Does Marketing “Sell Dreams” and Sales Need to Make that “Dream” Happen, No Matter How Crazy the Dream?

Marketing DreamsIt’s been said to me that marketing writes the script but sales makes the movie.  Conceptually both sales and marketing should complement each another.  However, in reality both do not always meet eye to eye.  In other words, bad script…bad movie. An organization with maverick salespeople all off doing their own thing being managed four different ways will ruin even an exceptional Marketing Plan.

Looking at Marketing Through the Sales Lens

Looking at Marketing Through the Sales LensA sales rep needs to know how to position a product, set and manage customer expectations and be motivated to sell the product.  Sounds easy but does hard.

Why is this?

Most marketers, especially product managers,  understand their products inside and out. What they don’t understand is how this interacts with the sale rep’s role in getting it sold.

Sales Need to Make that Dream HappenSo, here are the “Questions You Must Answer for Sales” (in no particular order) for you to be successful as a marketer working with your sales team.  My thanks to David Shoaf for sharing these with me originally.

  1. What is the customer problem that your product is solving?  Listen up PM’s, this is not the laundry list of technical whiz-bangers you built into the product.  This is getting to the heart of the benefits (the value proposition) the product solves for the user.
  2. What are the critical qualifying questions I can use to confirm if my customer has this problem your product solves?  If I don’t know how to identify my customers buying criteria, I can’t effectively sell your product.
  3. What assumptions are you making about my customer’s business situation? What would drive the customer to adopt and use this product over any other solution that’s available to them?
  4. Who are the key competitors in this product segment? Who’s got the low price? Who’s got a unique solution? It is important to understand how you will position yourself in the market – and just as critical to understand how you will de-position the competition.
  5. What are the assumed customer buying criteria for the product? You should be able to be able to articulate the customer’s reasons to be looking at the market.
  6. Can you prove your claims? Coming to the selling situation with references, testing and other data points about the market, competitors or users adds significant credibility to me a sales person.  Kudos to many product managers for getting this one right more often than not!
  7. What drives the pricing in this segment? Which is likely to be the constraint – price, margin or inventory? What are the expected metrics: ROI, POS, etc.? Can my customer understand the pricing and ROI discussion in less than a minute?

Let’s be honest….I’m a sales person and I get measured on sales

knowing your competition better than they know themselves

So I have a few questions about how this new product will affect my metrics.

  1. What’s my plan? Are you giving me an unrealistic goal simply because you think this is a great product?
  2. What is the typical sales cycle for this product? How much time am I expected to spend selling it? Do I have exclusivity in my territory?
  3. Will this product cannibalize any products I sell now? If so, please explain to me how this is going to be handled.

The key here is alignment.  Sales & marketing executives should sign off on each other’s plan. The sales plan and the marketing plan should roll up hand and glove. Then you have accountability for performance.

10 Product Marketing Blogs You Need to Read

10 Product Marketing Blogs You Need to ReadFind insight and benefit from the thought-provoking blogs of these product marketing experts.  Each tackles the problems and issues that we all face as product marketers from their unique perspectives.  My top 10 list, in no particular order, includes:

  1. Shardul Mehta – Street Smart Product Manager
  2. Jeff Lash – How To Be A Good Product Manager
  3. Marlon Davis – Connecting.Some.Dots
  4. Ben Rees – Focus Product Marketing
  5. Cindy Alvarez – The Experience is the Product
  6. Stewart Rogers – Strategic Product Manager
  7. Chris Cummings – Product Management Meets Pop Culture
  8. Nils Davis – Wait, I Know This One
  9. Teresa Torres – Product Talk
  10. Rob Berman – Rob Berman’s Blog

There is a brief profile on each blog along with a link to their site.  In addition to a screen shot of the site, I’ve provided few words usually edited right from their own About section.  In most cases, I’ve also included their Twitter address.

A note on why these 10 blogs.  I tried to focus on blogs that were written by individuals and not blogs from groups or companies.  There are some great blogs that fall into this latter category, including:

Shardul Mehta…Street Smart Product Manager − The down-to-earth realities of what it takes to be a product ninja every day

Street Smart Product ManagerShardul Mehta is a simple product guy whose passion for great products is only exceeded by his love for chicken curry.

