by John Mansour
A clever person once said that it’s product management’s job to put the products people want to buy on the shelf, and product marketing’s job to get buyers to take them off the shelf. For B2B companies, emptying those shelves requires a unique competency in your sales force that goes beyond the capabilities of a typical product marketing function. Is sales enablement the answer – and is there a real difference between product marketing and sales enablement?
Some might think that these two functions are really the same thing with a different label. There’s certainly some overlap, but these terms allude to the primary objective of each function. In very simplistic terms, I’d characterize them follows:
In the literal sense, the objective is to create marketing materials and sales tools for products, utilize all marketing mediums to communicate the value of those products, and teach sales people how to use the sales tools in day-to-day competitive sales situations. There’s an element of sales enablement involved here as salespeople learn how to position products.
Sales enablement is much broader than product marketing. To expand on the above, this is about helping salespeople become highly proficient at selling business value in day-to-day sales situations. Inherently, selling business value requires knowledge of how to position products.
Keep in mind, there’s a big difference between selling business value (sales enablement) and positioning the value of your products (product marketing). Selling business value is much more than selling the benefits of each product – it’s convincing prospective customers to do business with your company for reasons that go beyond the value of your products.
So how do you do that?
Understanding the buyer mindset
In a typical sales cycle, buyers form first impressions of your organization from salespeople. The goal of sales enablement is to make your salespeople so credible that prospects view your organization as a valuable resource that can help them meet their goals.
For example, let’s say construction companies are one of your target markets. Imagine your salespeople in an initial meeting discussing construction industry trends and the latest best practices that successful construction companies are implementing to address the dynamics of their market. Salespeople with that level of competency have instant credibility before the discussion goes anywhere near the products.
Here’s the thing: Buyers prefer to do business with companies that understand their industry and business dynamics best. That level of expertise creates a perception that your products and services are better than competitors who aren’t as knowledgeable.
Buyers also assume your organization is dealing with lots of companies just like theirs, and whether they come right out and ask or not, they want to know what everyone else is doing and what they should be thinking about. Salespeople who bring that type of information to the table will quickly move to the head of the pack. Without a strong sales enablement function, there’s no systematic way to ensure salespeople can communicate that type of information consistently.
Now for the disturbing part: A huge percentage of B2B companies don’t even have a formalized product marketing function. The most common reason I hear is, “Our senior leadership doesn’t want to make the financial commitment.” In other words, they don’t see the value. But in the next breath they’ll say, “Our salespeople need to get better at selling value/selling solutions instead of features.”
Has the time come to stop trying to justify product marketing and sell the value of a dedicated sales enablement function (that encompasses product marketing)?
Tweet this: Should Sales Enablement be the new Product Marketing? http://wp.me/pXBON-4qN #prodmgmt #productmanagement #prodmktg #sales
About the Author
John Mansour is a 20-year veteran in high technology product management, marketing and sales, and the Founder of Proficientz, Inc., a training and consulting firm that specializes in B2B product management & marketing.