Shut-Up and Listen!

Much of product management centers around talking to your customers and asking about their problems to hopefully provide solutions. All of these tasks are extremely valid and important, but have you ever stopped and took the time to listen internally and spend time with other departments, including sales?

I was recently brought into a large, global company that was having issues with a new product launch. Despite projecting a sizeable increase in market share, the product was not selling as well as anticipated. The company had already taken corrective action and spent a considerable amount of time (and money) trying to fix the problem. They adjusted their messaging, added additional internal training, held webinars with external analysts and even made changes to company processes in a desperate attempt to boost sales.

But nothing made a significant difference.

It wasn’t until I was in a meeting with eight of the company’s product managers that I asked “what has the sales team actually said?” The answer—they didn’t know because they never took (or thought) to listen to their internal customers.

We promptly set-up to listen to a sales call. It was only then that the company discovered the sales representative, and likely many others, were not even mentioning the new product to most of their customers and rarely to prospects. The sales reps were relying on a tried, tested and true sales pitch that consistently ended in a sale, helping them meet quota. They were more comfortable with the previous core product and less so with new product, despite the new training, all while solving the customer’s initial problems. Taking a risk and mentioning the new product, ultimately risked the sale.

After the call, we sat in a room with key leaders and very quickly determined that the issue was actually very simple in nature. The problem was product packaging and messaging—there was too much overlap with the existing product for sales to distinguish the different solution to their customers. It added a level of complexity to the solution sale that was simply overkill.

In the end, the products were slightly repackaged, their messaging was updated, and new training was provided. The results for the new product were immediate. Within six weeks, several large contracts were signed with more already in the pipeline and sales saw an immediate up-tick.Both products now solve distinct market problems and are easier to pitch to the market.

The Takeaway
It’s not common, but pausing to listen to the sales force is applicable to every industry. Every product manager should listen to feedback on a regular basis. The sales team is often the voice of the market and customers—and will clue you into minor adjustments that can create big results.

Have you stopped to listen to your internal clients? Did you see big results or not? Leave a comment and let us know your story.