If you are responsible for a product, your success is tied to the product’s success. It has to sell, or it all falls apart. 

And if you are like most product managers, you know tech. But technology as such doesn't sell. You have to be able to communicate the value of your product to customers. 

You need to make it easy for them to buy — and easy for the sales organization to sell. That requires a good enough understanding of the stages of the sales process, and what you need to achieve at each stage. 

If you don’t already have a background in sales, consider this your basic introduction. Let us walk through the sales process from a product manager’s perspective. 

With this knowledge, you will be able the support sales in a more proactive way, and give your product the best chance of success. 

Let’s start from the top: 

What is sales?

"The essence of sales is to figure out how the products you offer help customers achieve their goals – not your goals, but their goal." Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company. 

This — combined with the fact that in B2B you have several buyer personas to serve — is the core of B2B product sales.

Therefore, your sales team’s task is to simply help the customer buy.

The B2B sales process stages and the product manager's role in each of them

1. Generating leads and prospecting

Leads can be collected in many ways. Examples include inbound leads through marketing, actively following appointment news, and reading company news online.

Validating leads before committing to sales reduces unnecessary efforts. By ensuring lead quality, the identified opportunities generate value more easily. Good-quality leads make relationship-building with the customer more natural. 

You can also acquire contact information through prospecting. You can determine the ideal customer profile and search for potential buyers. In the era of social media like LinkedIn, this is easy. 

How the product manager can help with this

As a product manager, you know the market for your product. So during the identification phase, you can help Sales and Marketing by describing the most important customer segments. The ones that benefit the most from your solution are your target customers. 

In particular, segmenting customers according to their needs — rather than demographics — helps improve the quality of both lead generation and prospecting.

Once you understand which customer groups have the most potential, it will be so much easier to clearly describe how the solution helps them solve their problems. The product manager finds out what the customer's preferences and limitations are for the purchase. Their buying preferences always need to be followed. 

As a product manager, it is your responsibility to collect and document the above information so that it is available to salespeople when needed. But you usually do it together with the sales team. 

2. Contacting

Now the salesperson makes the initial contact by phone or e-mail.

An experienced salesperson will not spoil the first interaction by being too pushy. This stage is not the right time or place to put pressure on a customer to buy. The purpose of the contacting phase is to establish contact and raise the customer's interest to agree on a meeting. 

Optimally, the salesperson wants to signal some sort of value in the customer's mind, to have him agree to the actual meeting.

How a product manager can help with this

For this initial contact to be successful, and for a common interest in the meeting to be generated, some value must be generated for the customer. 

The value in this phase is information — for example information about the customer’s environment or how your solution helped a similar type of company. The customer also has to feel that he will receive even more value in the follow-up meeting. 

As a product manager, you can facilitate this by preparing a few typical customer problems or needs related to your own product. Examples of useful information you can provide here include:

  • a description of why the problem is important enough to be solved
  • a few arguments for why the customer should meet your representative 
  • a short description and results from when you helped other companies  

The contacting phase is sales-driven. While Sales handle the sales process, you as a product manager help them come up with the most workable arguments.  

3. Defining the need

This is where salespeople interact with potential customers to define and understand their challenges and goals. 

Depending on where they are on the buyer's path, potential customers may not yet be able to express their needs. That's okay — this is were sales person delivers his knowledge and builds trust.

How the product manager can help with this

As a product manager, you represent the needs and problems of the customer in your own organization. You are an expert in your product’s market. 

At this need-definition stage, you should collect information and material about the potential problems of a ''generic'' customer — based on your experience from previous customer cases.

If the problem doesn’t make the customer's top 3 list, they will not look to solve it.   

4. Making the offer 

At the offer stage, Sales proposes solutions. They: 

  • highlight the value and benefits, standing out from the competition 
  • manage stakeholders
  • fight objections 
  • motivate buyers 

The ''sales experience'’ you offer affects a potential customer's willingness to share information, trust advice, and engage.

At this stage, the salesperson anticipates the needs of the client and presents his expertise to solve them.

How the product manager can help with this

At the offer stage, good sales materials help sellers to win. To succeed at this stage, it is important to understand who, in the customer's organization, is involved in the decision-making. 

As a product manager, you can define and document typical buyer personas, and create personalized value propositions for them. Using buyer personas, it is much easier to create messaging that resonates with the most important decision-makers. You are able to discuss issues that interest the target person. 

