Product or Sales Driven

I almost didn’t publish this because it seemed so obvious after I finished writing it.

I guess what’s not so obvious is knowing which kind of organization you are when you join or start a company. I’m speaking from experience. Freshout operates two different companies today. One is product driven and the other is primarily sales driven.

I’ve yet to meet a person that can perform well in both types of companies.

I say that because it’s so hard to think that a group of people that would pour their heart and soul into making amazing products would be ok with their buyer not being the end user.

You will always have either the product or sales team as the driving force in that organization. Whichever is the driving force will define the priorities of that company.

In the sales driven org, product decisions can be made without being bound to serve the end-user. In the product driven one, they must.

In the sales team scenario, the buyer tends to not be the end user. Not being the end user often means that the buyer can’t distinguish between two products in the same category. At its best, it’s just checking off items on a list. At its worst, it’s just because of the relationship they have with your competitor. Steve Jobs was famous for hating the enterprise market for similar reasons.

The product driven org can’t escape the fact that they will die if they aren’t constantly making the best product they can.

Don’t try to build a company that needs a sales heavy org when you’re clearly a product driven one. You’ll be putting your efforts into areas that won’t materialize.

That has to be one of the most frustrating feeling you could have. A competitor with a lesser product that’s kicking your ass in sales. Happens all the time.

Some points that have stood out to me over the past 8 years…

Product driven orgs do great when

  • Marketing is built into product
  • Self-serve product
  • Product can spread without friction
  • Low switching costs vs the alternative
  • Creating a wow experience

Sales driven orgs do great when

  • You have a long sales process
  • Buyer is not the end user
  • Requires outbound sales
  • Handling large revenue concentrations in certain accounts
  • Doing custom work for clients
There’s nothing wrong with either the product driven or the sales driven one. It’s just that they require a very different group of people and environment to be successful at running each company.