How LinkedIn uses prioritization and partnerships in its product marketing


How LinkedIn uses prioritization and partnerships  in its product marketing

This article is based on Jennifer Bunting’s brilliant interview with Jarrod Greene on Leading the Way: The Sales Enablement Podcast.

Product marketing leaders today are under a lot of pressure to do all kinds of things at once. We’re expected to build a ton of pipeline, help convert that pipeline, improve win rates, and enhance the customer experience. However, several factors can get in the way.

One major challenge is the increasing size and sophistication of buying groups. According to some estimates, these groups can have up to 20 members. With such large and informed buying teams, we face new challenges. Sometimes, sellers may even come up against buyers who are better informed than they are! 

To meet the needs of these sophisticated buyers, companies are developing more complex product lines. This includes building more capabilities into products, offering different pricing models, providing various licensing options, and creating multiple SKUs. 

This increased complexity creates additional challenges for marketing teams. Sellers now need to be not only subject matter experts in the products they sell but also act as information connectors across the buying committee. Plus, they have to understand the needs of multiple personas without telling contradictory stories.

On top of all this, the headcount of sales teams in growing businesses typically increases faster than that of product marketers. So, we have to onboard new salespeople – and fast. After all, if the sales team isn’t ready to sell the product, it’s impossible to go to market effectively, drive adoption, or prevent churn. There’s also demand to help new sales reps hit their quotas and keep clients happy.

No pressure, right? 

Just kidding. 

With all this going on, sales enablement and product marketing teams often find themselves overwhelmed, focusing on too many initiatives at once. They’re juggling tons of sales plays, content, training programs, and tools. 

These are major challenges that I face every day as a product marketing leader at LinkedIn. And, as a member of Product Marketing Alliance and of the IAB UK Board for social media, I hear first-hand from product marketers across a range of industries that a lot of us are in the same boat.

The solution? Strong sales enablement and a whole lot of prioritization.

So, in this article, I’ll break down how we partner with sales enablement teams at LinkedIn, build strong relationships with our sellers, prioritize the most important tasks, and empower our sales folks to thrive in the increasingly complex business landscape.

Let’s get into it.

A day in the life of a LinkedIn product marketer

First, let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Jen Bunting, and I’ve been in marketing for about 20 years, with 12 of those years dedicated to product marketing. Currently, I’m based in London and work at LinkedIn, where I’ve spent a significant portion of my career.

As a product marketer at LinkedIn, I oversee the suite of ad products you see when you’re on the platform. My focus is on the EMEA and LATAM regions, which gives me a pretty wide remit. My responsibilities span strategy, enablement, launches, and adoption. 

It’s a lot to manage, but by prioritizing all these responsibilities effectively, we make it work. We spend a lot of time planning for the year, half-year, and quarter ahead. This involves working closely with various teams:

  • Product teams
  • Sales teams
  • Cross-channel marketing teams
  • My team in EMEA

Our EMEA team in London is much smaller than our global product marketing team, so we focus on what’s going to move the needle most for our customers and sales teams. We have to make those hard prioritization calls to ensure we’re using our resources effectively.

Embracing the power of ‘no’: Prioritization in product marketing

Product marketing is a role that can be pulled in many directions at any given moment. You might be called into the customer success room to solve adoption problems, the sales room to address conversion issues, the marketing room to jumpstart a campaign, or the product room to discuss value propositions – and all this before you’ve had your morning coffee!

So, how do you prevent your team from being stretched too thin while maintaining the credibility you’ve worked so hard to build?

This is a question we grapple with daily at LinkedIn. Recently, we had some reminder training called “The Necessity of No.” It was aimed at everyone on the team, from new hires to veterans, like myself, who’ve been here for 12 years.

The key message? You can’t do your job effectively without saying no sometimes.

We even had our regional head of sales join us for a fireside chat. He emphasized how crucial prioritization is in his role too. This top-down acknowledgment that it’s impossible to do everything makes it easier for us to prioritize together.

Strategies for prioritization

When it comes to strategy, we consider what the big bets will be. Many at LinkedIn use the Eisenhower Matrix, which categorizes tasks based on urgency and importance. 

However, I find this doesn’t always help when building strategy and setting quarterly objectives for my team. Instead, I use a modified version that plots tasks on two axes:

  1. Time/resources required (vertical axis)
  2. Revenue potential (horizontal axis)

This helps me identify and nix low-revenue, high-time tasks, focusing instead on lighter lifts with outsized results. Realistically, though, many impactful tasks also require significant time investment. The challenge is determining how much people can realistically handle in this category.

Communicating priorities and maintaining transparency

The key to successful prioritization is communication. We discuss our focus areas and their results at every stage, from annual planning sessions to quarterly business reviews and quarterly marketing reviews.

By demonstrating that we achieve better results by focusing on fewer things, it becomes easier to maintain this approach. However, getting everyone’s buy-in early is crucial.

I make it a point to not only share what we plan to do each quarter, but also what we won’t be able to tackle. This transparency helps preserve relationships with stakeholders.

To me, transparency means inviting stakeholders and team members into the conversation about what matters for business growth. This approach makes them feel like they’re part of the process rather than like they’re being dictated to or like product marketing is working in some kind of ivory tower.

By being clear about our priorities and limitations, we can maintain credibility while ensuring our efforts are focused on the most impactful work. It’s a delicate balance, but one that’s essential for effective product marketing in a dynamic environment like LinkedIn’s.

The feedback loop: Product development at LinkedIn

Sales teams talk to customers more than anyone else at the company. They’re vital to the success of the business, so having a strong partnership with them is absolutely crucial. 

