Jeff Beckham

Jeff BeckhamShare

Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, Gem
I lead product marketing at Gem, which makes a SaaS product that can help you hire 5x faster. Previously at Mixpanel, Slack, BlueJeans, and Cisco Systems.
Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemDecember 18

At every company I’ve been a part of, product marketing has always been the driver of any sales enablement done by the marketing team. I’m sure that’s not the case everywhere, but I believe it’s the norm. The main reason is PMMs are hired for a specific skill set that fits enablement – storytelling, positioning, and content production. On top of the raw skills, it’s part of the PMM team’s day job to be experts on the company’s product, market, and customers – all of which tie into the knowledge that the sales team needs.

The only exceptions I’ve seen are when the enablement is related to non-product-focused topics. For example, I’ve seen a demand gen team enable SDRs on how to follow up with leads from events and webinars. I’ve also seen content teams train on thought leadership assets that can be used in the sales cycle. For example, my current company releases a product benchmarks report and our content lead built the sales content and ran the training.

For product releases, I don’t have a “go-to-stack” but have a standard set of deliverables I’ve found useful in most situations (see below). Enablement software (LMS, Content Management System, etc.) can make it all easier, but isn’t necessary.

One big change I've made over the years is that I now swear by Google Slides and Google Docs, after being a PowerPoint and Word fan boy for quite some time. It's so much easier to keep people up-to-date with the latest materials and messaging when you can make updates at the same link. The minute people download a PPT deck to their desktop, they'll be copying that same version for the next 9 months and missing all the updates you make.

Here is a summary of product launch deliverables, related to the sales team, that I typically see:

  • Launch checklist: for internal alignment, usually in a Google Sheet or project management software like Asana.
  • Messaging & positioning doc: This is the foundation for all the launch materials. By documenting the product’s value prop, target audience, use cases, and differentiation, you can enable a team of people to execute independently in their roles.
  • Slides: Good sales reps and CSMs always always want to share the latest releases in their meetings, even if they’re small. Plug-and-play slides make it easier for them, and also keep everyone across the company on-message. 
  • Training: it helps to get in a room and discuss things. The most common question I get asked is, “how do I sell it?” which isn’t as easy to convey in writing (although it’s possible). If you work with someone on the sales team to be a presenter at the training, you’ll have a credible pitch delivered by one of their peers.
  • Copy/paste email templates: to slot into Gmail or Outlook, or a mass-email tool like Outreach / Tout. Sales always appreciates when things are plug-and-play so they can focus on selling and not writing.
  • Longer-form assets: data sheets, solution sheets, blog posts. These aren’t a fit for every release, but are useful for the big ones.
Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemDecember 18

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.

Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemDecember 18

This is a fun question because I’ve seen this vary so broadly across the places I’ve worked. Step one is to make sure product marketing gets invited :) At Mixpanel, all of the go-to-market teams go to SKO, and it has really helped to create a sense of shared purpose across sales, marketing and customer success. But I’ve seen SKO be sales-only at larger companies and companies on tight budgets.

You’ll likely get different answers from different people on the right level of involvement in the content by product marketing. As a rule of thumb, product marketing usually has more responsibility when the sales enablement team is small (or nonexistent).

I personally prefer to be a stakeholder in an agenda owned by the Head of Sales, and only be responsible for a couple hours of content across the three or so days of SKO. 

Here are a couple examples of things I’ve seen PMM own at sales kickoffs:

  • Rolling out a new pitch deck
  • Deep dive on a top competitor
  • Bringing in a speaker from an analyst firm like Gartner or Forrester
  • Introducing a new product
  • Objection handling exercises
  • Product marketing plans for the upcoming year
  • CEO keynote

Sales kickoffs are fun and product marketing usually has a key role to play. But driving the full agenda and all the logistics is a lot to take on.

Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemMay 7

It’s a good question, but also a loaded one! Product management needs to prove their value to the company too, right?

The dynamic you’re describing is common though, unfortunately. I’ve lived it many times.

The best working relationship comes when both sides have shared goals. If that’s not reality, one thing I’ve advised PMMs on my team to do is figure out what the PMs they work with care about and are goaled on. What are their OKRs or objectives? Assuming it’s not something crazy and counterproductive for the business, get a quick win and help them improve the thing they’re measured on (adoption, revenue, etc) to earn their trust.

