One of the ongoing debates is the balance between the sales and marketing teams and the engineering team. Often, the startup is a reflection of the CEO’s passion. If the CEO is product-oriented, the startup will be more product-oriented. If the CEO is sales-oriented, the startup will be more sales-oriented. Only, for the most successful B2B SaaS companies, there’s a repeated trend: sales and marketing drives the business.
Here are a few thoughts on sales and marketing driving the business:
- Recognize the constant tension between the teams, especially the desire for engineering to produce new functionality faster
- Know that sales and marketing can get too far out in front of engineering, and figure out how to slow one down or speed one up
- One common strategy is presenting a demo of new product functionality at an annual user conference, knowing full well that it’s vaporware and might not be generally available for many months, if ever (this happens all the time)
- Another common strategy is taking prospects through a multi-year roadmap (e.g. a visioning session) only to not be able to guarantee that the proposed functionality will actually be available at designed dates, if ever
- Ensure that sales and marketing paints a picture of the future but doesn’t promise things that can’t be done (harder than it sounds)
Sales and marketing is always ahead of the engineering team at the most successful startups. Finding a balance and not being reckless is a real challenge for ambitious CEOs. Sales and marketing should drive the business, while maintaining a healthy tension with engineering.
What else? What are some more thoughts on sales and marketing driving the business?