How to Spark Sales-Driven Change
19 January, 2022
Previously, I worked at a B2B company where salespeople's KPIs were tied to the revenue of each product they sold. As a product owner, we separated ourselves based on the products we sold even though we all fell under the supply organization. For example, if I was selling boost ranking products that increased our customers' place on search engines, another PO would be selling a different feature that would streamline another aspect of our customer's business. The problem was that our customers were buying many products together when they might not need all, because they didn’t understand the whole picture nor did we have a holistic sales approach. With around five POs and ten different products, this challenged the structure and effectiveness of our sales team and company.
When I first joined this organization and tried to make an impact, I focused solely on optimizing my product. I examined the data and surveyed the customers to understand what needs my product was filling. Then, I created a sales presentation that trains the sales team on my product when interacting with customers. I organized user research when I would follow the sales team selling it. Doing so enabled me to see how the sales team sold my product and allowed me to give actionable feedback. When I was testing this system and optimizing it, I realized that every PO was using this same system without having each other in mind.
As I talked with more and more salespeople, I formed a personal connection with many, and we began going to lunch. During these out-of-work meetings, they shared their major sales problem: our customers were doing business with other companies because they felt we were always selling them a product which did not necessarily meet their expectations. The sales team pushed multiple products during each pitch, all from a different PO, unknown to myself. Learning this shocked me, as I understood that certain products were tailored for specific customers and would not be suitable for everyone.
Because of these meetings, I realized that our company pushing multiple products was not the most effective way to sell. For example, customers that were organically ranking in the top searches would not pay for my boost ranking product, but our sales teams were pitching it anyway.
I brought my findings to other PO's in my company, and we concluded that we needed to bring this to leadership to promote change. I created a proposal aimed at C-level executives that detailed a six-month-long experiment. The experiment revolved around an easy data model that would recommend which product a sales team should sell to a customer at a single point in time. My proposal strived to transition our sales model to pitch just the products that each customer needs at a certain point in time, rather than everything. This model was based on the fact that our customers would receive such an impressive return investment. The next time our sales team recommended a product, it was more meaningful to our customers.
Our experiment was relatively low cost and only required two data analysts. Once we obtained the required information, we ran the experiment with one customer before bringing it across our entire platform. The experiment succeeded and is still being used even after I left the company.
- The mindset of a PO should be to optimize not for a team, yourself, or a product but for the entire company. Whether or not an initiative is a success, you are moving in the right direction if you keep the whole company in mind.
- When sparking a significant change in your organization, you need both bottom-up and top-down support. To create a substantial initiative, you may need to push yourself 120% before gaining the acceptance and understanding of leadership. Once on the same page, alignment is key to a successful outcome.
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