Product Management is the place where innovation begins, ideas turn into features, and features turn a mediocre CDN into an innovation driven CDN. There are three pillars to CDN Product Management: engineering, marketing and sales. When these three pillars work together, great things happen. When one pillar is broken, mediocre things happen. In this post, we’ll cover the sales pillar of product management. Lets start by saying that there is a huge divide between Product Management and Sales, not only in CDNs, but in many technology organizations. Sales reps are the soldiers fighting in the trenches day in and day out. Product Managers are the Generals sitting behind the scenes developing the features for combat. As such, Product Managers don’t have a continuous pulse on customer behavior on any given day. That is where the big problem lies.
Its story Time. Story 1: Once upon a time, a product management team spent 8 months developing a killer feature. Thereafter, it was packaged, added to the product mix, and rolled out to customers. The feature bombed, and had to be given away for free. The reason: the feature was killer only in the mind of the product management team. If they would have asked the sales reps for input, the reps would have stated the obvious: the feature is not what customers need.
Story 2: A rookie CDN sales rep picked up the phone from a prospect that was being worked on by a Sr. Sales Rep, and the rookie quoted the prospect $250/month. The Sr. Sales Rep scolded the rookie, and pointed out that the prospect was taken in Salesforce. Then the Sr. Sales Rep called the prospect, and apologized for the confusion. Thereafter, the Sr. Sales Rep doubled back, and quoted the same feature set for $15k/month. The prospect didn’t go for it, but the prospect paid close to ten times the amount originally quoted. In the grand scheme of things, the prospect was a Fortune 500 with an IT Budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. No need to throw in the kitchen sink, when all it takes is saying the right things.
Story 3: A large enterprise was paying a big CDN $75K/month for CDN services with all the bells and whistles. A seasoned sales rep at a competing CDN quoted the exact same feature set for $5k/month. The veteran rep was scolded by a Sr. Sales Rep, and the quote increased to $45k/month. The prospect didn’t go for it, but he did pay several times higher than originally quote.
These are the battles that occur in the daily life of a CDN that never make it into the circle of Product Management. The moral of the stories: Selling CDN services is both a science and art. The science applies when it comes to selling basic http delivery services. The art comes into play when selling premium features. Customer psychology and customer needs plays an important role in the process. Rarely are these sales activities presented to the product management team. In fact, sometimes these activities are not even reported to immediate sales management.
Thus, the flow of valuable insight from Sales to Product Management is broken, making the job of Product Management difficult. Product Management needs to understand the mindset, motive, and culture of their sales teams. This in turn helps Product Management better at pricing out features.