How This New Product Manager Earned Respect from the Sales Team
October 30, 2015

How This New Product Manager Earned Respect from the Sales Team

by Ron Yang

You are still learning the ropes as a new product manager, but it has not stopped well-meaning co-workers and customers from already inundating you with feature requests. You smile politely and say, “yeah, sure,” but you are worried that the backlog of features is starting to add up.

But when ideas come from the sales team, you are feeling even more pressure to incorporate them somehow in the next release. After all, you need sales and sales needs you. You certainly do not want to let them down.

I know what it is like to be in your position. I was a new product manager too and have been part of organizations with large sales teams who came to me with feature requests every day!

If you think that you will earn respect from the sales team by incorporating every new feature they suggest, you will be disappointed. Even if you somehow manage to include each request, the team will only be happy for a short time until they need some other make-or-break feature. Solving this problem is a tall order for any product manager to fill, especially when you are new and still getting to know the different stakeholders and the roles they play.

One thing is for sure: Always bending to pressure from the sales team will weaken your role as a product manager.

So, are you ready for the good news? You can survive as a new product manager and earn the respect of the sales team at the same time. It all starts by saying “No” to requests that do not line up with your strategy. Think of your strategy as your most trusted ally inside of a new organization.

Your product strategy is your best defense and will help you earn respect over time, even as a new product manager. Here is why:

You see the bigger picture Your job is to do what is best for the product in the long run. That means sometimes deflecting feature requests that go against your overall strategy, and making decisions that are unpopular but necessary. The sales team will soon find out that you do not bend easily to pressure. By setting a strategic direction and then having the strength to walk it out, you will start earning respect from the sales team.

You want to build what matters You do not want to waste time, energy and money on features that do not add value to the product. The same way that members of your sales team do not waste time with customers who will not add value to the company.

When you say “No, and here is why” instead of a flat-out “No,” the sales team will observe that you are not just being contrary. You devote careful thought, use your time wisely, and present logical reasons to back up your decisions. You keep your product strategy top of mind at all times.

You are part of a team Ultimately, your sales team is going to battle each day on the front lines. They need your help. When the sales team observes that you are thinking about how their team will actually sell what you are building, they will know you are acting with more than your best interest in mind.

Product managers have a tough job. A big part of that job is remaining strong and protecting the product from features that will move it away from its goal — even when the sales team starts piling on the pressure.

Adhere to your strategy, and develop a plan to build only the features that matter most. This show of integrity will strengthen your relationship with the sales team, and help shore up your confidence as an emerging product manager.

How do you work with your sales team when it comes to evaluating feature requests?

Ron Yang

Ron Yang

Ron builds lovable products. He was the vice president of product management and UX at Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software. Ron has more than 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship and leading product teams. Previously, Ron founded and sold his own company and has been on the founding team of multiple venture-backed companies.

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