In terms of how to be most helpful, each PM I’ve worked with has a unique skillset. PMMs are most valuable when they are complementary. For example, if the PM is technical but not a great writer, make them look good by doing the heavy lifting on the blog and slides for the new launch. If they’re business-savvy and just need more insights from the field to form their strategy, do some market research and collect insights from customers and sales.

If I were to generalize from my experiences, working with the sales team is the most common thing that PMs appreciate help with. When you’re creating great collateral and running trainings that enable the field to sell the PM’s product, they’ll be ecstatic.

Unless your company is overstaffed, there’s always going to be enough work for both Product and Product Marketing. The key is finding the balance where you’re “better together,” to use a corny phrase. When the product is being adopted and driving revenue, both sides look good.

Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemDecember 18

The biggest mistake I’ve made is not involving Sales at the ideation stage. Too many times, I’ve thought I had a great idea for a new program or piece of content, only to find upon rolling it out that I was solving a problem nobody had.

It’s always good to have a few “friendlies” on the sales team who you can bounce early-stage ideas off of. If they think you’re onto something, you can get sales leadership involved. There’s no better way to make an enablement program work than for the Head of Sales to make it a priority.

At a more tactical level, I’ve learned a ton over the years about delivering sales training, due in large part to mistakes I’ve made. There are two common themes:

  1. It’s not interactive enough. Sales professionals talk to people for a living, so sitting there and watching a slideshow for an hour (or longer) tends to be an exceedingly boring activity for them. They want to practice things as they’d do them in real life so that they aren’t winging it when they get the big meeting. That means live pitches, role plays, and objection handling –– or at a minimum, open Q&A. The sales leadership team will have useful ideas about ways to make your training valuable for their teams.
  2. Too focused on features / functionality. I can see the survey feedback from a former Head of Sales like a blinking red sign in my head: “Help us learn how to sell it, not how it works.” Those two concepts are of course related, but sales needs the details woven into a bigger story that they can use with executives who won’t care about a new button or report you’ve added. They want to know how it leads to more revenue, time saved, lower expenses, better decisions, and all the usual types of business impact.
Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemDecember 18

The best sales reps I’ve seen rely on people and resources across the company to win deals, but these same reps are also very particular about the materials they use and the people they invite to meetings. This attention to detail in the customer experience is what drives their success.

The million dollar question to ask yourself is: “How can I be a value-add? What can I provide that they can’t get from anyone else at the company?”

If you aren’t sure, just ask them what they need that would make their job easier. It might be a custom sales deck for a big meeting, a new two-pager, or some highly-specific competitive intelligence. Once you deliver for them a couple of times, they’ll trust you and turn to you more. You’ll know you’re there when you get asked for advice on positioning in big deals, or even get invited to meetings to talk to customers directly.

A good place to start is with newer or more junior reps. They’re most likely to welcome help from anywhere they can get it, and once you help someone win a deal, word gets out quickly. That cements the relationship, at which point you can ask for their help in testing your materials and providing feedback.

Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemDecember 18

It’s exciting that your company is making the shift up-market! The first question to ask is whether you have the right people in place to sell into enterprises. Promoting the best people on the mid-market team is highly risky, although that decision is usually outside the purview of product marketing. Having a seasoned enterprise sales rep or two is essential to success because they can guide the broader organization in transforming in the way that it needs to.

For enablement specifically, it’s likely that you’ll need an entirely new set of content.

  • Pitch / narrative: the same story that resonates with companies fresh out of Y-Combinator won’t land in the Fortune 500. The differences can be as simple as terminology (Innovation vs. Digital Transformation), but often it’s more than that. For example, enterprises will care more about things like the size of your customer base, ability to scale, and validation from Gartner, because they have a lot more to lose in taking a risk with an up-and-coming company.
  • Sales process: Deal cycles can be significantly longer, which means your approach will need to change. For example, at a past company SMB deals would close in 30-60 days while enterprise deals averaged 6 months from start to finish. This is fairly common and means the standard questions, like “who has the budget?” and “who needs to sign off?” are much more difficult to answer. The most fun changes are related to heavier involvement from Legal, Security, and Procurement, which make forecasting much more challenging. Mapping this all out is a great exercise.
  • Content: This one is fairly intuitive but applies across the board, to all your materials. For example, add logos of Fortune 500 customers to your enterprise two-pagers and decks. You’ll also likely need enterprise-specific content like RFP / RFI templates (Request for Proposal). You may also need to re-think your buyer personas if new types of people are involved in the purchase process.

