe how the sales team sells your product – are they focused on the customer’s problems and how your product solves them? Or are they focused on the product’s features and functions?
  2. Make sure you provide the four key pieces of product knowledge: value proposition (including the problem you solve and why your solution is better than alternatives); segmentation and qualifying questions; objection handling guidance; and competitor information.
  3. Sign up for The Secret Product Manager Handbook mailing list to be sure to get the rest of the articles in this series on product knowledge and go to market. When you sign up with that link you’ll get a great free resource on how to get customers and prospects talking with open-ended questions.

A Better Approach To Demoing Can Turn Sales Around

A Sales Demo Challenge

At one of my previous companies our new logo sales – that is, new customers – were tanking. The account reps were not hitting quota on new logos.

The sales engineers felt this was due to a large degree to our “story” on agile. Our product was not as strong as some of our competitors for managing agile projects. Even though we had a lot of customers successfully using it for agile projects, the sales engineers felt severely challenged because we didn’t have the features to show in the sales demo.

Doing a great job of go-to-market is one of my passions. I love working with marketing and sales to make sure they can sell my products effectively. But as I wrote the recent post on how my various articles align with the Secret Product Management Framework I realized I didn’t have many articles on go-to-market. So I thought I’d share a few go-to-market related stories. The first one is about “how to demo.”

Problem One: It’s Not About Agile

Because I have a long, strong background in agile, having created an agile tool myself (as a component of Accept360) and been involved in multiple agile transformations, the sales engineers asked for my help.

After reviewing the current sales demo, and following several long discussions about how to sell (from me to them), I gave them two specific areas to improve.

First, they were doing a feature-function type of demo. It was full of “Our product does X” and “Let me show you how our product does Y.” All without reference to whether the customer cared about X or Y. That wasn’t doing them, or our customers/prospects, any good.

Focus on customer’s problems

I had them rework the demo to be focused on the customer’s problems and how our product solved them. We had to learn about the problems in earlier discovery calls, or simply by asking questions during the demo.

Making the demo about the customers themselves is a very powerful technique. Talking about the problems that concern them shows we care about them.

Problem Two: Use all your ammo

To get out of the “agile project management” minefield, I had them move the agile discussion up a level. Our product’s portfolio management capabilities were a significant differentiator. But they weren’t being used effectively to differentiate in the demo.

Portfolio management has always been an “agile” activity. You take all the projects you want to do, and figure out which is the most important, and do those. You can think of it as “stack ranking” your project portfolio. Our solution was better than the competitors in this area, and we could reset the conversation.

Back on Track

These changes made it easier to sell, and easier to beat competitors. As a result we reversed the trends on new logo sales, where the demos are most important. I asked the Sales Engineering VP for her assessment, and she said “We really changed the way we demo. And we beat our quota on new logos the last three quarters in a row.”

Tying it All Together

The key takeaway in this story, and the relationship to the Secret Product Management Framework is this: if your product doesn’t actually solve a market problem, your demo doesn’t matter much. No one is going to buy it no matter how you take it to market.

On the other hand, if you solve a problem, as this product did, then your go-to-market can have a significant effect on how successfully you can sell the solution.

For more on demoing check out the article Everything I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Demoing SaaS from Joanna Weibe of Copyhackers. She goes into a lot more detail about these and other techniques for making your demo a LOT better.

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