My name's Elay Cohen and I'm the CEO and Co-Founder of SalesHood. I'm so passionate about sales enablement and I'm very passionate about the relationship between product marketing and sales enablement.
In this article, I’ll cover the must-have product marketing playbook for sales enablement, reflecting on my two-plus decades of experience in sales enablement, product management, and product marketing.
I’ll be covering:
- What great sales enablement looks like
- The five key pillars of a collaborative and empathetic mindset
- Curiosity about the sales process
- A proven checklist for sales plays, alignment, and
- Metrics that matter.
The sales enablement category is growing
You can see here in 2005 on Google Trends, that it was the first time people started searching it.
Now we've got over 11,000 sales enablement professionals. But what I'm talking about today is how important it is for product marketing to own key parts of sales enablement.
This article is the must-have product marketing playbook for sales enablement. I want to reflect on my two-plus decades of experience in sales enablement, product management, and product marketing and come up with a playbook that I believe will be useful to each and every one of you.
I'm going to talk about each one of these areas:
- How to be more empathetic and how to have a mindset that's truly sales-focused as a product marketer.
- Why it's so important to be curious and to be a student of your sales process.
- What does a checklist look like that should be used to roll out sales plays?
- Why's it so important to keep everyone aligned and on message?
- How do metrics play into here and what are the metrics that matter the most?
These are the five areas I believe every product marketer should be mastering so they can be great at sales enablement- just like they're great at product marketing.
I like to go deep. So, I'm going to share templates, tools, best practices, and stories. I want to share for a lot of you in product marketing and in marketing leadership positions, as you may not know what great sales enablement looks like.
I've been fortunate and had the luck of working at some of the most hyper-growth companies on the planet. I worked at salesforce.com for many years, led sales enablement there, and we got to work closely with Marc Benioff.
What great sales enablement looks like
I've been working with some of the most amazing companies on the planet and great sales enablement doesn't happen by accident. It's intentional, purpose-driven, impactful, and it follows a process. This process is something that marketers need to subscribe to.
I want to start with this and highlight that, as you think about your go-to-market, (whether you're rolling out a new product, a campaign, a new product release, a new pitch, whatever you're rolling out as a product marketer), you should have this process in your minds going forward.
Because up until now, when most product marketers roll out new programs, they’ll focus on the content. We know 65-70% of the content we create for sales teams doesn't really get used, they don't get consumed.
Frankly, sales enablement can live either in product marketing or it can live in sales ops. But as product marketers, when you're rolling out programs, here's how you should be thinking about sales enablement:
- You've got to publish your content,
- You've got to publish your programs,
- You've got to publish your plays.
Check. Most people stop there.
Then you've got to think about teaching your teams, how do you teach them?
They've got to learn by doing, we want them to practice. You want them to practice the pitch, the demo, we want them to practice, practice, practice. We want them to show you- and not tell you- that they know how amazing your great programs and amazing content are.
Then we want to formally assess them. We want them to stand and deliver presentations, complete assessments, and get certified.
Then we want to see how they apply your great content to their conversations, to their deals. And see that in real-time.
We want to provide reinforcement with managers providing coaching.
Sell & close
We want to provide just-in-time tools in context.
Then, you want to measure the outcomes and start correlating all this great activity so that way, you know from a win-loss perspective what's working, and what's not.
Finally, you want to continue to iterate and do this over and over. Hopefully, you appreciate that to do great sales enablement, you've got to have a process, have your teams aligned, and you really need to subscribe to the idea that it's more than just publishing.
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Have a collaborative and empathetic mindset
As I go through those five elements of the playbook, I'm starting first with the mindset. As product marketers, it needs to be collaborative and empathetic.
I was born in sales, and my father taught me how to sell from a very young age, and I was a product manager that was sales-focused. That's what drove me into sales enablement. But that's not natural for every product marketer.
You've got to lean in, talk to salespeople, listen to them, understand what's working, what's not working, sit in on their calls, listen to their calls, etc.
Also, you've got to be unafraid to join the frontline manager meetings, raise your hand, send them a note, join them, listen to them, figure out what's going on. You'll learn so much by just talking.
We want you to crowdsource tools. It's not just about the great tools you can build because, yeah, you can build great content, but it's got to work.
I actually love content that salespeople build and then I can bring it in, make it look a little prettier, and then roll it out to the masses and say this was a piece of content that was used by our top performer and now we're making it available to everyone. That's how we share best practices and crowdsource. That's what being a collaborative product marketing leader who embraces sales enablement is.
Ultimately, I want every one of the salespeople that you're enabling to call you a true friend of sales. That was something someone called me way back when and it stuck with me.
