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Working with the Product Team as an Account Executive: Tips and Best Practices

RepVue Team
RepVue TeamMar 4, 2024

Working with the product team as an Account Executive can be a challenging task, but it is an essential part of the sales process. As an Account Executive, you are responsible for building and maintaining relationships with clients, understanding their needs, and providing them with solutions that meet their requirements. To do this effectively, you need to work closely with the product team to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of the product and its capabilities.

Collaboration is key when it comes to working with the product team. A successful Account Executive realizes that the modern sales process is not a single-player game, especially in the B2B context. It’s a multiplayer universe where collaboration is the key to unlocking the next level of growth. By working together, you can ensure that you are providing your clients with the best possible solutions and that you are maximizing your sales potential.

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To work effectively with the product team, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of the product and target audience. This will help you to sell faster and tailor your solutions to the needs of your clients. Additionally, you should be involved in the product development process, sharing feedback from clients and providing insight into what features and functionality would be most valuable to them. By working closely with the product team, you can ensure that your clients are getting the best possible solutions and that you are maximizing your sales potential.

Understanding the Product Team’s Role

The product team is responsible for designing, developing, and shipping a product that fulfills the target customer’s needs. They work on ideation, development, and launch, and are involved in the product development cycle from inception to launch.

Key Responsibilities

The product team has several key responsibilities, including:

  • Conducting market research to identify customer needs and pain points
  • Developing product roadmaps and feature lists based on customer feedback
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams, including engineering, design, and marketing, to ensure successful product development
  • Ensuring that products are delivered on time and within budget
  • Continuously monitoring and analyzing product performance and feedback to make improvements

Interdepartmental Collaboration

Collaboration with other departments is essential to the success of the product team. 

Depending on the size of your company and whether or not you have a Customer Success team, AEs may work closely with the product team to ensure that customer feedback is incorporated into the product roadmap. You may need to work with the engineering team to troubleshoot any technical issues that arise. 

By working closely with the product team and other related departments, you can help ensure that products are developed and launched successfully, and that customers are satisfied with the end result.

Effective Communication Strategies

As an Account Executive, effective communication with your product team is essential for success. The following communication strategies will help you work effectively with your product team.

Active Listening

Active listening is a critical communication skill that involves fully concentrating on what the other person is saying and understanding their perspective. To be an effective listener, you should:

  • Pay attention to the speaker and avoid distractions
  • Show that you are listening by nodding or making eye contact
  • Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand the speaker’s point of view
  • Summarize what the speaker said to confirm your understanding

Active listening helps build trust and fosters collaboration between you and your product team.

Clear Messaging

Clear messaging is crucial when communicating with your product team. You need to ensure that your message is concise, accurate, and easily understood. To achieve clear messaging:

  • Use simple language and avoid jargon or technical terms
  • Be specific and provide clear examples to support your message
  • Use visual aids such as diagrams or charts to help convey complex information

Clear messaging helps to avoid misunderstandings and ensures that your product team understands your message.

Feedback Loops

Feedback loops allow you to provide feedback to your product team and receive feedback in return. To establish effective feedback loops:

  • Provide feedback in a timely and constructive manner
  • Be specific and provide examples to support your feedback
  • Encourage your product team to provide feedback to you
  • Act on the feedback you receive to improve your communication with your product team

Feedback loops help to improve communication and collaboration between you and your product team by providing opportunities for continuous improvement.

Building Strong Relationships

Building strong relationships with the product team is essential to the success of your role as an AE. Here are some strategies to help you build trust and become an advocate for your clients.

Trust Building

One of the most important aspects of building a strong relationship with the product team is trust. Trust can be built by being transparent, honest, and reliable. It’s important to communicate clearly and effectively with the product team, and to be responsive to their needs. Make sure to follow through on your commitments and deliver on your promises.

Another way to build trust is to show that you understand their perspective. Take the time to learn about their goals, challenges, and priorities. Ask questions and listen carefully to their responses. This will help you to develop a deeper understanding of their needs and build a stronger relationship.

There are three very effective tactics that you can use to build trust with your product team:

1. Try not to exaggerate the importance of a particular feature based on limited customer feedback. 

When a seller hears a prospect say “I’d buy if you only did X,” it’s normal for their first instinct to be to run to the product team and ask for X. But before you do this, ask yourself a few key questions: Are you sure that your prospect would buy if the product did X? Maybe that’s just the excuse that they were giving you to let you down easy? How can you know for sure?

We’ve seen this cycle play out many times with junior sales reps — and it can tank their reputation with the product team. Sales becomes like “the boy who cried wolf,” always coming up with new reasons for why they can’t close a deal because of a missing feature. You should try to avoid this scenario at all costs. Whenever you feel tempted to commit to a sale if the team builds a feature, be sure that you’ve done the work to validate that requirement. Usually if the need is really there, you can work around a specific request if there is enough value in the overall solution.

2. Work across your whole sales team to see if what you’re hearing from prospects is similar to what they’re hearing. 

You should try to be methodical about documenting and aggregating your feedback. This is a key role of sales leadership. If you can be methodical about identifying how customer demand should influence the product roadmap, it’s likely that you’ll be able to build trust with the product team and your requests will be well received.

