This article was originally published as a presentation at the Product Marketing Summit in Austin, Texas, 2022. The talk was by Leigh Price, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Salesforce. Catch up on all presentations with our OnDemand feature.
There are three ideas I'd like to share with you today:
- What I've learned about capturing the attention of your sales team to enable them.
- How to engage your sales team effectively once you've got their attention.
- How to scale these efforts.
When you’re working in a big company like Salesforce, these things are essential.
Hopefully, you'll learn something new that you can take back to your company and start working on right away. But before we get down to it, let me tell you a little about who I am and what I do.
My background and role at Salesforce
I started my career as a talent manager for contestants on Big Brother Australia. That might sound glamorous, but what it actually boiled down to was accompanying them into dodgy nightclubs while they did celebrity appearances.
I was really bad at this job. I was supposed to be getting them product endorsements, but I think the best I got was some kind of deal for socks with zipper pockets. I quickly realized that maybe I should be following something I was a little bit more passionate about, so I started looking at more geeky techie things.
I ended up working for a telco in Australia with a lot of marketing technology, including Salesforce’s tech. I later started working for General Electric, also using Salesforce tech.
And at that point, I started working for a Salesforce consultancy. Through that role, I built relationships with Salesforce, and now I've ended up working in product marketing for them. I’m very happy to share that I'm much better at this job than I am at scoring dodgy deals for zipper socks.
Although a lot of people know Salesforce for our CRM product, there are a whole bunch of different products that we sell. Sales Cloud is the most well-known, but we have loads of other cloud products, and we recently acquired Slack, too.
I work in our Marketing Cloud business, which encompasses a bunch of different products, overseeing global product marketing for our Marketing Cloud Personalization product.
All the ideas I’m going to share with you today have been tested out on the audience of tens of thousands of people that I'm lucky enough to work with. Even though these practices were put into place at a big organization, a lot of them will be applicable to organizations of any size.
I took a look at LinkedIn the other week to see how many sales executives I'm working with globally at the moment. It's around 25,000, and there are a few different levels of people that I work with.
At the very top level, I've got account managers. They manage the relationship between our customers and all of those cloud products. When customers start asking about specific products, that's when we'll bring in our Marketing Cloud sales executives.
They've got expertise in all their Marketing Cloud products. If the conversation gets more technical, we start pulling in the specialists who work on individual products.
While this is all going on, we've also got our lovely business development reps. They're the people who answer the phone if you call us, and they're on live chat on our website. I need to make sure they're all enabled as well.
So, there are a couple of different layers that I need to keep informed about, which makes my job pretty interesting.
We all know how hard it can be to get the attention of salespeople. Here are some of the things that have worked for me.
We all know salespeople don't like to read. We can write lovely things for them, but if they have to scroll, they're not going to read it. Brevity is key to getting around this. Ideally, you want to deliver your message in two or three sentences, maybe with a GIF to preview what you're about to link to. That sounds silly, but it works.
If you use Slack in your organization, you might have experimented with Block Kit messages. I’ve found that although they look really nice, the way they format is quite long. Account executives tend to just glaze over and not really absorb what you're putting in there, so keeping these messages as brief as possible helps enormously.
Keeping it as informal and conversational as possible sounds really obvious, but if you're talking like a human being, your salespeople are much more likely to absorb what you're saying. I’m constantly battling with myself not to use jargon. It could be someone's first week at Salesforce, and I want to make sure they understand what I'm talking about.
When we're working with international markets, and I know this myself coming from another country, we have to be very aware of the local nuances. You may need to work with your international counterparts and do a bit of research here. I’ll give you some examples to get you started.
There's a strong preference in the German market to buy locally. They're very big about buying German, and that’s something we adjust for when we're talking to that market.
In Australia, where I'm from, and in New Zealand, we have a condition known as “tall poppy syndrome.” We really don't like it when people are very boastful or too big for their boots; culturally, it just doesn't sit well with us. We have to tone down our brasher marketing campaigns quite a lot when we're delivering to those markets.
Similarly, if you're using an American brand to position yourself globally, try and use brands that are recognized worldwide.
