Back in 2019, in less than 15 seconds, American designer Tom Ford summarized what it means to be product-led, and why your organization should align behind the approach.
“The key to marketing is to make something people want. When they want it, they buy it, then you have sales. So the product is what has to speak, the product is what markets things. Marketing is often for hollow products where the product doesn’t speak, so marketing is needed to sell it.”
Ford brought Gucci back from the brink and ushered in a golden era for the then-fledgling fashion brand, setting the foundations for it to become a $17 billion dollar business.
How? By making clothes people wanted to buy, basically.
By his own admission, this is a simplified answer to why he doesn’t like the term marketing. But the Academy Award nominee understands the principles of product-led growth, and why it’s vital for the product to be the champion of your organization.
The role of sales
If you think of an automotive dealership as the epitome of salesmanship (as I do) then you’ll understand that a sales-led approach can work.
Even if the product, let’s say a second-hand Chevrolet Malibu, wasn’t the dream car you had in mind, a salesperson with enough knowledge, charisma, and gusto could have you driving away happy.
What’s the difference then, between that approach and a product-focused sales team?
It’s understanding what is flipping that switch in potential customers’ brains between them purchasing your product, and them going elsewhere. Is it a stunning sales pitch, or is it a top-drawer product that requires less?
Now, salespeople still need to be able to close deals regardless of how good your product is, so communication skills and some personality can still go a long way. But who wouldn’t want their job to be made easier?
The more you get behind a product, the easier it will be to sell. A true win-win.
If that mantra isn’t enough to convince your sales team, here are more methods to create a product-focused sales force.
One team, one dream
Okay, so technically there are multiple teams, but there should definitely only be one dream.
Ensuring your sales team is aligned with the company vision will equip them better than a list of statistics and details about your product.
It’s not enough for a salesperson to reel off all the facts about a product. They have to understand exactly what problem the product is solving and why the user is looking at the product.
The salesperson and the product team must be promising the same dream. It’s useless having a product that solves a problem, for the team that is selling the product to be promising a different problem solution.
Simple stuff, but getting sales involved in the long-term, shared vision for the product will go a long way. Certainly further than ‘one-pagers’ with some features listed.
Speak less, listen more
Whilst counterintuitive and seemingly bonkers to some salespeople, speaking less can help you convert more prospects into closed deals.
Active listening has become a bit of a buzzword, but it can unearth valuable information from a customer, whilst also building trust with them. Being listened to engages users in a way that makes them feel important and cared for.
Take notes, don’t finish their sentences, give them time to formulate their own opinions before trying to sell to them and possibly missing the key point they were about to unveil that could help you win the deal.
Read the body language, give them acknowledgments and confirmations of their problems as valid. This might be harder over the phone, or on Zoom, but you can make sure you’re keeping them engaged and making sure they’re understood by following these tips.
Reiterate and research
Ensure this feedback is fed back into the product org to help develop a better product, as well as to help you qualify more potential customers.
By having a greater amount of qualitative research, including win/loss analysis, sales teams can have an active input into the product lifecycle, helping them better understand the product and the product team better understand the customer.
This is a truly product-focused sales team, who can take their knowledge of the product into a pitch, make sure they listen and understand to the potential user, and consolidate the information to either seal the deal, or better improve the product.
This will also ensure your teams are promising the same thing! Which, as we’ve already mentioned, is crucial to getting the sales team aligned, and it will also go a long way to not infuriate your customers when they’re promised one thing only for something else to be delivered. Just look at Wish!
The sales team need to be involved in the product development process from the start. They must understand the vision, the strategy, the messaging, the lot. And they can play a part in informing those ideas as well.
By ensuring you’ve got an aligned sales team, who have a great ability to listen to users, with enough passion and knowledge to close deals without becoming the overbearing used car salesman, you’re going to sell more, and sell better.
Use the philosophy of Tom Ford, make things people want to buy, and the rest will follow. Get the sales team on board with the product, and you’ll reap the rewards.