Is your sales problem really a product problem?

Not suprisingly when companies are having issues in sales they look to their sales or and sales leadership for the source of the problem. In the cliche example (but one which happens all the time) sales will loop in marketing (“we’re not getting enough leads”, “the leads aren’t high quality enough”).

But typically product is left out of this mix.

To be clear, there are plenty of sales related issues that are directly attributable to poor sales processes, bad training of sales resources, poor time management, etc. But often overlooked is the role product plays in sales challenges. I’m not writing this to offer a ready made excuse for sales teams that aren’t executing but as a reminder to executive teams that when you’re struggling to understand sales challenges be sure to look at closely at product. I’d suggest looking both at how existing customers are actually using your product (often not well understood by companies) and comparing that with both the type of customer you’re targeting (which may be very different than your current mix of customers) and what features they require. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve looked more closely into this question and found that the problem we’re actually solving isn’t well mapped to a shifting target in sales. Or where there are specific product features that we’re lacking that are preventing product adoption but for whatever reason that feedback insn’t coming through as part of our sales process.

Seasoned execs know to beware of the “if we only had feature X we’d be selling more” feedback from sales and to dive more deeply into what the data are showing them about actual product usage. But more often than it’s given credit for product is key part of sales challenges.

For an older post I wrote on companies making the shift from early product to sales focus see here