Sales Enablement for Product Marketers: 7 Ways to Get Better Results
While the specific role of product marketing varies in different companies, product marketing’s mission—to enable people to understand your product and want to buy it—almost always depends on the sales team. As Pam Didner, B2B Marketing Consultant, Author, and Speaker points out, “At the end of the day, who is the one carry the quota and the sales revenue goal? It’s the salespeople.”
For product marketing to aid the company in its goals of more customers and higher profits, sales enablement must be treated as a priority.
Why sales enablement matters for product marketers
Part of good sales enablement is figuring out the best way to educate your sales team about your company’s products to empower them to make an informed case to leads.
For sales reps to accurately make that case to prospects, they need to understand your product well themselves. And that’s something the product marketing team is uniquely equipped to help with. You know all about the product—how it works, its various features, and what makes it unique in the marketplace. And as a marketer, you know how to communicate effectively to different audiences.
But just as importantly, product marketing is in the perfect position to be the bridge between multiple departments. Sales people are good at closing the deal, but they also need to be educated on the product, including all updates made to it. The rest of the marketing team are great communicators, but probably also lack a deep understanding of the product, particularly for complex B2B products. And, at many businesses, they don’t have a close relationship with the sales team. The product development team are experts on the product (they built it, after all) and have the skills to improve it. But they don’t have the language to talk about the product with lay people or access to your audience for feedback about it.
Product marketing knows the product, has the communications skills and, as long as they’re treating sales enablement as a priority, has an in with the sales team as well. They can serve to connect the three teams and make sure the right information flows between them.
7 tips for effective sales enablement
Sales enablement is a process you have to be intentional about. Doing it well requires embracing specific strategies to help you better understand your sales team, and ensure you’re providing them the information they need most.
1. Build a relationship with the sales team.
In order to support your sales team, you have to understand who they are and what their needs are. That means getting to know them as people. “Build a good relationship with a couple of the salespeople,” Pam recommends. “Build that rapport with them.”
Once you have a relationship that includes open communication, getting information to them when they need it (and actually being listened to) becomes much easier. And getting the information you need from them to better understand your company’s prospects and customers will be a natural outcome of the relationship as well.
2. Shadow them on sales calls.
Once that relationship’s in place, ask about shadowing them for a few days. Both in general, in their day to day work, but especially on sales calls. That gives you direct access to customers, and valuable insights into how the sales process works. You can see how the sales rep handles prospects—what features they emphasize, the way they make their sales pitch, and how they respond to customer inquiries. And you’ll learn how customers feel about the product, including crucial information like which features they use the most and any they feel aren’t working right.
That will lead to a better understanding of how the product is used in the field in day-to-day life, and what your sales team needs to do their jobs better.
3. Get to know the sales cycle.
While product marketers tend to think in terms of the product’s features, the way sales people work is tied to the sales cycle. The sales cycle for a high-cost product, especially one that’s B2B, can get pretty complicated. A sales rep doesn’t just need to know about what the product can do, they need to understand how to address the needs and answer the questions that come up at specific points in the sales cycle. That requires a shift in the way you think about the product.
4. Learn to see the product from the customer’s perspective.
“Product marketers understand the products so well, but they talk about everything from the products’ perspective,” says Pam. To better help sales, you need to shift your thinking to what your product means to the customer.
Shadowing a rep on sales calls is a good first step for this. But then supplement what you learn by doing audience and industry research. Do focus group testing to get direct input from your audience. Perform a competitive analysis to learn the larger landscape they encounter your product within. And ask for feedback directly from sales.
Sales needs to be thinking about the product in terms of what it offers customers in order to do their job well. So to do your job well—in this case, sales enablement—you need to do the same.
5. Be the bridge between sales and product.
Salespeople are on the front lines hearing all the doubts and criticisms that members of your audience have about the product. The best possible way your company can respond to those objections is to fix them in future versions. For that to happen, the product team has to hear what customers are saying.
Product marketing can be the conduit between the two departments. “Have the product salespeople talk to the product team directly,” suggests Pam. “Build that two-way communication.”
When you facilitate the product development team‘s access to audience feedback, you help create a cycle where the product just keeps getting better, which makes it easier for sales to close on.
6. Communicate product insights in the way that works best for them.
Different people learn differently. For each piece of information you want to share with sales, think carefully about how they’ll best absorb it. Approach all the content you create with their perspective and needs top of mind. Ask yourself: what’s the most important thing they’ll need to know going into an interaction with a prospect?
Then determine the most practical length and format. “[Sales people] are so consumed with a lot of information coming to them,” says Pam. “If you have information you want to share with them, you don’t create 50, 60, 200 slides. You create a one-pager executive summary, or even two slides, to document your finding.”
In other words, don’t put more information in front of them than they have time to consume. For competitive enablement content, that could mean short and to-the-point battle cards that clearly communicate how your product fits into the industry. To share product updates, it could mean a quick one-page overview of the main benefits the new features offer to customers.
Although it doesn’t always mean short-form content, Pam pointed out. In some cases, it’s valuable to supplement the short content you provide with long-form pieces, as with how-to content that gets into the details about complex product updates. Just make sure the content you create matches the needs and habits of your audience.
7. Put the content you provide in context.
You took time to learn the sales cycle, now make sure the content you provide incorporates what you learned. Help sales put the information you provide to use by putting it into the context they need to do their job. “Categorize your content. Not necessarily by persona, not by industry, but by sales stages,” recommends Pam.
How does the content relate to the different stages of the sales cycle? Is it something to bring up on their first sales call, or when they’re further along the funnel and close to making a decision? Sales will be more likely to use the knowledge effectively if they know the right time to bring it up.
Product marketing and sales make a great team
Product marketing can help sales better represent the product to prospects and customers. And sales can relay important information about how customers see the product to inspire future improvements. The value goes both ways, which makes it that much more important to treat sales enablement as a priority and take steps to do it well.
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