Question: How can a product manager motivate sales and make sure they are not “cheating” me as a PM?
In our company, the PM role is different in the way that we are mainly focusing on being technical experts, developing marketing/market plans, pushing sales of sell more both to new and existing customers, and finally to be involved in customer negotiations. Therefore, we are not expected to be involved in R&D projects; however, we provide information backwards in the organization about new needs and competitor/market information.
In my role, I have to regularly follow up on our sales figures and motivate our sales people in achieving our sales targets. However, I feel sometimes that some of the sales guys just tell me a story, or that it is impossible to sell my product due to the strong competition on the market. However, my product group is our biggest product group in our company. Therefore, I would like to know if anybody has a specific tool that I can use both to understand the true market forces and how I can motivate the sales, without being involved in all sales meetings directly.
I have to promote our products to around 40 sales managers globally. I try to meet with the sales to better understand their situation, but I also feel that it would be impossible for me to meet with all of them.
Answer from Steve Johnson of Pragmatic Marketing: Yuck. Call it something but don’t call it product management. As I understand it, your job is to push sales people to sell more of your stuff. And your complaint is they are not and you believes that they are lying to you. Double yuck.
But let’s make this a product management answer:
Whenever we encounter problems in the sales process, the answer is win/loss analysis. Set up interviews with 3 wins and 3 losses. In your case, you may also want to set up appointments with clients that are buying below expectation and some above. Your customers will tell you what you sales people won’t–or can’t. They’ll tell you the industry has changed, they’ve found a more reliable vendor, or they don’t like their sales guy.
Once you’ve identified product and process problems from these interviews, do a survey of 100 clients to get quantified information — for example, “I heard this problem twice and the survey says 78% of our clients are experiencing it.”
And it wouldn’t hurt to have someone (other than you) interview the sales team to find out what’s happening in their heads. “My boss is pushing me to see this instead of your product” or “your product is getting harder to sell because of the changing market.” It could be that sales people won’t tell you the truth because they know you’ll get mad or upset, just like customers don’t want to have a follow up with a sales guy after a loss.
When there’s sales problems, look to win/loss analysis for the answer — not the opinions of sales but the facts of the market.