There’s a challenging area between product marketing and sales enablement and in this article, I want to go through some processes aimed at bridging that gap.
My name's Brenda Harris and I work at Oracle. I'm really excited about writing this article and talking about sales enablement - something that I'm passionate about.
What I want to talk about is that there's really a difficult place between product marketing and sales enablement. I used to do product marketing with Oracle as well so I've spent years doing that, and then I was fortunate to come over to sales enablement, so I have both sides of it. But we realized what a real issue that was.
I want to step back a little bit and talk about what sales enablement is because, in a lot of different companies, it means various different things.
Ultimately, it still comes down to enabling our salespeople to sell better, but the functions within organizations are very different. And some of the differences of the type of content that come out of sales enablement versus what's coming out of product marketing and even product development or product management - everybody's creating content, what are those differences or how do we bring them all together?
Understanding what your sales teams need - really keeping those people in the loop, what do they need? Not just let's dictate to them what we're going to teach them.
Some techniques for actually delivering content. Some figures suggest you're only going out to do in-person training 15% of the time or something close to that, well, we're doing the same thing.
We're trying to do everything on demand so that they have it at their fingertips, they can train when they need to, when they want to, and they have the time to.
What is sales enablement?
A brief history
Sales enablement has always been around even when there was no record of actual B2B sales and transactions because if there's a business needing to sell to another business, there's sales enablement going on.
Written sales advice: the 30s
In the 30s, it was all written, if any of you have heard of the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People", that book was written in the 1930s and it's still being sold today.
People are still reading it because it's really one of those things, especially back in that time, that was a sales tool for them. That was really for them to understand how to engage with my customers better and build better relationships.
The traveling salesman: the 40-60s
Then we move on to the 1940s through to the 60s where we have the traveling salesman and we sometimes think about selling encyclopedias, going door to door selling vacuum cleaners, and things like that.
But there's also the salespeople that go visit other companies and so they're on the road all the time, and so they have very little technology, they have a landline that they can call and make phone calls with but that's pretty much it.
Sales methodology: the 80s
Then we move into the 80s, where we start to come up with methodologies, I think the strategic selling was the first sales methodology that was ever created, there's been many since then.
It was basically building a structure around what a salesperson needed to do in his daily job.
Also, the invention of the first cell phone was in the 80s - I think it was Motorola - and although not all salespeople could afford a Motorola cell phone back then, some of the bigger companies did and it really helped to improve the way that they were able to communicate with their prospects and customers.
Information at the click of a button: the 90s
Next, we move into the internet being invented, so not only did salespeople have access to customer information but the customer also is now able to get more information on your products and services.
So there's another element there that they have to deal with. They're starting to get more knowledgeable about what you sell.
New sales technology: 2000s
Then we move into the 2000s, where we've got all sorts of new technologies. So there are companies that started developing marketing tools software that would interact with sales tools.
It really started to change the way that those two functions would speak to one another. So we would have marketing campaigns that would be created and it would feed into sales solutions and so the salesperson could have insights into both of those things.
Scientific selling: 2010+
Now we have more of a scientific selling process where we're bringing in AI and things like that where we're taking data from all different places, and we're analyzing it and then we're putting it into a way that we can present it to the salesperson so he could better understand who they need to be selling to.
I included the below stat because it was astounding to me when I read this.
70 billion is what's spent in the US on training. That's $1559 per salesperson. That's just an average. This is one of the big reasons why I think a lot of companies are now moving away from instructor-led training into more of an E-learning.
Sales enablement challenges
If you don't have a CRM, you're really way behind the curve. This is causing a lot of problems still today. Whether you're using spreadsheets and things like that to manage your customer base and it's still a challenge.
Reinvestments in sales training
I think it was back in 2008 with the recession that they really started to cut back significantly on sales training, they were spending way too much money.
Now that things are better there's still resistance to spend a lot of money on sales training. That's another problem that we're facing.
The rise of AI
We have a lot of different ways that we can collect information about our customers and products and that's something we also need to think about.
Decrease in sales headcount
Because of all of these technologies coming into play, now it's really decreasing how many salespeople we can have. We don't need as many to go out and so there are some challenges there that we're experiencing.
Product marketing and sales
Key content differences
I wanted to talk a little bit about the differences between the different content and this is not so much generic, this is coming from Oracle's perspective.
It can change slightly depending on what company you're with but for us in product marketing, one of the key things that I wanted to mention is sales plays.
Sales plays are a big thing for us as well. It's not so much a play, it has a playbook in it, but a sales play is really about a play around how to solve a specific problem for our customer.
It could be very industry-specific, very solution-specific, although solutions don't really get included into the method until the very end so we don't really care about that, we care about what kind of problem is the customer having? And how we're going to solve that problem.
Battlecards, elevator pitches, and ultimately the customer presentation that the salesperson can use.
Product development is putting content together all the time as well and they're sharing it out there so you have to be very cognizant of what they're creating and where they're keeping their content.
