At the Austin Pcamp last weekend I was speaking with a young product manager and he shared sales and marketing do not seem to be embracing his current new product launch. The first thing I asked him was;
“Have you launched other products or solutions recently expecting to sell 60,000 (and that was the sales goal) and you only sold 6…”
His answer was “Yes, how did you know that?”
I explained the one thing about having grey hair is I earned each one,and I went on to explain
“… you have a trust and credibility issue within your team and probably market you must fix first.”
As a salesperson and someone who has lead sales teams it is hard not to become a bit skeptical when marketing and product management “throws another new product over the wall for my team to sell”.
It is particularly difficult to get excited about a new product opportunity when marketing and product management have throw two previous solutions over the wall and my team was given a goal for 60,000 and we only sold 6.
So I explained to this ( now wide eyed) young product manager that once you break trust with your sales and marketing team, once you no longer have credibility among your team members you have a much bigger problem you need to solve first. (And you need to solve it quickly)
I asked him a number of questions and the one that seemed to make him most uncomfortable was;
“When the last product launch failed and sales was out in the market banging their heads against the wall trying to sell it (so they get paid) and you were at corporate…did you attend any meetings with your leadership team and when asked why the product is not selling…did you throw sales under the bus?”
From his body language I could tell the answer was “Yes”. It was really an unfair question as I have lived this so many times that I have the tire tracks on my back to prove it .. So I went on to explain, that when you throw another member of a cross functional team under the bus, you are using “Silo Speak” as I discussed in my post about how Silos are only good for shooting missiles and do not belong in market leading teams. When you speak in “Silo Speak” you are basically saying:
“I don’t know why we did not hit our target…I did my job.”
The backside of “Silo Speak” is the assumption someone else did not give their best efforts in their cross functional team role.
Salespeople are paid to sell “stuff”.
It’s how we fill our commission “rice bowls”. If we sell stuff the company realizes revenue and we make money. If we sell a lot of stuff we win trips and we make a lot of money. When products are thrown over the wall with goals that were built from the ivory tower down versus the right way; the market up sales must attack the goal their given. Even bad goals that were really built to justify the ROI and not meet a market need must be achieved. This is particularly true if your company uses the targeted compensation model that I employed that insures the “rice bowel rewards” are in alignment with the corporate objectives.
However if you have a history of lobbing products over the wall to see if they stick and they do not resonate, or are incomplete, sales becomes skeptical and so does your market.
In the 2009 Health Care Reform launch they could not have had a worst track history with their market: the American People. They launched two stimulus packages that were poorly developed, lacked specific problems they solved for specific buyer personas and also failed in the execution achieving the goals they did share. So our market is now skeptical at best, but more likely lacks trust in ability and credibility to” do what you say you will do”. The White House and our Representatives have the same problem my wide eyed young product manager has….
You have lost credibility and trust of your salespeople and your market.( don’t look now but your lack of market knowledge is showing)
The young man in Austin asked a great qyestion; what would I want if I were his VP of Sales at his company to win the team back and get the team engaged in the current new product launch?
Below is the advice I shared with him on the way to our next session at PCamp , and I now share with our Representatives.
- Come clean – authentically share what you did and did not do in the previous products you developed and launched. Show me you understand what went wrong.
- Share what you have learned without throwing anyone under the bus. Clearly articulate you know what went wrong and focus on the problems you discovered in the execution and not people.
- Say you are sorry and explain you understand the impact the work or lack there of you did had on other team members.
- Ask forgiveness ( one of the hardest steps for most)
- Share how you used what you learned from the previous failed New Product Launch and specifically share how this launch is different.
- Be accountable. Do not play any “blame storming” games and cowboy up. Share the plan, your role, your cross functional goals, and ask them to hold you accountable.
- If you find you have repeated past failures and not used what you learned in this current launch …STOP.
- Show me the money … show me how you built the market opportunity and let me tell you how much money I want to make.
How about you, and your company….
Have you thrown a product or two over the wall to sales and lost their trust, and your credibility?
When product launches fail in your company what happens? Do you hold blame-storming meetings, or meeting to be a part of the solution?
Does your team have an intimate understanding of your market, buyers, and buyer problems, or are they making new solutions because they can and not because they should?
Your internal and external customers are watching. Your actions speak much louder than the sales training PowerPoint presentations you just delivered.
When you make promises and fail to deliver you break trust and lose credibility within your team and often within the market.
In Market Loser teams the buyers in your market will tell your salespeople;
“well based on the last two products you sold me, and how they really were not ready and had bugs in them, I will wait and buy this new solution in 6-8 months after your team has worked the bugs out of it” (Does your sale goal allow for a ramping up process your buyers are describing? ….Didn’t think so…they never do).
The only way to not have a trust and credibility problem within your team and in your market is to understand your buyer, find their unresolved problems, and solve them brilliantly.
Once you do, build goals based and targeted compensation models based on the market opportunity and not an ROI or an Ivory tower driven dream.
My last bit of advice I shared as this young product manager and I met during the wrap up session;
“Having been the VP of sales and VP of sales and marketing for years, if I encountered a Product Manager who threw products over the wall to my teams with lofty goals that justify an ROI and lacked a market opportunity component in my teams targeted compensation model….
“and if that same product manager threw me and my team under the bus in meetings at corporate when my team was out trying to make it happen…”
“I WOULD TAKE YOU OUT”
I would make it my personal quest in life to get you fired,…( yes you heard me right) just as I help those product managers who supply my team’s products and sales tools to help us hit our goals to get promoted…”
After all, on Sunday night before the important board meeting, or meeting with investors, who does the CEO call? You …the VP of Product Management? …The VP of Marketing? ….No…he or she calls ME.