In this guest post, Cory Bray talks about user feedback in the context of the Sales Enablement Ecosystem, a framework that he and Hilmon Sorey outlined in their book, The Sales Enablement Playbook.
My absolute favorite exchange in HBO’s Silicon Valley is as follows:
Richard Hendricks (founder): Don’t you think because they are such amazing sales people that it would be OK for them to sell the harder stuff?
Jack Barker (new CEO): No, it does not work that way. The way you keep the best sales people is you need to give them something easy to sell. Otherwise they just go somewhere else.
If you know any top-performing salespeople, you’ll realize that Barker’s line is not only funny, but completely true. Luckily, smart sales enablement makes almost anything easy to sell.
“Sales enablement” is a popular buzzword right now, and a lot of people don’t really know what it means. The general assumption is that it’s something to do with the sales team, but it’s really all about creating a prospect-centric mindset throughout the organization, and that includes the product team. One of the best ways to enable sales is to build a product that creates value, is easy to understand, and is therefore easy to sell.
Many companies spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars on sales enablement, but the scope is often too narrow. They focus on sales onboarding, training, process improvements, and several other types of initiatives, only to find that there’s never enough time have the impact they need to see. The problem is that these programs are often band-aids for deeper issues, such as sub-optimal products.
So…how does a company build something that’s easy to sell, and make that a part of a winning Sales Enablement Ecosystem? Let’s look at three different strategies that have been proven to work.
Listen To Users
In our book, we talk about the “three-legged stool of product development.” The idea is that without any of the following legs, the stool (and sales team) collapses:
- Vision: Have an overarching idea of what problem you’re trying to solve, and roughly how you’ll approach solving it.
- Qualitative Feedback: Objectively listen to users and understand what they like and don’t like. Objective is the key here…don’t “lead the witness.”
- Quantitative Feedback: Observe metrics related to how users engage with the product. Understand how and when different features are being used…or if they’re not.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies stop with “vision” and think that their past experience can guide them down a “golden path” to success. That usually fails, fast.
Companies who aggressively listen to users, incorporate their feedback, and iterate on ideas before writing any code have a better chance of building a sellable feature the first time and minimizing re-work.
Build What They Want: Execute On Qualitative Feedback
I once heard a CTO say:
If we don’t have something specific to build that will drive user engagement, we will not be writing code this week.
Wow! That might seem crazy, but it’s actually amazing leadership. Contrast that with another founder who once said:
We need to find something for our front-end team to build next week since they don’t have anything to do…but it can’t require any backend work…the backend team is busy.
Now, that’s insane! If your thought process is, “we’re paying these engineers, we need to be building features,” that’s dangerous.
Teams who are rigorous and only build features after they have passed the qualitative feedback process will end up with elegant products. Those who don’t will likely end up with half-baked features that no one uses.
Iterate! Again And Again Based On Quantitative Feedback
Here’s what a salesperson can say to win a deal:
“[Company X] uses [Feature Y] to produce [Result Z]”
Boom! Home run! As long as [Company X] is relevant to their current prospect and [Result Z] is material in the context of the problem they’re trying to solve, revenue will flow.
However, if no one uses [Feature Y], this story doesn’t exist, and sales will suffer. The best companies ask the following for each feature:
- Is the feature used?
- Is the feature producing a material impact?
If the answer is yes to both questions, the salespeople are armed for success. If not, go back to the qualitative feedback step and understand what went wrong.
It’s easy to think that sales enablement should be a function of the sales team, but next time you’re thinking about how to drive revenue at your company, consider how product management fits into the Sales Enablement Ecosystem.
To read more on how product can contribute to sales enablement, check out Cory Bray’s book here.