Converting a prospect into a customer isn’t straightforward. If you talk to any product manager, they’ll tell you that early adopters are pivotal to future product development. This is true, but not in the way you may think.

Early adopters are assumed to be end-users of the product, but in reality, an early adopter is anyone who you can get to buy into your product, and as such, the first sale happens well before you hit the market.

The real first? It’s the one you make to the sales team. Without their buy-in, your product will die and feedback-less, no matter how hard you push it.

Sales training is one of the most nerve-wracking but rewarding things you can do as a product marketing professional. It’s your chance to set the product and product manager up for success, push positioning to drive future development in the direction you think it should go, and of course, directly impact revenue potential.

But given agile development cycles and tech debt realities, it’s also a fine line. Nothing kills a product release faster than over education, and nothing kills an external client sale faster than under education. There’s a line with every release and finding it isn’t always easy. Fortunately, there are some rules that you can follow to ensure your first sale is as successful as it can be.

In this article, I’ll be covering:

Tips for hosting live demos

Powerpoint is a great tool for getting your point across, but the point isn’t the same as the product (unless you work for Microsoft).

As a product marketer, you should be able to demonstrate the product in detail, and you need to push your sales team to do the same. The best way to do this is by directly prompting it, you can and should insert “live demo” transition slides into sales narratives.

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As you walk through the product, hit on the main points you want the sales team to understand, and also tell them where it’s easy to get tripped up. Got a sales team with varying levels of experience? Great, so does everyone.

Raise the bar, don’t go to the lowest common denominator. Encourage them to pitch it to each other, continuously, not just during the initial product training. This way they can share what resonated in the room with their unique clients, and get stronger, collectively.

How to communicate with empathy and understanding

The universal truth is that most salespeople are stressed. In many cases, the majority burden of revenue falls squarely on their shoulders. The expectation for a seller is that they know their clients front to back, but is that the reality? Not really. It’s your job to understand this and empathize with it.

When you’re explaining positioning, it’s not enough to explain how it maps to their clients, you also need to explain how it stands up against the competitors their clients are also getting pitched by. When you walk through a product’s value proposition - don’t just read it, explain it.

Explain how the use of this word is a hit on this competitor, or how you avoided this phrase because it’s overplayed. Doing so does two things. First, reading to someone doesn’t drive any mental retention. Second, explaining ‘the why’ instills confidence in the team that this message is the best possible one because you’ve thought through all the ways it could fail.

Don’t sleep on discovery

Sellers want to have all the answers, and so that’s where the focus lands when it comes to training them, but the best sellers out there aren’t the ones who answer questions, they’re the ones to ask them.

Providing a robust list of client discovery questions to them upfront allows them to have a two-way dialogue with their client, without going off the rails.

Listening is critical, and the answers their clients provide will make it a million times easier to zero in on which product proof points to hit home, with the goal of getting to no, or in a perfect world, yes, even faster.

Your customers are talking, but are you listening?
The most effective PMMs know their customers inside out. Becoming the ‘voice of the customer’ means uncovering customer pain, digging deep into buyer personas and creating messaging and positioning that resonates.

But discovery questions also have an added benefit - the questions your sales team asks their client will ultimately drive the client response. The quickest and easiest way to impact the product roadmap? Drive a client to share the same piece of feedback you gave during GTM.

How to position product features effectively

“Oh, nice! The button is green,” said no one ever. The job of a product marketer isn’t to dive into product features, it’s to explain the value behind them. A green button has no value on its own, but if you explain why it’s important that it’s green (the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy) now the sales team is seeing the value behind something benign.

This small adjustment will translate into how they pitch the product, even if you don’t write this exact language into their talk track or materials.

How to demonstrate product value

As a former salesperson myself, I can’t tell you how many sales training sessions I’ve sat through where I’m asked to do something (likely another Salesforce update) and I’m told why I need to do it, but not why it matters to me.

Falling back on the old adage of “because there’s money to be made” is lazy. Instead, dig into the problems their clients face, explain their pain, and how your solution solves it. Make them realize they have the opportunity to be their client’s savor (or time-saver, same difference).

Better yet? Get personal. Explain to them the exact benefits of selling the solution you’re pitching to them. Try things like “twenty of the twenty-five alpha clients we turned this product on haven't turned it off in six months,” or “if you sell just two of these deals, the majority of you will be eighty-percent to goal for the quarter.”

Simply said? Put on your sales strategy hat and get down into the weeds with them.

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Encourage authenticity

If you want to promote an authentic work culture, then you need to be authentic yourself.

Pitching the new sales narrative to the sales organization? By all means, use the talk track, but go off script here and there. Tell jokes, insert personal anecdotes, explain the why behind the flow, give them pointers on the best place to ask questions and the places where they should expect to get them.

In short: the more human and likable you are, the more your sales team will buy into what you’re saying; authenticity and confidence are contagious.

How to summarize key takeaways

Admit it, you’re distracted. Emails are flying around, Slack pings constantly going off, and constantly expanding to-dos both at home and at work. This is your reality. Now, why do you think your sales team is any different? They’re not. So when you set up an hour-long training, don’t expect them to be hanging on your every word.

Instead, throw in a 411 slide - a slide that says: if you take nothing else away from this presentation - take away this. Struggling to hit on all the product points in one slide? Think about your audience - it’s sales - what do they care about? Positioning, proof points, pricing, and pitfalls. Everything else is just gravy.

Tips for closing the deal

Now, I could wax poetic about the value of clear market segmentation, buyer personas, and how to create solid sales to product feedback loops, but at the end of the day, your sales team wants one thing: the sale.

There are a million and one things you could do to support them on their journey to a goal: but don’t. I know it sounds slightly counterintuitive but the more you flood your team with positioning, documentation, materials, education, segmentation, the harder and harder it seems to close the deal. They’re going to look at the laundry list of things and go “woof, this seems complicated…” and that is the last thing you want.

Ask yourself one simple question when you’re setting up a training: what would I need if I was going to pitch this solo? And then do only those things. Don’t trust your instincts yet? That’s okay - start by starting - and make friends with some smart sellers who you can lean on to gut check you along the way.

Instead of doing it all, look at your product’s market maturity and use that to dictate which tactics make the most sense. A mature product solution that has been in the market for years in various forms across multiple competitors? Most likely doesn’t need a 101 narrative or super detailed buyer personas, what you need is a “why us vs. them” pitch.

A bleeding-edge innovation that hasn’t even scratched the surface of entry? Prioritize creating detailed discovery questions over-designed marketing materials, and let those feedback loops define your product value propositions and buyer personas. You don’t have to do it all, and you shouldn’t. Provide appropriate sales enablement tools your team needs to get out there, and then let them do what they do best: sell.

The most effective sales assets and the tools to optimize them
According to the findings in our 2020 Sales Enablement Landscape report, 56.3% of product marketers reported that sales enablement was solely owned by marketing. However, 93.7% of product marketers were responsible for creating the sales assets at their company.

Lastly, I said up front that these were rules, but the reality is, they’re more like guidelines. Does my team perfectly follow this framework for every product release? No. Do we aspire to? Absolutely.

Just the other day I was talking to a seller about retiring a resource we had enabled our sales organization with for years. It had grown too unwieldy, and my gut instinct was to cut the cord. Her response was lightning quick, “Kill it, and don’t worry about the backlash. The only constant in this crazy industry is change.” In other words, your products will evolve, and so will your approach, and that’s exactly right.