All related (76)
Madeline Ng
Head of Marketing, Google Maps Platform, GoogleApril 22

There's no quick answer here, but I'd consider the following factors when deciding how far in advance to enable the sales team. I would also caveat that this is less about how far in advance you train and more about how much repetition you offer to the sales team to learn about the thing. 

  1. How complex is the thing that is launching? More complexity requires more repeated training so I would suggest training earlier than later.
  2. How familiar is the sales team with the thing that is launching? If you're selling new technology or to a new buyer or in a new market, your sales team is going to need more time to receive training. 
  3. How much does your sales team care? Are you launching something that is "nice to know" or will learning about it close the quarter for them? The more it's tied to their incentives, the faster they will learn. Bringing in a sales team member as part of the creation of your sales training, and having them actively present as part of enablement, will typically also increase the amount of attention the broader sales organization pays to you. Bonus points if you have a field sales rep already validate your approach and assets with an actual customer.
  4. How ready are you? The best run launches are tied up in a bow well ahead of the launch date but I have rarely seen a launch without some small hiccup. You want to be at least 85% confirmed on the thing you are presenting to the sales organization because you do not want to lose their confidence.

Generally you should always assume that the first time you train very little is actually absorbed. Trainings should be consistent and build on each other. You should expect to repeat yourself often, I've heard 7 times, before it sticks.

In terms of assessing sales competency, the proof is in deals closed and speeding up the time to close. If you have the time, you can have "pitch off" assessments where a sales rep will pitch back to a subject matter expert and have a mock customer meeting for feedback. Or they could even record those pitches and have them assessed asynchronously. That might be sustainable with a team of 12 reps. 

ShiQi Wu
Head of Product Marketing, Southeast Asia, TikTokDecember 9

This depends when the product is being launched. Its hard to be competent if they have not “sold” the product. So usually 1-2 weeks ahead of large product launches. This also gives us time to collect questions, ensure we are answering as many FAQs as possible and preparing proper objection handling for the sales teams. Also we know it will take more than 1 training session to build up knowledge and capability. So repeating and doing follow up office hours or sharing snippets of wins from fellow sales will always be helpful to build confidence.

When it comes to sales competency, there are a few things we can do,
- Having short tests/quizzes
- Sitting in calls with them to support any product questions in the early days so they understand how we would manage questions from clients

Calvina Cheng
Head of Product Marketing, ZeplinFebruary 21

The more time, the better! We just had a Tier 1 launch at the end of January, and we had our first enablement session back in October! Our GTM Crew always wants to know more information, earlier, so we always try to start early and include a steady drip of enablement sessions up until launch day. Depending on how big the launch is, you could have an enablement session every 4-6 weeks with topics like (1) Kick-off: [New product launch], (2) Messaging & Competitive, (3) Product demo & resources. Then a few days or a week before launch day, you can follow up with an email reminder which has a summary of everything covered thus far, internal/external-facing materials, and links out to more info.

This time around, we also had everyone in Sales/Success submit a quick 10-min product demo on the new feature. The sales leads and I would then judge who had the best demo, with a $$ gift card to the best demo. 

I’d say post-launch, it would be good to listen in on sales calls and see how sales is talking about the new feature, and follow-up with training as needed. Gong and Chorus are great for this!

Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemDecember 17

The more time in advance you can provide the sales team, the better. But you also don’t want to sit on new products / features that are ready to go, especially when you’re at a small and nimble company like yours. The key question is, when is the product far enough along that you know the final feature set, can demo it, and have certainty around the best positioning and sales narrative? That’s the earliest you could possibly host the training.

I’ve found that doing training a week before a launch is a good balance. Then you can provide the slides, recording, and sometimes even an FAQ for them to dig into on their own. Sending a 30-second feedback survey after is a must, so you can learn where people still have questions and address them before the launch. If the launch is sizeable and you’re adding a new product line and/or entering a new market, even more lead time is better and you may need a series of trainings.

Validating sales competency can happen in a number of ways. Regardless of how you do it, it’s important to get sales leadership on board first. Nobody likes to be “tested,” so you need buy-in that certification is necessary, or nobody will do it.

The simplest method I’ve used is requiring attendance at a roadmap training before being able to present it to customers. On the more sophisticated end of the spectrum, I’ve worked with the sales leadership team at a few companies to run formal certifications on new pitches. That involved the sales rep’s manager, plus someone from product marketing or sales enablement on the call, filling out a rubric and delivering a pass / fail grade. As prep for that, we had a seasoned, successful account executive record his pitch for everyone to model theirs after. It helped the Sales team feel like a good pitch would drive their success, versus being something that product marketing was forcing on them.

Something I’ve also tried is a learning management system (LMS). They provide a handy way to upload mini-courses consisting of slides, videos, and quizzes that reps can complete on their own time. Then you can get an aggregate view of who has completed the course and how they did on the quiz.

As a rule of thumb, I suggest matching the scope of the launch to the lead time and complexity of the training and certification.