How does Sales Enablement change when you go from selling a product to selling a platform?
While you can have really compelling per-product pitches, the real challenge of selling a platform is getting prospects and customers to buy into a vision that unifying their systems is going to be a force multiplier for their company. The value is that 1 + 1 > 2. In selling a platform, it’s imperative the messaging is above-the-line focused because you’re trying to convince customers about the vision. There may be cases where a platform only has 80% of the features that a combination of point solutions have, but still wins out because the sales team was able to align the customer with the idea that a unified platform is better. Tactically, this means shifting your core narrative from having a narrow products focus to having a vision and use case focus. It means creating case studies that span multiple products, etc.
This is a tough question to answer because it is so multifaceted. So let's start with the basics when you are moving from product to platform, you're moving from selling one solution to selling multiple solutions. My first recommendation is to hire a separate role that focuses on Sales Enablement. The reason is that you will have to shift from application marketing to solution marketing and this also means shifting to solutions selling, and you will need someone who has a sales background.
If your company isn't ready, then you should partner with sales and cs to craft the level 2 and level 3 messages. Level 2 is messaging on assets and Level 3 is scripts and talking points.
It depends on where you are in the growth journey. If this is a strategy change - in terms of no longer selling a product to selling a platform, it's more about messaging & the art of the possible with a platform.
If you're further in the growth journey and have a complex product portfolio, where now you need to layer on a platform message, then it's about really ensuring your AEs have that foundational knowledge down.
Regardless, with a platform, I find that (1) it's a more technical sale (2) you need to really upskill the AEs or bring in your technical SEs to own the conversation (3) your buy may change from the business to IT but since you want to avoid that (since IT tends to be a cost center), you really need to still try to get the business to see the value of the platform and the art of the possible, so they can advocate for it.
Let's start with the difference between a platform and a product: Almost every SaaS product has APIs that let it integrate with other applications. A platform, however, plays a more active role in creating an ecosystem and acts as a central hub where how multiple products work and can thrive together.
If the platform evolves to a point where it can serve up a marketplace for other products, then the sales enablement process must include the partners who are part of your ecosystem. In my mind, that is where the game changes for sales enablement. The sales rep now has to look at the combined value prop of the core platform and the partner products that will support a niche use case. For the sales rep, this is fantastic because it makes the solution selling approach a lot easier.
In my experience the shift from Product selling to Platform selling has meant that we've had to update the buyer personas we sell too, or at least expand them. It has meant we're no longer selling to a single buyer, but rather a buying committee - so sales has to be equipped with knowing who the members of that committee are, and what is important to them.
Selling a Platform will also inherently evolve the pitch and sales motion as well. Sales enablement will be tasked with helping the sales org sell the value at the highest level and ask the right discovery questions to hone in on the parts of the platform that are most relevant for the prospect - while still selling the vision of the entire Platform.
When selling a platform, you're selling what a customer can accomplish, less what a customer is buying. Obviously in the SaaS world, a lot of our marketing is based on the product being the thing that gets a customer to a desired future state, but that's even more true when selling a platform.
The big change is the customer's journey to get to that desired future state. Their path to usage is different, their stage in the purchase path is different, and the stakeholders needed in the room are different.
So I would suggest you stick with the same thematic narrative of enabling your sellers to showcase offerings from your company that solve customer needs, but be sure to also enable those sellers on the nuances of the platform sale--what does the usage journey look like? How can an SDR get an appointment for the AE? How can an AE get the customer over to an SE? How do you make the platform consumable to a seller, but not overlapping with your "standard" products? How does your sales team's core persona engage the necessary persona for a platform conversation?
Oftentimes at the companies where I have worked, Sales can gravitate to the path of least resistance, so you'll need to make it easy for them to 1) understand platform nuances and 2) have a path to keep the sales conversation going when one of those nuances comes up. Platform customers tend to be stickier than others because of all the work they have to do on their own to leverage the offering, so if you can get a sales team to not feel like they are stumped in the conversation and that they can convert leads at parity with other products, then there is more money in a platform sale.
So the opportunity is there, you just need to find what your sales team needs so that they are confident in their talk track and have the path detailed towards next steps.
Sales enablement programs have to be designed with a hierarchy in mind, just like how there's a messaging hierarchy. You lead with the hero and follow with the supporting cast.
Based on the way this question is phrased, I'll assume that the move towards selling a platform (from product) was decided upon for good reason. And it does introduce more complexity:
- More platform-type of information
- Different packaging (and likely pricing)
- Content curation for different teams
Where enablement may have been a one-and-done event, it now becomes a continuous program. And the program can be delivered in stages, prioritizing the platform in stage 1 followed by products in stage 2, 3, and so on.