Product ManagementProduct Marketing

What A Product Manager Can Learn From The New Sales Playbook

By Josh Duncan

HBR Insights recently had a podcast with author Matt Dixon on the topic of The New Sales Playbook. While aimed at the sales executives, I found the talk very informative and noted several takeaways for the product team.

First, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise, the buying process has changed. Matt notes in the call,

We find that by the time the average business customer reaches out to a supplier, their purchase decisions is almost 60% complete. So they scoped out their needs. They decided who they might buy from, what they want to pay for the solution.

This means that for B2B sales, the customer is not looking at the sales team to educate them on the problem or the product. The approach recommended by Matt’s research is to move away from solutions sales towards insight sales. Sales teams now need to show up with a point of view that not only helps the customer in unexpected ways but pushes them out of their comfort zone to see what could be done.

The alternative is a non-appetizing situation where the RFP has already been drawn up, vendors chosen, and all that’s left is to try and compete head-to -head on who will take the biggest discount to win the business.

In the podcast, Matt clarifies what insight sales is all about,

Insight sales is the idea of showing up and not asking the customer what is keeping you up at night, but actually telling them what should be keeping them up at night.
And obviously, doing it in a very empathetic kind of way, but the idea is teaching customers about business opportunities and problems, often, ideas of the customer, him or herself, hasn’t even thought of before, so new ways to save money, or make money, or avoid risk over the horizon that the customer have even thought of and educating the customer about those problems which then ultimately lead to the things that you can deliver better than the competition.

What does this mean for the product team?

To start with, if sales needs to be able to help uncover and teach customer about opportunities and problems, I think that product needs to have a role in this process. The product team should be able to help with the market data and competitor analysis needed to build the story that the sales team can use.

Second, I would argue that the product team needs to be involved, if not leading, the process to discover what problems the customers are facing. An involved product team can not only help uncover ideas through their research but also funnel them back into the product development process.

The end goal here should be to not just deliver insights that sales can use to sell the product but also a product that delivers results.  I can’t think of a worse scenario than one where sales sells a story that the customers love but has nothing to do with the product being delivered.

What do you think?


Image Credit:  Simon Greig (xrrr)