How Product Marketing Has Become a Sales Enablement Challenge

Product marketing professionals find themselves as the lynchpin between Product, Marketing, and Sales. However, most functions are notorious for not investing enough time in supporting sales efforts. Sure, they are effective at product launches and using feature/benefit language, but they often fall short when it comes to effectively enabling their sales team.

While this stigma can be true, it would be wrong to assume that product marketers don’t want to help their sales team. Instead, they often lack the adaptability required to support the dynamic aspects of the sales process. This is what makes marketing and sales alignment so difficult. Language and tactics that present well in an internal strategy meeting don’t always translate to effective customer conversations.

This incongruence between sales and marketing isn’t a sure-fire indicator of a “bad” product marketer, either. Your marketing flywheel could be spinning, driving new leads at such a rate that your pipeline is overflowing and your sales team is inundated with more work than they can handle, but if product marketers can’t enable the sales team to move prospects more efficiently through that pipeline, all that effort goes to waste.

When it comes to the effectiveness of product marketing, we see two big challenges – the data and the content.

The data that marketing brings to the table impacts product decisions, feature sets, messaging, and rollout plans, but it is deconstructed and analyzed to the point where the subtle nuances that field sales reps face have been lost. Individual customers have been generalized into faceless segments and personas that aren’t all that helpful when you’re actually sitting across the table from them.

This lack of detail impacts content production as well. Building content based on the wrong data ignores important variables that can help a salesperson move the prospect forward in the sales process. The key is to maintain a customer-focused lens throughout data analysis and content development so that prospects and customers can better understand the benefit of the product. Instead of product brochures, we should really be developing ‘Pain’ brochures.

Here are three ways we can help product marketing better support their sales team through the use of data and content:

Understand the Deal Lens

Customers should play a critical role in helping product marketers craft an effective path to purchase. There are number of deal factors that may be overlooked by a product marketing team that doesn’t involve customers in the planning and development process. What is the nature of the decision-making process for our customers? Is it centralized or decentralized? How many stakeholders? How do those individuals come together to align on priorities? The answers to these questions already exist within your current customer base – you just have to find the right way to ask them.

For example, a new customer may share that gaining alignment around switching providers required them to consolidate insights from our website, 1:1 conversations with our rep, and information from a live webinar we hosted. In the future, those points could be combined into a single asset that our rep can use to accelerate the buying process.

On the flip side, sales teams collect important data from prospects that never makes it into a CRM system. Product marketing needs a forum and a systematic approach to collect and synthesize this information from the sales team. According to Kapost, when marketing aligns with sales there is a 20% growth rate compared to a 4% decline when marketing and sales operate independently.

Key Takeaway: Product marketing and sales need to advance beyond high-level strategic data to the hyper-tactical elements that drive deals through the pipeline. A shared view of the deal-specific characteristics that exist in the field will allow product marketing to align their efforts.

Align the Content to the Customer Situation

Content alignment begins with the product and sales team collaborating on the customer journey. In most cases, 57% of the buyer’s journey is already developed before speaking with the sales team. If you aren’t able to deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience, you can miss an opportunity completely. When product marketing and sales collaborate on a content roadmap that has collateral for each stage of the buyer journey, prospects tend to move more quickly through the sales process.

As an example, the awareness stage, consideration stage, and decision-making stage all hinge on the goals of the prospect. If the choice of content presented to the prospect doesn’t match their current state, they may get stuck in the middle stages of the funnel, or worse, move on to a competitor who better addresses their needs. Collaboration between sales and marketing is critical to avoiding this unfortunate circumstance.

Key Takeaway: When content matches the current prospect situation then they are able to progress through the funnel faster. When marketing and sales create a road map which infuses enablement content; both teams can benefit.

Train Employees on the Content

Salespeople are prone to focusing too much on product. Effective sales training forces them to take a step back and focus on the customer and their business issues. In the same way, training on content should be more than just talking points to recite in a meeting.  Great content training helps reps understand the situations they are facing and how to identify that moment of truth so they can deliver the right piece of content to move the prospect forward.

If we refer to our earlier example of the customer who had to independently assemble information to get their internal stakeholders aligned, effective content training would have enabled the rep in that situation to identify that his customer needed help to align the various stakeholders and could’ve deployed content and a sales interaction to assist them through that process.

Key Takeaway: Your job as a product marketer isn’t done when you send content over to the sales team. Instead, think about individual deals that reps face and how you can give them opportunities to learn and practice delivering content specifically designed for those situations.

Ralph GrimseToday’s post is by guest author Ralph Grimse, Co-Founder of PointForward Software, a video-based practice and sales readiness solution enabling reps to deliver consistent messaging, quick onboarding ramp-up, and faster sales goal attainment.