I was reading this excellent post about being taken seriously and it made me realize how important it was to product management. The first element of David's post is about telling people what you have done instead of what you will do. It seems like common sense at first, but how many times have you talked about your product's future features? How great it is going to be?
What about now?
Your product should be great already. If it's sucessful now, it's because of what it is in the present, and not because of what it may become in the future.
I have too often seen sales people become caught up in the future of the product, and selling the product's next version instead of selling the product's current version. In a situation like this, the only thing that can happen is a sales rep who has to go back to the client and recant her promises. She will look bad to the client, and the company's image will also suffer.
Mind you, this is not exclusive to the sales team. Product managers also tend to live in the future, and will contaminate the sales team with their vision. It's OK to have vision. However you have to be careful not to translate this vision into promises that cannot be kept. What a product manager will want in her next product release may differ greatly from what actually comes out with the product's final version. And the product manager's enthousiasm is contagious.
Working on both the marketing and sales sides, I can understand how tempting it is to sell what's going to be in the software. So many clients will tell you "I would buy it if only it had this (insert feature here)."
The fact is, there will always be something missing on the product. You will be better off learning to sell the product as it is now, than always living int he future and being disappointed when features get dropped from the release.