There’s nothing worse than carefully crafting a sales enablement asset for weeks—maybe months—only to find out later that sales reps aren’t even using it.
But that’s the reality for many product marketers. They create content libraries that go largely unused by their sales teams.
And once they finally get their sales teams using their content, a new product or feature launches, and the content becomes outdated.
But rather than pointing the finger at Sales, product marketers can take a more proactive approach by creating better communication channels and delivering content in real time.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- Typical pain points in the Product Marketing-Sales relationship
- How Product Marketing collaborates with Sales
- Tips for getting more out of the relationship
- How to move beyond the outdated sales content library approach
Let’s start with the pain points.
Typical challenges in the Product Marketing-Sales relationship
Sales and Product Marketing have the same ultimate goal: to drive revenue.
But a lack of alignment between Sales and Product Marketing can quickly lead to two teams pulling in different directions.
These common sources of tension between the teams likely feel familiar:
- Lead volume: Sales feels that marketing campaigns aren’t generating enough leads.
- Lead quality: Sales and Product Marketing are in disagreement over what makes a quality lead or an ideal customer.
- Asset quality: Sales thinks the assets they’re provided with are low quality, off-message, poorly designed, or not produced quickly enough.
- Sales follow-through: Sales doesn’t use the messaging or content provided by product marketing, so Product Marketing’s work goes to waste.
- Sales closing rates: Deals aren’t closing as much as either team would expect, so they blame each other.
- A lack of communication: There’s no relationship between the two teams, leading to a lack of alignment.
Resolving these challenges comes down to building real relationships and strong communication across the go-to-market organization.
Why sales teams need product marketers
When Product Marketing and Sales find alignment, the benefits trickle throughout the entire organization.
Here are some of the positive effects product marketers can have on their sales team:
Buyer-centricity: Product Marketing’s strong focus on product positioning helps Sales understand the customer’s motivations, pain points, and considerations—making their pitches more relevant to the customer.
Consistency: Regular educational and content support from Product Marketing helps Sales stay consistent with messaging, sales enablement, follow-up processes, and collecting customer feedback.
Scalability: Salespeople normally work best in one-on-one situations. Marketers are great at communicating one-to-many. Product Marketing can help Sales scale with the right content, product knowledge, processes, and tools.
Better closing power: Increased buyer focus, consistent messaging, and scalable content delivery all add up to result in better close rates for Sales.
Next, let’s explore how product marketers can make these benefits happen.
How Product Marketing works with Sales
What does the working relationship between Product Marketing and Sales look like in practice?
Here are the most common ways that Product Marketing supports the sales process:
1. Positioning and messaging
One of Product Marketing’s core responsibilities is developing positioning for the product. Positioning is a two-phase process:
- Conducting customer and market research to identify your company’s ideal customer profiles (ICPs)
- Creating strategic messaging that makes your product speak to each customer segment’s needs
We’ll get back to developing segmented positioning later in this post. But first, what does this have to do with sales?
Product Marketing’s job is to relay this positioning and messaging to Sales, helping them understand the customer, refine how they talk about the product, and focus on the right selling points.
This happens for both the company value proposition level and for each new product or feature that’s launched.
Product Marketing will lead training sessions, provide internal briefing documents, write internal newsletters, and provide one-on-one coaching to Sales.
For example, your product marketing manager (PMM) should sit in on sales calls to coach sales reps on how to pitch the product to a particular customer segment. They might also help the sales rep craft follow-up emails based on the conversation they heard.
2. Content creation
Product Marketing also provides sales with all the assets they need to move customers through the deal cycle.
- customer-facing content: e.g., blogs, whitepapers, case studies
- buyer enablement content: e.g., buying guides, checklists, industry reports
- internal-facing sales enablement content: e.g., product one-pagers, pricing sheets
Building the right content depends on a tight relationship between Product Marketing and Sales. Sales has to be proactive in flagging missing assets that would help them sell, and Product Marketing has to deliver the content in a way that’s easy for sales to use.
3. Market intelligence
Differentiation is a big part of sales—what other products will your customers be considering, and how is yours different?
Here’s the challenge: sales reps are typically laser-focused on their prospects. So they don’t have time to research competitors.
Therefore, it’s up to Product Marketing to provide Sales with competitive intelligence on what’s going on in the market.
This happens through training sessions, battle cards, and ad hoc advice.
Product Marketing can help the sales rep highlight the key differences if a customer has a question about a competitor. The more the sales rep knows about the market, the more they can act as a trusted advisor to the prospect while positioning their product in the right light.
For example, suppose a competitor’s product is missing a feature that your product has. In that case, the sales rep can focus more on its importance during the sales process to disqualify the competition in the buyer’s mind.
Most information about positioning and competitors is delivered through coaching or training.
For example, when a new product launches, the product manager (PM) and PMM will team up to deliver a presentation to the sales team.
The PM will cover the what of the product—new features, functionality, demos, etc.—while the PMM focuses on the why of the product—why it matters to customers, how to position it, who the product is best suited for.
5. Systems creation
The relationship between Product Marketing and Sales is a continuous learning process. It starts very tactical but should eventually scale to a repeatable go-to-market strategy.