This is just the starting point, you've got to have the right mindset and it's got to be collaborative, and it's got to be empathetic.
Be curious and study your sales process
The second is, you've got to become a furious student of the sales process. I want you to be uber curious and go through all the training, coaching, and onboarding- just like your sales teams do.
That way, you can really understand the details of the sales process and also the customer success process. You can see here we've got a process around prospecting, diagnosing, and prescribing - it's just the standard sales process, but how do you become a student? And how do you become more curious?
As a product marketer, you should be looking at emails, lead records in Salesforce or Microsoft, pipeline data, outreach cadences, and outreach that's happening in the prospecting funnel.
You've got to dig into it. Go look for it, ask for it, ask to see the emails, get access to the systems.
I want you to listen to calls, join calls, make sure you've got a login to your sales systems and go look at the data, create reports, try and figure out, as deals are getting created, why are they getting stuck in the stages?
Look at the answers, ask questions, and then do the training just like the skills training, just like the reps would. It will only help you be a better product marketer and it will only help you enable your teams better.
We want you to understand the prescribing stages so look at the demos, read the proposals, talk to customers, find out why they're buying, find out why they're not buying. These are ways that you can become more curious.
Then we want you to assess win-loss, interview reps that have won deals, also sellers that have not been so fortunate, and lost deals, because I love learning from losses.
Actually, sometimes I don't call them losses, I call them ‘win backs’. Because we can win them back. And then we want you to share successes. Really want you to become super curious about the sales process and you've got to be a student of it, you've got to learn it, learn it, learn it.
This sales process is going to guide you as I continue through this article because the third piece is, and I get asked this all the time, what should be included in a play?
Use a proven checklist to roll out sales plays
When we roll out a new product, campaign, program, or pitch what should be included? I sat back, I thought about it, and here are the 10 must-have items that are in a sales play checklist:
All of this is in SalesHood, it’s all baked into our platform. Our customers are using this checklist to roll up programs. To give you a glimpse you want to:
- Be really clear around buyer personas,
- You want to have micro pitches,
- It's up to you to write the emails and the cadences,
- It's up to you to write down some of the discovery questions around your products, around your buyer personas.
- Create meeting guides - here's how meetings should flow, meeting agenda templates by sales stage.
- Customer stories, ROI stories,
- Value calculators,
- Proposal templates, and
The items in bold I'm going to go through in a little bit more specificity. But when you're rolling up programs you should be following and including these 10 items in every single program and play you're rolling out for any new product launch or any release update. It’s so critical.
I can promise you if you follow this, and you follow the mindset that I shared your sellers, partners, and revenue-facing employees will love you. They’ll love the work that you deliver and they'll highly regard the value you're contributing and helping them.
You're going to help them close more deals because that's what this is about. Let me walk you through a few of these.
Strategize ideal customer profiles
Here's a template for a strategic ideal customer profile. This is like a buyer persona.
So when you're thinking about your buyers, you want to provide detail. This can be delivered in a slide, doc, video, and testimonials.
Key points to capture
But what you need to capture are these key points; the demographics, the psychographics, and why they buy. Also, answer questions from the current situation like, what’s their world? What's their universe like now?
I want you to capture the compelling events, what are those trigger events that are going to help them that need to be solved?
Track the metrics and KPIs that are important to the ideal customer buyers. Then you've got to provide detail around ideal customer size, geography and industry as well. I love this because it provides a framework for the most important items and we tend to not do this enough. We don't put enough focus on providing this level of detail and training to our sellers.
This is, I think, one of the most important items in the checklist and something hopefully you all start building more consistently.
Framework for high impact customer reference stories
A second item is customer reference stories. I think most companies do a decent job getting that one or two-minute video on the website that provides a case study.
But what I'm pressing upon here is, it's important we provide our sellers with the story but written up in a way that they can retell it in two minutes or less. Here's a framework.
Lead with impact
When we teach our sellers how to tell and retell our success stories, I encourage them to lead with impact. Don't start with "Oh, woe is me, the world is all messed up, and here are the business pains".
No, start with, "Hey, this company was able to boost productivity by 100x in under six months, this company was able to generate 10s of millions of dollars." Get them excited, get the buyers to lean in, coach your sales and customer-facing teams to be better at leading with the headline, and lead with the impact.
Give the context
Then you get into the details. You talk about the context, the current situation. Share the journey. Then you share the steps.
Quantify the benefits
You punctuate it with the quantification of the benefits.
Close with a question
Then, close with a question, what would happen to your business if you achieve the same outcomes?
Bam, who doesn't want that? This item’s one of 10 in the checklist that’d be part of the sales enablement playbook for product marketers, writing out the stories, thinking about this, and then making them available and getting your teams to practice them.
