Stop Focusing on Sales and Get Back to Product

Hard stop. I’m not saying that sales teams aren’t important. We know that in order for companies to be successful, every department, including sales, needs to be highly-functional and supported (more importantly) to execute on the goals the company has set out to achieve.

Instead of defending my position, I’m going to lay out some facts about teams in growth stage companies, and how everything has changed. This is bigger than moving from lead scoring to product qualified leads, instead of blog posts viewed and demo requests. This is about one, holistic view where sales and product equally influence revenue. Just like sales and marketing, I’d argue that marketing and product need to be fully integrated, and highly collaborative, in order to achieve true product led growth.

Let’s dive in.

The Origins of Product-Market Fit

Industry leaders have said that some of the best marketing comes from your product. Will people use it? Will they pay for it? Will they tell everyone about it? When you’ve found product-market fit, or that segment of the market that has a problem your product can solve, then you can really scale your business. From lemonade stands to Wendy’s locations, every entrepreneur has gracefully danced with how to find product-market fit fast enough to win the market, and not run out of money.

That’s why, early on, most companies hire product and engineering way before marketing. According to the Atlantic, about 30% of employees are in product and engineering at startups. Forbes also noted that of the first five employees of a startup, about 50% are technical or in product roles.

Early companies lean toward product led companies, and right around a B round of funding into the growth phase, the go-to-market arm ramps up, and sales and marketing consume 50% of the roster.

Why do we distance ourselves from our roots? Why do we pour fire on a new arm of the business, instead of what got us this far?

Generating leads in a growth stage company

Now that you’ve found product-market fit, you want more leads – of course! If you work for a company with a killer free trial, your challenge is conversion to paid accounts. If it’s a higher barrier to entry, you focus on better education and conversion down the funnel. More of the marketing and sales collabs at this stage consist 0f creating MQL activities and sales enablement materials to push the buyer along.

But what if a current customer looks exactly like that passive blog subscriber who downloaded an eBook three months ago? How can you bring them relevant information that you’ve learned further down the funnel, from company ABC?

You need to view generating leads in growth stage companies as a process that comes from both sides: insights and triggers in the product to generate upsells and advocacy, and at the top from sales and market movement.

Here’s how to do it.

How to Integrate Product, Marketing AND Sales

For years we’ve talked about how to get sales and marketing to communicate better; about how to convert better leads, and educate buyers down the funnel. The challenge is that the sale doesn’t stop there. In fact, I’d argue that MQLs, SQLs and PQLs should all be viewed in the same journey. Hand-raising actions on a demo or pricing page is just as impactful as someone in your product trying to add more users when their account doesn’t let them.

Just like there are product marketers, bridging the gap between product and marketing, I’d argue we need customer success to evolve to be a buyer engineer, or a customer architect, where every insight within the buyer journey can influence different parts of the funnel.

We have the luxury of trying to figure all of this out in an age where email opens are low and click-through-rates are even lower. We’re building incredible product experiences and slamming demo requests and BANT (sales acronym for readiness to buy) processes down customers throats. It’s time we all work together so that product can influence sales, and sales can influence better product experiences.

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