For a product marketer who only spends a portion of their time working on sales enablement with little face-to-face time with sales, what's the best way to get buy in from a large sales team?
Get out in the field as often as you can and meet with customers but also seek out the super star sellers and find out their secrets to success. Your goal should be to become a trusted advisor to the sales team. This means you have the ability to diagnose problems and challenges that the sales team run into and then make the right recommendations to improve their situation. Showing up and being in the trenches alongside them is the single best way to build your partnership with the sales team - it not only builds empathy but it helps build your knowledge of the challenges they face every day.
Find a few successful, well-respected sales reps and cultivate strong relationships with them. Get their input on what you're working on, ask for advice on how (and with whom!) to socialize your work with, and use that political savvy to focus on the key stakeholders within sales that have more influence. The key is to focus - not dilute - your energy and build a small number of strong but impactful relationships. Build your consensus from the ground up; many managers and sales leaders will look to their right-hand person for input. If you've already gotten that person on board with something, then the next senior-most person is likely to agree. Work your way up the sales organization strategically and make sure to get ultimate sign-off from the senior-most sales leader. A well-defined RAPID (decision making framework that clearly calls out who is the decision maker) is helpful here too.
Getting buy in is an exercise on understanding who to influence and what to do to influence them. A couple of things I think about are
- How do I align the sales enablement plan with sales leads to get a commitment on either revenue, adoption or being the executive sponsor for what you plan to do
- Will this plan be in line with their goals; if its not, how do I frame it in a way that best meets them?
- Will the sales enablement training address concerns/questions from sales (and by extension the client) so that it is a good use of time.
- During an early testing phase, how can you get allies or sales champions to help showcase the benefit of the product or activitation
Work with your enablement team! And like with a lot of things these days, you're competiting for their attention - why should they listen to you? What's in it for them as sellers? What do they get if they listen to you on this topic?
Also, work with sales leadership and have some street cred under your belt - shadow deals, visit customers, go along on ride alongs, and really build those relationships and empathy that will allow them to trust you and want to make time for your ideas and pitches.
- There are no shortcuts to getting buy in from a sales team; and, every product marketer needs to know how their product gets to market. To get buy-in from a large sales team you need to demonstrate empathy with the sales process, and be useful in accelerating pipeline. If you’re selling a B2B product, then you also need to know your sales team well. This means understanding how they’re organized (by region, by segment, by vertical), understanding what the pipeline looks like at a given point (maybe not by rep, but at least by segment), and being able to pull things together when you see an opportunity to help accelerate deals. For example, I see that Walmart is an opp for one of the enterprise reps, and I just finished a case study with Target. Before training the team on the Target case study, I’m going to set up time with the rep who owns the Walmart deal and walk them through the final draft of the Target case study, ask for any feedback, and then see if we can set up a call with Walmart to walk through the case study.
- Tactically, if you don’t have a sales enablement partner/leader, then I would suggest setting up a meeting, at least monthly or every 3 weeks, with at least one of the sales segments (likely your most important one or the one you’re focused on enabling). You can always make that meeting bigger. Partner with the manager for that vertical to ensure the agenda isn’t just driven by product marketing. Highlight recent wins and lessons learned, perhaps create an award that is passed between reps in this meeting, and always use it as an opportunity to educate the reps on new PMM assets or marketing campaigns that have launched or are about to launch and how to use those assets to assist in a pitch. Using the same doc (such as a Google Slides presentation) for these is helpful as reps can go back and reference those materials when they need them.