The right changes to make will be specific to your company, and it’s worth pulling together all the people with enterprise experience to provide input into the plan.

Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemMay 7

I’m glad you asked, because I love building presentations! I realize I’m a total slide nerd, but here’s my process:

  1. Align on the outcome you want from the presentation. Who are you trying to convince, and about what? Whether the audience is the sales team at SKO or execs at a business review, if all stakeholders aren’t on the same page there, creating the content will be a mess.
  2. Build an outline in a doc before creating any slides (GDocs, Notion, or any doc that supports group editing). If you don’t, you’ll waste tons of time on shapes and graphics when the storyline and key points aren’t decided. I’ve refined my outline process to be one main bullet per slide, with 2 sub-bullets – max.

    Slide takeaway(message, not copy)
    --> Evidence that supports the takeaway
    --> Idea for slide visual(s)

    If everyone isn’t in agreement on the outline, do not proceed or risk stepping into slide quicksand where your time disappears quickly!
  3. Build out the wireframe deck and suggest owners for each slide via comments or text boxes. I tend to set a consistent format for the deck so it looks like all the slides go together. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube and people start editing slides, you can’t go back. I’ve found it best to let everyone own their slides or they won’t feel invested.
  4. Once all the content is in, start making the slides look nice. Lots of people aren’t in love with presentations, so it can help to go the extra mile and tidy up the deck for everyone’s benefit.
Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemDecember 18

If you have the opportunity to be involved, snatch it as quickly as possible! The core of product marketing is creating messaging that works, and the fastest way to test messaging is through channels that scale. SDR templates are one of those, along with digital ads and high-traffic web pages.

Our rule of thumb at Mixpanel is that a unified message, either written or approved by product marketing, is the best. While you want to empower and trust your sales development reps, when there are hundreds of variations of emails, there is simply no way to know what messaging actually works. Our product marketing and SDR leadership teams have worked closely to develop every one of our outbound and inbound sequences. From our company’s overarching value props, key product messaging, and customer validation stories, our messaging is used in a consistent way – which also makes it measurable.

Additionally, it’s important to trust your SDR leadership team (they live in email) to know the tactics that lead to a response (ex: best subject lines, email signatures, and CTAs). Using data, we know which emails are the most successful and can iterate on those that are underperforming.

For specific campaigns, we allow for elements of an email to be personalized and rely on SDRs to create the appropriate message. We trust that they won’t embarrass the company with grammar errors, poor use of GIFs, incorrect links, and so on. They're incentivized on booking meetings, so it's in their best interest to write good emails.

In addition to writing sequences, we have also created a messaging matrix that SDRs, Account Executives, and anyone else in the org can reference to know how Mixpanel should be positioned. It’s important that everyone is speaking the same language, whether they’re responsible for emails, sales pitches, or the website.

At some companies, I’ve even seen outbounding report into marketing to force closer collaboration. The last three places I’ve worked did this at one point or another. The right move depends on the background of the sales and marketing leadership teams in place and the needs of the company at the time.

One caveat I’ll add is that it’s best to limit involvement in SDR emails to scalable activities. If it’s just for one or two reps sending one-off emails, you’ll spend a lot of time on something that has minimal impact and creates very few learnings.

Jeff Beckham
Jeff Beckham
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing, GemMay 7

Whenever I join a new team, my first objective is to earn trust – both within my department and with cross-functional partners. Without trust, advice from “the new guy” about how things should be done is usually unwelcome.

To do that, start by identifying problems you can solve to make everyone’s life easier. Not things you observe that are suboptimal compared to your last job, but things that are driving people at your new company crazy already. There’s always something, and if you can solve that, the team will be much more open-minded to your ideas.

When it comes time to push your ideas, it’s important to frame them in terms of how they will help the team and company. Otherwise, they’ll come across like a power play.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen new joiners make is trying to port over strategies from their last company without accounting for why they worked there, and whether the circumstances are the same and primed for success. Being transparent and detailed about that translation is essential.

Ultimately, the best product marketing processes will depend on company goals, org structure, the strengths of each team, culture, and so much more. It’s definitely not one-size-fits-all.

Credentials & Highlights
Sr. Director and Head of Product Marketing at Gem
Product Marketing AMA Contributor
Lives In San Francisco
Knows About Consumer Product Marketing, Competitive Positioning, Enterprise Product Marketing, In...more