- Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It

You’ve heard that old chestnut. You’ve seen it in a million articles. The big advice Sales Droids offer to Product Management is “Don’t just talk about features.  Tie the features to problems.”

And whenever the Cranky Product Manager sees Yet Another Article offering this advice, she thinks, “Doesn’t every product manager already know this stuff? Duh? How is the Cranky Product Manager going to create a blog post from this nugget of obvious non-wisdom?”

But then the Cranky Product Manager thought about it.  Then she had a nice glass of Chardonnay. Then more thinking. And then mentally watching the game film from all the customer presentations she’s ever given or watched another Product Manager give, and from her years of observing Sales Engineers and Sales Droids interact with the customers.

And here’s what the Cranky Product Manager came up with.

When It’s Good (kind of like the finale of Dancing with the Stars)

There are times when the Sales Droid-Product Manager-Customer interaction is wicked awesome: everyone is in sync, everyone is providing what the others need at exactly the time they need it, and everyone leaves happy.

It does happen sometimes.

When It’s Bad (kind of like a Middle School Dance)

But more often, it is a clumsy, inept dance, with everyone thinking he’s/she’s giving what the others need but completely missing the mark.

In these cases, the Cranky Product Manager will bet ONE MILLION DOLLARS that the Product Manager in question truly believes she is tying each feature to customer benefits, all while the Sales Engineer/Account Rep thinks the Product Manager is just blathering on and on about features.

The Disconnect

How can this happen?  Because there are several steps between the “we added Warp Drive in release 2.0″ Product Manager-ish statement and the “Warp Drive increases your revenues AND decreases your costs” Sales-ish statement.

Using this example, the Product Manager would probably say “We added Warp Drive in release 2.0.  That makes our rocket ships now go faster than the speed of light, which means space travel will take one bajillionth of the time it currently does.” And the Product Manager often leaves it there, believing she successfully tied feature to customer benefit.

Meanwhile, the Droids think the Product Manager left out the business benefit.  After all, she did not tie the warp drive feature to either “saving money” or “making more money” (the only two customer benefits some Droids can understand).

Thus the schism.

To most Product Managers, it is OBVIOUS that faster space travel means people will spend more time working instead traveling, and will thus become more efficient, saving money.  And that with Warp Drive we’ll be able to reach more of the galaxy and thereby increase the number of customers we can reach, increasing revenue.  blah, blah, blah.

In fact, it seems SO obvious that many Product Managers worry they’ll insult the customers’ intelligence or annoy them if the Product Manager explains how each and every feature ultimately saves money or increases revenue.

Truth is, the customers probably need a bit more hand-holding.  As Product Managers we are genetically engineered for our superior feature-X-yields-benefit-Y perception. We forget that not everyone thinks like that.

But on the OTHER hand, the Sales Droid who can only talk about “saving money” or “making more money,” (aka “lower TCO” and “increased ROI”), often seems like a huge dumbass to the customer. Trust the Cranky Product Manager on this, she once was a customer.

An Obvious Tactic That Often Works

**So, for Product Managers, here’s a technique that sometimes works: **

  1. Before demo-ing or presenting the roadmap or whatever, ask the customer about his/her problems and the benefits that he/she is seeking from your software.  
  2. NOTE THE EXACT WORDING THE CUSTOMER USES TO DESCRIBE THE SOUGHT-AFTER BENEFITS.  
  3. During your demo/presentation, tie the features back to the specific benefits the customer seeks, using EXACTLY the same wording.

Of course, this technique only works if you are able to talk to this customer one-on-one beforehand; it works less well if you are presenting to a huge crowd at a conference.  Also, this technique does not guarantee that the Sales Droid will be happy, only the customer.  After all, the Sales Droid might not understand the benefits the customer seeks – they might be too “low level” for a Droid to possibly comprehend.

This concludes the Cranky Product Manager’s “Obvious Lesson of the Day.”

No doubt, huge swaths of Product Managers are out there saying* “Isn’t this advice obvious?  Doesn’t every product manager already know this?”*  Hopefully, most of you do.  But for those who don’t, or who occasionally forget, hopefully this advise is more specific and more actionable than that “Tie features to benefits” platitude.

  • http://twitter.com/egiraudy/status/162651475414224897 Etienne Giraudy

    #prodmgmt – New Cranky Blog Post! : The Benefits Gap – Why Sales Complains Product Managers Focus on Features Too Much

  • http://twitter.com/scharnell/status/162657564205658112 peter scharnell

    #prodmgmt – New Cranky Blog Post! : The Benefits Gap – Why Sales Complains Product Managers Focus on Features Too Much

  • http://www.innovationgames.com Luke Hohmann

    Another brilliant post. Thank you.