At LinkedIn, we think about the voice of the customer and the voice of the field. This perspective is integral to our process when deciding what should be on the product roadmap. 

We talk to sales teams before reaching out to customers, and they help introduce us to customers facing challenges. This allows us to have direct conversations with clients and better understand their needs. All this forms a kind of feedback loop between product marketing and the field. Here’s how it typically works:

  1. We have conversations with our sales teams about account prioritization – discussing how to grow specific accounts. 
  2. During these conversations, we identify the challenges salespeople face in expanding their accounts, with product often being a key factor.
  3. We carefully consider the trade-offs of potential changes. If we make one change, it might mean we can’t do something else. Our goal is to determine what will solve the biggest customer need. The priority might be growing revenue, protecting existing revenue, or making our platform easier to use to ensure customer satisfaction and retention.

We have these in-depth conversations with both sales teams and customers twice a year. Following this, we meet with our product teams to prioritize initiatives, keeping in mind that resources are limited, as they are in every company.

A crucial part of our process is closing the loop. This involves telling the sales team how we’ve acted on their feedback. We involve their leadership in these conversations to ensure transparency and alignment.

The closing-the-loop session is essentially a Zoom call that includes:

  • The head of product
  • Various product team members
  • Product marketing representatives
  • The sales team

This call is a great opportunity for the sales team to hear directly from the product team about why certain decisions were made. 

It’s important to note that our marketing solutions alone see about 100 to 150 feature updates and changes every year, so there’s a lot to cover. We strive to be transparent and help the sales team understand why we couldn’t implement everything they wanted in the coming quarter. We also share our vision for future developments.

This process acknowledges that when sales asks for something, it’s based on a real need – either theirs or a customer’s. Our job is to prioritize these needs and communicate our decision-making process clearly. By doing so, we maintain strong relationships between our product, marketing, and sales teams, ensuring we’re all working towards the same goals of customer satisfaction and business growth.

Sales enablement at LinkedIn: Balancing training and selling time

We’re lucky at LinkedIn to have a dedicated sales enablement team, although it’s still relatively small given the company’s size. When I first joined, we didn’t have this team, which made things quite challenging.

The sales enablement team’s responsibilities go beyond just bridging the gap between product marketing and sales. They focus on:

  1. Developing sales best practices
  2. Teaching sales and customer support reps how to be more effective
  3. Creating a comprehensive curriculum
  4. Organizing online learning and in-person training
  5. Managing the roadmap for sales team learning time

LinkedIn’s ownership of LinkedIn Learning (formerly gives additional learning opportunities to our sales team, beyond their day-to-day responsibilities. They can even learn how to use Python or Photoshop if they want to. That said, there’s also a specific curriculum that sales folks have to learn in order to sell the newest products. The sales enablement team owns that.

We have a quarterly product release cycle, where global PMM teams work with global sales enablement to create a training calendar. This includes:

  • Monthly training sessions
  • Quarterly elements aligned with major product launches
  • An online platform to track training effectiveness and completion rates

As PMMs, we focus on the key information the sales team needs to know. The sales enablement team then determines how to implement this training effectively.

Balancing training and selling time

One of the main challenges is striking a balance between necessary product training and maximizing selling time. 

The sales enablement team helps us understand other business activities that might conflict with training time, and how to make the most of the sales team’s limited training time. Our goal is to ensure the sales team is well-informed about new products without taking too much time away from their core selling activities. 

We want to prevent situations where salespeople feel unprepared for client questions about company announcements or product launches. So, we strive to ensure that even if they don’t have all the details, they at least know where to find the necessary information.

We’re also mindful of the risk of information overload from product marketing and other cross-functional teams. To address this, we carefully consider our email communications to avoid spamming the sales team, instead ensuring they can easily find the information they need when they need it.

This approach to sales enablement at LinkedIn aims to create a well-informed, efficient sales force while respecting the time constraints and pressures they face in their roles.

Partnering with sales enablement

If you’re lucky enough to have a sales enablement specialist, treat them as an extension of your team. Here’s how to maximize this partnership:

  1. Share product roadmap priorities with them.
  2. Understand their priorities and how they define success.
  3. Collaborate on creating sales enablement materials.

Depending on your team structure, you may share responsibilities for developing these materials. While PMMs typically own most of it, sales enablement might recommend “above the line” strategies. In such cases, it’s important to involve them in the content development process for training or sales assets.

The key is ensuring they understand enough about the product to be an effective partner. By educating them on product details, you empower them to create more impactful training programs and resources for the sales team.

Key takeaways

As product marketers, we’re constantly juggling multiple responsibilities and facing new challenges as the business landscape evolves. But by focusing on prioritization, building strong partnerships, and maintaining clear communication, we can navigate these challenges effectively. Here are the main points to remember:

🙅 Prioritize ruthlessly: Learn to say “no” to low-impact tasks and focus on initiatives that drive the most value.

🤝 Treat sales enablement as an extension of your team: Share priorities, collaborate on materials, and keep them in the loop.

👂Pay attention to the voice of the field: Your sales teams talk to customers more than anyone else – make sure you listen to their feedback.

🔄 Close the feedback loop: Regularly communicate with sales teams about how you’re addressing their input.

⚖️ Balance training and selling time: Ensure sales teams are well-informed without overwhelming them.

🔎 Embrace transparency: Involve stakeholders in decision-making processes to build trust and alignment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous Post

How to Identify and Mitigate Flaky Tests: Best Practices and Strategies.

Next Post

How to Create Shareable Social Media Content

Related Posts