Here’s what you can expect to find on his blog:

  1. Tangible, actionable advice that you can execute on immediately. This is based on things I’ve seen work and not work. Writing about this actually sounds easier than it is.
  2. Thought provokers. Posts that push the envelope in thinking about how to conceive, validate, build and launch products. Hopefully, they will elicit discussion, debate, which can only help strengthen our field.

Find him on Twitter at @shardulmehta

Jeff Lash…How To Be A Good Product Manager

How to be a Good Product ManagerThis is a blog that provides resources and tips on good product management practices. While it focuses more on managing technical and online products, most of the concepts are appropriate for broader product management purposes.

In most cases, Jeff came up with ideas for the postings based on a “good” product management experience, and then I tried to think of the exact opposite approach that would be a “bad” thing to do. Other times they are based on examples, case studies, or others’ experiences. “Bad” examples should not be interpreted to be based on product managers I have worked with in the past or with whom I am currently working. (Hopefully, though, they are not representative of product managers I will work with in the future!)

Find him on Twitter at @jefflash.

Marlon Davis…Connecting.Some.Dots

Connecting Some DotsA blog on Product Management and Marketing Experiences, Connecting.Some.Dots was created to share Marlon’s experiences with other product managers who are working with technology and its application in order to introduce new and innovative products into the market and to sustain their success.

Visit Marlon’s LinkedIn profile to comment on his blog posts.

Ben Rees…Focus Product Marketing – A blog about product marketing, mostly for software companies

Focus Product MarketingBen Rees comes from a Product Management background but then moved over to the dark side of Product Marketing – which is the subject of this blog.

Find him on Twitter at @benjrees.

Cindy Alvarez…The Experience is the Product

The Experience is the ProductCindy Alvarez is a product manager who turns understanding the customer into competitive advantage.

Her philosophy is it’s all about the experience. She’s excited by companies who “get it” – that consumers don’t separate user experience from features and benefits of a product when they decide whether or not to use and recommend it.

But “the experience” isn’t just about consumers – it’s a dedication to ongoing improvement in how you work together and communicate and empower your teams. Everyone has to know where we’re going in order to get there.

That requires effective communication and a shared vision across multiple teams who often don’t “speak the same language”. She evangelize a product experience-driven development process.

Find her on Twitter at @cindyalvarez.

Stewart Rogers…Strategic Product Manager

Strategic Product ManagerStewart is a promoter, evangelist and recognized thought leader of product management best practices. He is an experienced product management professional with over 10 years in online and technology product management.

Find him on Twitter @stewartrogers.

Chris Cummings…Product Management Meets Pop Culture

Product Management Meets Pop CultureProduct Management Meets Pop Culture is Chris’ attempt to give something back to the community that helped shape him as a product management professional.  Why the pop culture?

Because most people “get” pop culture, and most people don’t really understand the role of “Product Manager” … but a good PM can mean the difference between a product achieving its goals or missing the mark.

Chris developed this site — using movies, comics, and other pop culture ephemera — to illustrate product management ideas that anyone can start using immediately, and to encourage discussion of best practices that we can all benefit from.

Follow him on Twitter @chriscummings01.

Nils Davis…Wait, I Know This One

Wait, I Know This OneOn his blog Nils hopes to share some insights and experience he’s gained over 20 years of practicing and studying software product management. He has both a less sanguine view of product management plus a more extravagant view of its meaning. He’s most interested in the specific challenges that arise because product management is a complex domain and discipline.

Product management is not like other disciplines – management, sales, marketing, development, etc. And he doesn’t put much store in techniques that are meant to address those merely complicated domains (e.g., project management), because they don’t work well in the face of the complexity of product management. In short, he doesn’t think a machine is going to take over our job any time soon! In the product management world we constantly struggle to understand how products are successful, and why some are not successful despite the best efforts of our colleagues, while others succeed despite “doing everything wrong.”

You can also follow him on Twitter @nilsie.

