Part 2: product-market-sales fit
The purpose of our team is to help find “product-market-sales fit”, as Jyoti Bansal called it. This means leveraging sales strategy to influence a specific product, and vice versa. At different organisations those dynamics will have different implications. In the case of Cloudflare the product team is very technical and tends to prioritise solving hard engineering challenges over helping with the creation or execution of a go-to-market plan. Meanwhile neither Sales nor Marketing are focused on experimenting with, and iterating strategies for, experimental products that are not already significant revenue drivers. The resulting gap may not exist at other companies, or may be filled differently, but at Cloudflare the New Product Go-To-Market (NPGTM) team serves as that stopgap.
As outlined above, while it is not the easiest approach, integrating an idea into an established organization is the fastest way to scale it. Thus, to rapidly scale the go-to-market efforts for ideas coming out of Product Strategy, our team’s challenge is to work out how these products can be plugged into the main Sales org. Consequently, despite our team’s ideological proximity to Product Strategy, it is hierarchically situated within the core org’s Sales department. This vantage point lends credibility with both the regional sales pods we support, as well as the various product teams we collaborate with.
Naturally we work closely with all of Sales and effectively fulfil every role involved in the sales cycle. From sourcing the first leads and reaching out directly to prospects, performing both technical and business level discovery, pitching and building value, objection handling, solution design, compiling pricing, negotiating offers and structuring contracts, to assisting with subsequent technical implementation and support. Each of those steps would normally be done by a specialist of the respective domain. Yet due to the inherent novelty of the products we deal with, none of them have a ‘playbook’ they can follow, no proven approach that works. Through trial and error we write this sales playbook as we go. Consequently, part of our responsibility includes enablement, or communicating the lessons of our playbook to other teams. Additionally, given our role in facilitating the first deals for a new product from start to finish, we inevitably become very involved in defining marketing strategies, revenue forecasting, contract language, as well as working on an appropriate pricing model.
Similar to most of the Sales team, but unlike the Product and the Product Strategy team, our team is directly incentivized to maximise the commercial success of the products we work with; despite not closing deals ourselves we carry a quota. Our team focuses on ensuring that the vision behind our products translates to revenue in the short-term to medium-term. It is precisely this orientation that constitutes part of the value we bring to helping with the go-to-market approach of Product Strategy’s innovations. After all, the Product Strategy team’s mandate specifically is to look much further ahead into the future than any other part of the organisation. That long-term perspective however does not align very well with Sales, who revolve around results in the short-term. Adopting this different perspective puts us in a position to work closely with Product Strategy, while acting entirely differently.
Moreover, the same logic through which we bring value to Product Strategy also applies to the core Product org. Despite not looking ahead multiple years, they still generally plan for the long-term. Consequently many of the tactics we employed with Product Strategy can also be applied with new products released by the core Product team and eventually we started to actively support them as well. But what do these tactics look like in practice?