Have you ever been in a situation where the business is in danger of missing its targets?
The big boss comes round and demands “What are product management doing to close the revenue gap?”
Our first response to this question is that product management delivers the most value when focused on the medium and long term. Questions on revenue should be directed to sales and field-marketing teams who have more influence over short-term success.
But, if the company is at risk of failure then everyone needs to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and help.
So what can we do to turn up the dial on revenue?
I remember being in exactly this position in my early career. Things were looking pretty shaky for our small business and I knew that introducing new products, finding new sales channels or identifying new markets would all take much too long to do. At the urging of our CEO, I spent time defining and implementing new terms and conditions for our application partners so they started paying for things that had previously been free. This gave us a short-term lift in revenues. We survived but it wasn’t much fun and it certainly damaged some long term relationships.
With the benefit of experience we’ve identified 10 short-term things that could deliver a better outcome if you’re ever in this situation:
1. Leverage senior management support.
You will face internal competition for the attention of your sales channels. It doesn’t matter if these are field sales teams, telesales or online, your challenge is to get them focused on the products that are most likely to deliver – for example, those with a short sales cycle and where revenue is front-loaded in any sale. Use the senior management pressure to make sure everyone is aligned on closing the revenue gap. If sales teams are commissioned, then changing payment structures can quickly get them to focus their energy on identifying and closing any customers interested in your product. Is this something that you or your senior sponsor can influence?
2. People love success stories.
It can really motivate salespeople to see one of their team has closed some sales! So sing the praises of the salespeople who’ve succeeded and run webinars or share videos of them sharing how they did it.
3. Focus on existing customers.
It’s generally acknowledged that it takes at least 5 times more effort to bring in a new customer compared to selling to an existing one. Think of some initiatives that can increase sales to the customers that already know you.
4. Spend time with Sales.
Should you spend time on helping close sales opportunities or put your time into other initiatives? If winning a few large deals would close your revenue gap then it might make sense to pro-actively join a number of sales calls and help make the sale. And it’s a great way to see if salespeople really understand your offering or if more training is needed.
5. Focus on the people who deliver.
We’ve often seen the situation where a few sales or pre-sales people are really successful with a product whilst others seem to struggle or are disinterested. These champions of your product are like gold-dust and you need to leverage their skills and enthusiasm. One way is to pass all qualified opportunities to your product champions to increase the chances of closing a sale quickly.
6. Give sales teams something new to talk about.
Can you create offers, packages or bonuses to encourage customers to pull forward buying decisions? It’s worth trying to understand which potential customers are able to pull forward their purchase decisions – those stuck in a slow decision-making process will simply take your offer and use it to negotiate better terms once they’re ready to buy.
7. Check on sales performance.
Apart from going out with the sales team when they are trying to sell your product, can you become a mystery shopper so you get an unbiased view of how they talk to a prospect? Also, it’s worth running some win/loss sessions to understand why sales are being made and in particular what might not be working?
8. Make it easy for customers to try your product.
If you can make it easy for customers to take a trial then they get early exposure to your product and are more likely to buy sooner. This might mean putting together an easy sign-up process, drafting a lightweight contract or perhaps putting together a package of training and professional services to ensure the trial gets deployed and progressed as smoothly as possible. This can be really effective but it’s important to make sure customers have some ‘skin in the game’. Whilst free trials might get more sign-ups we prefer paid trials. A paid trial typically has a higher profile in the customers’ business (they’ve had to justify spending some money) and so they take it more seriously.
9. Spread knowledge.
Do your sales channels have enough knowledge about your product? If you’ve not run training for a while then a refresh may be needed. Presentation decks, sales webinars, and podcasts are all effective at getting across what they need to know and re-motivating them. Some of the content that might need a refresh include Q&A’s, the roadmap and competitor crib sheets (see our Propositions Journal).
10. Put your prices up.
It may seem counter-intuitive but most customers don’t buy solely on price and it’s a simple way to get more revenue. For example, offer existing customers a price freeze for a period of time if they upgrade early. Or bundle in some added extras for a limited period of time to encourage them to make a quick decision.
Have you any other tips?
Director, Product Focus