3. Give credit. 

When you win a deal with the help of a recently delivered feature, be sure to give credit to the product and engineering teams who built it! In sales, there’s a lot of celebrating wins. But depending on the culture of your company and other departments, this isn’t always the case for all team members. Everyone appreciates recognition. When you bring in a deal with the help of a new feature that you requested, this is a great time to share the credit with the broader team. Doing so will make them feel appreciated — and it will also build a lot of trust with the product team.

Client Advocacy

As an Account Executive, your role is to be an advocate for your clients. This means that you need to be able to effectively communicate their needs and priorities to the product team.

One way to do this is to create a client-focused mindset. This means that you need to be constantly thinking about how you can help your clients achieve their goals. When you communicate with the product team, make sure to frame your requests in terms of how they will benefit the client.

Another way to be an effective advocate is to provide the product team with data and insights about your clients. This can include information about their business goals, challenges, and successes. By sharing this information, you can help the product team to better understand your clients and develop solutions that meet their needs.

By building trust and becoming an effective advocate for your clients, you can develop strong relationships with the product team and help to drive the success of your clients’ businesses.

How much money do average Account Executives earn? Find out.

Navigating Sales and Product Goals

Working closely with the product team to ensure that sales and product goals can lead to more successful product launches, increased revenue, and improved customer satisfaction. To achieve these goals, it is important to understand how to navigate sales and product goals effectively.

Aligning Objectives

The first step in navigating sales and product goals is to align objectives. This means that both teams must work together to identify common goals and ensure that they are working towards the same end result. One effective way to align objectives is to create a joint roadmap that outlines key milestones and timelines for both teams. This roadmap should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that both teams are on track to achieve their goals.

Another way to align objectives is to establish clear communication channels between the sales and product teams. Regular meetings and status updates can help ensure that both teams are aware of each other’s progress and can work together to address any issues that arise.

On a recent episode of Lenny’s Podcast, the host, Lenny Rachitsky, spoke with Jason Lemkin from SaaStr about the best way for product managers to work with sales teams to prioritize requests:

“Every quarter, give your head of sales a certain budget, whether it’s story points or 10% of the pie chart, however you do it, give them a budget. And when you do this, things will radically change. They radically change. 

Because even the best VPs of sales, they change the wind. On Monday, what they really need is the HubSpot integration. And they’re like, “Oh, my god. We weren’t going to do that for two years, but I guess we could change everything on Monday,” but then, on Wednesday, a new prospect comes in and, “We need SAP, but we just spent two days spec-ing out.” You need SAP. And then, on Monday, it’s Salesforce, right? And it’s not that sales isn’t honest, it’s just, the big deals, the big ones always, the tail’s wagging the dog and it burns out the organization. 

Even with the best sales leaders, I find it burns out, especially because the stressful deals, they overreact, and as good as they are, they’re not product people, so they don’t really know how to prioritize and force rank. If you say, “Okay, Lenny, my VP of Sales, great. HubSpot, SAP, whatever you want, you’ve got 10% of the budget, you’ve got a hundred story points, whatever metric or heuristic you use, but you’ve got to decide now each quarter.” And if you want to change during the course of the quarter, if you want to disrupt our whole engineering product team, you can do it, but understand there’s a high cost, and the later you do it in the quarter, the less successful it’s going to be because we already started the HubSpot integration…”

Handling Conflicts

Even with clear communication and aligned objectives, conflicts can still arise between the sales and product teams. When this happens, it is important to handle conflicts in a constructive and collaborative manner.

One effective way to handle conflicts is to focus on the underlying issues rather than the personalities involved. By identifying the root cause of the conflict and working together to address it, both teams can move forward in a positive and productive manner.

Another way to handle conflicts is to involve a neutral third party, such as a manager or mediator, to help facilitate discussions and ensure that both teams are heard and understood.

In conclusion, navigating sales and product goals requires collaboration, communication, and a willingness to work together towards a common goal. By aligning objectives and handling conflicts in a constructive manner, both teams can achieve success and drive business growth.

Leveraging Product Knowledge

Deep understanding of the product you are selling is crucial to your success. By leveraging your product knowledge, you can better communicate with your prospects and customers, build trust, and close more deals. Here are two ways to leverage your product knowledge effectively:

Product Demos

One of the most effective ways to showcase your product knowledge is through product demos. By providing a live demonstration of your product, you can highlight its features and benefits, and show how it can solve your prospect’s pain points. Make sure to tailor your demo to your audience and their specific needs. Use clear and concise language, and avoid technical jargon that may confuse or overwhelm your prospects.

To make your product demo more effective, prepare a list of common objections and questions that your prospects may have, and be ready to address them during your demo. This will help you build credibility and show that you are an expert in your field.

Custom Solutions

Another way to leverage your product knowledge is by offering custom solutions to your prospects. By understanding their unique needs and challenges, you can tailor your product to fit their specific requirements. This will not only increase your chances of closing the deal but also build a long-term relationship with your customer.

To offer custom solutions, you need to have a deep understanding of your product’s capabilities and limitations. Make sure to work closely with your product team to identify potential customizations and ensure that they are feasible. Use case studies and testimonials to showcase how your product has helped other customers with similar needs.

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