Sales: OMG! Teh Raodmap sUxOr!

Sales MonkeySituation: The Sales MonkeysTM are hanging from the trees on their weekly sales call crying “You only give us a 90 day product outlook! How are we supposed to sell without a 2-year roadmap!” Well monkey-boys, the reason you don’t get the full roadmap anymore is because the last time we made the mistake of giving it to you, half of you sold the customer who was ready to install TOMORROW on the feature that was coming in 2 years, and the other half actually advised your customers to hold off on buying because “we’ve got a great feature coming out in the next release, you’ll probably want to wait for that one.” (really).

So since we’ve determined that it’s not if you’ll spill the beans, but how damaging the leak will be, you only get a 90-day outlook. But you’re coming in for your quarterly vacation junket drinking binge sales meeting, so we’ll be generous and present the shiny new rolling 2-year roadmap the Exec team just signed off against…

(…Product Management presents 2-year roadmap in Sales Meeting…)

Sales Monkey’s: R0x0r! OMG I’m totally making 50% of my quota this year! I’ll get another trophy for being the #1 RSM in the Western Mohave Desert Region!

(…not 1 hour later…)

Sales Monkey: “OMG! Teh roadmap is sux0r! I can’t sell n e thing! I’m goin on vacation bye!” (side note: I actually got a text message very similar to this once from a sales guy…)

Product Management: “…and this is different than normal how?”

Sales Monkey: “My must have key featurethat I’ve been selling without for the last 3 years… isn’t on the roadmap for 18 months! WTF!”

Sales Monkey’s don’t see the big picture. A feature is “out there” on the roadmap because either the market doesn’t need it yet, or the opportunity isn’t as big as the stuff ahead of it. You can try to explain this to them but you’d have about as productive conversation with a wall. Sales == coin operated! What is best for the business is a nice-to-have. Your best bet is to make that coincide with gettin’ paid – ya feel me?

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  • Reply Roark Pollock April 20, 2007 at 7:56 am

    This is a very true reflection of what often happens, and I am sure all of us can relate to this situation. However, it is critical in building a long term business that a product roadmap have a healthy balance of (1) new to the world / market innovations, (2) new to the company products, and (3) new features and bug fixes to existing products. Unfortunately, all but the most forward thinking sales persons will only be interested in the new features to existing products that customers are asking for now.

    To minimize this conflict with the sales team I find that a regular dialogue with the key power brokers in the sales team is extremely helpful. The sales team power brokers are not necessarily the sales managers or the best sales performers, but the sales individuals that have the most respect from their peers and can therefore be excellent advocates once you have them persuaded.

    After all, the job of product managers is to meet the needs of their entire sales channel, and for most of us that sales channel includes direct sales teams. In fact, sales teams are like everyone else; they want to be listened to. If they feel like they are included in the process they will support the final roadmap much more readily, and will do a better job supporting it and selling it to customers!

  • Reply Paul April 20, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Thanks Roark. My post was firmly tongue-in-cheek, I do agree with what you wrote. While I hope that PM’s don’t have to deal w/ this situation often, I see it far too much.

    There are usually 1 or 2 “good apples” on the sales team who are progressive, forward thinkers who want to provide good customer service and understand the trade offs that the business must make.

    Unfortunately, there are always the 1-2 “bad apples” that use any delayed feature as an excuse for not making their number and can only see as far as their next spiff. They making teaming tough because of their tendency to whine usually rubs off on the rest of the team and snowballs.

  • Reply Prod Mktg VIP April 20, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Pollack must live in a perfect world.

    When you are a PM at a small company, trying to balance the needs of product for 3 different markets, it’s really difficult.

    Not only do the sales people for each market beleive that we should not be in the other markets, they are not sensitive to the resource contraints of the business.

  • Reply Bruce McCarthy May 24, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Sales people are bred, trained, and compensated to be driven by their next quarterly number. Some do rise above that, but it’s rare because the job is designed that way.

    I agree with Roark that making them feel listened to is key to gaining buy-in on your roadmap. What’s also key, though, is avoiding making commitments as to dates in those sessions. Make clear what trade-offs you are balancing and let them know their input it valuable but only one input among many.

    Whether you take their advice or not, letting them feel like they are part of the process and giving them just a taste of your resource constraints helps the medicine go down.

  • Reply If we’re so smart… « On Product Management June 20, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    […] blogs are making about other groups in technology companies. Enough with the missives about Sales Monkeys or arrogant engineers. Seriously, like this is news that they think or work differently than […]

  • Reply Saeed Khan June 21, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Hi, thanks for the response to my posting: If we’re so smart…

    I’ve posted a response back…



  • Reply You Don't Really Own Your Roadmap | Product Beautiful: Building Product Management by Paul Young June 24, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    […] deals can also derail the roadmap. In a smaller company where there is immediate revenue pressure, the allure of a special deal […]

  • Reply If we're so smart… — On Product Management May 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    […] blogs are making about other groups in technology companies. Enough with the missives about Sales Monkeys or arrogant engineers. Seriously, like this is news that they think or work differently than […]

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