The Dude has heard it all when it comes to sales. From “our product sucks” to, “I can’t sell what we have, build this, and I will sell it…” usually followed with a sales manager or director saying that they would sell the hell outta it. That’s right up there with “We’re from the government, we’re here to help…” and “The check is in the mail…”
Seriously, the excuses I’ve heard over the years, the lobbying they do for a development that would make it easier to sell to one customer.
But, we aren’t a bespoke business. We do not build to order. We build products to fit needs, needs that enough customers have, and needs that we can fill better than a cheaper option.
As a Product Manager, the Dude needs to weigh the value of a program to the company, how it maps to our market audience, and other factors in deciding to initiate a project. Sales often just doesn’t get this.
Still, sales feels the need to escalate the situation with threats. Like these favorites:
- Customers expect us to have this product (feature, capability, whatever). If we don’t do it, and immediately, the competition will beat us to it. What sales seems to forget is that the last time they brought this “the sky is falling” argument, and we did what they asked, we failed to sell enough to cover the cost of the staples in the operation manual.
- Competitors are beating us because they have this feature and we don’t. Truth is, customers buy value, not feature lists, and if your idea of sales is to go down a checklist to prove we are the best product, then you can be replaced with a website landing page, and better lead generation.
- XYZ company is moping the floor with us, because we have the wrong products. Possibly, but if they are, I don’t need you to tell me that fact. Reality is they are likely targeting a different segment and demographic than we are. I would be negligent as a Product Manager to now know what was happening in the market. So your super elite inside information, is merely a data point, and not a highly valued one, as you only see your territory/region/customer vertical, not what is happening globally.
You may read this, and think I am being overly harsh on sales. After all, they are on the front line, doing the heavy lift against the competitors, working to sway customers to our product/technology/solution. I get that. Seriously, I do get it. But, you should also understand that I have a larger perch. I am responsible for P&L (even if indirectly), I prioritize development, and the roadmap to ensure that we are addressing our core market segment(s), and planning for future needs.
I will look at market adjacencies where they make sense, but I can’t chase every fucking niche that you find. We are not an engineer to order organization, and sometime (actually quite often) the right answer is to say “no” and to move on.
I also understand that might leave a hole in your forecast, and a potential ‘miss’. However, if you consult me early in the sales process, and ask if we can accommodate, I will tell you the ‘no’ early, and you can move on. However, one thing I have learnt over two plus decades in this business is that sales doesn’t like to walk away, even from hopeless cases. I get it, you are massively type-A personalities who can’t give up, and can’t say no.
The Dude is thinking that he needs to write some tales of the biggest lies he has heard from sales over the decades. A “Best of” collection, if you will. It would be fun.