Sales

How to Align the Sales and Product Management Teams

A well-planned roadmap can make a big difference in the success of any product, but creating one is easier said than done. One of the biggest challenges is the number of different stakeholders on any given product launch and managing their conflicting priorities.

For product managers, it’s often the sales team applying pressure on the roadmap priorities. For sales, the priority is almost always to deliver products and features they know their customers want and that they can sell.

The question becomes, how can product managers better work with sales teams to ensure they don’t over-promise and under-deliver?

Aligning Sales and Product Teams

Sales and product management alignment is something every company needs but is often disregarded.

The product team is in charge of building solutions that solve customers’ problems. Whereas the sales team’s role is to sell those solutions.

This relationship requires laser-accurate alignment to create successful products and meet customer needs.

With both teams in sync, salespeople will know exactly what customer pain points and product features to underline in the sales process. In turn, product managers can integrate new features that address issues customers have with current iterations, boosting customer satisfaction and lifetime value.

Unfortunately, organizations often miss the mark when it comes to sales and product management alignment.

While salespeople focus on closing single deals, product teams continue working on features that lure in the masses.

This divide creates confusion on what customers really need, leading to poor organizational performance.

The problem is exacerbated when new customers come in droves—revealing weaknesses and gaps in the product that adds to the product team’s workload. If there’s zero communication between the sales and product teams, it becomes almost impossible to address the misalignment.

Aligning sales and product teams is essential, but often disregarded.
Aligning sales and product teams is essential, but often disregarded.

The Difference Between Sales-Marketing and Sales-Product Alignment 

Sales and product alignment accomplishes what sales-marketing alignment leaves off the table: creating actual changes within the product that help you win more business.

Sales-marketing alignment improves the company’s ability to attract and close more customers. Sales-product alignment, on the other hand, improves the product itself—making existing customers happy while magnetizing new ones.

But just because sales-product alignment and sales-marketing alignment are different doesn’t make them mutually exclusive.

Sales and Product Management Alignment: Keys to Success

It’s important to remember that sales numbers and revenue aren’t the only metrics to consider. While that may sound shocking to some ears, the reality is the success of a product is based on a bunch of factors. Customer satisfaction, to name one. If you’re selling a lot, but your customer churn is significant, that would not be considered a success. Rather than list all of the other factors here, just recognize there are other KPIs worth paying attention to.

Total Alignment Between Sales, Marketing, and Product

Top-performing organizations ensure sales, marketing, and product teams are seamlessly aligned.

Sales-product alignment ensures customer needs are addressed in the product development roadmap.

Sales-marketing alignment helps marketers and salespeople communicate the product’s ability to meet those needs and win customers.

Marketing-product alignment ensures marketing materials accurately convey the benefits of a product, while market research data steers the trajectory of product development.

This creates a healthy business where:

  • Marketers effectively communicate the product’s capabilities 
  • Salespeople’s inputs are heard by the marketing and product teams
  • Product management teams create a product that meets customers’ needs

Clear Understanding of Product Success

A successful product should be:

  • Usable: Product usability pertains to the user-friendliness, accessibility, and efficiency of the product’s features. The fewer consultations and onboarding steps required to use your product, the better.
  • Stable: Great products perform exactly what they’re expected to do every single time. They may have bugs, crashes, and other functionality-crippling issues, but the product team is mobilized to solve these problems as soon as possible. 
  • Secure: Cybersecurity vulnerabilities put your customers’ trust and brand image in jeopardy. Product teams need rigorous testing to identify potential exploits before new features are rolled out. 

To be effective in closing sales, salespeople need to be in tune with the product’s usability, stability, and security. That’s where sales and product management alignment steps in and bridges the gaps.

Product management, sales, and marketing teams must also work together to define marketable qualities that set the product apart from the competition.

Does it work faster than other products in the market?

Does it have a mobile app that cuts the platform’s learning curve?

Look for qualities that directly impact the time, money, and effort customers need to use the product. Justify the product’s cost with these selling points by mentioning how to better spend those resources. 

Categorization of Customer Needs

A lot of companies hold regular alignment meetings to keep everyone in the sales and product management departments on the same page. In these sessions, the sales team put forward issues that prevent prospects from buying.

