How Sales Operations Can Link Product Management to the Buyer
Tony Zambito recently wrote a compelling article about the need to inform the buyer. “Informing is about knowing how to provide valuable insights to the right people at the right time,” he said.
What if the buyer isn’t buying from your company, even if they are informed? What if Marketing has actively informed the market with a sound content marketing strategy? In spite of this, what if the buyer awarded their business to a competitor because your product simply isn’t good enough? Then consider this:
- Your product is not competitive
- The buyer knows why
It is time for Sales Operations to inform the Builder of the product.
Sales Operations can link Product Management to the buyer
While making their decision, buyers publicly express themselves online. They write reviews. They read reviews. Buyer-generated content influences the sales cycle long before they talk to you. Product Management should be mining that online commentary to inform their feature set.
But no communication is more effective than face-to-face conversation. The Sales organization is best positioned to facilitate that conversation. When are buyers most verbally expressive? At the moment their decision has been made.
Whether your Sales team won or lost the sale, the buyer will tell you why. It is in the best, long-term interest of Sales Operations to harvest these insights and inform Product Management.
Use the Win-Loss Interview to gather feedback on your product
Win-Loss interviews are an effective way to collect feedback from buyers after the purchase decision has been made. They enable the customer to speak freely about the reasons why they made their decisions, both good and bad. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start:
- Win-Loss Interviews are typically part of a larger, complex initiative such as Sales Process or Account Segmentation. If you need product feedback, I suggest you add a few questions to the interview that obtain that information.
- Win-Loss interviews should be led by an impartial third-party, not the Sales Rep. Someone like you, the Director of Sales Operations, should lead the discussion. But because supporting the VP of Sales takes priority, using an experienced Sales Consultant is a recommended alternative.
- Be prepared. When you ask the buyer to participate in a Win-Loss Interview, you only have one shot at getting the feedback you need. Include questions that match your product objective: inform Product Management with valuable insights.
I’ve jump-started your effort with this Win-Loss Interview Collection Tracker that you can get at this event. It contains over 60 pre-canned questions from which you can pick the ones you need. Download the tool, set-up the customer interviews, and collect the answers.
Be valuable to Product Management
Every good Product Manager wants to be the next Steve Jobs. Their objective is to build products that change the innovative landscape. They can’t do that without hearing the voice of the customer.
Just as you provide support to the VP of Sales to make their number, you can provide support to the VP of Product to make a better product. Leverage the hands-on experience of the buyer to influence the product development process. Position your findings in the following ways:
- Discontinue poor performers. Some features and products don’t work. Kill them. Product Management might not know this. If you hear this feedback in your Win-Loss interview, tell Product Management.
- Encourage innovative development. Some features and products don’t exist yet. Build them. Immediately. Before the competition does. Get that information from the buyer and feed that back to the Product Team.
- Improve the product marketing message. Your customer might not know key features of your product that already exist. Inform Product Marketing to improve their messaging to help the Sales team sell better.
The buyer will help Sales make their number
When you influence the quality of the product offering, the VP of Sales you support sells more. An evolving, competitive product that meets the needs of the buyer will gain market share and exceed revenue expectations.
The late 90’s were the gold rush of the wireless communications industry. I started my Product Management career working for a small industry player, Nextel Communications. The founders listened to the blue-collar workers who said “I don’t want to carry a walkie-talkie and a mobile phone.”
Nextel launched Direct Connect, the combination of two communication devices into one. The Nextel customer base became the most loyal and valuable in the industry. In 2005 Sprint bought Nextel for $35 Billion. The buyer spoke, the Builder listened.
Call to Action
Want more ideas on how to enable the VP of Sales to make the number? I have been on both sides of the Product/Sales relationship. Contact me today and I’ll walk you through the best way to use the Win-Loss Interview Collection Tracker.
Author: Dan Bernoske