6 Strategies to Help Streamline Sales and Product Team Communications

Richard Conn

Communication is key to running a business. However, many companies tend to focus solely on business-customer relationships, investing in solutions like retail CRM software or online chat functionality. It’s just as important to focus on internal communications.

One area where clear and effective communication is particularly essential is between sales and product teams. So, how can you encourage this? Let’s take a look at the following six strategies that can help.

1. Start with the basics

How do your teams speak to each other? Via email? Bumping into each other in the hall? The best way to promote cross-team collaboration is by investing in a small business phone system. This guarantees a more connected operation with phone calls, messaging, and video conferences.

With that in place, you can start building dialogue. In order to do so, you need to accept that sales and product teams are two very different beasts. Despite the obvious interconnectedness of the two roles, they utilize completely different sets of skills. This means that team leaders will have their own strategies and approaches.

For successful communication, it’s important to ensure these different strategies are aligned. An easy trap to fall into is letting team leadership focus on their own short-term objectives, rather than larger organizational goals. By aligning both teams to the same overarching plan, you provide a common background for them to work from.

Start with a work plan that maps out every stage, from early development to bringing a product to market. One of the main areas to cause grievances between sales and product teams is when both teams compete for resources. By collaborating from an early stage, each team can better understand each other’s needs. This helps to reduce the risk of competition and improves overall relationships.

2. Don’t delay, respond

It’s common sense, but being slow to respond to members from different departments is not going to win you any favors. When one department is sluggish in returning messages to the other, the productivity of your entire organization is slowed down.

Delays can be a particular problem for your sales department, potentially preventing them from making a deal. To avoid this, both teams need to be prepared to quickly respond to messages. Consider using process management software to automate processes, freeing up both teams from repetitive, time-consuming tasks. This will help give them more time, leading to improved response times.

It might seem simple, but this is an incredibly effective step in improving the quality of communications and the working relationships within your organization.

3. Defuse tensions

It’s not uncommon for employees to not always see eye to eye - 35% of employees state that they’ve experienced some form of conflict. But difficulties between individual employees are generally easy to correct. It’s harder to manage tensions that erupt between teams.  

A simple solution for reducing tension is allowing team leaders the space to vent. Sometimes the opportunity to air frustrations can be enough to calm a situation and produce cooler dialogue.

At other times, a more direct approach is needed. If disagreements are a regular occurrence, one solution is conflict resolution training. This allows employees to better identify common signs of conflict before it occurs. Conflict resolution training also teaches methods for handling confrontation, helping to avoid serious arguments.  

The fact is, without proper communication, disagreements and tension between sales and product teams will occur. The upfront cost of training might be off-putting, but in the long-term, it’s incredibly effective. 95% of those with training reported that it helped them find positive conflict resolutions.

4. Centralized workflows

The biggest challenge in bridging the gap between product and sales teams is the respective workloads of each department. After all, both teams have their own tasks and priorities. Even if we put workloads aside for a moment, each will often have completely different schedules. This means that communication can be lacking, even when tasks correspond.

But is this issue inevitable? Well, not necessarily. Today, most business owners are familiar with the cloud, whether using it for storage or their VoIP Phone system. When combined with automation, it will really make a difference as to how your business runs. 

In simple terms, workflow centralization creates a clear view across all the processes within your business. It standardizes, as well as ensures management can view them at a glance, keeping everyone in the loop, allowing you to delegate work more effectively.

But how does this help communication, you ask? By ensuring everyone has an idea of what’s happening within the business, you avoid unnecessary chasing and reduce frustration. Sales can easily see what product teams are up to, without having to pester them for a response, for instance.

It also avoids both teams picking up the same task and approaching it in two very different ways. Instead, the task can be delegated appropriately and future conflict reduced. 

5. Encourage cooperation

As we’ve already established, one of the problems that is likely causing friction between sales and product teams is a lack of cooperation. Instead, teams break down into communication silos, failing to communicate with the wider organization.

If departments don’t work together effectively, they won’t see each other’s perspectives and conflict will arise. So how can you improve cooperation between the two?

Here are some suggestions.

Improve product understanding

If there is poor communication from the product team, the sales team may not properly understand the product that they are selling. Equally, if the sales team doesn’t spend the time engaging with the product, they might struggle selling it.

Remember, your sales team is likely to get asked a lot of product-specific questions. For instance, if you’re selling a communications solution, they’re likely to be asked how to set up VoIP phone systems. Encourage training sessions about the product, and build a self-service knowledge base that sales can refer to for commonly asked questions. 

Encourage both teams to think of materials that might help. Some examples include videos, ROI calculators, case studies, and FAQs.

Involve sales in product review

There are many benefits to involving members of the sales team in a product review. Sales teams will have useful knowledge of your target audience and the kind of products that they respond to. They can also bring useful insights into pricing structures that are more likely to close a sale.

By being included, sales teams will feel more confident that products being developed are attractive to the public.

Improve remote communication

As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to factor in how teams communicate, not just what they talk about. It can be tricky to maintain visibility at work when operating remotely, and this tends to impact relationships between departments.

For teams working over different time zones, asynchronous communication is just as important as phone calls or virtual meetings. Encourage collaboration via messaging platforms - and not just for work activities, either. Informal activities can help improve relationships - from catch-up chats about the latest TV shows to virtual card games.

6. Work as a single team

While product and sales are two separate departments, they’re both part of the same team. They have shared goals - the success of your business, and the products you sell - and a shared company ethos. By focusing on the similarities rather than the differences, you can create a collaborative atmosphere, rather than a combative one.

For instance, let’s say your latest product has produced record sales numbers. Your instinct might be to celebrate your sales team. Don’t forget, however, that product played a huge role, too. Celebrate both teams for their joint work, and highlight the achievements of both.

If conflict does arise, avoid pitting the two against each other. It shouldn’t be product vs sales. Instead, it should be product and sales vs the problem that the product solves for the client.  Not getting detailed enough specs? Ask your product team what help they need to provide this, rather than going on the attack. Are sales teams wasting time with repeat questions? Get them to work together on building a resource hub. 

The same should apply to any interaction - you don’t want to create competition between the two, just collaboration.

Communication is essential 

Whatever your goals are in business, communication is essential. When it comes to managing your product and sales teams, you should make strong dialogue your priority. Have you noticed a breakdown in communications between the two? Start working to find ways to repair relationships and create strong collaboration.

Luckily, if you follow these simple steps, you will be improving both the quality of communications and the level of productivity within your business. Don’t delay, start communicating today!

Richard Conn

Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8x8, Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader For UCaaS with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality.

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