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How do you align sales and product?

Elias Lieberich, Managing Director
Product Matters Co-Founder Elias Lieberich
Elias talks about the juicy topic on how to align ‘the business’ and product.

How do you align sales and product?

Woaa – that’s a big one, for quite a while I ran the pricing and packaging for YouTube Reservation Ads and I am sure you can imagine how tough it was to get business and product aligned. If you get alignment though, it can be a game changer in the impact the product can have overall.

Sales and product all believe they work for the customer, but in reality sales and product’s incentives are not really aligned. Sales typically works for some customers (the teams are split up by region or product or whatever) – and their incentive is revenue over the quarter or so. Product on the other hand maximizes global value to the customer, over long periods of time.

That is the crux right here – the business will have a feature request that will help to close the deal – and the product just shrugs and tells them they should give them problems to solve, not features to build or something like that. That typically leads to a frenemy relationship, where sales tries to control access to the customer and product tries to control all engineering resources and priorities. The risk is that engineering just becomes an outsourced development center for clients requests. How much is too much? It’d say if 20% or more of what you do is just that you are not a product team anymore. That number gets smaller the bigger the company gets, if you are an early startup some of that will just be reality.

Really what you need here is a strategy that incorporates business priorities and actual product direction – that is very hard to do, but pays off. When we work with customers on this, we make sure we get a C-lvl sign-off on the business goals, and then work with product and engineering to build strategies to get that kind of impact. The litmus test is when a new thing comes up – can we actually navigate the trade-offs between following a long-term strategy or just building the thing that closes the deal.

Obviously, communication and collaboration is key here, but the initial strategic alignment is necessary. After that, transparency and constant feedback loops are critical – that includes involving sales in the development process, attending customer calls together and just sharing a few drinks now and then.

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