A Product Manager who is only concerned with meeting the demands of the sales team, giving no thought to a holistic product vision.
- Can mutate into: ”The Executive Assistant” or “The Dictator” Product Manager
- Dangerous when coupled with: “The Note Taker” Designer
- Likelihood of fixing: Low
- Danger to project: Low
The sales team within an organization is tasked with closing sales in order to drive revenue. This fact can lead a Product Manager to believe that this is the entirety of their role: to transmit requirements from the sales team to the product development team. This has the undesirable effect of leaving the product directionless, as it is pulled from one disjointed requirement to the other, as it lacks any overarching product vision.
A Product Manager who quickly and accurately documents and hands off requirements coming from the sales team to the development team is generally considered to be good at their job. The problem, however, is that satisfying individual requests from customers will lead to a bloated product over time, comprised of features that appeal to only a few customers. The longer this is allowed to go on, the more disjointed and clumsy the product will seem.
Capturing what customers are asking for is vitally important to ensure a sellable product is being developed. However, a Product Manager must also have a vision for what the product offering is, such that it can be relevant to as many customers as possible. If their only purpose is to transmit requirements from the sales organization to the development organization, their job can be done by a collaborative requirements reporting system, where the sales team directly submits feature requests to the development team.
“Vision” is not something can be trained, taught, or coached: either the product manager has a vision for the product, or they do not. Unfortunately, if they had a vision for the project, they would not have allowed themselves to become a Sales Liaison, as they would have been influencing the product all along rather than just passing off requirements.
The way to address the Sales Liaison is to move them into a marketing function, with their job being defined as capturing customer feedback from sales. This documentation would then need to be given to the new Product Manager who can incorporate this customers feedback into the new overarching product vision.
6 thoughts on “The Sales Liaison”
Two typos here: “Capturing what customers as asking for is vitally important to ensure a salable product is being developed” (as -> are, salable -> sellable).
Fixed! Thank you!
>“Vision” is not something can be trained, taught, or coached
I disagree with this. Everything can be trained, taught or coached. Whether someone is willing, how hard it will be for them, and whether it’s worth do vary greatly. But this is by no means impossible. Good product managers are not born fully formed, they learned it.
Disagreement, as always, is welcome and appreciated. On my very best days I can hope to only be about 80% accurate with my analysis, which leaves a lot of room for error.
Based on my experiences, I don’t have much evidence that vision can be be taught unless the person doing the teaching is the one with the vision, which means that the product manager didn’t have the vision. Therefore, to me the question is: how can you teach a product vision to a product manager and that product manager still have value? Further, wouldn’t the person teaching the vision be the defacto product manager?
Awesome article and very nice insight into communication challenges. Thx!