Yes, It's True - I am Happy to Be Stuck With You

Far_side_dolphins_2Thanks Tom for such a nice introduction.  My cheesy music reference (quick, name the band) aside, Tom and are are the two heads of the product managment and marketing beast.  His focus is on building the right product, mine is on bringing it to market.

So, let’s start with something simple – how do you get that blasted sales force to use your stuff? 

I’ve been around product marketers for a long time:  I’ve been one, managed several, been supported by them, and have consulted them.  And if there is one common frustration across the board it’s answering this question -  “what on god’s green earth does the sales force need from me to sell my product?” 

  • They say they need a white paper, you give them a white paper and they say this it's not what they were looking for.
  • They say they need a better demo, but didn’t tell you they were expecting you to drive it.
  • They say they wanted more collateral, but they don’t use it.

Has product marketing become a profession of futility?

This old Far Side comic best sums up the problem. 

Sales and marketing just speak different languages, and for you to be successful driving revenue of your product or service you are going to need to learn to speak the language of sales.

Here are a few things to think about.    

  1. Most sales organizations in our industry are adopting solution selling approaches where they are specifically taught NOT to talk about products – yet your title has “Product Marketing” in it.
  2. Do you have peers in your organization?  How much time do you spend connecting the dots between your offerings, messages, tools, and content?  Do you know who has to connect those dots?
  3. Designing for the typical sales person may be the worst thing you can do.  Most sales organizations are looking to elevate the abilities of the sales force.  If you supply content tools for the masses, you could unknowingly be enabling the vary behavior leaderships is looking to change.
  4. Sales people are different.  Just like there are different Myers Briggs personality types, so too are their different sales personas.  Be cognizant of that when you develop tools.
  5. Sales people talk.  If you want the things you create to be used, focus on making a few successful. This might seem a little like the tao of marketing, but if you want more adoption, focus first on the few.  Launching first to many generally leads to a handful of users.

So, go swim with the dolphins!  Get trained on your sales process, participate in the role playing, go through all of the product training, lob cold calls into new prospective accounts, try to set appointments with c-level executives. 

The opportunity for marketing to create more leverage in the selling process is enormous and easily measured.  However, to determine the right things to do, marketer’s need to take the plunge and jump in the tank.

Categories:

Comments

re: Yes, It's True - I am Happy to Be Stuck With You

Right on. Marketing has to be the "bigger person" and go the extra mile to connect with sales. Take a page from the Sales playbook: just as Sales develops reference accounts to demonstrate success to potential customers, Marketing can work to build "reference wins" where Sales succeeds using Marketing’s methods & collateral. The first few pursuits may require extensive collaboration between the two groups, but the effort will go a long way toward making believers out of the sales force.

re: Yes, It's True - I am Happy to Be Stuck With You

Some excellent points Scott… but they all resolve around the fundamental observation you make about the difference between selling products and selling solutions.Unfortunately, even though customers demand solutions, and companies worldwide spend billions each year training sales people how to sell solutions, solutions marketing as a discipline has long been an afterthought. As a result, most Marketing Executives and Product Marketing Professionals do not understand the basics and as a result they don’t execute the fundamentals and skip the most important step in the solution marketing process.When a company goes to market with a pure product centric strategy, product marketing and sales organizations are pretty much aligned and everybody speaks the same language. As long as the product is competitive, it is pretty easy to agree on what sales tools are needed and most sales people are able to effectively describe their products features, functions, benefits, and differentiation in a pretty consistent matter.Why is this???? All product marketing activities & product centric sales conversations evolve from a simple, repeatable, and most importantly, well understood foundation knowledge model called a feature benefit list. Marketing creates the names for the product and the features and that list is then published and institutionalized so that every marketing and sales person can recite it on command. It’s cut & dried, and there is little if any conflict on the core list; these are the products we sell and those are the features. And, when you combine the feature benefit list with a competitive spreadsheet you have the inside-out foundation knowledge for all your messaging and sales enablement content.When you are trying to sell a product as a solution however you need to implement, and more importantly institutionalize, an expanded foundation knowledge model that is not only inside-out( customers still want to know about products and features) but also outside-in (i.e. problem centric.This can only be done through a well defined and explicit problem-solution map that clearly and explicitly defines a product’s value and differentiation from the customer’s perspective and in the context of the specific customer problems that product solves.A well constructed problem-solution map:1. Aligns high level customer problems to your solutions by explicitly breaking down those high level problems into a few key underlying causes and issues and then linking your solution’s key capabilities and hopefully your differentiation to those underlying causes. This linking creates the most important concept in a solution sale…Differentiated Value, which describes how your product solves a specific problem better than the competition and what that is important to the customer.2.Becomes institutionalized throughout both marketing and sales so that the problem-solution map model becomes as much as part of the culture as the feature benefit list is.Unfortunately, the research we did at the Value Mapping Consortium showed that few if any product marketers understood even some of the seven key differences between product marketing and solution marketing, and 92% of them had difficulty defining the key underlying causes of the customer problems that their product solves.This is the primary cause of the disconnect between marketing and sales organizationsIt comes down to this. Trying to support the solution centric sale without a well constructed and institutionalized problem –solution map is like trying to sell a product without as feature benefit list, or trying to manufacture a complex product without a bill of materials or try to run an accounting system without a chart of accounts. Quite simply…that dog won’t hunt.It’s time for Marketing Management to get serious about solution marketing , educate themselves and their organizations on the differences between product marketing , and see if they have the knowledge and the right personnel to build a comprehensive problem-solution map for their company.

re: Yes, It's True - I am Happy to Be Stuck With You

Hi Scott - and thanks for the insightful post.As a product marketing professional with a large enterprise software company, I fully agree with your recommendations to "Get trained on your sales process, participate in the role playing, go through all of the product training, lob cold calls into new prospective accounts, try to set appointments with c-level executives".I do many of these things, including writing and delivering the sales training, and spend a lot of my cycles with salespeople & prospects.I also create content & sales tools, however, and as such must disagree with your point #3: "Designing for the typical sales person may be the worst thing you can do. Most sales organizations are looking to elevate the abilities of the sales force. If you supply content tools for the masses, you could unknowingly be enabling the vary behavior leaderships is looking to change."I very specifically *do* consider the "average" sales rep when creating content, to make sure that they "get it". Our sales force has a wide spectrum of rep experience and ability, and we need to respect this. This isn't to say that we dumb down the content -- we have high standards, and ensure consistent messaging across all our collateral.To put a fine point on it, I think you're inadvertently mixing two things --1. Ensuring that your deliverables are appropriate and will be understood by the "average" sales rep and2. Creating content that is inconsistent with your messaging, sales process, value proposition, or differentiators.If you're doing the latter, you're doing far worse than just enabling bad behavior, you're actually doing damage to your business.The former, however, is key to connecting with the sales force, and ensuring that they take you seriously.The Marketing Kvetchhttp://marketingkvetch.blogspot.com/