If you only talk about things that are important to the target person — and don’t waste their time talking about other things — you earn a high level of trust.

You want to highlight the advantages and strengths of the product at this stage. For sure technology and features are important, but for most product managers, communicating those is the easy part.

5. Closing the deal: the purchase

The client buys when he is ready — not a second before. 

The salesperson should be clear but never aggressive or pushy. If the client feels pressured, he often goes into defensive mode and tries to postpone the decision. 

It is better to proceed by asking, for example, ''how does the proposal look?''. 

If the answer is good, then suggest closing the deal. 

If the answer contains objections or doubts, the salesperson should guide the customer softly over the buying hurdles toward the signature. 

A single deal can be won or lost for a number of reasons – and it can be difficult to determine exactly where the negotiations went right or wrong. A Win/Loss analysis is an important tool for optimizing sales efforts for better results. 

If the reason was, for example, “Lack of functionality in the product”, that becomes important feedback for the product team. 

How the product manager can help with this 

Closing a deal is a combination of, at least, logical reasoning and emotion. The last few meters, that take you over the finish line, comes down to your salesperson’s competence. 

As a product manager, you want to make sure the purchase is easy and smooth. If nothing else, then at least make available: 

  • offer templates 
  • contract templates
  • service descriptions

These documents may be someone else's responsibility. But it is still a good idea for you to make sure they're available and up to date.  

6. Making delivery 

At this moment in time, when the customer has just signed, is one of the greatest opportunities to build a long-term, profitable customer relationship. 

You want to make sure that changed contact persons, misunderstandings, and delays don’t damage the buyer experience, your brand, or those relationships. 

How the product manager can help with this

As a rule, you as a product manager are not responsible for the delivery. But it is always a good idea for you to ensure that the user journey is seamless from the conclusion of the deal to the implementation. 

Now the focus is on the users of the product. An effective tool for ensuring a good customer experience is the user journey. A good user journey clearly describes:

  • what the customer needs to do to get the expected and promised value out of your product 
  • what your organization needs to do to ensure that the customer succeeds 

You can also play a key role in measuring user experience to continuously improve it. 

Even though Sales sell value to the customer, it is always up to the customer to redeem it in the end. The real value/benefit becomes clear when the product/solution has been in use for some time. Therefore, asking for customer feedback/experience should be part of the process. 

What does this mean for a product manager?

Sales success is vital to the success of your product. Often your product competes with others for the Sales team’s time. So the easier you make it to sell your product, the more likely it is to succeed. 

When you understand the stages of the sales process and the related goals, you can better help your salespeople succeed. Knowing the sales process will help you focus on the value that is being produced for the customer, and it will be easier for you to rise above technology and product features — and spend more time on things that interest the customer. And then, the sky is the limit for your product. 

The product manager’s checklist for assisting with the sale:

Sales process phase

Product manager’s competence

Example document/output

Lead generation and prospecting

Understanding the customer and market

  •  Description of customer segments

  • Product positioning statement

  • Buyer personas


Understanding the customer

— especially their operating environment and related needs

  • Description of the burning problems or needs of the target customers

  • Arguments for why the problem/need is important enough to be solved

  • A snappy description of the better future that can be achieved with your product

  • Arguments for why exactly your company representative is worth meeting

  • Customer references

Defining the need

Understanding the customer

— especially their environment, business and workflows.

  • Checklist of important questions to map the needs. In the needs-definition phase, it is essential to get the customer to identify and articulate their needs, which is why the problem and/or needs are more important than the solution.
  • Description of what kind of problems will arise if the issue is not solved.

Making the offer

Understanding the customer

— especially the persons/roles involved in the purchase. 

Understanding the solution, i.e. the return on the value of the product and related services.

  • Documentation of buyer personas.

  • Sales support material: A description of the value (benefits and strengths) created by the product.

  •  Value calculators

  • Product demonstrations 
  • Documentation of product features and specifications, in a form that is usable to the sales team

  • Counter-arguments to obstacles to buying and objections raised by customers.

  • ROI calculations

  • Product configurators

Closing the deal

An adequate understanding of the purchasing process

  • Offer templates

  • Contract templates

  •  Service descriptions


Published: March 7, 2023

Product management