"There will always, one can assume, be need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous."--Peter Drucker
Kevin is the world's worst sales person and he's the bane of Robin's existence. It seems he calls her every day with a new request: a new feature, a new piece of collateral, a new sales tool, new demo. Can you call my customer? Can you check on this feature? Can you tell me when the next version will ship? Can you show me the roadmap? Can you drop whatever you're doing to support me?
Robin thinks that Kevin is an idiot. He doesn't know the product or the market; how can he be an effective sales person?
Robin should think of Kevin as a distributor rather than a fellow employee.
Assume sales people have little or no product knowledge. If you do, you'll create different kinds of sales tools, tools that do more of the heavy lifting so that the sales people don't have to know everything about the product. Sales tools such as ebooks and white papers can educate the buyer on market problems; technology briefs can explain the product and its technology underpinnings; case studies and application notes explain how the product is used.
Honestly, many product managers expect too much from sales people. They expect sales guys to have deep product knowledge, great people skills, and a repeatable process for selling. That's asking an awful lot from one person, don't you think?
For most complex products, a better approach is a team of sales people: a negotiation expert and a configuration expert. The configuration expert, often called a sales engineer, determines the right product combinations to address the customer's unique needs. This often involves extensive requirements gathering beyond the skills of a typical sales person. What options are required? What installation "gotchas" exist? Being technical, the sales engineer can often learn more from the customer than a regular sales person ever could.
While the sales engineer defines the technical configuration, the business-oriented sales person can focus on the financial configuration. Understanding the purchasing process. Navigating the legal issues of both customer and vendor. Working out a pricing plan that works for the client.
Assume that your sales teams don't know the product as intimately as you do. It's true; they don't! Create sales tools that explain the product and its options so the sales team can focus on configuration and negotiation rather than product education.
If you build a product that sells itself, you can hire order takers. And if you create the right sales tools and have the right sales teams, you'll sell even more.