Product marketing professionals (sometimes called solutions marketing) have a broad set of responsibilities, ranging from product launches and persona research to product messaging, go-to-market strategies, and more.
There can also be a lot of crossover between product marketing and sales enablement, depending on the organization. For example, sales enablement is responsible for ensuring salespeople understand who they are selling to, new product features and the value they can provide, and the messaging around those features.
When product marketing and sales enablement align their efforts, they can help to align the entire revenue organization, provide comprehensive support to the sales team, and drive greater revenue for the whole company.
But what are the obstacles to that alignment, where exactly should they align, and how do the roles differ? Get answers to these questions and more below.
What are the biggest obstacles to aligning overall marketing and sales functions?
For marketing and sales, alignment means integrating their independent functional strategies, processes, and tactics into a cohesive company revenue strategy. However, there are several obstacles to achieving better strategic alignment, including:
- Trust: There is a long history of dysfunctional behavior between marketing and sales, resulting in siloed functions, divisions, groups, departments and channels. These separations prevent effective collaboration, which results in each group failing to understand the other. Without trust in the alignment process, don’t expect to get effective collaboration.
- Common, deep understandings of target buyers: A company’s alignment to the market opportunity is only possible if both the “marketing funnel” and the “sales cycle/pipeline” are tightly aligned to the buyer purchasing journey, which requires a deep understanding of buyers’ needs and their preferred purchasing journey.
- Strategic marketing and sales leadership: Typical marketing strategies focus on branding and lead generation rather than the buyer’s lifecycle. Sales strategies often focus on pitching products rather than becoming a trusted advisor to the buyer. Strategic marketing and sales leadership is required to update and align functional strategies and processes in the evolving marketplace.
Sitting between the sales and marketing teams, sales enablement professionals can bridge the gap to coordinate efforts and tighten up communication and processes.
They are “neutral” middle men who work closely with both departments. They can act as a “go-between” by getting messaging and product updates from product marketing and delivering those to the sales team or by bringing insights from the sales team to marketing. In this, they help build trust, act as revenue leaders, and develop deep understanding.
What is the division of labor between sales enablement and product marketing?
Let’s start by understanding the responsibilities of sales enablement and product marketing.
Sales enablement is essentially a structured process to increase sales productivity by tightly aligning with the buyer’s purchasing journey. Research firm CSO Insights defines sales force enablement as “a strategic, cross-functional discipline, designed to increase sales results and productivity, by providing integrated content, training and coaching services, for salespeople and frontline sales managers, along the entire customer’s journey, powered by technology.”
Sales onboarding program created by sales enablement team in Brainshark
Product marketing, on the other hand, is focused on increasing product sales through clear messaging and positioning. Product Marketing Alliance lists the following as core product marketing skills and focus areas:
- Positioning, differentiation, and messaging
- Competitive intelligence
- Market research and go-to-market strategy
- Supporting sales with value propositions and knowledge transfer
- Demand-gen marketing campaigns
- Voice of the Customer and/or buyer personas, expertise, insights, needs and preferred journey
The “supporting sales with value propositions and knowledge transfer” is the main area of crossover between sales enablement and product marketing.
The difference is product marketing is responsible for creating sales collateral that enables sales to sell more, while sales enablement is responsible for ensuring sales reps understand how and when to effectively use that content. The two roles may and should work together on sales training content that introduces or reinforces product
Product marketing and sales enablement can achieve a win/win outcome if they collaborate and ensure the sales force has the product content they need at each stage of the buyer’s purchasing process.
What can sales enablement and product marketing do to make sure reps know the right material at the right moment?
Product marketing generates product-related content throughout the product lifecycle, such as:
- Messaging briefs, competitive information, and battlecards
- Slides presented at sales kickoff or throughout the year for notable releases regarding product positioning, feature/function/solution, product roadmap, etc.
- Product brochures, data sheets, and customer-facing slide decks
- Total cost of ownership (TCO) or return on investment (ROI) calculators
Product training delivered via Brainshark
Unfortunately, sales is often unable to find this information or misunderstands when and how to use it. Here are four ways to ensure sales has the right training and sales content at the right time:
- Product marketing and sales enablement must collaboratively define the type of product content and training needed to help the buyer move from one decision stage to the next. It’s critical to help the rep know when and how to use that content effectively. Initially, existing product and buyer content should be mapped against requirements to highlight content gaps.
- Sales enablement technology must enable marketing to easily create and manage content that sales can quickly digest at the right time. For example, product marketing should be able to upload a few slides, quickly add audio to each slide, and have it automatically transcribed into text. This provides reps with the choice of viewing, listening or reading the specific content whenever and wherever they need it. Brainshark’s content creation tool
- Sales enablement technology must fully integrate into the CRM system to automatically distribute sales content and corresponding training to the specific selling stages of every opportunity. Specific sales readiness content must be available to reps whenever they are updating a prospect’s status, enabling reps to quickly identify all content assets that are relevant to a prospect’s current purchasing stage.
- Sales enablement technology must also track real-time sales usage and feedback regarding the sales content and training effectiveness, making it available in real-time to both product marketing and sales enablement, so they can continue to improve alignment between sales and the buyer journey.
Can an effective sales enablement practice empower product marketing to generate revenue?
Absolutely! There are several benefits to ensuring reps have access to the right buyer content and training, in real-time, when/where/how they need it, including: shorter sales cycles, increased sales productivity, higher product sales and increased product marketing productivity. Empower product marketing to spend more time proactively driving revenue instead of providing reactive support to individual reps.
Bigtincan content analytics dashboard showing collateral usage by sales reps
With confidence that reps will get the sales content and training when they need it, product marketing can focus on developing new revenue initiatives, such as:
- Quickly validating and easily sharing actionable information to the entire sales force as field sales reps discover new buyer product needs and competitive product tactics
- Automatically distributing new, compelling research or product functionality news to prospects within a specific industry segment in the “awareness” purchasing stage
- Creating special campaigns/offers and automatically distributing them to all opportunities in the “evaluation” purchasing stage
- Crafting real-time competitive product updates and automatically distributing to all opportunities in the “decision” stage
- Constructing cross-sell/up-sell campaigns and offers which can be automatically distributed to customers in “post-implementation” stage
Get more strategies for getting reps ready to sell in the eBook Helping Sellers Become Buyer Ready: Implementing the right content strategy to enable marketing teams to do more with less and sales teams to become truly buyer centric.