Building a product people actually want to buy seems like common sense, but companies are constantly missing the mark. The reason? They ignore customer feedback in the buildout of the product. They don’t record the metrics of their feedback, when it could highly impact and direct product development. Recently Ryan Bott, Head of Sales at Tanner Labs at O.C. Tanner, shared with us the strategy to build a sales-ready product by uniting sales and engineering. Here’s what we learned from that conversation.
Processes Are Everything
If you think sales and marketing are at odds with each other, take a look at the chasm between sales and engineering.
These two teams point fingers at each other regularly for products not selling. Engineers tell salespeople, “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” and salespeople tell engineers, “You have no idea what the market wants.”
What happens is salespeople go on a handful of demos, have a feature they think matters most, and then escalate it to the top, proclaiming “I’ve got to have this feature.” That’s not how you build a product. That agenda ruins road maps, and inefficient road maps kill revenue. Inefficient road maps kill revenue.
If features were added or changed with every one-off comment made by a salesperson, you would never have a finished product. To avoid this problem and still smartly evolve your product, you must build processes that unite the sales and engineering teams.
The best example of this is to create a process in which sales can capture metrics about what features are preventing someone from not paying. Present salespeople with the question: “What stops someone from paying?”
This list could be long, so narrow it down to three features. Then open a conversation with the engineering team.
The process includes creating a unified dashboard for all departments, including sales, engineering, marketing, client success, and any others that need to be privy to this customer data. This dashboard will house a set of unified KPIs (key performance indicators) ranging from product build to client adoption to customer success, all in one place. When everyone is on a single dashboard, there is unity in knowledge and data-driven decisions.
These metrics make it easy to decide on feature changes that will get your prospects to actually pay for your product. Product changes are no longer decided by the untraceable sales calls, but rather data numbers that cannot lie.
These feature changes will prove to your customers that their money is safe with your product.
You Should Not Be Launching MVPs
An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a product that has enough features to launch and then gather information to learn how to move forward. The major problem with MVPs is that they by no means involve sales in the creation of a product. The better route is to build and launch a sales-ready product (SRP).
Kissmetrics tells us that when sales contributes to the overall company strategy, a 15% increase in revenue is seen.
This strategy is slower and more organic than launching an MVP, because demos are the main source of data collection. Metrics and KPIs are recorded with every demo and a road map is created. The product director usually sits in on these investigative demos, and then the engineering team gets all direct feedback as they build the product.
This process should continue until 50% of your demo prospects are willing or have expressed interest in buying your product. Once you’ve hit that 50%, you’ve made a sales-ready product and are ready to launch.50% of your demo prospects should be willing to buy your product before launching.
If you’re a funded company and still trying to prove yourself, you’re under pressure to get the product out. Ryan Bott says it’s better to tell your board that you’re going to launch later, because it will compound itself in a positive way when you hit the street.
By building those three necessary features the market demands, it will give you the potential to far surpass the sales numbers you would’ve had by launching with an MVP.
Look at the processes you have in place between your sales and engineering teams.
Are they working harmoniously, or are they battling for who’s right and wrong? By uniting these teams and putting the appropriate processes in place, you can give them goals to share. Building an SRP requires these teams to work together, so take a step back and figure out how you can unite them in your own company.
To learn more about sales-ready products, read Jim Goetz’s how-to guide: The Templeton Compression and the Sales Ready Product.