Edgewave: Developing E-Mail Encryption

Returning to the Story Arc, we were going to introduce the E-Mail Encryption to the Sales Force. We are also going to talk about all the other products that were being developed. On top of that, there was a new pricing model and a new bundling model as part of that.

I went down to this meeting and sat in the audience. Things went pretty well until we got to the Encryption product. Essentially we couldn't answer any questions about the product. The Sales Force asked for dates and details about features. I hadn't started the whole process yet of defining product requirements so things were very difficult to talk about. This was the 2nd week of August and I had been asked to deliver the product in October. I had given back the possibility of something in Q4.

When I got back to Rohnert Park, I started writing product requirements and we held product architecture discussions. It turned out that there were at least 5 distinct elements of the design, not including a specific way of deploying a version of the product to provide the service. We could outsource one of the design elements and none of the rest were a miracle. But this did end up involving essentially everyone in the office. From the requirements, we came up with an availability date of February. We talked about this with our HQ friends and they told us that this would not work. We went back, reduced requirements and came up with a design that might get us a Beta in December for Encryption. The rest was all quite doable and so we proceeded on that path. Our software team worked very hard and we did end up with a product that could be released in stages at the end of the year. Part of the design was a change to the existing product. We pushed very hard and made that portion of the product available before the end of the year. It was concluded that we would not start the Beta on the new functionality until after the first of the year. There was rightful concern about supporting a Beta across the Christmas Holiday. Of course, I was unclear why folks wanted me to push out a product at the end of the Calendar year in any case at that point.

I think the big lesson from this part of the story is the questions that Sales had and our inability to answer the questions. Sales Teams need to believe in the product that they are pitching. I think if you are not in Sales, then you need to understand the following: "You can not overcome an objection that you agree with." Can you imagine going to a Sales Meeting and being asked to sell a new product that nobody can describe in any detail? Would you spend time trying to pitch it? The issue is that Sales people are driven by meeting quota. They will not be able to close the business if presented with objections. From a Sales standpoint, wasting time pitching a product in that state makes no sense. People will not be effective in selling products in that state.

I had asked for the meeting to be delayed or at least to make the announcement of Encryption to be an early head's up. The idea would be to get feedback from Sales on what they think they can sell so that when we had requirements we could have effective feedback on what we were making. Our requirements had two problems. As we were new to the market, our Product manager (me) needed time to do competitive analysis. Of course, given the breadth of what I was doing I did not have time to do so. What we were doing was a shot in the dark based on our own personal experience. On top of that, the first release was then subsequently modified based on a date. So we were really disconnected from what might be a minimum viable product.

Next up, what happened when we released the new product.

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
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