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Best Practices for Educating and Training Sales Teams with Rachel Balik, Director of Product Marketing

Recently, our CEO, Russ Heddleston, sat down with Rachel Balik, Director of Product Marketing at Demandbase, to discuss best practices when it comes to training and educating Sales, key topics discussed were:

  1. How to educate sales teams so they will actually understand the meaning behind the content you create.
  2. Ongoing challenges that all product marketers face with content adoption and comprehension.
  3. How new product marketers can best shape their relationship with Sales.

Russ: Hi Rachel, thanks for joining us today. To start things off, can you tell us a little about your role?

Rachel: I’m the Director of Product Marketing at Demandbase. I’ve been with the company for three years, which has been a great experience. I started in content and then moved into product marketing. My areas of focus within product marketing are our data and analytics solutions, as well our content strategy. . I’ve collaborated with a lot of different departments and functional areas within the organization, mainly Product and Sales, but also customer success, services and even engineering. I played a role in the category creation of account-based marketing (ABM), which has been really exciting. When I started at Demandbase, nobody knew what ABM, was and now it’s the strategy that everyone is focused on.

Russ: At a high level, how do you work and interact with the sales team?

Rachel: We have a sales trainer, and the product marketing team works very closely with them to produce and deliver relevant content for Sales on an ongoing basis. We provide the content and sometimes do the training, and we work with our sales trainer to set the curriculum. He’s in the field working with reps directly, so his input is extremely valuable. However, members of the sales team can ask me things over Slack or email anytime, or they can just stop me in the hallway. Even at 200 employees, Demandbase is still a close-knit and conversational environment.

Russ: Where does your role end, and where does the sales trainer’s role begin? How do you manage that overlap?

Rachel: It mainly comes down to curriculum planning. Here’s an example: we recently acquired a company called Spiderbook, which we’re all really excited about. Post-acquisition, the challenge for product marketing and the sales trainer was to get all our reps up to speed on a new product very quickly. The sales trainer was the one who said, “This is what the curriculum is, this is how I’m going to lead the session, and this is how I’m going to organize the session.” While we did have some input on the curriculum, we focused on providing content, creating the preliminary pitch deck and advising on demo training.

Russ: How do you accomplish keeping Sales up-to-date, trained and using the right content?

Rachel: We are conscientious of the fact that everybody learns in different ways. We try to cover all the bases and make sure all members off the sales team are getting the information they need and can learn in a way that works for them. We disseminate new information in a number of ways, here’s a good example: right now we’re updating our solution sheets and our competitive analysis collateral. When a new piece of content becomes available for Sales, we’ll send out an email with a link to the collateral.

But just sending out content to reps tends to not be enough. Maybe we’ll also host a competitive session where we do training in-person or perhaps we will do a webinar that’s just for the sales team. We’ve also kicked-off an initiative to do office hours for the sales team. It’s a designated time every other week when Sales can come talk to Product Marketing, get updated and ask us questions.

Russ: What are some of the ongoing challenges you’re facing right now as a product marketer working with a growing sales team?

Rachel: I think two big challenges that every product marketer deals with are:

1. Getting people to read all the material that’s available to them
2. Turning around new content or information in time to assist with closing bigger deals

Sometimes sales reps are sending questions in real-time, maybe they’re in the field and I will get a Slack message from one of them saying, “I’m going to this meeting in three minutes, can you give me some bullet points?” I’m happy to do that, but in a perfect world I would say, “But, you’ve read every single thing I’ve provided, and everything I’ve provided is exactly what you’re looking for.”

It’s important to remember that it’s not the fault of the seller when they don’t understand a piece of content. Perhaps they interpreted it differently, or it wasn’t communicated in a way that was easy for them to understand. Ultimately, it’s your job to help reps learn the product, understand how to sell it, and assist them in getting their deals across the finish line — especially when what they are selling is new and complex.

Russ: What advice would you have for people in product marketing when they’re starting off regarding how they can best shape their relationship with Sales?

Rachel: Being a good listener is the best thing you can do to strengthen your relationship with your sales team. In any healthy professional relationship, there’s going to be some amount of friction coming from both ends. Sales is never going to feel like they have enough content. If they did feel that way, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs — Sales should always be asking for more.

At the same time, I need to make sure we’re being efficient and effective. . When I moved to product marketing, I wanted to understand reps’ answers to questions like, “What’s your biggest pain point? What’s the toughest question that you get asked?” It’s valuable to understand the answers to those questions, but I quickly learned that it doesn’t stop there. It’s also imperative to understand how the sales team wants to receive new information. We’re very aware that not everybody learns the same way. As an added bonus, this increase in communication creates a back-and-forth between Sales and Product Marketing where, hopefully, both teams will start to trust each other so you can be honest with each other and say things like, “If this isn’t working, — let’s talk about why. Let’s figure out what you need.” And that goes both ways. I also want them to bring me on sales calls, share what they’re seeing in the field and give me feedback on how our messaging resonates with our prospects and customers. When you’ve built a good foundation of communication, that all falls into place.

image via prilfish