Sales, Marketing, and Other Things I Learned Outside the “Core” Product Team
To go far, go together
When I first started working as a product designer, I knew little about what’s happening outside the “core” product team (i.e. Product Management, Product Design, Software Engineering). A few years later, I have had the opportunity to work with verticals outside the product bubble, for which I am tremendously grateful. Here, I share what I have learned about these roles in hyper-simplified terms.
Who are you?
For people to buy your things, they need to aware that you exist. How? Marketing! Often, the marketing campaign is the first funnel of acquiring customers, before further pipeline activities happen. From creating product teaser videos to optimizing sites for SEO, marketing is about delivering the perceived value. To execute good marketing strategies, marketing team also does competitive research (different from user research), the insights from which I find fascinating. These information in turn reinforces me to reflect what values our own product can deliver and how we can differentiate ourselves.
To build a strong brand, I also learned about the importance of having a consistent voice in messaging: consistency conveys trustworthiness, and people only buy what they trust.
Before suits and slides, there are relationships. As a non-sales person, I have had unfair stereotypes about the what sales function is about. But, I now know they are wrong (or at least aren’t what good salespeople do). What I learned since has taught me so much about human dynamics.
For example, in an initial conversation with potential buyers, our sales team would spend the majority of the time building rapport and understanding the audience before ever mentioning the technology. For a 40 min meeting, showing off the product may only take 5 minutes. At first, I thought this is incredulous — after all, isn’t the product what’s going to make or break the deal? It turned out, however, this is well-studied phenomenon and therefore a pretty standard sales process. Buying is an emotional decision; not entirely, but more so than people want to believe. By listening, we learn how to be valuable to people at the other end of the table. There’s no point trying to sell to people what they don’t need. Almost sounds like “design thinking”, eh?
With selling attempts come rejections. Optimism, therefore, is essential for a successful sales career: you have to keep up the spirits when a case falls through, and try to remember that opportunities might just be around the next corner (or industry conference).
❤️ Customer Success / Customer Support
Keepin’ it real
It takes tremendous patience and empathy to truly support the success of your customers. From “Help! I can’t log in!” to “Hmm, how do I do XYZ?”, CS team listens to users’ problems with open ears and hearts. They are the first to jump in when users run into trouble IRL, and summon whatever resources available to put out the fire. On the flip side, fortunately, the CS team also gets to hear first-hand when users provide positive feedback.
Because of this, I gain irreplaceable insights from the CS team. I hear the most vivid stories about how a product made a “night-and-day” difference in a user’s life, as well as the unfiltered, sobering, capital-lettered feedback for “ares of improvement”. These stories ground me in reality, and motivate me to do my job better.
Having a solid legal team is one of those things that don’t come to our minds intuitively, but could end up making or breaking the business.
💎 Quality Assurance
The under-appreciated heroes
My team learned the importance of QA by not including QA in the product development process at first. But once we corrected that, our product quality and product building process improved noticeably. Product quality really should be everyone’s job.
For instance, learning about test-driven development methodology helps the team consider more comprehensive use cases (and write clearer Jira stories!). Being aware of a product’s performance aids in balancing the usefulness and complexity of a feature. Testing the product across platforms and devices ensures we meet the demands of an ever-diversifying marketplace. Where would we be without QA?
These are some of the highlights of my personal learning of functions outside my immediate team. Of course, your mileage might vary based on your specific team and organization. Each function shines its own light, and in the end, good products originate from good teamwork.