You can’t please everyone all of the time, or so the old saying goes.
Yet when it comes to their products, SaaS companies can’t help but try. This leads to a disjointed product, a Frankenstein’s monster that scares everyone away.
Fortunately, there’s a fairly simple solution that enables you to feed your hunger for keeping everyone happy, AND doesn’t lead to a mish-mashed product.
The key is to align your teams around your product.
What Does that Mean?
When I talk about alignment, I’m talking about making sure everyone knows where the product is heading, and why it’s heading there. I’m talking about ensuring that every team member is on board with the decisions you make, even if they personally disagree.
This is massively important if you want your product to be successful. Your Product team needs to believe in what they’re building, your Marketing team needs to love the product so they can market it effectively, your Sales team needs to be enthusiastic about what they’re selling.
The success of your product, of your business, depends on getting your teams aligned.
How to Align your Teams
So, how exactly do you align your teams? How do you make sure every team member is on board with your product’s direction?
There are two main things you have to do. You have to listen to them, and you have to talk to them. If that sounds startlingly simple, that’s because it is.
But just because something is simple to think about, doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute. If it was easy everybody would be doing it and there’d be no need for this article.
Listen to your Teams
How often do you listen to what your team members think about your product?
If you’re like a lot of SaaS companies, then probably not very often. This is bad for two reasons.
Firstly, it means you’re missing out on a lot of great ideas. Your team members know your product inside-out, and so they can often have a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t.
Secondly, it makes them feel like their opinions aren’t valued, and in turn that makes them distance themselves from the product - which doesn’t particularly help when it comes to alignment.
In order to listen to your team members, you need to set up an appropriate channel for their feedback, and you need to encourage them to give it.
In terms of an appropriate channel, this could be as simple as a dedicated email address or shared doc, or something more professional like Receptive, depending on the size and structure of your company. As long as it’s easily accessible, and organized well, then you’re good to go.
You should encourage team members to provide feedback by regularly asking them for it. Make sure your team leaders are constantly checking in with their teams to get an idea of what they think about the product. If you think it will help, then providing incentives could always work, though may lessen the quality of the feedback you receive.
Listening to your team members is a great first step. It involves them in product decisions, so even if their ideas aren’t chosen, they’ve had the chance to have a say.
Talk to your Teams
I hinted at this in the last section, but it’s an oft-overlooked aspect of aligning your teams around your product.
Listening to your team members is a fantastic way of involving them with your product, but if you aren’t also talking back to them, then it’s a one-way conversation that benefits nobody.
If you simply listen to your team members without any reply, then how do they know you’re really listening? They’ll feel like they’re talking to a brick wall.
When you receive feedback from team members, make sure to thank them for it, and explain that you’ll review it at a later date.
Keep them updated throughout. If you aren’t going to go ahead with their idea, let them know and explain why. That explanation is crucial in helping them come to terms with your decision and aligning themselves with it.
In fact, explaining is the best thing you can do. Whenever you make a product decision, spend an extra bit of time to offer an explanation as to why you made that decision. If your team members can understand your reasoning, then they’ll more readily align themselves with the product, even if they disagreed.
Talking to your teams, and explaining major product decisions, goes a long way when it comes to team alignment.
To summarize, you need to align your teams round your product so they can all do their jobs as effectively and passionately as possible.
You can do this by listening to your team members - taking on any feedback, involving them in product discussions - and by talking to them - explaining any decisions you make.
Showing team members the respect they deserve, and involving them in the future of your product, ensure they’re all aligned and prepared for the future.