That's enablement. That's what we need to do a better job doing. I want you all to uplevel your teams, and uplevel how you're enabling your teams as well.
Top sales tool: competitor battle cards
Another top sales tool that comes up a lot, I get asked a ton, "Hey, do you have a template for a battle card?" There are a lot of templates out there, and I'm sharing this simplified version for a reason - it needs to be simple.
When we have competitors, you can have hordes and hordes of material, but you've also got to have a summary. It's got to be a simple battle card that looks at two dimensions: strengths and weaknesses.
Because if a competitor has a strength, it's okay they have a strength, no problem. Don't shy away from it, just enable your teams to have a clear idea of how they're going to overcome the strengths.
The way they overcome it is by being consultative value-based sellers, where they really understand the key pains and the key problems their customers are facing. They can help the customer decipher if that strength’s important to them or not.
So it's okay that there are strengths... but is it important to the buyer at this exact moment in time? I don't know but that's a conversation.
The same with weaknesses, when they have weaknesses they have them. I'm not encouraging you to bash, what I'm encouraging you to do is plant traps and ask questions.
- How important is it for you to have ABC?
- How important is it for you to have a mobile system that is 100% native?
- How important is it for you to have an all-in-one sales enablement platform?
Those are questions that you can ask a buyer and it's up to you as a product marketer to detail the strengths and weaknesses. Get them to practice, to learn, to stand, and deliver the presentations. Get the managers to do reinforcement coaching, make these battle cards be available just in time in Salesforce, and in Microsoft.
That's how all these tools start coming together, which is amazing.
Example: Callie Apt
We've got a ton of great customers. I love Callie Apt’s amazing story on how they were able to roll out sales plays last summer. Industry-specific, persona-based during the pandemic using SalesHood.
They followed our checklist and they rolled it out in a collaborative, asynchronous way where their teams were able to go through it virtually and they were able to generate the highest amount of pipeline and have the best win rates in demo history. It's super exciting.
Just in time and in-context sales process aids
The last piece on the third pillar of the playbook, which is all about sales plays and rolling them out in a collaborative way is to make sure the checklist of materials shows up just in time in context, inside of your sales process wherever your sales system is.
You can see here there's a screenshot of Salesforce, this just in time context guided selling app is powered by SalesHood and it can be fully integrated with Box or Dropbox or Drive or SharePoint, all that goodness. But it shows up just in time.
And whatever system you're using, I want you to make sure those files and those assets and those videos you're creating are being tagged appropriately and they're showing up exactly when your sales team needs them.
Because that's when they need it most, when they're just about to jump on a call, they're on a call, they’re doing a follow-up recap, they've flipped the stage, they've identified a new competitor, or something has changed.
You've got to make sure you are following your salespeople around with those tools, with those assets, and with all the training and coaching. It's up to you to create it and then it's up to you to work with sales ops and sales enablement to make sure those items are following up.
Another great customer is PowerSchool. Carol Sustala did an amazing talk that you can find on her YouTube channel. They’ve been able to see a huge increase in their ramp time, their win rates, and in all of their metrics.
Why? Because they're spoon-feeding the right content in the right context at the right time to help their sellers build pipelines faster and close deals faster. Amazing stories. I'm all about the checklist.
Get and keep everyone aligned and on message
The fourth playbook pillar here’s all about messaging alignment. So critical. Think about it, we're product marketers, we're investing so much time creating pitch decks and positioning and branding.
We're focusing on the right messaging, and we're doing them industry-specific, persona-based. Then we create these amazing decks and guess what? We just drop them off and we hope and expect that our teams will learn them and know them.
We've got to get them to be conversationally competent.
Get your teams conversationally competent
We have a proven 10-step process where it starts with launching a new pitch, training your team, practicing and recording the pitch, getting the managers to do peer reviews.
Hopefully, you're walking away with an appreciation for how hard enablement is, but how much of an active participant the product marketing role and all product marketers are in helping to drive this because we need your content.
And, you've got to understand how sales teams want to consume the content, where they consume it, when they consume it, how they're going to learn it, and where they're gonna get feedback from their teams and from their managers.
Once you understand that process, then you can lean into it and really build the right kind of content. Because building the right kind of content is what is going to get salespeople to close more deals faster and really appreciate you and your team and the product marketing organization for all the greatness you deliver.
Enable your teams with micro-pitches
What I've done here is create a slide that talks about micro pitches. A lot of folks in product marketing will create a 10/20/30 deck, beautiful but you've got to break it up into small pieces. You've got to map those small pieces directly to the stages in the sales process.
