Tell me if this sounds familiar…
Until you present it to the sales team.
At best, they’re skeptical about what you’re launching. Worst case scenario, they’re actively, publicly criticizing your new launch in front of the entire sales team.
And the worst part? They probably made some good points.
But guess what? This could have been avoided with just a bit of planning.
Aligning with sales leaders isn’t enough
Any PMM worth their salt aligns with sales leaders during major initiatives.
That includes looping them into kick-off meetings and regular check-in calls. Plus, you collaborate with them to determine packaging and pricing, develop sales collateral, train the sales team, and more.
So, why isn’t this enough?
By only including sales leaders, you’re getting a distorted view of reality – it’s like playing a game of telephone.
You haven’t included individual contributors in the process, which means…
- You didn’t get their insights, and
- They don’t trust you to know what they’re going to experience when the rubber hits the road.
The solution: A Sales Advisory Council
A Sales Advisory Council (SAC) is a group of sales team members that provide feedback on packaging, pricing, selling rules, sales collateral, etc.
The goal of a SAC is to ensure that individual contributors in sales have a voice in key initiatives – from product launches, to revamped positioning, to new marketing collateral.
Imagine launching a new product knowing that there are influential account executives, account managers, and business development reps vouching for and promoting your new product launch. That would feel fantastic, right?
Plus, you’ll have a better product with enhanced positioning and pricing – and a sales org that’s eager and enabled to sell it. The SAC will make you, your team, and your outputs better and it’ll make your sales team happier because it will be easier to sell.
Let the members select themselves
For the SAC to be successful, sales reps can’t be forced to join; they must opt in voluntarily.
Your job is to share your vision for what this SAC will be and how it will make everyone’s lives better – hopefully, you sell it well enough that your sales reps are eager to join.
I don’t believe in half-baked solutions, so I’m sharing the Sales Advisory Council deck I’ve used to get sales orgs’ buy-in.
Include the right people
Once you get the sales org’s buy-in, make sure to have the right teams represented based on how your sales org is run.
You’ll typically want a few business development reps, account executives, and account managers. If your company has partnerships and success managers within sales, it’s always a good idea to include them too.
You’ll want to keep the group small, aiming for between one and three representatives from each group, for a total of no more than ten. That’ll make the conversations more manageable.
To get diverse opinions, I recommend setting up a maximum term for membership, so new, fresh voices are added to the council periodically. I’ve found six months to be a good rule of thumb.
Consulting the SAC
Every company and PMM team is different, but here are four stages where you’ll want to collaborate with your SAC:
- Ideation stage: Share general feedback on a high-level concept
Example: We’re thinking about offering professional services as a monthly subscription. It would include X, Y, and Z. Thoughts?
- Testing stage: Provide input on packaging, pricing, and selling rules
Example: The proposal is to offer two tiers of professional services for $XX and $XXX per month. They can be discounted by 10%. What do you think?
- Pre-launch stage: Make requests and provide feedback on proposed sales collateral
Example: The plan is to create three email templates and two PowerPoint slides focusing on X, Y, and Z. Would that help you sell this new product, or is there different collateral you would prefer?
- Post-launch stage: Periodically asking sales what they’re hearing from prospects and customers after the launch.
Example: Prospects are saying it’s a bit too expensive, but they love it! Customers can’t get enough of it and don’t mind the price.
Five steps to get your Sales Advisory Council off the ground
So, we’ve established what a Sales Advisory Council does and how it will benefit your company. Now let’s dive into how to get it up and running as smoothly as possible.
Step one: Meet with sales leadership and explain your goal
Explain your vision with passion. Reassure them that PMM will continue working directly with sales leadership; this is simply an expansion of that partnership to include individual contributors. Key callouts to include:
- The SAC will make sales leadership’s jobs easier: Their teams will be more receptive to new initiatives because they’ll be part of shaping them from the get-go.
- The SAC will increase sales: Sales reps will have influence earlier in the go-to-market motion. That means positioning and pricing they stand behind and sales collateral that actually helps them sell.
- Ask if they have any reservations or if they will support you: You must get sales leaders on board and nip any doubt in the bud for the SAC to succeed.
Step two: Give leadership a heads-up
Once sales leadership is bought in, make sure you or your manager let the company leadership know. You’ll want to get alignment right out of the gate to avoid any unwelcome surprises later down the line.
Step three: Present your shining vision for the Sales Advisory Council to sales
Join a standing meeting that includes the entire sales organization and use the sales advisory council deck to present it to them. A few tips:
- Go for the layup, not the hook shot: To maximize attention and receptiveness, ask a key sales leader – ideally the CRO or the VP of sales – to introduce you and reinforce what you’re saying.
- Set the scope: Define the bounds and scope of the SAC clearly to keep everyone on the same page and eliminate confusion. That includes explicitly stating what the SAC does not do. I typically include that the SAC does not:
- Determine what initiatives the PMM team works on
- Serve as product marketing’s “official spokesperson” to the rest of the company,
- Use SAC time to propose new product ideas.
- Pass to the right team member: Ask sales leaders to encourage the most influential reps to apply – it’s important to have them on board so they can motivate the sales org.
- Set a deadline: Ask reps to let their sales leaders know if they’re interested in joining by a specific date. If there are more volunteers than spots, ask the relevant sales leaders to choose.
Step four: Announce the Sales Advisory Council
The formation of the Sales Advisory Council is exciting – announce it to the rest of the company during a company meeting or the next sales meeting and via internal Slack or Teams channels. Include a quick blurb about what it is and tag the folks that are members.
Step five: Set up an initial kick-off meeting
For the first meeting, I like to reintroduce what the SAC is and does, introduce PMM team members, have the members introduce themselves, and have a short brainstorming session about an easy topic to get momentum going.
And that’s it! You’re off to the races. You and your team can meet with the SAC as needed for key initiatives.
Try to meet with the SAC a minimum of once every six weeks to keep a good cadence and to facilitate team cohesion.
Remember to switch out members every six months, or as often as needed for fresh perspectives