    And if you’re a Product Manager who struggles with this, try playing the Innovation Game® Product Box with your customers, and listen (really listen!) to them as they sell your product back to you.


    Regards,

    Luke Hohmann
    http://www.innovationgames.com: The seriously fun way to do serious work — seriously.
    Follow me on twitter at lukehohmann
    Knowsy Knows…

  • http://value-prodmktg.blogspot.com Tim Johnson

    Cranky,

    Though obvious, it bears repeating, repeatedly. Kind of like parenting: If you say it often enough, eventually they will get it and start putting it into practice.

    Tj

  • http://twitter.com/skipcody/status/162669942737616896 Skip Cody

    New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/KOIUjpLu

  • http://twitter.com/arih/status/162670199550656512 Ariane Holzhauer

    RT @crankypm: New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/1jazB08l << The Chardonnay helps, too.

  • http://twitter.com/richmironov/status/162671723056078849 Rich Mironov

    RT @AriH: RT @crankypm: New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/Jhs8duPA +1 Chardonnay

  • http://twitter.com/rjhall/status/162677741836181505 richard j hall

    New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/KOIUjpLu

  • http://twitter.com/hakankilic/status/162677764766441472 Hakan Kilic

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It #prodmgmt http://t.co/C1L7MmoR If only everyone was in synch!

  • http://twitter.com/richard_beck/status/162689432678445058 Richard Beck

    New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/KOIUjpLu

  • http://twitter.com/brianpiercy/status/162720256014548992 brian piercy

    RT @crankypm – brilliant AND obvious: Why sales bitches about product management & what to do about it #prodmgmt http://t.co/EQG9jkqB

  • http://twitter.com/mhumpolec/status/162878868745760768 Martin Humpolec

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/Gbx9uot0

  • http://twitter.com/jpfozo/status/162880588007747585 jpfozo

    The Cranky Product Manager – Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/pqOYoQEs

  • http://twitter.com/ucthoughts/status/162908196015575040 Mitch Weiss

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/UIY3MiVQ

  • http://twitter.com/thedmouse/status/162928162915893248 Eric Dmouse

    @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About #ProductMgmt & What to Do About It http://t.co/O1IEfpov #marketing #promotion – fantastic explanation

  • http://twitter.com/bgonsoulin/status/162950324062126081 Brandy Gonsoulin

    New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/KOIUjpLu

  • http://twitter.com/thatproductguy/status/162963593921441794 Wade Armstrong

    New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/KOIUjpLu

  • http://twitter.com/product_anon/status/163130438473359361 product anonymous

    RT @crankypm: New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/JYr5tEA0

  • http://twitter.com/product_anon/status/163130438473359361 product anonymous

    RT @crankypm: New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/JYr5tEA0

  • http://twitter.com/ycnt_ibdonlyjen/status/163131729094262785 jen

    RT @crankypm: New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/JYr5tEA0

  • http://twitter.com/atulchitnis/status/163137968641544193 Atul Chitnis

    Why Sales bitches about Product Management & What to do about it http://t.co/BbBBTYjj

  • http://twitter.com/ycnt_ibdonlyjen/status/163484023098834944 jen

    RT @crankypm: New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/cvguFXAQ

  • http://twitter.com/michaelcoulson/status/163736740778098688 Michael Coulson

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/A3oYkrmP

  • http://twitter.com/productcampsv/status/163815450784972801 Product Camp SV

    #productmanagement Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/1PX8pIfy

  • http://twitter.com/legodo/status/163893761032732672 legodo

    Guter Eintrag: RT @crankypm: Why Sales Complains Product Managers Focus on Features Too Much #prodmgmt http://t.co/rCR64SJg

  • My Inner Marketing Bitch

    I like this post. Made me laugh! At the company I work for our interaction with sales in analogous to the jr. high school dance where boys are on one side and girls on the other and I am once again the weird chick in the middle that actually asks a boy to dance or even worse dances with myself. :) Sad but true that we still have to endure these types of horrors well past our formative years.