Product development deals with feature functions - solution overview decks, the customer success deck, so they're very in touch with the customers who are actually using our software and they get stories from them that we can actually share with other customers. That could be very valuable to our salespeople.
They also focus on competitive intelligence - what our salespeople should be aware of when they're going into a deal where they're competing against a competitor, the objection handling, and things like that. Of course, they're always going to have information on the product roadmap.
What we do is we take a collaboration of those two things and our content’s more on how to position that product or service to sales.
We don't create it all from scratch, we're collaborating all of this content together to create an e-learning program for sales. It could be a solution overview, a sales play specific training, really detailed, and we do training for our SEs as well.
We do a little bit of instructor-led as well, we do programs for our brand new out of college or new sales coming into the organization, they go through a week training, but for the most part, it's all e-learning.
Understand sales team needs
This can vary with different companies but this is the learning journey for our salespeople and our solution engineers.
One of the things when they first come in, their onboarding, is they get an introduction of what it is that they're going to be selling. It's really more of an overview.
Then they move on up to product-specific training - they need to understand all the products that they're allowed to sell.
There's also a lot of industries and so in some cases, they only can sell to certain industries, or maybe they sell to any industry, it's kind of open, so they need to be able to understand how they're going to sell to a particular industry.
Pillar by industry
What's the best way to understand and explain the context of everything that you're taking in? When I use the word pillar, I focus specifically on CX service and CX sales - that's what we call a particular pillar.
A lot of it can be cloud, and then you start breaking it down to more specifics.
You can take all of that and then message it to your customer, so it's all about the messaging.
Sales play packs
Their sales play pack breaks it down, we do probably every quarter maybe three different play packs for our particular pillars. It's different because Oracle is pretty huge and has lots of different products.
There are other ways obviously to stay connected. We do a lot of on-demand, we do a lot of webcasts, we started a program I used to host called five and 15. It was live and we would record it as well so people could go back and look at it later, but it was really focused around five things that you need to know about a particular topic in 15 minutes.
Because salespeople have very short attention spans if it's longer than that they're not going to pay any attention, or they can squeeze it into their calendar, it's only 15 minutes. It really boomed and it's still going today. That was when I was in product marketing.
We do it every week for them to just get 15 minutes of really, really good, important information. So that's the learning journey.
You'll note at the bottom on every one of them, you're going to have one to multiple learning plans. We use a learning management system so that we know:
- Who's taking it?
- Did they pass the assessment?
In some cases, courses are required and learning plans are required, so that's a good way to measure who's consuming. Sales leadership can also see of those that have been taking these courses, how well are they doing?
Or maybe someone that's not doing so well hasn't taken any, maybe we need to push him to start taking some of these courses. So it's a good way to measure.
Sales enablement community
I think one of the key things so this whole article is creating the sales enablement community. The mission really is for sales enablement communities to collaborate across all the lines of businesses that are important to this process.
It could be your solution engineer leadership, sales leadership, product marketing, of course, in some cases product development, but the whole mission of this is to get all these people together.
We do it I think once every couple of months to focus on what's happening in the next quarter. It needs to be done often. It can be hard to get a lot of time depending on how high of a level you go up, but it's very, very important to do this process.
We get product marketing and even business development involved in these meetings.
Make sure you understand what the objectives of this meeting are. For us, we're defining and coordinating product solution training, obviously, what's the big next big thing that's coming up? Where are our gaps that we need to be able to fill?
The biggest thing is that it can be contentious between these three groups because everybody has their idea of what they think it is that they need. It's important for us as sales enablement leaders to make sure we're taking the best.
Sales might say they need this - is it just a lot of talk? Or is there something really to it? How are you going to use that? What value is that going to give to you? It's good to get all these people in the same room to understand what it is they actually need.
Make your content engaging
For me personally, but Oracle as well, since we are focusing so much on E-learning, it's important for us to make it really engaging, it's not just a PowerPoint that you're watching and you're falling asleep, or you're just walking away and you're letting it play, we're trying to make it more interactive and more engaging.
One of the things that we have done is to use a lot of videos. We're not talking about hours of video because that's the same problem but short clips, even doing some of these webcasts or even just these podcast style, where you have somebody and you're just sitting at a table and chairs and you're talking to each other, and maybe interview, whatever it might be about a particular topic.
Putting it out there on O Tube, which is like our YouTube channel, and then we share that out there. It's making it interesting and innovative.
How to get there
In terms of e-learning, I think some of the key things are as follows:
- Having a content blueprint - understanding what's your outline for your whole learning plan? Making sure you understand that before you actually get started your learning objectives.
- The big thing for me is the detailed storyboard because you may not be the person that's developing the e-learning content.
- Consider your development tool - we use Captivate but there are a lot of great tools out there. But storyboard, storyboard, storyboard - I'm talking very detailed pictures, very detailed instructions, and I even put narration on there i.e. what I want to be said at each point.