It's possible if you follow a few simple rules

Sales-driven organizations have many attributes. Some are positive and some not so positive. On the positive side, the company is growing. That growth helps drive good things: new offices, better tools, better benefits, and more opportunities for personal growth. On the negative side, the company may be sacrificing long-term gains for short-term profit.

Sales-driven organizations have these characteristics:

  • The sales team determines product direction based on closing deals
  • A focus on profit today versus sustaining the business
  • The entire company organizes around the sales function
  • The primary function of marketing is to generate leads

Sound familiar? If so, you may find yourself in a sales-driven organization.

Don't get stuck in a box

Product marketing managers want recognition as smart business leaders by their colleagues and leadership. When the bulk of the marketing emphasis is on generating leads, spending time on strategy is seen as a waste of time.

If you focus only on lead gen activities, you can be replaced by someone who can generate more and better leads. Smart business leaders focus on the big picture.

Understand the big picture

The ‘big picture’ doesn’t come from individuals on your sales team. It comes from the executive leadership. Take the time to understand what the CEO cares about most. Where does the CEO want to take the company over the next 3 to 5 years?

Most important, how is the CEO’s performance measured by the board of directors?

Knowing the big picture helps you to prioritize your activities. You focus on contributing to the CEO’s success, rather than an individual salesperson’s success.

Carve out time for strategy

No one will block out time for you to think about product marketing strategy. No one. You have to do that yourself, even when it’s not a key performance indicator for your job.

Sooner or later, there will be a crisis, and your boss will want ideas from you. She will be under extreme pressure because the leads are drying up and she can’t explain why. She needs help from you. That’s when your opportunity to shine happens.

Block out time for strategy in small chunks. Maybe it’s only 1 hour a week to start. Think of it as ‘me time’.

In your first personal strategy session, your assignment is to make a list of where you spend all your time. Are there recurring activities that take up large amounts of time you don’t plan for? If they’re recurring, there’s an underlying issue. Find the issue and plan on how to fix it.

If you find you’re spending a lot of unplanned time helping salespeople work their sales opportunities, ask yourself “Why?”. What are the reasons why you’re spending so much time doing sales support? Are there things you could do to would free up some of your time? Is it a sales enablement issue? Is a sales tool issue? Is it a content issue? Is it a market segment targeting problem? What is it?

Fix a few things. Free up time. Use that time to focus on strategy. Find more things to fix, like building a solid product marketing foundation.

Develop a solid foundation

You need a solid foundation of basic product marketing ingredients. If you lack these ingredients you are going to have to accept unplanned interruptions.

A solid product marketing foundation consists of:

  • Buyer Personas
  • Buyer’s Journey Decision Maps
  • Market Segment Definitions
  • Product Positioning/Value Proposition

These ingredients need each other. You can’t develop solid product positioning if you don’t know your buyer personas. You can’t help close sales enablement gaps if you don’t know how your buyers make a buying decision. You won’t be able to optimize promotional and lead gen spending if you don’t have a clear picture of your target market segments. Just to name a few.

Become indispensable

You know you've become indispensable when the sales team comes to you for insight (not just help with a deal). Your insight and efforts become something the sales team can’t live without. You’ve become a partner, not just a service provider.

There are two more ways you can become indispensable: Win/Loss Analysis (WLA) and Competitive Intelligence (CI). These are more strategic activities. They are harder to put in place but they have a high ROI.

Win/Loss Analysis has two components: Interviews and Analysis. Over the years it’s become just ‘Win/Loss Analysis’. WLA is a market research technique that identifies the reasons why your organization wins some deals and loses others. Interviews of recent buyers reveal patterns of weakness that you need to fix, and strengths that you need to amplify. In a sales-driven company, selling more stuff is a huge win. WLA helps you do that.

Win/Loss Analysis helps refine the Buyer’s Journey Decision Map, identifies gaps in content, and exposes strengths and weaknesses (of your product and competitor’s products).

Competitive Intelligence provides insight into the companies and products with which you compete. WLA and CI have obvious connections. In a sales-driven organization, salespeople want insight about a competitor when they encounter it. That can take up a lot of your unplanned time and your salesperson’s time.

WLA helps you build a clear understanding of your competitive landscape. You learn more details about the routine competition you encounter, and you get an early warning about new competitors.

CI helps you understand how your product/company fits in the larger context of a competitive landscape. It provides the insights to develop sales tools that help salespeople compete and win against your competitors (and also when to walk away). Again, more time saved for you and more time saved for the sales team.

Wrap up

The path to being a smart business leader is possible within product marketing and you can do it. Take small steps to plug leaks and leverage the time saved to focus on bigger leaks.

If you liked the article, please share it and comment below.

—Dave

NOTE: This article originally appeared in the BrainKraft.com blog