“Engaging Sales” Session at ProductCamp Sydney 2012

Peter ClearyOne of the common points of friction that Product Managers have within their organisations is, invariably, with the Sales Team. Jokes aside about Salespeople being the bane of Product Managers’ lives, Peter Cleary, the Head of Product at Soprano Design, boldly broached this topic at ProductCamp Sydney 2012. He sought the wisdom of the ‘crowd’ of Product Managers as to how he could effectively engage a large and complex sales channel more effectively.

Reframing Product Management’s Lens of Salespeople

The group discussed why their attempts to engage their Sales colleagues have failed in the past for them personally and we concluded that ultimately it came down to not applying a customer-centric approach to the creation and delivery of key information to them. In the same way that we would start by identifying the behaviour of our target markets for our products and services, we need to apply this to the Salespeople we want to engage with. We need to take into consideration that typically Salespeople are busy, with revenue pressures and generally not inspired to read tomes of text – no matter how riveting Product Managers and Marketers may consider our product documentation to be.

Tried & Tested Internal Sales Tools

Here are some tools that the group suggested to make it easier to engage the Sales team:

1. Setting the scene

    • Explicitly define which markets you are not targeting
    • Share the story of why a product should be loved with the appropriate people within your organisation.
    • Viral training – train the top salespeople within your organisation really well so that they can then in turn spread the key information and story of why your product matters to your target markets, down the chain of various customer-facing roles.
    • Prepare the sales team prior to any major customer events including their annual customer reviews to ensure there is a structured information sharing and gathering process that facilitates a longer term relationship.

2. Preparation of Resources

  • Create an interactive Sales Kit that will make it easy to quickly search for information about specific target markets, what their pain points are and discussion points to raise at each step of the sales cycle with their customer.
    • This may be an operational ‘Playbook’ for your product, product portfolio or area of your business (depending on the size of your business).
    • Leverage collaboration platforms such as Jive, internal Wikis to enable people to layer their experience on top of a high-level product background document that describes your target market(s), what their unmet needs are, how your product or service is beneficial to them.
    • Provide a simple customer table as follows:

      Target Role Target Organisation Pain Points Your Company’s Solution
  • Create Case Studies by industry or common behavioural characteristics across target market segments. These should include
    • Describe the Day in the Life of each target customer role that you are targeting
    • Create a quantifying sheet for the diagnosis of…..
    • Execute personal discussion forums with the customer

Helpful Resources And Tips

Giuliana Andrade recommended a book about information visualisation called Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte. She advised that it would help those of us who are data-driven to create effective visuals to communicate stories of why people should care about your product.

The tip that everyone liked the most was a tip from Bryce Dunn from PageUp People who has previously worked with a sales team of over 200 people. He found that the most effective sales tool was to create 2-3 minute videos of typical sales pitch for each stage of the salescycle. Any longer would lose its effectiveness, given the busy schedule and attention spans. Also means that the team do not have to read all the detail. The production of the videos can be produced internally and do not require a lot of resource, taking up to an hour of resource to produce each one.

Concluding Insights: Use a Customer-Centric Approach to Targeting Sales

For all their quirks and frustrations pain points that Product Managers have with Salepeople, the consensus at the end of the discussion was that Salespeople should be treated like any other target market for your deliverables.

You may already have a good understanding of their behaviour (good and bad!), and will have assumptions about their key drivers and goals to exceed their revenue targets and to generate maximum commission. Like any solid product planning process, invest time in the Customer Discover stage to validate your assumptions about your target market by interviewing and observing them in action. Formally mapping out their day to day working lives and observing typical customer-facing scenarios to understand in greater depth where their barriers lie, will enable you to create a more objective view of Sales as a target market.

Once you are able to take out the emotion in your interactions with the Sales Team, you can effectively build the bridge to working more effectively with them.

As for the various internal sales kits that were discussed in by the group in Peter’s session, they may be in various formats – a simple internal brochure, interactive sales kit, website, video, or a simple communication vehicle for your key messages.

Understanding exactly what this internal stakeholder group actually need to carry out their jobs more effectively, will mean that you will spend time producing material that will tell a story that they will ultimately channel out to your target market. It is the beginning of the mouthpiece and can be your secret weapon to communicating effectively to your channels and target markets.

If you have any other tips you’d like to share with Product Managers wanting to work more effectively with Sales, please let add your comments below.