by Chris Fletcher
In the Growth Acceleration Readiness Framework there are 8 dimensions to successful sales growth. As you may recall, the 8 dimensions are:
Sales team readiness
Marketing awareness and their readiness
Customer success readiness
Product integration and its capabilities to integrate into an Enterprise solution
Business impact on an understanding
External Partnerships to expand sales
Finally the change horizon; how quickly, as a management team of your organization, do you want to get to those large deals?
Let's address product integration readiness and how investing in this area can improve your place on the maturity curve over time.
The focus of many companies is on product, and rightly so. Without a product, you have nothing to sell. As a company progresses through its maturity, it will focus a lot of energy on making sure its product is distinct, feature rich and appealing to its market segment.
The evolution of a software company follows that product evolution, from what starts off as point-solution to what may become a platform-solution. Whether you manage a one-product start-up or a larger software company; this evolution to a platform is a key success factor in your chosen market. What most people miss though, is the fact that as you evolve towards a platform product, you need to evolve your sales process in line with it. Your sales team can't keep selling the same way they did at the outset! The methods you initially used to capture your first customers, are not necessarily the same as those that are required to take you to the next level.
This is why Product Integration is a key area from a sales acceleration standpoint, and an enabler for generating new revenue growth.
There are four key pillars in our Product Integration dimension, they are:
All of these are key aspects in understanding how best to evolve your product along with your sales strategy to accelerate your growth accordingly.
Product development teams are focused on the development and delivery of their product. They prioritize new features and functions on the basis of expanding capabilities. These new capabilities will have come from the Product Manager’s discussions with existing customers and from both technical and market trends. Often there’s a delay in correlating these new product capabilities against the customer “need” that your product was initially, or is now, addressing for current customers. Without this understanding, you do not know whether your new product capabilities will actually be of benefit to your customers. To develop a strong product development strategy, Sales and Product teams need to partner together, to ensure Sales understands any new capabilities, and can articulate them to both potential and existing customers.
Over the years I have seen Sales make many asks of the Product team for “one off” capabilities to support a customer. These can take you down a slippery slope that results in stagnated sales, if these capabilities aren’t placed into a broader development strategy.
So keys to success are; assess your product capabilities on your roadmap; how customer-driven are they; and make sure that your focus is on the business value they bring. Don’t prioritize features and functions that offer little value to your customers, or that may impact your products position as a platform.
It is important to remember that a product does not have to be a hundred percent there for sales to be able to differentiate it, in the market. The product has to bring significant value to its potential customers for it to be saleable, even if the nice-to-have functionality is not there yet.
It is important that the customer can see how your product integrates into their current technology environment. This is often overlooked and its importance is underestimated.
Customers like to understand the big-picture, they want to see the potential that an investment in your technology can deliver. This includes the integration of data from your platform with other data sources to add exponential value.
To achieve the value add, you need to be able articulate the architectural fit of your product as it relates to your customers eco-system. You must be able to show how it will benefit their customers, what impact it will have on their business processes and any financial savings that can be expected.
Yet again, a faster mousetrap only get’s you so far! You’ve got to be able to bring a higher value add to your client.
With this requirement, new resources and skills are required to support the sales process, to ensure success. This is another aspect of the Architectural fit, that is overlooked as a company develops its sales strategy.
We have talked about the customer-driven approach a little bit already, but you've got to make sure that the input that you obtain from your customers is at the right business level. If you’re only talking to people who are very technical, they may not give you the correct advice for your product’s enhancement. It is imperative that you have strong product management who can communicate with your customers business stakeholders, and help capture the business value your product brings. The feedback can then be consolidated so that it helps drive product direction and sales messaging.
Finally the key area for successful product integration is delivery capabilities. Whether it's your customer success organization, your implementation team internally or your technical support team, they all need to be ready and capable to support your product. This is an area that often matures too slowly, and one that is often missed by the wider organization. Your Customer Success teams need educating so they can help current customers understand the benefits your technology brings.
Some of you might be surprised that I'm talking about this as part of a sales strategy, but knowing the impact your product brings to your customers is key to working together across your organization to be able to support the different talk tracks that sales are going to come across when talking to prospective customers. If you don't pull together as a team, you are not going to be successful.
This may sound obvious, but it is amazing how many companies we see that fail to do these simple things right. It is too easy to work in silos, and fail to execute well on these critical success factors. So remember, as you develop your products capabilities, managing Product Integration is going to be a key aspect that drives Sales success - but don’t do it in silos!
Chris Fletcher is a Managing Partner at huerdo and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.