Teresa Torres…Product Talk

Product TalkTeresa is a product consultant and coach who works with early-stage companies helping them translate their big ideas into great products. Her focus is on helping product managers be better at what they do by sharing knowledge, building know-how, and refining practice. You can read more about the goal of her blog in her first post, Turning Big Ideas Into Great Products.

You can follow her in Twitter @ttorres

Rob Berman…Rob Berman’s Blog − Propelling Marketing Ideas

Rob Berman's BlogRob helps companies grow their revenue and profits.  He created this blog to share his experiences and to engage in conversation.  In particular, he leverages his experiences as a marketer, product developer and product manager who consistently brings new products to market, manages existing lines of business, drives communications and achieves financial targets.

Follow him on Twitter at @rcberman.

How to Get Knowledge Out of Your Product Manager’s Head and Into the Hands of Sales

Product Dossiers for MarketersWished you could on-board new sales reps more easily? Ever had a green product manager who needs deep product immersion? Here’s a simple tool to help you do both.

Creating a Product Dossier brings the sales team up-to-speed on new products and programs while helping unlock what’s in the product manager’s head

Product Dossiers Sales TrainingIt’s easy to overwhelm a sales team when launching many new products and programs at a rapid pace. The same is true for a new product manager or sales rep that’s unfamiliar with your product lines.

New sales reps need knowledge to gain confidence. Unfortunately, what they are given is a sell sheet or, worse, a 150 slide PowerPoint presentation. “It’s in there,” says marketing vaguely.

Truth is the sales team – especially the new guy – has to know all the details about the product, not just some specs and fluffy words. They need the knowledge that to have confidence to present the product and, more importantly, make the sale.

A Product Dossier can help the sale team drive more sales by:

  1. Providing detailed product, pricing, channel and support information to the field in an easy-to-use format.
  2. Delivering information to the field in a shorter period of time to enable them to start selling quicker.
  3. Improving the productivity of the sales force.
  4. Delivering the business proposition by audience and answers the question “why should I buy?”

A Product Dossier gets the critical marketing insights for a product line out of the product manager’s head and into the hands of the sales team

Product Dossiers TrainingIn other words, we were asking the product management team to take the time and write down all the key details about a product line. We call this document a Product Dossier.

The Product Dossier is for internal use only and always has these key topics in the following order:

  • Product Description
  • Product Performance
  • Application
  • Features and Benefits
  • Packaging
  • Business Proposition to channel
  • Business Proposition to end user
  • Pricing
  • Order/Ship/Bill
  • Stocking Plants
  • Market Description / Market Segmentation
  • Channel Positioning
  • Objectives
  • Competition
  • Sales Tools

The Product Dossier is distributed to the field sales forces by email and should also be posted on the intranet. This tool can also easily become part of the broader set of tools that any new product commercialization process already has.

While the Product Dossier is an internal document, a Program Sell Sheet can be created from it for use by the field as a customer hand out and as a quick read cheat sheet just before a sales call.

Program Sell Sheets are based on the Product Dossier and can be used as a customer product knowledge and training tool

Marketing Communications EffectivenessProgram Sell Sheets are simply edited, formatted and printed versions of the Product Dossier and always contain the following information in the following order:

  • Product Description
  • Product Performance
  • Application
  • Features and Benefits
  • Packaging
  • Business Proposition
  • Order/Ship/Bill
  • Sales Tools

Notice all the internal details are stripped out – it is a generic sell sheet now, but with far richer content. These sell sheets can be now be used as a customer education tool. They are particularly valuable when the customer’s sales team needs product knowledge and training.

Product Dossiers don’t write themselves…they take time and effort to become valuable sales training tools

Product Dossiers KnowledgeDon’t be deceived, this process takes time. It forces the product team to make sure they have all the facts. This process requires deep immersion into the product line – which is why it’s such a great teaching tool for green product managers.

Don’t be so bold as to say you’re going to knock off 20 of these in a short period of time. Maybe you can but the best process is to start with your new products and then roll the process out to the more established product lines.

Be sure to save the finished Product Dossiers electronically. They obviously need to be updated every so often to stay relevant.

By the way, this process works for products, services and programs. The headings are broad enough that they allow you considerable flexibility.

Do you have other great ways of bringing the sales team up-to-speed? Let me know about them!

Good Selling!