Are you a newbie product manager who isn’t sure how to piss off the sales force as fast as possible? Follow these simple steps and you can earn the lifetime enmity and scorn of every account manager and sales engineer you work with!
Assume you know what customers need. As a product manager, you are gifted with unique insight into customer requirements. As a result, there’s no need to doublecheck whether you understand customer needs correctly.
Ignore the sales engineer’s input about the product. Sales engineers spend all their time on-site with customers. As a result, they’re biased towards customer opinions. They’d have to spend more time at headquarters if they REALLY wanted to understand the product’s strengths and weaknesses.
Silently forget about or cancel bug fixes the customer is waiting for. Any bug that hasn’t killed the customer already is by definition one they can live with. Therefore, feel free to silently forget to schedule, defer, or cancel product bug fixes that were previously committed to the customer. Don’t let the sales force or the customer know. That would give them a chance to object!
Rely on support to manage a product problem instead of fixing it for good. Part of a product manager’s job is to create as many opportunities for support to help customers as possible. So never fix a problem if you can rely on support to painstakingly help customers endure it instead.
Don’t respond to questions from the sales force, or wait so long that you might as well not have responded at all. By failing to respond to their questions, you’ll force them to guess or make an answer up. This will maximize the chance that sales will mis-set customer expectations and simultaneously give you a chance to blame them later for giving out incorrect information.
Put out incorrect information. There’s no need to depend on the sales force to mislead customers when you can do it yourself. Never doublecheck the contents of your presentations, road map, product data sheets, or emails.
Put out out-of-date information. This is just as effective as distributing blatantly wrong information, and it’s much easier for you duck responsibility or apologize. So don’t worry about updating the wiki, road map, customer presentation, or any of your collateral. After you thoroughly mislead everyone, you can always apologize later.
Provide a SWOT analysis that reflects your wishes rather than reality. A Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats analysis need only look accurate. It need not be accurate. When the account manager naively tells the customer that his company is the first and only one to offer email as a hosted service over the Internet, it won’t be your credibility that gets shot. If the SWOT analysis is good enough for marketing slides, it’s good enough for competitive situations!
Talk to customers without checking with the account manager first. The account manager is undoubtedly guaranteed to close whatever upcoming opportunities exist at the customer on schedule. Therefore, there’s nothing you could say or do that could get in the way. Therefore, there’s no need to coordinate with sales before reaching out to the customer. What could possibly go wrong?
Offer the customer a free trial or free product without discussing it with sales first. It’s the account manager’s commission you’re unexpectedly giving away, not your own salary. So why worry?
Promise the moon and the stars above, then deliver green cheese. There’s nothing more fun than building up the sales force’s hopes for the upcoming release, then cutting them off at the knees.
Say “yes” to every specific request. Then fail to deliver. In addition to mis-setting the sales force’s general expectations about the next release, also fail to satisfy as many specific requests as possible.
Don’t review the product plan with sales before committing to it. As a product manager, you never forget and never make a mistake. Therefore, there’s no need to doublecheck your product plan with sales before development begins. How could they possibly improve on perfection?
Assist on the play from legal: require lengthy legal review, in a huge backlog, before a deal can be approved. Even the most persistent product manager may not be able to maximally piss off sales at all times without help. For that, we have legal! Legal can infuriate sales to no end by taking the most extreme and conservative possible positions on all issues at all times. After all, since alcohol is illegal in Iran, maybe we should think it over before selling wine in California! But really, it’s not the hard-working, overstretched attorneys who are the problem. They’re just doing the bidding of executives who want to substitute paranoia for reason in the interpretation and application of the law. Why merely require the customer to agree when you can insist that they and their manager sign their names in their own blood instead? (In triplicate. On hard copy, not faxed. Notarized, for good measure.)
Hat tip to finance: require the customer to submit three separate acceptance letters before recognizing revenue. I am not making that example up, by the way. Why take yes for an answer when you can assume it means no? What if the customer was in an altered state of mind when they issued the acceptance? Or perhaps the sales representative was blackmailing the customer. You never know, and you can’t be too careful. When even legal fails to block a sale, as a last-ditch measure you can count on finance to prevent revenue recognition.
Do all the things that piss off customers. When customers get upset, they’ll burn up the phone lines to their account managers expressing their displeasure. Plus, they’ll be less likely to renew their contracts, add licenses, or purchase new products in the future. You can piss off customers and sales simultaneously! So be sure to apply all the best practices for pissing off customers including defining the wrong product, repeatedly shipping releases late and with critical regressions, and dropping product features that customers depend on.
That’s not a complete list of ways to piss of sales, but it’s a good start. Bad product managers can be counted on to innovate and come up with new techniques of their own!