Expert Panel | forbes.com »
In a tech company, the people selling your product usually aren’t the same ones who developed it. Your sales numbers and customer retention can significantly decline if the members of your sales team don’t fully understand your product’s capabilities and functionality. They may under-promote it, leaving out key details that could close the deal, or make unrealistic promises about the product, leaving new customers disappointed and more likely to move on.
As a tech leader, you need to do your part to keep your company’s IT and sales teams on the same page. Here’s how the members of Forbes Technology Council recommend encouraging greater collaboration between these two departments.
1. Have engineers available for sales calls.
It’s crucial to have engineers work hand-in-hand with sales folks. After the conversation with a potential lead reaches a certain point, you’re going to have to dedicate technical resources to help explain the technical problem and how your offering solves that problem. – Shahar Fogel, Rookout
2. Look into building an outcome-oriented organization.
Outcome-oriented organizational design teaches us to put all activities that deliver product value into the same team and leadership, including sales and support. Even if organizational changes aren’t feasible, sales members can co-locate with the product development team to build understanding at the ground level. Sales and product leaders should also be required to create unified sales and product roadmaps. – Christopher Lazzaro, Associated Electric Cooperative Inc.
3. Encourage your sales staff to use your product.
One of the best practices is stimulating the sales team to use the product IT is working on. This way all functionality will be clear to them and selling it to the customers will be easier, as they will be able to explain everything from the user’s point of view. Plus, it is going to further push both teams to speak the same language, which will result in improved inner processes. – Daria Leshchenko, SupportYourApp Inc.
4. Let your customers guide product development.
One strategy that I have always seen work is to let the customers talk. It never ceases to amaze me how crystal clear the mission becomes when you ask a customer, “What problem are you actually trying to solve?” No longer is it about the best presentation—it’s a voluntary exchange of value. And the best part is product development will mirror what the customers are asking for. – J. Tyler Rohrer, Liquidware
5. Stay focused on your vision, but talk about what you can deliver today.
A tech business should have two connected messaging layers: the vision and the current offering. It’s great to focus on the future and share a view of what it will look like. But it’s important to stay grounded in reality when articulating what you will deliver today. Ideally, your current reality reflects a step along the way to achieving that vision. – RJ Bardsley, Earnin
6. Conduct leadership reviews of complex potential deals.
For deals over a certain size, discount or margin threshold, require the sales team to present their proposal to leadership before it is delivered to the customer. If there is a sufficient volume of such deals, customize your sales force automation tool so that the data is both easily and directly collected in the tool by sales and easy to present to leadership. – Bob Hiss, Accenture
7. Educate your sales team on the market.
Sales enablement should be an ongoing process coordinated by both sales and tech leaders. Through educational sessions, sales should gain an understanding of the market and the context they are working in, as well as the pains and needs of the customers. Finally, sales teams can bring great insights from their calls and deals, so they need go-to channels for sharing their feedback with tech teams. – Ilia Sotnikov, Netwrix
8. Create a ‘liaison’ role.
There is a need for a “translator” or “liaison” role—someone who speaks both sales and engineering languages. The title may change from industry to industry, but the goal is to have two-way communication between sales and development so the sales team understands the capabilities and limitations of the product, while development knows what features and functions customers need and want. – Saryu Nayyar, Gurucul
9. Promote a collaborative company culture.
Promoting a collaborative corporate culture can help sales and IT teams work together better. When each knows what the other is doing, it makes it easier to ask questions, have discussions and ensure everyone is working from the same playbook—e.g., IT knows what features and fixes are important to customers and prospects and sales knows what new features are coming out soon. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
10. Bring in pre-sales engineers.
In tech businesses with complex enterprise products, pre-sales engineers can help reduce risk. They team with account executives to understand customer needs, perform demos and propose appropriate solutions, and help keep pitches accurate. Product teams collaborate with the pre-sales engineers to keep them informed of product capabilities and roadmaps and gather useful customer feedback. – Ivan Harris, Kraytix
11. Hold weekly standups.
It’s important for any team that has a big impact on the company to understand momentum and evolution. Weekly standups, along with goals, will help drive knowledge transfer, understanding and realistic expectations as to where the team can head next, along with how the path can benefit the business. – WaiJe Coler, InfoTracer
12. Invite the sales staff to attend sprint reviews.
The best way I’ve seen to keep sales team members connected with the technical group is to have them attend development team sprint reviews. Taking one hour every other week to see the latest completed features and understand what’s coming next is a game-changer. Most importantly, the sales team can provide direct input based on what they’re hearing from customers, guiding the team’s priorities. – Dave Todaro, Ascendle
13. Host quarterly training seminars.
Delivering on-point true capabilities and providing references is a must. Holding quarterly training seminars with the sales team and updating the audience with new product lines and capabilities will ensure that both the IT and sales teams are on the same page. – Lana Vernovsky, Synoptek LLC
14. Develop use-case-specific sales pitches.
Focus on a particular client use case and deliver the pitch accordingly. The sales team can talk through the functional capability of the solution and IT can step in if questions around the underlying tech need to be addressed. Never be afraid to say that something is not possible—clients always appreciate honesty above exaggeration. – Samiran Ghosh, Rockmetric