All restaurants are split into two parts -- the front of the house and the back of the house.

The front-of-house team keeps diners happy and educates them on what they’re eating. The back-of-house crew cooks up awesome things to serve to your customers.

When these two teams don’t communicate, things get chaotic. Orders get missed. Steak gets served before salad. Nobody’s happy.

The same thing will happen if your sales and product teams don’t work together. After all, the product team builds for the customer, and the sales team communicates the product's value to prospects.

Here are seven reasons Sales-Product alignment solves for your customers.

1) Salespeople demonstrate your product to prospects.

This is perhaps the single most important point for Sales-Product alignment. A significant part of a salesperson's job is explaining what your product is and how it works to prospects -- and there’s no way they can do that if they don’t understand it themselves.

Prospects who see your reps getting confused about the product will think one of two things:

  1. Wow. This company’s sales reps are unprofessional and unprepared. This is probably a reflection of how the company operates as a whole.
  2. Wow. This product is so complicated and difficult to use that even an employee doesn’t understand it. I probably won’t be able to, either.

Neither reaction bodes well for your company’s reputation or bottom line. If your sales reps don't understand the product, your prospects will walk away from calls confused and upset that they devoted time to an unproductive conversation. The prospects that do convert to customers will quickly get buyer's remorse if it turns out your reps unintentionally provided inaccurate product information.

So have your product team teach sales reps what your product’s all about. Provide top-to-bottom training for new reps, and incremental training for current reps as new features roll out.

2) Salespeople help translate product features into value for the customer.

There are two ways to describe a product. One way is to list every feature it has. The other is to tell a story that’s tailored to your prospect, showing how particular features will solve their business pain.

The second approach will always be more helpful for your prospects. Customers want to be shown exactly how your product can create value for them, not every single bell and whistle regardless of whether it’s relevant. Reps should be trained by members of the product team to explain what features apply to different use cases, and which of these use cases will be the most valuable to specific types of prospects and customers.

3) Keeping Sales informed of launches in advance helps reps help your customers.

This one’s a no-brainer. Your sales reps should never be finding out about launches at the same time your customers do. As your product grows, your sales reps’ knowledge base should grow too. With every new feature, salespeople will need to prepare new messaging, go through additional training, and assess how new features stack up against competitive products.

It's essential that the product team gives sales reps time to gather answers to the questions they're bound to receive once a launch is made public. This ensures your customers won't have to wait to hear from their account executive about how new launches affect them, and can opt to purchase or dive into using new features right away.

4) Salespeople may be the first to hear of major product issues.

Depending on how your customer support structure is set up, there's a good chance that salespeople will be the first to know when something critical in the product malfunctions for a particular client, or the entire customer base (heaven forbid).

Maintaining open lines of communication and familiarity between Sales and Product will save your sales reps the pain of searching for the right person in Product to direct news of major malfunctions.

Yes, the problem might only persist for minutes or hours. But when it comes to keeping customers happy, every second matters.

5) Salespeople can surface common customer asks that lead to new features.

If just one of your customers is asking for a particular feature, it’s probably not the best use of Product's time to drop everything and build it. But if your sales reps -- the people with their fingers on the customer experience pulse -- report that half their customers are asking for the same thing, it's probably an improvement worth considering. Implement a channel through which salespeople can report customer requests for Product’s consideration.

6) Sales engineers can bridge the knowledge gap between reps and engineers.

Your sales reps are great at selling, but they may not be able to get on a call with a CTO and answer detailed technical questions. Engineers probably could answer these questions, but their time is better spent building the product.

Enter the sales engineer -- someone with both technical knowledge and selling ability who can wrangle super-specialized questions. With one foot in both Sales and Product, sales engineers preserve your product team’s time while backing up your front-line sales reps. And your customers can rest assured knowing that there are subject-matter experts at your company who not only understand their concerns, but have the know-how to address them.

7) Salespeople should be able to act as product experts during the onboarding process.

Onboarding is a crucial point in the life of a customer. This will likely be the first time your new customer is using the product on their own, and it’s important that sales reps make the process as painless as possible.

When it comes to setting up a new account, salespeople should be able to act as teachers. Memorizing and repeating the steps of a canned demo isn’t enough -- sales reps should understand the ins and outs of a wide variety of use cases and know how to set up a prospect for success. A confused prospect won’t be able to harness your product to its greatest potential, which might result in buyer's remorse.

At the end of the day, it's all about solving for the customer. If your sales and product teams can complement each other's understanding of the customer experience, you're guaranteed to end up with a better customer experience -- and a healthier bottom line.

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Originally published Jun 4, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Sales and Product Alignment