Your roadmap doesn’t have to be a sales blocker

A great lead comes in: a real household name, with money to spend. They get through your SDR team. The AE prepares, and the discovery call goes swimmingly. The demo is great. And then they ask one single question that threatens to derail the entire conversation.

Prospect: “Do you have [feature]?”

AE: “No, but it’s on our roadmap.”

Prospect: “Do you know when it will be available?”

AE: “No. I can check with our team and get back to you.”

And the opportunity disappears; never to be seen again.


Why does this happen? It’s not because you don’t have the feature available right now. It’s not because your sales rep doesn’t know what the feature is, or will be — usually, it’s an “nice-to-have” compared to the main product.

This happens when the sales rep doesn’t understand what problem the prospect expects the feature to overcome and what benefit they are attempting to realize. Without this, they aren’t able to prioritize the importance of a feature compared to the overall solution, and can’t create the urgency needed to move the deal forward.

If the rep doesn’t set expectations, dig deeper with their questioning, and move the issue forward, not only is the deal lost, but also the opportunity to better understand their problems and gain valuable insight into their evaluation process is lost. Specifically for early-stage startups, direct feedback from prospects can build better products, find an ideal product/market fit, and make or break a company’s future.

But luckily, skilled sales reps can maneuver around these conversations with a little help from basic roadmap information you may already have.

Splitting your roadmap into ‘landing shortly’, ‘near term’, and ‘planned’ timeline can help your team set those relative expectations with prospects and have more productive conversations.

Here are some template approaches to ensure your roadmap helps, and doesn’t hinder, your team’s sales conversations.


Landing shortly

These are features that are currently under planning and development that your product team have 95% confidence will be implemented within the quarter.

With these items, set the expectation that they’re currently in development, and the product team expect them to be available within the next few months.

Set expectations:

  • “This is something our product team is working on right now, it’s slated to be available this quarter.”

Question them:

  • How would you use that?
  • Is it a feature you’ve used before? How do you use it today?
  • How is that met by the other solutions you’re evaluating?

Move them forward:

  • Ask if they would be interested in beta or early access


Near term

These are features that you expect to deliver next quarter: they may be loosely scoped, but the opportunity exists to get information that will validate your problem/product assumptions.

Set expectations:

  • “We’re planning to start on this in the next few months for it to be available next quarter.”

Question them:

  • How would you use it?
  • How will that impact your business and workflow?
  • What problem would it solve for you?
  • What benefit do you expect to realize from this, and why?
  • Is it a deal-breaker to moving forward with our solution shortly?

Move forward:

  • Take notes to understand their problem and share with the product team, to both provide additional validation and see whether the planned features will meet their needs
  • Dial up the urgency and the pain their other problems are causing, that can be solved instantly with your solution today

Planned

Planned items are in the proposal and ideation stage. Set the customer expectations, and deep-dive for details on how customers would use these features. These situations are helpful for development prioritization when there’s a dollar amount available to be indicative of future opportunities.

Set the expectation:

  • “I know it’s something our product team are evaluating this right now, but need more information on how to best solve this.”

Question them:

  • How would you use this feature?
  • How will that impact your business and workflow?
  • How do you do this today?
  • What problem will it solve for you?
  • How do you achieve the same outcome today?
  • Is the capability a deal-breaker for this type of solution?
  • What’s the driving force behind this requirement?

Move forward:

  • If their requirements are complex, confirm by email to make sure there’s no misunderstanding
  • Explain that the feedback will really help the product direction, and ask if they’ll be open to contact by the product team
  • If the deal isn’t a requirement to moving forward, explain how getting onboard now is an opportunity to be involved in the product design and beta process and ensure their needs are taken into account

Avoid saying “no”

It’s too easy to say no, shut down the conversation, and attempt to turn it back round to the features you do have — especially if you’re in a high-throughput sales environment.

But taking time to understand requirements and feed that insight back to product teams can build solutions that accurately meet the needs of your prospects and customers.


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