I know firsthand from when I was a customer of Salesforce that if I was seeing stories about American brands that I couldn’t relate to, I tended to ignore the messaging.
Something they don’t already know
I try to keep myself relevant by only sharing things that an account executive is not likely to know. Every time I pop my head up, I'm sharing something brand new that will get them closer to closing a deal.
That way, hopefully, they continue listening to me because they're always learning something useful, and I'm not sharing information that they don't find relevant.
The final part of capturing your salespeople’s attention is to incentivize them in a way that makes sense.
As an example, when I shifted the positioning for one of our products and we wanted to make sure that it was hitting home with our sales teams, we set up a contest internally to ask account executives to deliver a 15-minute video pitch to one of the accounts in their patch. As an incentive, we were giving away Apple Watches as prizes.
The big thing I learned is that account executives do not respond well to prizes. They're paid so much that they can buy this stuff anyway.
I've consistently found that power works better than prizes. We had much greater success by rewarding a virtual lunch with the highest executive we could access. Account executives love that, and the good news is that it costs way less.
Now that you’ve grabbed your sellers’ attention, how do you engage them effectively? The worst thing you can do is show up to a sales team and say “What do you need?” They will immediately send you into the depths of PowerPoint hell to churn out decks.
Show up with a point of view
Rather than asking sales teams what they want, I like to show up with a point of view. Do your research, back yourself up with data, and show the sales teams a plan for what you'd like to execute. This doesn't mean you're not being collaborative; you're just looking for input rather than actual instructions.
Give sales a path
With every piece of content you put out there, you should always be telling your sales teams, “Here's what you do next.” Something that often goes unappreciated is that sales teams have so many issues tugging at their attention all day, so you need to be respectful of their time and give them a very clear path to follow.
I like to recap the top five things that my sales teams need to know every week. If they’re only looking at one post, I’ll make sure they know what that post should be.
Here’s another tactic that works quite well if you use Google Slides at your organization: I have a single slide that I update every week with the top five bits of information. All the global teams can just drop this slide into their deck and it'll refresh with the latest content. That's been a really effective way to scale as well.
Cast sales in content
We all know that salespeople think that a PMM’s job is to take what product does, throw some tinsel on it, and make a PowerPoint deck. They want to hear from their peers much more than they want to hear from us, so anytime I'm creating enablement content, I try to make sure that salespeople are front and center.
Putting one or two videos in an enablement document works quite well, but you should always feature salespeople and sales leaders talking about real-life situations that they've encountered. That lands a lot better.
Run creative internal campaigns
Once a quarter, I like to place my big bets and run a campaign to get our sales teams kicked into gear.
You could think about running these big-bet efforts when you want to focus attention on a particular industry for the quarter, you’ve recently released some new features, or you want to target a new addressable market. There are all sorts of ways you could explore this.
Again, it's a matter of just popping up when you're relevant and then making a big deal about it. You can pull in your sales leadership, launch an event, and then build off that with messaging throughout the quarter. We're all in marketing because we like to have fun and be creative, and this is a great opportunity to get creative.
Here’s a nice career-limiting photo of me from one of these internal campaigns. I was being interviewed as an angry sentient spam email who was trying to get into someone's inbox.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to dress up as a can of Spam on a quarterly basis, but I would encourage you to lean into your own talents when you’re running these campaigns.
I tend to default to the weird, goofy, and hopefully funny, but I've seen colleagues who've launched campaigns through song. I've seen someone write a children's storybook and deliver information that way. Whatever your talent is, it's a good chance to show it off and have a bit of fun.
To sum up, what I find works well in engaging sales executives is leading with a creative approach that stands out, and always having a very clear path to follow.
Scaling sales enablement
Finally, let's talk about scale because if you can't scale, you will drive yourself insane. These are three key points I found in a fascinating Harvard Business Review article I read last year. Although the piece was about scaling revenue growth, I saw a lot of parallels with product marketing.
The first point that stood out is that there is a difference between growth and scale. Growth is when your revenue grows at the same level as your resources, but scaling is when your revenue grows at a far greater rate than the cost of those resources.
Building the capacity to scale is vital for product marketers. You need to make sure that you've got the ability to address threats and challenges, and you've got that wriggle room to scale as well.