In the early days of Product Marketing within the organization, the relationship with Sales starts with hands-on, in-the-moment responses to push deals forward (e.g., whipping up product information sheets when a customer has a question).
Over time, that relationship should change from reactionary to proactive. Product Marketing should strive to systematize their help to create a content system that scales.
For example, if Product Marketing notices they’re getting the same questions about competitors, they should systematize those learnings by putting them into a battle card that every sales rep can learn from.
Or if a deal was lost because your product was missing a certain feature, Product Marketing can help Sales retarget those buyers with email campaigns once that feature launches in the product.
Time and capacity are always the biggest factors here, so Product Marketing and Sales leaders should work together to prioritize the greatest needs.
6. Collect feedback
Salespeople are in conversations with customers all day, every day. Therefore, they know what’s resonating at the real-time level.
Sales should provide regular feedback to Product Marketing on what messaging works, what channels drive the best leads, and what custom profiles provide the best opportunities.
Product marketers should be proactive about collecting their own customer feedback too. For example, they can use Gong to listen to customer calls without having to sit in on the calls themselves.
This creates a constant feedback loop so Product Marketing can continually refine its positioning.
Related reading: To learn more about product marketing responsibilities, read our guide to product marketing for B2B SaaS.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the working relationship, here’s some practical advice on how Product Marketing can best support the sales team.
Tip #1: Define your customer segments
Most B2B organizations service multiple customer segments, each with their own distinct needs and motivations. Your positioning and messaging should be tailored to each customer segment you’re selling to.
Therefore, it’s crucial to clearly define your ideal customer profiles (ICPs) or buyer personas.
A poorly defined ICP is a common source of disagreement between Sales and Marketing on what makes a qualified lead or quality content. If you don’t agree on who your customers are, how can you agree on how to sell to them?
ICPs can be defined by one or more factors:
- Firmographics: Industry, company size, or geography
- Demographics: Title, age, seniority
- Behavioral: Buying intent, products purchased, content consumed
Let’s use Zendesk’s website as a public-facing example of how they segment their customers. Their core offering is customer service and CRM solutions, but their customers are split across many dimensions.
They segment by company size: enterprise, small and medium businesses (SMB), and startups.
And their messaging is tailored to each segment:
- For enterprise, their messaging is all about scaling customer service, integration capabilities, and service uptime.
- For SMB, it’s about getting more done with fewer resources and more automation.
- For startups, they focus on how the product is free to use for the first six months (when startup budgets are tight but may lead to big deals for Zendesk in the future).
This tailored messaging would also be reflected in their sales pitch.
Zendesk has a broader customer base than most companies, but it neatly illustrates the point: deliver personalized content and messaging for each customer segment.
When you start out, you may have one-size-fits-all messaging for all customers. But as your company grows, it’s Product Marketing’s role to define those segments over time in collaboration with the sales team.
Those segments then become an important filter on all the work Product Marketers do with Sales. For example, each customer segment should have its own pitch deck, sales proposal, and case studies.
That leads us to our next question: what content should Product Marketing make for Sales?
Tip #2: Map content to the sales cycle
There’s so much content to be made that it’s tough to know what’s missing or what to make next.
Here’s a tip: map your sales content to the sales journey.
If you’re starting from scratch, create content for each phase of the sales cycle, from awareness to consideration, to decision, through to retention.
If you already have a decent library of content, map it to each phase of the sales cycle to see where you might have gaps.
Lean on the sales team for suggestions. They’ll know what questions typically come up throughout the buyer journey, so you can build content to get ahead of those questions.
Top-of-funnel awareness content is used more for lead generation than sales, but it would be wrong for us to leave it out. This content includes:
- Product/service website pages
- Blog posts
- Social media content
- Email campaigns
The consideration phase is where the sales cycle starts. The sales rep delivers this content alongside or just after the product demo.
- Product demo videos or recordings
- Pitch deck
- Detailed product and service PDFs
- Video explainers
- Customer case studies
- Buying guides/checklists
At this phase, buyers are looking for technical details or business proof to make a decision. This content includes:
- Additional demo recordings
- Solution architecture information
- Security, privacy, and other technical information
- Competitive information and ROI case studies (e.g. a Forrest report)
You’ll need a set of all this content for your platform and for each product and customer segment. You may also need to revamp or replace the content with each new product launch.
Some of the content will be overlapping or largely unchanged from segment to segment, but it’s best to plan how to personalize each set of content and how to keep it updated from the beginning.
Here’s a nice summary of how you might segment your buyer-facing content from Total Product Marketing:
Tip #3: Systematize your content delivery
Traditionally, Product Marketing uploads the content they create to a centralized library for sales to pull from.
They either use low-tech options like a shared drive or a company wiki, or more advanced options such as enablement systems (e.g., Guru or HighSpot) or their CRM (e.g., Salesforce or HubSpot).
Then, the burden is on the sales rep to pull the right content to send to the client at the right time.
But here’s the problem with the content library approach: content gets outdated, sales reps start working with their own locally saved copies, and things get messy.