This includes product feature requests, complaints, and shortcomings that make customers hold off on their purchase decision or go with another provider.

Both teams will then collaborate in deciding which issues must be addressed in future product iterations.

After all, catering to every complaint and feature request would bloat the product’s footprint. This is an unsustainable practice that leads to inefficiencies in all areas—from marketing to product development.

Marketers will have to work double time to develop marketing content that communicates new features. The product team is also guaranteed to end up with a backlog of requested features to develop and implement.

To avoid this, both sales and product management teams must collaborate to define three buckets: 

  • Needs that will be addressed immediately
  • Needs that will be addressed soon 
  • Needs that won’t/can’t be addressed

The categorization depends on the number of customers who will be affected and the long-term benefits of resolving an issue. It’s also important to consider the prioritization of customers when it comes to the value they add to the company.

Well-aligned sales and product management teams enable companies to develop successful products that effectively meet customer needs.
Well-aligned sales and product management teams enable companies to develop successful products that effectively meet customer needs.

Tips to Improve Sales and Product Management Alignment

Here are tips to bolster sales and product management alignment in your company:

1. Use Technographics to Map Customer Needs

With B2B customer technographics in play, teams will be able to identify potential conflicts that the product may introduce into their systems.

Customer technographics will give your company a clear picture of prospects’ technology stacks. This allows you to make feature recommendations and conduct competitor displacement campaigns based on their technology installs.

2. Prioritize Customer Needs…But Not All of Them

Use intent signals to identify which customer issues lead to the most sales when addressed.

With access to intent signals, the product team will also be able to pinpoint requests from prospects who are most likely to buy. Customer intent signals are best provided by solutions that track user engagement over multiple touchpoints.

3. Invest in a CRM Tool

Effective sales and product management alignment requires a seamless, uninterruptible information exchange channel between teams.

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform can keep everyone in the loop in terms of customer needs. Use predictive intent analysis to create more actionable customer personas based on where they are in the sales funnel.

4. Redefine Your Success Metrics

As we mentioned above at the start of this section, stakeholders and alignment managers need to remember that there are other success metrics beyond sales volume.

Maximizing revenue is an important target for sales-product alignment campaigns. However, customer satisfaction, retention, churn, and other customer success metrics should also be discussed in alignment meetings. Both sales and product management, and, in some companies, senior leadership, should determine up front all of the different ways you will measure success.

5. Borrow Alignment Tips from Sales-Marketing

Sales-marketing alignment practices can also be used to improve alignment between sales and product management.

Some of the sales-marketing alignment tips you can borrow are:

  • Create and use a single set of definitions: Avoid miscommunication by creating a shared list of definitions. For example, everyone across your sales, marketing, and product teams must be able to differentiate qualified leads and prospects.
  • Implement a closed-loop feedback system: Keep communication lines open using shared documents and references between teams. Do this in addition to regular brainstorming and alignment meetings to ensure seamless collaboration.
  • Define shared customer personas: Everyone in your marketing, sales, and product management teams should have crystal-clear knowledge of who your ideal customers are. Personas should include key details like customer pain points, buying committee, buying power, and so on. 

Use database prioritization based on intent signals to handpick lookalike audiences. This lets your company take full advantage of your sales-marketing-product alignment efforts.

Questions to Ask About Sales and Product Management Alignment

How do you align a product and marketing team?

Steps to achieve complete sales-product alignment:

  1. Define shared definitions and goals
  2. Hold regular alignment meetings
  3. Prioritize high-stakes customer needs
  4. Make customer data always accessible to everyone

How do product management and marketing work together?

The product team needs to frequently communicate new features and changes to help marketers develop accurate marketing content. Marketers, in turn, can provide product managers with campaign reports to help them understand the most sought-after features.

Is product management a part of marketing?

Traditional organizations consolidate product management into their marketing department. This allows the product and marketing teams to collaborate more efficiently in creating accurate marketing content and managing successful campaigns.

Make the Most Out of Your Sales-Product Alignment

Sales and product management alignment unlocks the full potential of your brand offerings and maximizes customer satisfaction. Take advantage of technographics and intent data to maximize sales-product alignment.

Contact us so we can discuss how real-time, accurate data can fuel your alignment efforts.