This post is the sixth in a series inspired by Pragmatic Marketing's 20 Rules of Product Management rules for technology marketing.
RULE #6: Product management should help sales channels, not individual sales people.
Obviously, when you're developing market approaches and sales tools, you're product and company will be best served by your focusing on those that can be widely deployed across an entire sales channel, direct or indirect. Take it from someone who has gone so far as to edit the (completely cretinous) letters to prospects written by a hapless sales person, we all would have been better off if I'd just created a prototype letter and made it available to everybody.
And like a lot of marketers, I'm sure, I've spent all sorts of time concocting presentations on demand, pitching in on last minute RFP responses, etc. - when the same time could have been spent making sure that the materials needed were available in a shared space, to be used by all. (Naturally, even when all that good stuff is out in shared-ville, you'll still get last minute emergency requests. But all you need to do at that point is direct folks to the url. Knock yourself out!)
Just say no to recreating a slight variation on the wheel every time a salesperson calls and asks you for something.
Similarly, when you're eliciting feedback and product input from sales, better to hear from many voices, rather than respond to the bleating of the lone sales wolf whose input is colored by the last lost deal.
But perhaps it's because I've spent so much time in small companies where there were only a handful of sales people, there are plenty of circumstances in which you want to work with individual sales people.
First off, there are some that you're just going to find more pleasant, helpful, and insightful. In my experience, these have also tended to be the most successful sales folks. You could argue, then, that they don't need your help. Maybe. But, as a marketer, you need to acknowledge that you might need theirs for reviewing sales tools, great feedback, access to customers...Yes, there are plenty of reasons why you want and need to develop relationships with individual sales people. And sometimes that will mean providing individual help to them. The good news? They're not the kind who'll ask for it unless they genuinely need it.
Of course, just as time spent helping out dunderheads detracts from working for the greater, common good, so does time spent working with the A students.
Hmmmmm. Maybe Pragmatic Marketing's 100% right here, after all.