  • http://twitter.com/vdalal/status/164205790561968128 vdalal

    Everything but mainly not understanding what they want :) RT @theproductguy: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management http://t.co/bZiA5ZaF

  • http://twitter.com/laurentphelep/status/164692767677743104 Laurent Phélep

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & http://t.co/2RsBjh6B

  • http://twitter.com/pjmasi Patrick Masi

    C’mon now, CrankyPM, the Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs ;)

  • http://twitter.com/chrisboothe/status/164883097752571905 Chris Boothe

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/xDpLB1iW #prodmgmt

  • Ravi

    This is soo true..especially we need to learn to repeat the same set of words used by the droid/customer and tie it to the features.. Some DO not just putting food infront of them, but also spoon feed them.

  • http://twitter.com/kfriedson/status/165269583710785536 Katelyn Friedson

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It — The Cranky Product Manager http://t.co/U9VRvH5I

  • http://twitter.com/smartsoftmarket/status/165537560221859841 Giles Farrow

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/8NLgHIkV via @kfriedson #ProdMgmt

  • http://twitter.com/prdmkgblackbelt/status/165542578878545920 Karol M McCloskey

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/8NLgHIkV via @kfriedson #ProdMgmt

  • http://twitter.com/prdmkgblackbelt/status/165542578878545920 Karol M McCloskey

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/8NLgHIkV via @kfriedson #ProdMgmt

  • http://twitter.com/prdmkgblackbelt/status/165542578878545920 Karol M McCloskey

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/8NLgHIkV via @kfriedson #ProdMgmt

  • http://twitter.com/prdmkgblackbelt/status/165542578878545920 Karol M McCloskey

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/8NLgHIkV via @kfriedson #ProdMgmt

  • http://twitter.com/prdmkgblackbelt/status/165542578878545920 Karol M McCloskey

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/8NLgHIkV via @kfriedson #ProdMgmt

  • http://twitter.com/prdmkgblackbelt/status/165542578878545920 Karol M McCloskey

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/8NLgHIkV via @kfriedson #ProdMgmt

  • http://twitter.com/prdmkgblackbelt/status/165543323153608704 Karol M McCloskey

    @smartsoftmarket great to hear from @crankypm again. http://t.co/I098QRsy

  • http://twitter.com/prdmkgblackbelt/status/165544672410877952 Karol M McCloskey

    Solution is so simple! Why Sales Bitches About Prod Mgt & What to Do About It; THX @crankypm http://t.co/I098QRsy

  • http://twitter.com/treintanyero/status/166843436631199745 Javier Majan .·.

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/Nt3RRn5w

  • http://twitter.com/sehlhorst/status/166903683366391810 Scott Sehlhorst

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/nzz2P5NP

  • http://twitter.com/sehlhorst/status/166903683366391810 Scott Sehlhorst

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/nzz2P5NP

  • http://twitter.com/mattsdesk/status/166906987253219328 Matt Saunders

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/nbyRiklt

  • http://twitter.com/mattsdesk/status/166906987253219328 Matt Saunders

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It http://t.co/nbyRiklt

  • http://twitter.com/ramsgopa/status/167629067376541696 Ram Subramanyam G

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/rhxTm7Xw

  • http://twitter.com/pivotpointsocal/status/170356052989198337 Scott Thompson

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It — The Cranky Product Manager http://t.co/NQp2ZXPT

  • Mark Wickersham

    Cannot understate the importance of language. Great tip of repeating the same words your customerprospect uses. You may think you are speaking the same language, but could be on completely different wavelengths.

  • http://twitter.com/ckanani/status/174013799576244224 christie sultemeier

    Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/avX2zqap via @crankypm

  • http://twitter.com/jasantos/status/175303393844273152 Jose Santos

    New Cranky Blog Post! Why Sales Bitches About Product Management #prodmgmt http://t.co/KOIUjpLu

  • Ken Rutsky

    Ahh, nice one cranky. Another problem, PMs and PMMs can’t get along, why we need “Whole Product Managers” http://first-productmarketing.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

  • http://twitter.com/trochte/status/178734985593880576 Tim Rochte

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/w4GqHPOL

  • http://twitter.com/chiklu/status/179149594435911681 chiklu

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/3IAttDOP

  • http://twitter.com/twolinessolserv/status/180292377792094209 Two Lines Solutions

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It #productmanagement http://t.co/4inyW8BZ

  • http://twitter.com/greg_girard/status/261895273645740032 Greg Girard

    RT @crankypm: Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It ##prodmgmt http://t.co/3i0GW7cF Great read for all PMs

  • http://www.rm.com Sam

    I’m a droid – apologies…

    I totally agree though and your tips work equally well for droids as they do for PMs…