👋 Hi, I’m James. Thanks for checking out Building Momentum: a newsletter to help startup founders and marketers accelerate SaaS growth through product marketing.

The product<>sales dynamic is often fragile. Time and time again, I’ve seen these three issues at play:

  1. Sales feel unable to influence product roadmaps. This can happen especially in companies that are very engineering- or product-led. Sales reps are talking to specific types of customers all day long. When that feedback is ignored, goodwill is lost.
  2. Product don’t trust sales’ judgement. We’ve all heard it before: “We just need this one feature to win this deal!”. Because sales teams operate with smaller patterns (1-10 customers), their patterns aren’t conclusive enough to feed into problem-discovery.
  3. Product ‘ships too slow’. Sales feel that product teams are taking too long and not delivering product improvements at the right velocity, whilst product teams feel they’re operating at the right pace.

These don’t just create animosity, but can snarl up time and attention – eventually leading to inertia.

Introducing a ‘statement of direction’ document

Whilst tackling the challenges above requires long-term dedication to building trust and working on the relationship, a statement of direction is a great initial deliverable to align both teams and start the conversation.

A statement of direction serves two purposes:

  1. An internal alignment document to communicate the problem areas that the business will be investigating – giving sales the ability to talk confidently about future direction
  2. An external document and presentation that captures the main themes for future product direction, enabling customers and prospects to buy into the future vision

They’re updated every 3-6 months and evolve as you learn more about your customer, market, and innovation opportunities.

What is a statement of direction?

A statement of direction is not a roadmap: it doesn’t cover the specific features that are being planned, or give estimated timelines. Instead, it describes the problem areas and innovation themes that the business is strategically investing in.

A statement of direction usually contains:

  1. Vision: the world that you’re trying to create for your customers and the outcomes they’ll be able to achieve, including the barriers that prevent them from getting there. This is not an internal product vision.
  2. Product investment themes: an overview of the key surface areas that impact the customer experience. These might be based around problems or intended outcomes.
    • A summary of why it’s important and what it means to your customer base
    • A breakdown of any recently-released features to prove your progress in each area
    • An explanation of your product shipping cadence
    • A brief overview of the direction for this theme, usually organized by next/future timelines. This allows you to communicate ambiguity for further-out opportunities, and present clarity for things that are more shaped.

It takes conversations to create a statement of direction, engaging sales, product, marketing, customer success, and other teams. First, you need to identify the product areas that matter to your customers – external-in, not internal-out. Then, you can align existing priorities and opportunities already in play before validating with other teams.

It’s important to also train teams on the statement of direction, and how to use it. It’s not promising timelines, prioritization, or specific deliverables. Instead, it’s communicating the mandate has business is strategically chosen, and the direction that customers are buying into.

Is everyone onboard?

Whilst you might think the primary objective of a statement of direction is to communicate externally, I think it’s much more powerful when used as a tool to align your business – specifically, product and sales – on what you’ll b2e building and the problems you’ll be solving for customers.

This helps to build focus and confidence… and as regular readers will know, focus + confidence = momentum.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought – find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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