A product roadmap can be used to educate the market about your product vision, making product roadmaps a powerful tool for sales teams.
At Roadmunk, we’ve been using a customer-facing version of our product roadmap in the sales cycle for over two years, and it’s been a hugely important tool for getting — and keeping — long-term business. We can’t tell you the number of deals we’ve closed (and kept) as a direct result of sharing our roadmap with potential and existing clients. We’ve come to strongly believe that every sales team should be using their roadmap to sell their product.
Which isn’t to say every salesperson should get free reign on the product roadmap. There can be shitty consequences if a product roadmap is misused or misunderstood by someone in sales — especially if that person has a tendency to bend reality. (Wouldn’t be the first time.)
Why sales needs the product roadmap
It shortens the sales cycle
Hands down, the biggest benefit of a customer-facing product roadmap is that it gets you to “yes” faster. By seeing a visual of your product’s next steps, the customer quickly understands if there’s a fit. Very succinctly, you will know if current or future iterations of your product will meet the customer’s needs. Which means, in some cases, you also get to “no” faster. That can be disappointing. But it also saves you months of time- and money-wasting back-and-forth.
It builds CONCRETE confidence
Sales people can easily yak about the future and tell people the company is building what the customer wants. But will the customer actually believe them? Who knows. Show them a product roadmap, however, and customers get to see hard plans that were vetted by every department. They know that what they're being promised isn’t just something pulled out of thin air to make them close the deal. You build customer confidence on a concrete foundation: your product roadmap.
It secures bigger, more longterm business
Especially if you’re selling to enterprise, a product roadmap can be the clincher. Big companies, particularly those considering multi-year deals, want to know what they’re going to get. A lot of bigger customers are thinking:
“If I’m going to make an investment in your product, it’s not just dollar-wise. I’m going to commit significant resources and man-hours. I’m going to get buy-in across various departments. I’m going to want to know what’s happening long-term to make sure I’m not making a buying decision that’s predicated on momentary impulse.”
A product roadmap offers clear proof that you can satisfy the demands of big clients.
It contains churn
In addition to our sales team, our entire customer success team also uses our product roadmap. There are two key benefits to showing your product roadmap to existing customers.
It reinvigorates interest in your product — it makes sure current customers get excited about your vision.
It demonstrates progress, and helps restore engagement and commitment among wavering clients.
Both of these factors can be incredibly valuable for reducing churn.
It puts power in the hands of the buyer
Everyone talks about buyer power. To succeed in sales, you have to let the buyer direct the conversation. By showing a customer your product roadmap, you’re not only giving them information — you’re giving them control over the conversation. A roadmap is an amazing leverage point because you don’t have to start assuming what’s important or talking about everything. A customer will generally look at your roadmap, and start inquiring about the items that are relevant to them.
It streamlines internal communication (and confusion)
Before our sales team started using the product roadmap, we often had a fuzzy idea of what was actually happening in product. When is that feature coming, again? And, uh, what is it, exactly? Without a product roadmap, our sales team was basically having ad hoc conversations with product all the time. It was frustrating, and became a huge time suck. Whereas now, product can point to one place. Everyone knows what’s happening, all the information is contained in one single interface. And if something changes, we all get notified. Basically, it gives us a LOT more time to talk to customers.
How to share your product roadmap
Some companies make their product roadmap fully public. At Roadmunk, that’s not our current approach. (Although we do think it’s a cool trend.)
We show a customer-facing version of our product roadmap that’s a little more conservative than our internal product roadmap. There’s about 20% additional contingency time, and we focus on high-level upcoming features, rather than granular detail about our internal processes.
This product roadmap, created from data in our feature roadmap template, exemplifies the style of roadmap we show our clients.
We colour code items on our product roadmap according to what’s Committed, Planned or Delayed. Generally, we commit items up to 6 months in advance — this offers the appropriate mix of flexibility and commitment for our particular product. If you prefer not to use dates at all when speaking to customers, you could create a no dates product roadmap showing the same data in Swimlane View.
Psst... we built this roadmap in Roadmunk. Create your own with our feature roadmap template.
Colour coding also reinforces the idea that a product roadmap is a statement of intent. One of the biggest anxieties around giving salespeople the roadmap is that they will misrepresent the timeline or make unreasonable promises. By clearly visualizing the fact that not all items are set in stone, we are able to transparently manage expectations.
Regardless of how you create your product roadmap, it can be an incredibly powerful tool to instill faith in your product. Yes, sales needs to understand the upcoming features and understand the consequences of over-promising or misrepresenting. In our experience, that happens a lot less when they are working off a tactile product roadmap.
By using a product roadmap in the sales cycle, you can save time, boost enthusiasm and streamline internal communication. In these ways, it’s both a money-saver and a money-maker.