Content libraries also create a black box for Product Marketing. Is Sales using any of the content? Are buyers reading it? Is the content resonating? Which assets are best to use in which situations? There’s no way of knowing the answers to these questions.
But there’s a better approach: use trackable templates. This is what we’ve built with Dock.
With Dock, product marketers can create templatized digital sales rooms where they have complete control over what content is shared with the client.
Any type of content can be embedded in Dock, whether text, videos, PDFs, mutual action plans, or spreadsheets.
Product Marketing can create templates for each customer segment, with content sections mapped to each step in the buying cycle. Once the customer hits the next milestone, Product Marketing can unhide the next section.
For example, in this B2B sales template, the Dock workspace includes:
- A value proposition overview
- Product information
- Case studies
- A mutual action plan
- A pricing proposal
Product Marketing or Sales can progressively reveal these sections as the deal progresses.
In addition to more control, Dock gives Product Marketers more tracking abilities.
Everything in Dock is trackable, so you can see how often each asset is accessed and who accesses it. This can uncover trends in what content buyers are most interested in (e.g., a particular case study) or which content is most likely to lead to closed deals.
Tip #4: Makes sales training fun (and make it stick)
Without stereotyping sales reps too broadly, it’s fair to say that most sales reps do not look forward to product marketing training sessions.
It’s not because they’re stubborn—it’s because they’re busy. Sales reps have quotas to hit, meetings to get to, and proposals to submit. Sitting through boring product trainings can feel like a major waste of time.
Our advice: keep trainings fun and interesting. When you’re training sales on a new product, approach it like you’re teaching a room of antsy kids who can’t wait to get to recess.
Good sales trainings are quick, snappy, to the point, and fun. Add GIFs to your presentations, don’t put too much text on your slides. Throw in jokes when you can. Give the presentation a fun theme. Wear a silly hat.
Make it entertaining, and you’ll capture their attention.
You should also use sales trainings to drill home the why. When Product gives a demo of a new product or feature, it’s Product Marketing’s job to communicate why it matters to the company and what’s in it for the sales rep.
Finally, every great training should have lots of follow up. People can’t retain everything you taught them from a single lesson.
Record the training session and then follow it up with a content package. Include the training deck, a training video, and all assets relating to the new product.
The faster the follow-up after the training, the better. It gives sales reps the opportunity to digest the assets while your (incredibly fun) presentation is still fresh in their minds.
Tip #5: Host office hours
Coaching shouldn’t be refined to formal training sessions. Great Product Marketing teams also host office hours to give the sales team an open platform to ask questions.
These might be questions about the latest product launch, customers, competition, or assets. If you’re suddenly getting the same question from multiple sales reps (either in or outside of office hours), you can use your office hour time slot to host an ad hoc training session.
Reserving a slot for office hours creates a culture of openness and sharing between the two teams and might create inspiration for new content.
Tip #6: Create competitor battle cards
Battle cards are an indispensable sales tool—especially in enterprise sales. These are comparison tables or spreadsheets that highlight the key similarities and differences between competitor products.
Competitor battle cards should include:
- Company/product information
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Pricing details
- Key talking points
- Common objections
Product Marketing should keep these as updated as possible—refreshing them every few months—and send Sales regular reminders that they exist.
Crayon is a great resource for building these battle cards.
Tip #7: Lead the move up-market or to new products
When company leadership decides they want to test something new—whether that’s to move upmarket or to explore a new product line—they first turn to product marketing to research the market upfront.
Part of this research involves collaborating with Sales. Sales is on the frontlines of conversations with customers, so they will have a sense of customer segments they’re not hitting yet, what features are most in-demand, and what messaging might resonate with prospects.
Practically, this collaboration might include jumping on sales calls to ask customers questions or listening in as an analyst on calls or Gong recordings.
Product Marketing can then use this research to inform product decisions and what type of content they need to break into the new market.
For example, Product Marketing may conclude they need more compelling ROI studies if they want to sell to enterprise customers.
Tip #8: Message test with the sales team
Once Product Marketing builds enough trust with the Sales team, you can start message testing with prospects.
The same PMM and sales rep can team up to A/B test messaging on sales calls. One prospect gets messaging A; another prospect gets messaging B. You can also try A/B testing content if you have the capacity to create multiple assets.
You can then analyze the impact on sales. This will take more testing if you have a longer sales cycle, but don’t hesitate to conclude the test quickly if you have a clear winner. There’s no point in losing out on sales.
This requires a close partnership between marketer and seller and may require more experienced team members who can reliably stick to the agreed messaging.
Tip #9: Be in constant communication
Most of this advice relies on constant communication between Product Marketing and Sales.
Breakdowns happen without regular meetings and an open feedback loop between the two teams.
If it’s impossible to hold regular meetings, you can create new communication channels. You can send product marketing updates on Slack or through an internal newsletter. Listening in on Sales calls and attending Sales’ internal team meetings are also great options.
If you’re not getting the communication you need, find a way!
Scale your content delivery with Dock
Dock helps product marketers consistently deliver the right content to customers at the right time.
By creating templatized client workspaces, you can work with sales more efficiently to get content in front of your prospects and track what content they’re accessing the most.
To get started with Dock, start your free trial today.