Sales and Marketing for Product People

Winning over customers and supervisors


Well now, that title and sub-title sound sort of goofy, but the goal here is to demonstrate that product people can drive sales, and they can drive their own career.

To do so, we have to fully consider the actors in this story.

The types of actors in this product development theatrical piece

Though it may not seem like it, you have to sell your work efforts to both internal and external clients.

The internal client Your boss or your boss’s boss, or your board, if you are CEO.

The external client Anyone you are trying to sell to.

You Self-explanatory, man.

Your tech company falls into one of the following three categories:

There is another cluster of companies: those that haven’t found product-market fit, but I am focusing on post-product-market fit firms for the time being.

Challenged companies are looking to grow users and make revenue, but without having reached a critical mass of users on which to monetize. Consider that Instagram had 200MM+ users before they considered native advertising, as an example of a company that monetized after product market fit.

Firms that generate revenue at the outset tend to look like e-commerce or XaaS firms (e.g. Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service). This last grouping we will call B2B firms, in a somewhat reductionary categorization.

The PM is responsible for finding product-market fit, and for constructing upsell mechanisms, but they can also drive sales (along with (M) marketing and (BD) business development.

It is this last clutch of companies where the external sales cycle becomes important, and where product managers can play a leading role.

Why? Well, because the sales cycle can often look like this.

The Talking Heads made a song about this process.

“When are you going to sell that thing to those people?”

Unclear. But there are ways to shorten the process so that you don’t look like the Director’s cut of The Road.

It is the Product Development One-Pager.

“Why do I need such a thing?” you might ask.

You need it because most of your potential customers suffer from this:

Rebecca Paoletti coined this phrase, or I heard it from her first.

They may not even have kids in private school, but it doesn’t matter. Your customers are risk-averse. If they don’t want to jeopardize having their kids in private school, they don’t want to jeopardize their end-of-the-year bonus, or their parking spot near the front door, or any of the other fringe benefits that come with their position as gatekeepers.

What you want to do is to give them the psychological comfort that your solution will not just work (which are table stakes, to be clear), but that it will make them look good.

Because the sales cycle, without psychological comfort, can look like this, with all of the emotional extremes embodied in the photographs.

This song captures the agita here.

Which results in

You can price the value of the sale using the formula above
([NPV of the deal] x [% likelihood of deal completion] = [value of the deal]).

You want to do everything that you can to increase the middle variable.

To be clear, the preceding is all for external clients. But there is a need for psychological comfort in your boss (or boss’s boss, for that matter), as well.

And then there is you . . .

Of course you are good at what you do, working long hours, hard and efficiently. But your work can’t just stand on its own. You need the Product Development One-Pager (also known as the “Marketing Case Study”) to make the case for your own achievements.

And in my view of product development, you sit in the middle of a slightly-unbalanced stool . . .

“But [Doctor,] doesn’t my work stand for itself?” (See above; no.)

In this case, “Product-market fit” refers to you doing work that actually is what you want to do, and if you want your career to grow, you are going to have to market yourself, as disdainful as that may sound

You are responsible for your career, and if you want to leverage that into a bigger job, it is your responsibility to package your achievements in a digestible format for your supervisor(s).

“So, [Admiral,] you have administered your faux-stern warnings about what we are all supposed to do, without actually showing us what this thing is. We await the reveal.”

So do I, my friend.

So. Do. I.

This has minimal information value, but I am trying to convey that this isn’t complicated.

It is just a few easy steps. (Fewer than what you see here.)

Herewith, the Product-Development One Pager (A.K.A. . . .)

It has three parts, it fits on a page, and feel free to add infographics with hard numbers.

Like any good instructional video, let’s break it down.

Describe the core problem you are trying to solve. Two, perhaps three sentences, and avoid this writer’s fawning over parenthetical clauses.

External example “Using our SaaS data platform, you can save hiring 2.5 people per month at a lower cost. We did a deployment with Haagen Dazs last May, and this is a case study examining their results.”

Internal example “We would like to raise time spent in our application by 150% to drive engagement, post product-market fit. We did an A/B test in California to validate our thesis.”

Then you relate the results of the engagement/experiment.

This is totally made up, and no animals were harmed in the course of making this slide.

External example “Haagen Dazs deployed our solution in June, and they not only saw a 57% cost reduction in data collection, but they were also able to redeploy three development engineers towards data analysis instead of data collection.”

Internal example “The test yielded a increase in time spent of 75%.”

And then the result or conclusion.

External example “The sale enabled (and I bore myself here, making this up) a operational cost reduction of 64% in top-line costs, across the sales-forecasting operational unit. Today was a good day.

Internal example “The increase in time spent increased the virality co-efficient of out-of-app sharing, resulting in a net increase in MAUs of 5.4%. Ditto on the good day vibe.”

So you are making a one-page retro PDF that documents what you did, and what anyone who works with you can expect if they close the sale (or promote you.)

What happens then:

Gerard Butler does the deal with you, Marissa promotes you.

DEF “Off the Schneid” It’s a figure of speech that means to end a losing streak — to stop a long run of negatives with a positive.

Which means:

(Repeating the text here because I am nothing if not an SEO whore: Sales internally and externally is hard; It requires a different skill set than traditional product development; Closing a sale and career advancement have significant overlap)

Product people often don’t do sales.
Sales can drive product (and career.)

Thank you. I am here all week. Tell your friends. @tyahma

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