Managing Sales: Preventing Sales from Selling what Product cannot Deliver

It's a sight well known to product people and engineers. A sales person comes back from a meeting with a huge grin on his face. As he starts describing reasons for his excitement, a sense of despair starts filling product and engineering people; the sales person has sold yet again something that the product cannot deliver. At USV product summit one of the product managers shared an advice he got from a highly experienced head of sales how to prevent sales from making empty promises. He said

If you don't want a sales person to sell a feature, don't tell the sales person about the feature. That's the only way.

Sales people keep on asking to be more involved in defining the product roadmap and notified in advance of incoming product feature. But the truth is that sales people cannot be trusted not to sell something which isn't yet there and which might never be there. If you've ever seen a sales person in a heat of a moment, trying to close a deal using every available mean, it's easy to understand why sales people cannot restrict themselves and why the sales people should be kept ignorant until the feature is a solid part of the product roadmap and (almost) available for actual use by the users and therefore ready to be sold.

This is the final post on managing sales series of blog posts.