Product promises

user experience

There’s this known thing in the industry… “customer commits” – it’s this concept in which sales teams make promises to customers before making a sale, in order to get a sale. Essentially, they are making a promise to the customer that a certain feature or functionality will be in the software they buy, without any input from design and development teams. Even if that feature does not exist today, the salesperson promises it will included to close the sale.

And what happens to these promises?

They are added to the top of the product roadmap, as a top priority. So, all the other priorities the team is trying to focus on gets shifted, and they have to work to satisfy the promises made by the sales team. This is risky and problematic for every team involved.

Why is this a major issue? Well, I’ve seen many of my clients suffer through this, and not deliver on these important promises because their product teams are stretched too thin. Oftentimes, teams are not organized to handle these prioritization shifts. So things like bugs, usability issues, and backlog items fall down on the list, sometimes, not being worked on for several months or even years because they must satisfy the promises made by sales.

More often than not, your existing customer base suffers just so you can satisfy your newest customer. New product features, enhancement requests and known issues are not fixed because a whole new thing needs to be built. And this is why there are so many bad or half baked products out there. And why even some of your favorite products seem neglected in certain areas.

These are blind promises. Sales people are not always technical. They are not always lock & step with their design & development teams. And they almost certainly don’t know how to properly assess and estimate the work they are promising.

So why do we do this?

Why is this an accepted industry practice?

It’s the classic chicken & egg scenario. Do you make it before you sell it!? Or sell it so you can make it?

My take? People don’t want to be sold to.. When you design great products & services they should sell themselves! Also, people who love what you made will actually sell it for you. If we spent more time building the things we want to promise people, vs. selling things we hope we can build, not only will great products emerge, but happier and healthier teams will, too.

Let’s only make informed promises we know we can keep.

Better yet.. let’s make less promises. And go make the product itself!

Heatherlee Nguyen
TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
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