How to create sales and product alignment in early stage startup?

Has anyone found a good way of maintaining product alignment with Sales? The product team wants some system where we see the most requested issues from prospects, Sales doesn’t want to document anything (or read through options to vote on them). What’s worked for you?

We had the same problem and solving it involved bringing a mindset change and a change in tooling.

  1. Including sales managers/directors in the release planning (as viewers mainly) helped them understand the number of parameters at play when deciding a release and those half-baked requirements almost always get deprioritized. This drove them to provide more complete asks.
  2. We use Aha! For release planning and JIRA for product development (essentially only what engg needs to see). We used Aha!’s Idea feature to allow sales to submit requests and upvote other requests. Votes marginally influenced the changes of a feature making it to a release. I find that JIRA gets really messy when you try to manage requirements in it.
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Does sales want to see their customer’s requests created and added to the product? It seems odd - every org I’ve worked at the sales team is pushing to have things on the roadmap.
Rather than starting with processes, I would start with the exec or team lead alignment and go from there. Think about all the incremental dollars they could get, build better relationships, upsell new features…

@Davekim Right now, Sales is putting all of their half-baked feature requests into a new Jira ticket each time and because of the lack of detail and understanding around how many customers actually want this, no one is really looking into that JIRA board. It’s become a black box.

The sr. leadership is aligned on this and is looking for a better process.

In my experience, salespeople will never write anything down in a structured way. This includes Salesforce data that’s required for long-term account health and maintenance. Expecting them to carefully document customer requests is, honestly, a waste of time-- they won’t do it and it will frustrate you.

This doesn’t mean salespeople are bad, they just have different priorities that are mostly focused on making this quarter’s quota and building a pipeline for next quarter. The stuff you work on is too abstract to fit into that short-term focus.

Instead, meet salespeople where they are. Your Sales team certainly has regular meetings where they do account reviews, discuss won/lost deals, brainstorm about objections they’re hearing from prospects and how to get around them, etc. Attend those meetings! If there’s resistance, offer to present a product update (sales folks like that) but stick around for the whole meeting to absorb more info. Ideally, you could also host a short agenda item where you ask the sales team as a group about objections and feature requests they’ve heard. You can write those down, and make sure to ask whether multiple salespeople have heard the same thing, or if it’s just limited to one account.

Also, go on the road with salespeople whenever you can. They often love having some fancy executive from HQ tagging along so they can show prospects how important they are! :wink: Traveling with a salesperson is a great way to interview multiple customers in their environment. Often I will break out of the sales discussion with the prospect and ask to talk to other people in the office (other job roles) to get a 360-degree view of how they use our stuff.

BTW, I’m talking flippantly about salespeople here, but I love working with B2B salespeople. They are close to the customer and (usually) have the customer’s best interests at heart. Plus they always pick up the tab for dinner which makes PMs’ road expense reports much simpler! :stuck_out_tongue:

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