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What questions should you ask during your one-on-ones with the engineers and sales team during your first month at the company?

3 Answers
Natalie Louie
Natalie Louie
ICONIQ Capital Product & Content MarketingJanuary 12

I interview them to get to know them first, why they joined the company, what they are excited about, what they oversee, what they need help in (their pain points) and I start mapping their needs and how we can work together.

I spend the majority of my time having them explain to me the product and pain we are solving. They are SME’s (subject matter experts) at the company and I do a messaging & positioning interview – I take my positioning and messaging framework and turn this into my interview questions. I also interview them about our users and competitors. I’m basically filling out my playbooks for positioning, messaging, competitive intel and users. Lean on them to do your knowledge transfer and become an SME yourself. Listen to their version of how they explain your product and opportunity. Each stakeholder has different information to contribute to your full understanding. 

I take copious notes (or ask to record the interview) and then I go back to review and bucket answers. I identify gaps, areas that need clarity and start filling out my PMM playbooks to then get feedback on.  

I also structure these interviews no more than 30min at a time, sometimes 45min if it's a dense topic, and do multiple short interviews across many days/weeks. I need time to process, refine my thinking and build those relationships. I try to kill multiple birds at once here and be very efficient with mine and my stakeholders time. 

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Christine Sotelo-Dag
Christine Sotelo-Dag
ThoughtSpot Senior Director of Product MarketingJanuary 20

I think the common questions you'd want to ask both of these teams are 

1. Tell me about your role and your teams - how do you operate today? (Build context of how these teams work in this organization as it will likely look different from places you've previously worked, even if only slightly) 

2. What is working well in your orgs, and what are areas that could use improvement. (Understand what challenges these teams face - and listen through the lens of how your team may fit into the solution. Obviously, not all challenges will be something PMM can help solve). 

3. How do you partner with the product marketing team today - or if there isn't a PMM team in place yet, ask how they've partnered with PMMs in the past. What are ways they see PMM and their teams partnering? 

I'd ask these questions without committing to partner on anything, all of this is context building and painting a picture of the current state of the org. 

More specifically to each org, I think if I were digging in with sales I'd want to know how the teams are structured - by segment, region, etc. How are sales stages defined, and what are the roles of each sales team across those stages (SDRs vs AEs vs Customer Success, etc), how long is the average sales cycle and where to deals most often get stuck? Where and how can you listen to sales calls? Any question that helps you understand how sales operates, and how PMM can align to more deals closed/won. 

For engineering or product teams, the things I typically like to understand are how product teams are organized. Is it by product, features, use cases, industry, etc - this will help you understand how to align product marketing in a way to create synergy. I'd ask how the team currently roadmaps - what are all the inputs, how are they weighted, how product and engineering teams envision PMMs inputing to roadmaps. Sometimes product teams don't envision this as PMMs role, it would be good to know if this is the case up front - and ensure that PMMs are bringing value to the product and engineering teams to earn a seat at that table. I'd ask if they can share any documentation that would help build product knowledge - whether its strategy docs, or rationale docs, or just team working docs - to offer a look into how these teams work. 

Ultimately, in those early days in a role - your main goal is gaining as much context as possible - so ask any question that will help get you there as fast as possible, and don't hold back. If something doesn't make sense, or is foreign to you - just ask. 

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Sean Lauer
Sean Lauer
Instruqt VP of MarketingDecember 21

As a new product marketer, it is crucial that you establish effective communication and collaboration with both the engineering and sales teams during your first month. Conducting one-on-one meetings with members from both teams can provide you with vital information and insights to help you gain a better understanding of the product, market, and customer needs. Consider asking the questions below to gather the necessary information:

Questions for Engineers:

  1. Product Overview:

    • Can you provide a high-level overview of our product, its key features, and its technical architecture?

    • What are the main technologies or tools used in building and maintaining the product?

  2. Product Roadmap:

    • What are the upcoming product releases or updates?

    • Are there any major technical challenges or opportunities on the horizon?

  3. Technical Documentation:

    • Where can I find technical documentation, specifications, or architecture diagrams for the product?

    • Do you have any recommended resources or contacts for technical questions?

  4. Development Process:

    • Can you explain the product development process, including how features are prioritized and developed?

    • Are there any development methodologies or tools (e.g., Agile, Scrum) used by the engineering team?

  5. Competitive Analysis:

    • How do you see our product's technical capabilities compared to our competitors?

    • Are there any technical strengths or weaknesses we should be aware of?

  6. Customer Feedback:

    • Have there been any recent technical issues or challenges reported by customers?

    • How does the engineering team handle customer feedback and bug fixes?

  7. Data and Analytics:

    • What data and analytics tools are used to track product usage and performance?

    • Are there any key performance indicators (KPIs) that engineering monitors regularly?

Questions for Sales Team:

  1. Customer Insights:

    • What are the most common customer pain points or challenges related to our product?

    • Can you share any success stories or use cases that highlight our product's value?

  2. Competitor Information:

    • Who are our main competitors, and how do we differentiate ourselves from them in sales conversations?

    • Are there any competitive objections or concerns that frequently come up?

  3. Sales Process:

    • Can you walk me through the typical sales process, from lead generation to closing deals?

    • What resources or collateral do you find most helpful in the sales process?

  4. Customer Personas:

    • What are the key customer personas or segments that we target?

    • Do you have any insights on the unique needs and preferences of these personas?

  5. Marketing Materials:

    • Are there any existing marketing materials or sales enablement content that you find particularly effective?

    • Are there any gaps in our current marketing collateral?

  6. Feedback Loop:

    • How do you currently share customer feedback and insights with the product and marketing teams?

    • What improvements or features do you frequently hear from customers?

  7. Sales Goals and Targets:

    • What are the sales team's quarterly and annual goals and targets?

    • How can marketing support these goals through campaigns or content?

These questions will help you build strong working relationships with both teams, gain a deeper understanding of the product and market, and identify opportunities to align product marketing strategies with business objectives. Additionally, it's important to keep these conversations ongoing to stay informed about changes and updates in both the technical and sales aspects of your organization.

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