/ Product Management

Sales Meeting Musings

As with many workplaces, where the Dude works has periodic sales meetings.  Often “rah rah” events, always Product Management is brought in to participate.  Today, the Dude partook in one of these events. Does this sound right?

  1. Lots of platitudes.  Blast-fax-kudos all around.  5 of the 17 account managers were recognized for superior performance and quota attainment.  Let that sink in.  Not for blowing their quota out of the park.  Not for landing a huge, key customer.  But doing what they were expected to do. The 12 who were below quota, including the territory that is at just 29% of target?  Attaboys for working hard, and difficulties in their territories.

  2. Even more positives about the state of the business.  I understand that an upbeat message is important to rally the troops, but an overall attainment of 92% of forecast (which is below quota!?!?!?)  As a Product Manager, sitting in the back of the room, I was looking for an Alec Baldwin performance from the incomparable “Glengarry Glen Ross”, but no.

  3. Invariably, there will be a session on the CRM tool.  The need for better compliance with entering data.  How to properly classify at each phase in the sales process.  Often there will be a “contest” to “encourage” better compliance with the rules.  Are you kidding me?  Do I get contests to better prepare my backlog, or to create a dynamite business case?  No.

Really could go on and on, but perhaps we should open the discussion below ...

Comments and questions for sales:

  1. If you are below forecast, and your forecast is only about 90% of your quota, why don’t you engage more to improve the opportunities in your territory?  If you are in the Mid-Atlantic region, for example, and you know that the Marketing lead generation is weak for Government, you should work with marketing to improve the coverage of Government efforts and messaging.  Instead, you cross your arms and say “Lead generation is Marketing, I can’t help”.

  2. If my products fail to generate revenue (something that you have a pretty big contributing factor in), I get no bonus, I get bad reviews, and ultimately, if it fails, I might lose my job.  It has been A LONG TIME since the Dude has ever seen a sales person disciplined, demoted, or fired.  Why don’t habitually underperforming sales managers get the boot?

  3. How can your forecast be below your quota?  Ok, the Dude does know this, the forecast is fluid, and depends on the ebb and flow of the sales process, but this is why you have a sales funnel.  You keep adding more at the top of the hopper.  They know this.  Sales Directors and VP’s are habitual sandbaggers.  They start the quarter low.  “It’s the economy” “There was a storm” “The Government isn’t spending money” and many more excuses are proffered.  Tough shit.  Deliver or else.

  4. Quit blaming marketing for your failures.  You have a responsibility to ensure that Marketing knows what you need to be successful in your territory.  Contrary to popular belief, Marketing doesn’t have an infinite budget to just “try things” in your territory to fix the sales.  You need to participate in the territory plan.  You need to know what is strong in your region (i.e. industrial manufacturing and logistics in the Mid-West) and offer suggestions to improve the marketing and lead generation.  Man up and take ownership (ironically, the women sales managers I have worked with already “get” this, and are engaged with marketing) for your success or failure.

  5. Quit blaming the product for your inability to meet quota.  We have the #1 product in the market (by a large margin), we have a complete solution, we have metric butt-loads of case studies, value propositions, solutions sales training, and top quality market targeted collateral.  But the reason why you can’t close the deal is because product Y has an irrelevant feature that we don’t have.  If all that matters is a list of features, that can be checked off, I don’t need a sales team.  We can sell direct, and save your commissions.  If you want to be valuable, learn to sell value and solutions, not features and point products.

Summary

Product Management and Sales are often at loggerheads.  Good sales people and good product managers combine to be a brutally effective force.  Alas, too often it falls to one side blaming the other, with Product Management usually on the losing side of the equation.  Sales should judge their success by how tall they stand on their wallets.  Plaques, group recognition are all ancillary, and really defocus the true measure.

To be fair, sometimes Product Management gets it wrong, and they should be called to the carpet for it.  It is difficult to watch sales get coddled for missing their targets by such a large margin.

Sorry for this long winded rant.  The Dude has long been bothered by Sales meetings, questioned the value, and the hoops he has to jump through to prepare his part for these shin-digs.


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