Account and Business Development managers are responsible for managing account relationships, developing new business and achieving revenue targets. Product managers have their own set of responsibilities, like being in charge of the product portfolio, product requirements and product revenue. How does this work inside companies, does it result in ying yang, 1+1=3, or are we looking at serious trouble?
Basic differences between sales and product management
Sales professionals typically work with revenue goals, margin goals or goals for key accounts. Typically the job of the sales or account manager is to make the customer happy, to keep the customer happy, and to ensure the customer behaves in a way that is in line with company goals – which in most cases means driving recurring revenue streams.
The product manager on the other hand has product goals. He or she sets out to design a portfolio of products and services that meet customer needs, manages product lifecycles and wants to ensure products are being adopted and utilized.
When things go wrong its’ usually the salesteam pitching products that do not help the product manager meet their goals or it’s product managers introducing products that salesteams find impossible to sell.
In order to make it work though, it’s good to look at the intrinsic nature of the role, and to find ways to seek alignment. Let’s look at the core traits of the role
Core traits of the product manager and sales manager role
|Salesteam / Account team||Productteam|
|Goal – what makes you tick as a product or sales manager||Quarterly and annual revenue targets
Non-commercial – achievement of company objectives
|Quarterly and annual product revenue target
Non-commecial – adoption of products
|Noo, those are goals, what makes you really tick||Engaging with my customer, building a relationship based on value and building a long lasting commercial engagement.||Building products that solve customer issues and thereby delivering real customer value.|
|What do you take ownership for||Ownership of the customer||Ownership of the product|
|What kind of plans do you make||Regional or account plans, detailing how you are going to make your target per region or account||Product plans, detailing the revenue per product, product development plans, and market introduction plans|
|Who do you report to||Typically Chief Revenue Officer / Chief Customer Officer, Sales Manager, or CEO||Typically a Head of Product, or CEO|
|What’s your role in building products||I will provide my inputs to the plan and will check in every now and then during development||I craft requirements, manage the roadmap and define what gets’ build. I keep refining my product during it’s evolution throughout the lifecycle|
|What’s your role in taking products to market||I will make sure my customers join the launch session and get excited by new products||I develop the go-to-market plan and take accountability for execuring on this plan|
|What’s your role in supporting products in the market||I will position the product when it makes sense for my customers as it fits in the right phase of their development or addresses a current issue.
I’m fully capable of presenting the ins- and outs of the product to my customer as i’ve been properly trained to do so
|I will make sure the salesteams are fully trained to present the value proposition to the customer. I will provide second level support|
|Where do you seek alignment with the other team||In order to meet my goals I need products, so I need to ensure my plans take into consideration how the portfolio is changing, and what products I should carry. The product team can help me here||In order to meet my goals I need to understand the issues customers are facing, and the plans they are making for the future. The sales team can help me with this.|
It’s all about alignment of the product and sales plan
Where i’ve seen things go wrong is where the product and salesplans were not aligned. Sales developed their own plan based on historic data and understanding of customer needs. The product team did the same, looking at customer sales data and market insights.
Alignment means talking to each other and understanding each other. This helps sales teams understand what products are maturing, and hence where is price erosion expected. It helps product teams understand how products are actually used, and what enhancements are really needed.
Checking-in, and aligning the customer and product plans before execution helps to find the gaps in plans and actually delivers better plans.
It’s also about understanding the nature of the role
Product people are not salespeople and vice versa. Understanding this, and recognizing that each have a different part in the same play makes life easier. Perhaps the salesperson will someday understand that they will have a better chance in making their sales targets when they work closely with product. Product will one day understand that its’ not so easy to position a product and generate adoption.
It’s about building feedback loops
In the end it comes down to talking to each other on a regular basis, and finding each other when needed. This starts with a mutual layer of trust between parties, and trust is earned not given. When a relationship exists, feedback will flow. How is the product positioned, why don’t customer like a specific feature, what are customers working on, what works well, doesn’t work well. These insights will result in better products.