The 1st Postulate of Product Management dealt with Development. The 2nd Postulate involves Sales:
The feature that Sales needs to make their number is always the next feature on your roadmap.
Salespeople are tactically focused. They hate losing deals and are frustrated by growing quotas. When their VP asks them to make reports on why they haven’t made their number, they need a reason – and sales effectiveness rarely makes their list. Again, this isn’t a necessarily a bad thing; a friend of mine once said “I want my Sales guys to have their credit cards maxed out, over extended on their house, and over their head on their car lease.” You want your salespeople to be confident. So if you’re a salesperson not hitting your number, where do you turn next? The roadmap.
In my experience, product gaps are the #1 reason sales will bring up if they aren’t meeting quota (Price is #2 – they could ship a ton of units if it were free!) By choosing features or products on the roadmap, the clever salesperson puts the Product Manager in a bind. Obviously the product/feature is valuable and backed by data if it is upcoming on the roadmap. Yet, just a few short months ago, the same salesperson was making the same argument about a feature you just delivered. How do you blunt this excuse?
I give sales a voice (through their executive, also directly) in the product planning process. Let them weigh one feature versus another, then, when they come pointing to product gaps as the reason they haven’t met their number, ask them to outline how many deals they have won due to the feature they prioritized on the last go-around. If they can’t point to specific deals that they won due to their own prioritization, that’s all the info you need to count or discount their opinion. Sales is always looking at the deal…so Product Management must represent at the Market.