Here are some examples:
- A 60-second elevator pitch,
- Two-minute customer reference story,
- Six to eight-minute customized proposal presentation,
- Six to eight-minute demo walkthrough,
- Three to five minutes on each one of the key-value differentiators,
- Three minutes on objection handling,
- Five minutes on a mutual success plan, and
- Five minutes on a value-based business case.
What would happen to your teams if you re-architected your content, made it available in a bite-sized form like this, and then had your teams become conversationally competent by practicing, getting feedback, standing and delivering, and being measured on their ability to create very focused storylines around each one of these questions?
Because guess what, these are real questions that are going to happen in real deals. They're not always going to be able to just go "Oh, let me go through the 30 slide deck" it ain't gonna work that way. Customers are gonna say:
- So why are you different? or
- Why are you more expensive? or
- What does success look like?
And we have to be ready when those questions come in. The only way we're going to be ready is if we practice them and the only way we can practice them is if we get the content organized, created, and shared with us in a way.
Guess whose responsibility that is? Product marketing. Hopefully, you're finding this useful, the way we're framing up the importance of product marketing in the sales enablement function, and most importantly, how product marketers are able to really deliver value to sales organizations.
Corporate pitch practice boosts sales productivity & win rates
Here's another example. I did take the corporate pitch, you can see they gave us an example of what it would look like to practice, stand and deliver, get feedback, and have leaderboards.
I love that, that's amazing.
The best practice I want to share with you here is it's all powered by SalesHood. The one thing I want to share with you here is when you're rolling out corporate pitch slides, you've got to do the micro pitches, you've got to break it up into small pieces.
But here's a little secret: roll out your corporate pitch slides, record them, do an amazing talk over it. Then do a behind the slides, explain the slides, the transitions, the questions to ask on the slides, explain the ‘why’ of the slides.
Then, get a rep/seller to do a real walkthrough of the slides and then do a short and a long version. See how much enablement is happening?
It's not enough to just create the three slides and write out a script that's not going to cut it. Then we've got to get our teams to stand and deliver. They've got to practice. They've got to practice through a video-based roleplay system, with their peers, in one on one mentoring, with their managers, in team meetings... the more practice the better.
You've got to create scorecards so that they understand what's important to you around the key messages, and you want to have peer reviews and manager coaching. If anyone’s interested in using SalesHood for pitch practice, and to roll out your next pitch challenge with your teams, you can easily find a trial request form - we'd love to have you.
Measure the metrics that matter most to revenue leaders
The fifth area in the playbook’s all about measuring the metrics that matter the most. It's not about your content and it's not about who looked at your videos, or who's downloaded your content.
It's about seller ramp time, it's about win rates, it's about quota attainment, it's about leading indicators, and it's about helping to move the revenue needle.
The unfortunate reality
The reality is most sellers are not hitting quota. Think about all the systems, all the tools, and something's off. 50% of revenue is coming from 20% of our sellers, this is from CSO Insights.
Depending on where you are in the world, and what company you're in, 30 to 50% of the folks around the world are hitting quota. We've got way too many people that aren't hitting the numbers.
What most enablement professionals measure today and why
The problem is most enablement professionals and most folks are measuring and looking at the wrong kind of data. They're looking at completion data, did they do all the training? Okay, that's nice. Did they watch all the videos? Okay, that's nice, too. Did they get that certification? Great.
These are important.
Measure what matters most
But what's more important- and this is a lesson for everyone- I want to look at activity metrics, conversion metrics, outcome metrics. I want to look at calls made, emails sent, meetings held, and opportunities created.
So when I'm rolling out new products, new programs, or new plays, as product marketers, you should come to the table asking for this information.
- Can we measure calls made?
- Can we look at these leading indicators?
Because that'll give you an indication of whether your content and programs are actually making a difference. I don't want you to wait till the end of the year to look at the P&L and to look at the outcomes. I want you to know in real-time. This is so critical.
Product marketers are data-driven and so you can really come to the table and help the sales enablement teams and help an organization make better use of your content and tie it better to some of these leading indicators in a much more succinct manner.
Look for front of the funnel activities to measure
I want you to look for front-of-the-funnel activities. This is why I told you at the beginning that you've got to become a student of the sales process. You've got to master the sales process, and you've got to be so curious about it.
If you're doing training around prospecting, what are some of the leading indicators? Calls, emails, meetings.
If you're doing some training, and you're doing some enablement around discovery, I want you to actually look at discovery calls and meeting recaps and call recording.
You've got to start mapping the leading indicators to the stages in the sales process, and you've got to build content that's going to feed into that. That's the essence of how you can be a more effective product marketer who's embracing sales enablement and following our playbook.