September 20, 2022
Cyndi Brandt

The Intersection of Product Marketing and Sales Enablement

In a recession, buyers are much more hesitant to purchase. Learn how to overcome some of the most common B2B buying objections.

This is a guest post by Cyndi Brandt, Go-To-Marketing Executive. She’s a positioning and messaging first marketing executive working with companies to understand how to be positioning themselves in the market with messages that resonate with buyers. Most recently, she was the global vice president of product marketing at Solera and is the president of the non-profit, Mid-Atlantic Women’s Motorcycle Rally. 

So many people think of Product Marketing and Sales Enablement as very separate functions…they’re not and they should be best friends to accelerate revenue in any company. Why? Product marketing creates the stories, enablement ensures the stories can be told and applied to the buying process correctly.

Sales Enablement Building the Foundation

The role of sales enablement cuts a large swath and is quite deep – there are three key components of any enablement team. 

  • Learning & Development
  • Sales Motions & Techniques
  • Product Messaging & Value Propositions

Learning and Development: This is the foundation to all enablement teams, who do you sell to, what does the product do, how does it improve the buyer’s situation? It’s also a thorough understanding of what and how the product works. For example, if there is important underlying technology such as AI or machine learning (my favorite two over-used terms that people cannot explain) - what is it, how does it work and why is it important to our product and the outcomes it produces.

  • Must be scalable, referenceable, and measurable
  • These building blocks come from ALL facets of the business

Sales Motions & Techniques: This is the technique that will be deployed to the sales team and how to utilize the technique relative to the resources you have and the sales process to ensure proper pipeline and forecast. It requires training and constant reinforcement as a part of the overall sales process.

  • Must have buy-in from Sales leadership. They have a major role to play in this – you can teach the technique and proper motions, but if it’s not part of the sales process and weekly pipeline and deal reviews, and CRM it will fall by the wayside. 

Product Messaging & Value Propositions: Showing prospects how to achieve your business outcomes with our product – it’s simple to do right? No, it’s not. Why? We rely on outdated messaging and positioning techniques that don’t include enough input from customers and often the sales narrative is left out. The way you tell the story to position the product correctly. Second, we don’t emphasize enough doing proper discovery to apply positioning. 

  • Must activate the prospect by doing the right discovery and providing the right narrative to apply the proper messaging and value proposition. This allows us to understand which value theme supports their desired outcomes. Apply the value theme to the desired outcome and show how the feature solves the problem providing the appropriate benefit. 

Product Marketing Excels at Storytelling

Product marketing professionals are the folks that understand the story of your product and how it should be presented to prospects and customers to resonate via your sales and solutions engineering teams. Product marketing should be one of the most prolific teams engaged with customers outside of support or success activities. Excellent product marketing starts with the tools that will help craft the investigation into the story. Let’s look at three of my favorite tools.

1. Maturity Model – Start by building a maturity model of product usage on the X axis and complexity of problems solved on the Y axis. This is typically multiple stages where the first is understanding that there is a problem or opportunity that can be solved by putting pen to paper. Moving to each stage is an awakening in the process to greater revenue/lower costs by utilizing the correct tools and ultimately the correct solution set.

Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5
Description Recognition there is a problem Better efficiencies shows automation is needed Basic home-grown automation is outgrown Awakening utilizing software shows that there are other opportunities to drive business Evangelism
Now see that they can create new lines of business opportunities
Prospect Activity Makes small pen and paper changes to process Makes decision to automate processes Purchases software to automate processes Upsell to additional modules to make more impact to business Moves to full solution set of products becomes evangelist
Economics Small savings that increases bottom line Short-term expense Major savings or revenue creation without need to hire additional personnel Opens up new lines of business to generate top line revenue

2. Buyer’s Journey – How does your buyer make decisions and come to the recognition that they need to do something? They’ve started to move through the maturity model and realize there is a great potential outcome, but it can’t be done without a tool. What questions are they asking, what behaviors are they exhibiting, who are they bringing into the conversations and what tools will be needed to answer questions and/or reinforce outcomes to them?

3. Customer Journey – How will a customer move through the maturity model? Who helps them? From onboarding and implementation through usage how do they get there? What processes are followed? What milestones do they achieve? What can you look for as a CSM or rep to move them along the maturity model? This, combined with the maturity model are the ultimate cross- and upsell tools.

These three tools provide direct input on how to have the right conversation at the right time with the right tools. You should be able to take the buyer or customer journey and then apply your sales technique directly to it. Remember, this may be circuitous at times as people come in and out of the process or additional value themes are discovered.

Product Maturity Model by Cyndi Brandt

Partnering with Enablement – getting the conversation right

Best friends understand each other’s languages. Enablement and product marketing have to understand the languages each other uses. For product marketing needs, it’s understanding the sales motion and techniques that are being used. If product marketers don’t understand, they may create tools that aren’t used because either it doesn’t make sense or it doesn’t fit into the process. Enablement has to understand what goes into the product positioning and messaging and ultimately how the stories are crafted. What is the technique used? Where is the information coming from? The more we know about each other’s discipline the more efficient it makes the teams.

Product marketing has worked with the customer, prospects, customer success, and sales to understand the buying and usage motion which crafts the positioning and messaging. From this they create tools that align with the right stage and buyer. For example, if we’re talking to the CFO, we might introduce ROI tools into the process earlier, if we are working with the VP of Operations, it might be later in the process to reinforce the outcomes and to help them sell the project internally with strong ROI.

These tools will align with buyers, stages and value themes that were identified in the discovery process – the tools relay the appropriate story at the right time. This is where the work that product marketing truly intersects with sales enablement. Enablement consumes and teaches how to apply the story with the tools at each stage. 

Tips!

  1. Read Obviously Awesome by April Dunford. Her methods are transformational when thinking about positioning and messaging. It also provides a framework for enablement to think about how messaging fits in with what they do. (And what product marketers do.)
  2. Make #1 required reading for sales enablement, marketing, AND sales! (maybe even product management.)
  3. Product marketing should take part in sales training too. They need to  understand the motion and techniques and how well the tools are received and if they are easily used.
  4. Product Marketing and sales enablement should be meeting on a regular basis to articulate changes in product and or messaging and how that will impact the sales teams