This article is based on Matt’s brilliant talk at the Product Marketing Summit in Denver. PMA members can watch the talk in its full glory here!
I have some bad news for you: you're a salesperson. Yup, even if you have “product marketing” in your job title, you’re a salesperson in your work.
Now, there’s no need to have an identity crisis. I'm not asking you to pick up a quota or change your comp model. What I'm here to talk about is how you can use a salesperson's lens to build better relationships with your sales team, create a more effective go-to-market strategy, and ultimately win together.
Before we get into that, let me introduce myself. I’m Matt Heng and I’m a native Nebraskan. I'm also a former Oscar Mayer Wienermobile pilot, so if you want to learn what it's like to have to smile and wave eight hours a day every day for an entire year of your life, come find me. Today, I’m the Head of Product Marketing at Omnipresent, a global employment solutions solutions provider.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked for a lot of different companies, and looking back over my résumé, it’s clear that I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to working with sales teams. I've worked in annual SaaS, I've worked in monthly SaaS, I've worked in consumption-based models, I've worked with SMB sales teams, and I've worked with eight-figure enterprise sales teams.
So, I like to think that I know a thing or two about what it takes to get a sales team on board with you as a product marketer, and I want to talk you through that today.
We’ll dive into how product marketing is from Mars and sales is from Venus, we’ll get into how to approach product marketing from a sales point of view, and then we’ll look at some options for how you can bring this to life within your organization.
Let’s do this!
Product marketing is from Mars and sales is from Venus
How many times have you asked yourself the following questions?
- How can I get sales selling new features, not just our tried and true core product?
- How can I get them to engage with my messaging materials?
- How can I get my sales leaders engaged in product launches?
- How do I get quality feedback from my teams to inform messaging and roadmap decisions?
It often seems like product marketing and sales are working from completely different scripts. While that may seem like a challenge, it’s actually a strength. After all, we’re trying to solve the same problem – just from different perspectives.
Now, let's have a little empathy moment. As a product marketer, it's easy to feel like a lonely island without resources, controlling only outputs, not outcomes. We focus on scalability and systematization. We’re the castle builders, always looking towards the horizon.
But let's take a moment to step into the shoes of our sales teams. They’re all about personalizing our systematic approach – every day, every minute, every deal cycle, every month. That's a tall order, to say the least.
In product marketing, we have the luxury of testing and iterating internally, with insiders who understand our products, markets, and daily struggles (and even know that we don't like tomatoes on our sandwiches). Salespeople, on the other hand, have to test and iterate live, in real-time with outsiders, every day, week, and month. That's a seriously tough gig.
We might make mistakes that cost us a bit of pride or internal buy-in, but generally, they don’t cost us money. However, salespeople’s mistakes can cost them money, every day, every week, with every deal, and every month. It's rough.
So, it's easy to fall into the mindset of, "My salespeople don't like me, they don't want to engage with me." But I think it's essential for us as product marketers to remember that salespeople, at their core, embrace a higher level of uncertainty in their lives for potentially greater rewards.
When we're considering how to work with sales and bring them into our world, fundamentally, our job is to sell them certainty. Whether we’re asking them to engage with our product marketing efforts through enablement, a new product launch, or a new process, we need to consider how we can make our sales teams’ lives slightly more certain.
How can we bring some structure into their wonderfully chaotic world? If we make this the aim of all our interactions with sales, we'll surely find more success.
How to approach product marketing like a salesperson
So, what does this look like in practice? I’m as big a fan of frameworks as anyone else, but I also believe that we can have too many of them. So, let's not think of this as another framework, but rather as a lens. If we approach our interactions with sales through this lens, we'll undoubtedly find more success.
Whether your organization uses MEDDIC, Challenger Sale, Solution Selling or another sales methodology, at the end of the day, your salespeople are always engaged in four key activities:
- Handling objections
If we structure our engagement around these four activities, we'll hit the mark much more often. Let’s delve into how we can use these activities to our advantage as product marketers.
During the discovery phase, whether it's a product launch or new enablement, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- What can I learn about my sales team's operations?
- What are their qualification criteria?
- What are their reporting structures?
- What questions or concerns might they have?
- How are they incentivized?
That last question is crucial. If you don't know where your salespeople are making their money, you're going to struggle. Salespeople are motivated by money – while that might not sound great, it is because it tells you where you can find success.