How to fix the sales & dev team disconnect

A few of the startups I work with have been telling me they keep running into the same issue: the sales team is selling the product differently than the development team expected.

Wait, what do I mean selling it differently? Well it boils down to communication of value to the customer. The development team sees A B C as the prime reasons to use their product, the customer is looking for C D E reasons, and the sales guys are trying to emphasize B & C. Often this disconnect is the result of apps being built in silos or off of internal gut feeling data, or even from talking to a small or the wrong sample set of customers.

Step 1 – Improving dialog
The first step in this entire process should be to work on customer development. The entire team should be learning from the customers through interviews, screencasts, and more. Anything done without this data is going to be an inefficient waste of time. This is a process that should involve as many key decision makers in your team as possible. Everyone should be learning from this process as it should influence everyone on the team’s decision making.

So how do you reduce the disconnect between the sales reps and the dev team? Apart from investing in more customer development, there is a simple way to streamline the Dev < - > Sales part of the sales process: simulate sales calls.

Step 2 – Simulate sales
The next step in reducing friction or miscommunication between the development team and the sales or biz dev team is to have them both simulate a sales call. In an ideal world you have a third party observing this interaction and taking copious notes(your CEO comes to mind). Start by having the developers walk through how they envision a sales call going, with the sales team acting as your potential customers. If possible, maybe film this entire interaction. Write down the pain points or friction points that come up during the demo or sales process.

Next up is to flip the tables around. Have your sales guys sell to your developers. Listen to what the dev guys now emphasize as their questions vs what the sales guys did in the first phase. Keep taking notes.

The last step is to simulate this with an actual customer or lead if you have one available. Have your sales guys handle this as they typically would, but have the development team observing both parties. The dev team and the CEO should be taking notes.

Step 3 – Learn and repeat
After you’ve learned what you can, sit down with the team and figure out who can improve where. Once that has been done, wait a few weeks of using the new system before repeating this experiment.

The goal of this exercise is to see what pain points we can cut, what messaging customers are losing and how can we improve it. This might seem like common sense, but quite often I see sales teams and dev teams isolating themselves from each other, which leads to a lot of problems down the line.

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  • Raul Patterson

    Once again, great article.. this is a basic way to connect the developers with the sales team with feedback between the two that is very much team-building.