Purity of Product, Sales or Code – are ALL wrong

I caught this echo-chamber discussion on the LinkedIn Product Management channel:


Somehow I thought I’d mention a thing or two and then bail, but the more I wrote the more strongly I felt how misguided the “keep your product vision pure” message was. Here’s what I wrote, think of it what you will:

Purity of the product is one ideal; never losing another “key” sale is another such ideal. Making every user happy and productive with your product is a third such, and never shipping imperfect code is yet another.

None of these ideals can be achieved in isolation for very long *and* maintain a successful business. Sometimes we have to flex on one of these ideals to help the rest of the organization improve their position on another.

If I put my foot down and refused to engage with any of my key customers’ feature requests, any responsible sales exec would have my head…examined.

If I gave into every customer want, no product leader (engineering, marketing or product management) would have any faith in my vision of the product.

If I constantly let the engineers gold-plate the code and drive out all tech debt, we’d be so far behind the market we’d never get around to acquiring new customers.

Rallying around the banner of “never let Sales disrupt the purity of my product’s vision@ sounds just as naive as “never ship an insecure product” and “always involve your Designers up front and throughout the development process” (both of which I’ve observed firsthand in those respective domains).

Never forget that every signal from the market can be that incredible insight that *causes* you the change your product strategy, and Sales are often your eyes and ears gathering input from customers that you yourself weren’t there to acquire.

Best advice? If it’s a significant sales opportunity/downgrade, and you haven’t spoken with that customer before, it’s worth considering taking a half-hour out of your schedule to qualify the sales opportunity *and* the feature request yourself – if only to increase the strength of the signal and decrease the risk of making the wrong call.

I personally don’t do enough of this, but when I do it gives me irreplaceable opportunities to learn from customers who aren’t there to feed me what they think I should hear (i.e. the standing “customer council”) and let me pivot the conversation to find out what else they really need (i.e. other items in considering) that Sales didn’t take the time to ask about.