The sales team walks a unique line between their B2B organization and the buyer. This means salespeople have direct access to buyers. They can hear what they want and need. They can understand what elements of solutions work. They can better understand what has left the buyers wanting.
These direct buyer insights — the data, anecdotes and deals / no deals — can inform and influence your product management team. That is, if your teams are talking.
Pragmatic Institute reached out to solution management professionals for its annual survey and found that:
- 69% of respondents spent 0 hours a month interviewing potential customers
- 66% spent 0 hours on win / loss analysis with evaluators
- 39% reported 0 hours interviewing current customers
Remarkable. The majority of solution management teams are not hearing the voice of the customer at all — ZERO hours. It is no wonder the majority of sales, marketing and solution organizations remain misaligned between operational disciplines. Moreover, teams are not talking to each other, and, even if they are, they are often not talking enough or about the right topics. Thus, the majority of solutions fail to be market-driven — and fail to “Seek to Serve, Not to Sell™.”
When the solution teams are not connected to the end-customer, sales leadership must step in and step up to solution management for the sake of the organization — and, even more critically, for the sake of the customers. Here is how your sales leadership can bridge the divide.
Share a Market Pulse
Start your conversations off about the marketplace. Your entire organization should be able to align around:
- What the profile is of the ideal buyer (organizationally and personas)
- What challenges target buyers are encountering
- What challenges are most severe / urgent
- How the current challenges are being addressed now (if at all)
- What opportunities are being lost in how they are currently addressed
- How to ideally solve the challenges
Additionally, let your solution management teams in on what is working and what is not working in the field. When you provide insights into why sales cycles are being won or lost, this helps solution management better grasp what is most valued by the buyer. Thus solution management can identify what needs to be better differentiated in your solutions.
Advocate for the Right Product Investment Decisions
Solution management spends a lot of time and resources on research and development. But the organization’s wellbeing needs the solutions they create to actually sell. According to that same Pragmatic Institute study, while the majority of solution management executives believe they should spend 53% of their time on strategic activities, only 8% were able to do so.
Sales executives can help solution management teams make better solution investment decisions (the strategy) from the get-go — if your sales teams are talking early and often. A formal solution strategy validation framework can help.
In the new Mereo eBook, “Elevating Revenue Performance With Solution Management,” our solution management experts cover four validation strategies, including capability and alignment checkpoints, organizational capabilities rating chart and the investment versus impact matrix.
Sales likewise can support Client Advisory Boards (CABs) to gain direct access to the buying audience. Similarly, sales advisory boards can provide a direct channel between the operational disciplines and afford both teams oversight and input in the creation of solution roadmaps, enablement efforts and more.
Rally Under Your Organizational Mission
It may sometimes seem like sales and solutions speak different languages, but everyone in the organization can align around revenue performance — between growth, product margins, win rates, pricing power, customer adoption, customer retention / renewals, cross-sells / up-sells, and more.
Hold formal review sessions. Host lunch-and-learns. Schedule joint pursuit reviews and win / loss analyses. Whatever your executive sales team does — invite the solution crew to the table. Ensure your solution is engineered to be as valuable and differentiated for your buyer as possible. Then unleash your sales teams to make a difference for your target buyers — and win an unfair share™ of the market.