There's a really interesting number in this article: $100 million. If your business is making $100 million in revenue and you're still not scaling, you’ve passed the point of no return. You will never scale.
What’s worse, if you're not scaling at that point, you're probably operating like a $30 million business rather than a $100 million dollar one. It's really important to think about this early on and plan how you’re going to scale.
The final point that grabbed my attention is that, to a lot of business owners, the idea of standardizing things can be quite scary. I think that’s true of product marketers as well; we don't want to lose that creative touch.
However, I've found that standardizing processes gives you breathing room to focus on the fun and creative things that you want to do, rather than constantly reinventing the wheel.
Now let’s take a look at what I’ve learned at Salesforce about scaling sales enablement.
It’s not one size fits all
The first lesson is a simple one: if everybody’s your customer, then nobody's your customer. You need to be honest with yourself and your sales team about where you're not a good fit.
Choose your big bets
I already mentioned how I like to run one big bet each quarter. These are key to scaling. If you're making a big enough noise about these big bets, it reverberates throughout the organization. You may want to make your launch deck repeatable too, so other sales leaders can run it on your behalf.
Empower your sales execs to scale
Empowering my sales executives to scale with me is the only thing that has kept me sane at Salesforce. If you're creating slide decks make sure that your account executives can personalize them. Maybe you've got a customer journey slide – make sure they can input their customer's details or the industry details wherever possible.
I've also had a lot of success with something that I call an ‘event in a box’. This is basically a Lego kit of slides that anyone in Salesforce can use to run a presentation about a product.
Whether you're running a one-on-one session with a customer, or even a keynote, all the content is there. You can empower everyone in your sales org to take advantage of that content for webinars as well.
Any webinar I run featuring customers also gets built into this huge library, so anyone in the sales org can access all these great examples of what our most successful customers are doing with our products. I've noticed a lot more taps on the shoulder to run events since we launched this kit.
Make everyone’s pipe look the same
Your sales leaders will love you if you make everyone's pipe consistent. The key to doing this is to tie it into those big bets that I was talking about.
The thing that your product team might like about this approach is that it involves going after the not-so-sexy functionality and features, and leaning into the first thing that customers are looking to do with your product. You want to make that a part of your big bet and back yourself up with data.
If you can drive consistency like this, it's really good for your reputation. It builds up a lot of respect with sales as well.
Everyone old is new again
I think we all know there are a lot of people changing jobs at the moment. So, in my book, there is nothing wrong with repeating content that you put out a year ago because odds are, a lot of new people have come into your organization since then. It’s fine to repeat information if you're pretty sure that it's new to a lot of people.
Make it easy to find
Of course, none of this really matters because a salesperson is just going to look for this information 30 minutes before they jump on a phone call anyway. That’s why you need to make it easy to find. I’ve found that the key is to keep repeating, “To find anything, go here.”
Now, you might be slightly hamstrung by an internal tool. If that's the case try experimenting with Slack bots. I’ve programmed a bot to message people to say “Were you looking for this?” and direct them to the relevant content when they type in certain key phrases. That's helping me scale a little bit as well.
Keep it simple
Finally, have you noticed that over the last decade we've gone from playing very simple board games to insanely complicated European board games? You have to read the instructions for half an hour, and then halfway through the game, you realize that someone actually won three turns ago.
I find that we often want to play these crazy European board games with customers too, and they just want to play checkers. Sometimes people just want to know about the not-so-sexy use cases from the not-so-sexy brands – they probably make up the majority of the deals your team is working on.
I'm a big fan of enabling sales teams to go after these unglamorous use cases. Remember: customers are not always looking for huge transformative stories; they may just want to get a job done.
If you make sure your content addresses the transformational aspects as well as the simpler aspects of your product, you've got content for every type of conversation.
- To capture sales teams’ attention, keep it brief and relevant, and stick to sharing brand new ideas.
- To engage sales teams effectively, keep it creative and always have a clear path to follow.
- When you're scaling, carefully pick your focus areas and empower your teams to scale along with you.
That's how we like to treat our sales teams like our best customers here at Salesforce.