Question Page

As a product marketer, how do you build trustworthy relationships with Sales leadership and Sales?

4 Answers
Nate Franklin
Nate Franklin
Hex Head of Product MarketingJanuary 25

Love this question. I believe that a major difference between successful PMMs and those who struggle is their relationship with the Sales org. 

Here are some ideas that can help you build trust with sales:

  1. Help win a deal - This might mean some busy work creating slides, joining a call to offer a new perspective or sitting down with a seller to game plan an account. Often times, it's work that's not directly related to your day to day but can translate to a salespersons takehome pay. And money talks.
  2. Be responsive and available - When you get pinged by a seller or sales leader for help to find time to assist - even it it means moving some of your meetings around. This can be a slippery slope if you do this too much, but early on and for key accounts or senior leaders it can make a huge difference.
  3. Understand a challenge sales is facing and ship a solution - This may seem obvious but it will win you big points with sales leaders. They are constantly managing fires in the deal process and if you can take one of those off their plates they will be very grateful.
  4. Become an expert - It's a really good sign if sales teams and sales leaders turn to you to support an executive conversation or speak directly with customers. What expert means depends on the size of your PMM team and the scope of your role. Just make sure it's a topic that matters to customers.
  5. Stand your ground - This is probably the hardest of all. Sales people can be tough, aggressive and dare I say pushy :). What they respect is people who push back and are not push overs. Don't become a "yes" person to sales. Use data, talk through priorities and hold your ground. They will respect your for it.
1217 Views
Francisco M. T. Bram
Francisco M. T. Bram
Albertsons Companies Vice President of MarketingSeptember 6

For B2B organizations, PMMs need to prioritize two types of relationships, clients, and customers. Clients are the stakeholders that will use benefit from the work PMMs develop (e.g., marketing assets, narrative, positioning). Customers are the stakeholders that will use the product PMMs are launching or managing (e.g., end users, payers, or beneficiaries). In B2B orgs, clients are your sales team or BD teams. The vast majority of B2B companies rely on having a sales team to drive customer acquisition.

Clearly communicating that Sales are your clients is a great first step towards building trust. But actions speak louder than words, to truly gain trust, the best place to start is through a deep understanding of their role, their day-to-day tasks and interactions with customers.

I always recommend at least 2x per year to go on a 2-3 day sales shadowing trip. This means, you identify key sales managers (ideally the ones that have experience and perform at a high level), ask them if you can observe them for a few days to understand how to best help them achieve their goals. Treat them as you would customers, develop a journey map with needs, wants, decisions, communication channels and pain-points that take place pre, during and after interactions with customers. Take notice of what works well and where there are opportunities to help. Come back with a report that offers some proposed actions and next steps, ask them for feedback and then action on them quickly. Keep them updated on progress towards the resolution of those actions.

Finally, identify a few very influential sales representatives (those that are respected by other sales colleagues) to be part of your PMM launch council, where members offer candid feedback on your launch strategy, plan and assets. Do this and not only will you have earned their trust but have built allies that will stand by your work, even when others may appear to criticize it.

270 Views
Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Anthropic Product Marketing LeaderOctober 6

I find that trustworthy relationships with Sales leadership and Sales teams require a few key ingredients:

  • The Sales team believe that you will be honest
  • The Sales team believes that you will be empathetic (which requires research)
  • The Sales team believes that you will be part of the solution for projects/problems

Honesty

At the core of trust is honesty—that your actions match your words, that you only promise what you'll deliver, and that you will raise your hand when you don't have the answer. Sales teams play a huge role in the success or failure of many companies, and they rely on a huge network of stakeholders to help them drive revenue for the business. If you're honest in your approach to collaborating with sales, they'll most often meet you with the same.

A few ideas for building an honest relationship:

  • Create a shared calendar of upcoming marketing events, campaigns, and launches and share with them
  • Create a shared channel for teams to share competitive intel, market updates, and customer news
  • Add sales leaders to emails/docs where you share a retrospective and learnings from prior work
  • Ask for feedback—and share when you've incorporated feedback you've heard into new work

Empathy

Don't forget that, just like you, sales teams are trying to do great work and do right by the business. It can be easy to want to do trainings, meetings, certifications, workshops, group deep dives to help inform marketing activities or drive product betas—but remember that you're not the only thing (or the most important thing) competing for their attention this week/month/year. By learning about the trends and initiatives that the sales team is prioritizing—and doing extra research to really understand why its a priority—you can become a strategic partner that they trust is asking for things because they truly are the most important thing.

A few ideas for building an empathetic relationship:

  • Consolidate all the marketing activities/launches that are competing for sales attention into one place, and prioritize them (often with your head of marketing) so that the Sales team isn't getting hit from every angle.
  • Pay attention to/meet with your sales leads/sales enablement. Read the notes from their sales meetings, pay attention to how sales is doing compared to goal. Meet with leads on a monthly basis where they share insights and you do, too.
  • Listen to call recordings. This one is big. If your company has a call recording system (i.e. Gong) USE IT. It's so easy to forget that sales people are telling your product story and company story AND trying to build a relationship with the prospect AND influencing how that person thinks about their own problems. Listen to the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I promise you will develop a lot of respect for each individual sales rep.

Solutions-orientation

This one is pretty straightforward: will adding you to a sales initiative/challenge improve the outcome? If the answer is consistently no—or that you create more turmoil than solutions—you won't build the team's trust. Whether you influence how they connect the dots (strategy) or how they get things done (execution), being a player that helps secure the win guarantees you'll get invited to more games.

A few ideas for being solutions-oriented:

  • Be a great listener! Often the person who listens for the patterns and clues in the data, meetings, and docs is the one who can most clearly see a great path forward.
  • Be lazy! Don't stress about why the project would be "perfect" if only it had [some ideal state]. Focus instead on "what is the least work I could do/the team could do RIGHT NOW that would lead to the best outcome?" 
305 Views
Molly Friederich
Molly Friederich
Sanity.io Director of Product MarketingNovember 29

I'd say the foundation lies in communication and meeting commitments. Despite the best intentions, you'll risk eroding trust if you're not on the same page with your teammates about what their top priorities are, exactly how you can/will support, and in what timeframe. Once you have aligned, continue investing in communication both progress and, critically, any changes to as scope or timeframe—the earlier you flag shifts, the better you're able to reinforce trust.

Beyond this foundation, you can build trust by building your understanding of Sales priorities and challenges as well as absorbing and amplifying their hard-won market and customer insights.  

313 Views
Successful Product Launches
Thursday, May 23 • 12PM PT
Successful Product Launches
Virtual Event
Chris Handy 🎉
Megan Gervasini
Sean Bailey, CPA
+239
attendees
Top Product Marketing Mentors
Christy Roach
Christy Roach
AssemblyAI VP of Marketing
Claudia Michon
Claudia Michon
Automation Anywhere Senior Vice President, Product & Solutions Marketing
Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product Marketing
Jenna Crane
Jenna Crane
Klaviyo Head of Product Marketing
Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Anthropic Product Marketing Leader
Christine Sotelo-Dag
Christine Sotelo-Dag
ThoughtSpot Senior Director of Product Marketing
Amanda Groves
Amanda Groves
Enable VP of Product Marketing
Amanda Groves
Amanda Groves
Enable VP of Product Marketing
Alissa Lydon
Alissa Lydon
Dovetail Head of Product Marketing
Pulkit Agrawal
Pulkit Agrawal
Chameleon Co-founder & CEO