If you are a product marketer who is earning your paycheck, you must be having and excelling with crucial conversations.
If you track the ‘professional development’ circuit, you’ve probably read the seminal classic, Crucial Conversations. I had the opportunity to read the book years ago, but I just recently took the training through my employer. Some trainings can feel heavy, laborious, leaving you pining for a day of ‘work’ back in your office. This training though shined, demonstrating the importance of effective conversation in every aspect of your personal and professional life.
During the training session, I could not stop thinking of how conversations are the crux of product marketing. Yes, there’s market analysis, messaging, collateral, webinars, and CRM integrations, lead scoring and account-
based marketing, but it all comes down to conversations. Actual, real-life, face-to-face conversations. Not emails. Not phone calls, but conversations.
I believe you must master five conversations to be a stellar product marketer.
- Customers: If you aren’t getting out of your building and communicating with your market, you won’t last long as a product marketer. Put your listening ears on and let your market share with you their peaks, valleys, frustrations and aha moments. Customers don’t care how many accolades you’ve collected or where you stand in such arbitrary report. They want to be heard and they want to know how you can help them solve a problem. A problem, if not solved, could cost that person’s job or the fate of the organization.
- Sales team: Sales and marketing teams should be a unified, cohesive unit. If you are still spit balling leads at sales without much context or explanation, your days are numbered. Holding a crucial conversation with an account executive must be rooted in win-win. Most likely, the sales rep has a quote to hit. In some groups, the product marketer also has a number tied to his performance. Ask the rep these questions and shut your mouth:
- When we lose, why do we lose?
- When we win, why do we win?
- What ‘assets’ are most cited as helping to finalize a deal? (white paper, video, webinar, customer chat)
- What would help you close more deals?
- Marketing team: More often than not, you work as a Product Marketer won’t be in isolation. You might have a PR SME, a Demand Generation specialist, a Content Marketer and others. If they are doing their jobs, they are becoming masters of the market they serve. Converse with your team with humility and aim to understand what’s working and not working as they manage programs and tactics designed to attract that ideal buyer. You can’t do it all yourself. Frequent, rich conversations with your marketing team is a must.
- Boss: In the best of times, you are in sync with your boss and pairing with an advocate who helps you do your best work. In the worst of times, there’s friction and misunderstandings on expectations, deliverables and definitions of successes. Truthfully, most of the disconnects are rooted in your inability to have crucial conversations with your boss. What do you want? What does your boss want? What does success look like for both you and your boss? What intra-company relationships does your boss recommend you master as a product marketer? As much as you think you have it all sorted out, don’t neglect the significance of conversations with your boss.
- You: You are your stories. You are your perceptions. What do people think of you when you leave the room? Are you a person who can be trusted? Are you a person who adds value to conversations and projects or do you sometimes seek ‘win-lose’ to elevate your status while shortchanging others? The self-talk you own is yours alone. If you’ve been struggling to meet deadlines, figure out what is eating up time during the day. If you aren’t being included in key meetings where you know you could help, seek out the meeting leader and have a fruitful, open discussion about how you could help. The stories you carry with you throughout your day: ‘I can’t work with her’ and ‘I’ll never figure out that report’ can be changed to: ‘There’s much I can learn from her’ and ‘Maybe I could talk with Jerry; he really knows how to build great reports.’
Be intentional about excelling with these five crucial conversations and you are planting roots for a successful product marketing career.
Until next time,