Recently, our CEO, Russ Heddleston, sat down with Diana Smith, Director of Product Marketing at Segment, to talk best practices and tips for companies looking to improve their sales process, product marketing and sales enablement with content. We discussed:
- The first pieces of collateral you should create for your sales team.
- How to segment content so it speaks to different stakeholders.
- How to involve your sales team in the collateral creation process.
Diana works cross-functionally with the Product, Sales and Marketing teams. She’s responsible for crafting Segment’s external messaging and arming the sales team with the collateral they need to go out and close. She is responsible for determining where there are knowledge gaps and creating content to overcome them. Here’s the transcript:
Russ: Can you tell us a little about Segment and how your sales team uses content during the sales process?
Diana: Segment is a really interesting product because it has a lot of different uses. And that makes our sales process very consultative. Given all the use cases, we want to make sure that when a sales rep sends content to a prospective account, it’s actually relevant to them. Purchasing Segment typically involves multiple stakeholders from different departments within the same company. Each stakeholder all has different needs, concerns, and pain points. Segment is a complex sale, so it helps to have collateral tailored to each type of buyer.
Russ: What’s the most important thing to consider when you’re creating collateral for a sales team?
Diana: When you start out creating content for a sales team, the first thing you need to examine is the sales funnel. There is an infinite number of pieces that would be nice to have. Our challenge is prioritizing content by the impact and business value it will have for the entire organization. I look for the drop-offs in the funnel. I figure out where we are struggling and see how we can use content to improve that step in the process.
Russ: What’s an example of a piece of collateral that you recently created that came out of this process?
Diana: We just worked on one piece that provides an executive level overview of Segment. It talks about how Segment can help multiple different departments within an organization. We find that engineering brings often brings us into an organization. And that makes sense; we have a lot of benefits for engineers. But we also help product managers and marketers and BI teams.
We created a piece of collateral that dives into the benefits for each team. That way, we can share the collateral with an executive and give them the complete overview. An AE can also share it with a specific team and say, “Hey, I’m talking about Feature-XYZ to your engineering team today, and, if you want to loop in your marketing colleagues, this is what might interest them about Segment.”
Russ: At what point did you start creating collateral at Segment? Do you have any advice for when companies should look at creating collateral for their sales team?
Diana: For a long time, we focused on our self-service customers and small businesses. That meant we weren’t as focused on providing the sales team with a robust library of collateral. Recently, our focus has changed and so has the content that we create. We’re now more focused on giving the sales team a library of core collateral to address common scenarios that come up in our sales process.
When we first shifted over to a sales focus, the most important thing was case studies. Case studies are the first thing you need, always. (See 150+ examples of case studies from the top companies here). They’re a good place to start. However, case studies can become very big projects. If you start out trying to create case studies for every product, buyer type, and industry, it can get out of control. You don’t need to create a multitude of case studies when starting out. You just need a few targeted at your ideal customer for your sales team to use.
Russ: How do you prioritize what new pieces of collateral to create?
Diana: We set up a great process with our sales operations team. We have a form the sales team fills out that tells us:
- What type of collateral they need.
- What stage of the deal cycle it will be used in.
- Examples of possible deals it could be used on.
- The potential impact of this content.
Our sales ops and product marketing teams regularly evaluate all the content requests. We determine priorities based on deals in the pipeline, the overall funnel, and the highest number of requests. Once the product marketing team decides to make that piece of collateral, we dive a little deeper with whoever requested it. We need to figure out if it’s something that’s presented by a rep, or something that’s sent to prospects via email. If it’s sent, does it get sent before or after a call? How technical is the person that is going to be reading this collateral?
I’ve also found that when a rep requests a particular piece of collateral, it’s often more helpful for identifying an area where they need help. For instance, they may ask for a feature matrix that compares our product to a competitor’s. But, when you dig in, you may find that what they actually want is to be trained on how to sell against that competitor. The feature matrix is born out of lack of confidence in that sale. That said, it may not be that effective in communicating the benefits of our product over a competitor’s.
When you’re first creating collateral, always try and figure out the problem the rep is trying to solve. Don’t just answer the request. Then, you can brainstorm solutions together.
Russ: Now that the Segment sales team has a library of collateral to use, how do you communicate when and how to use individual pieces?
Diana: Whenever a new piece of collateral becomes available to the sales team, we have a training session on it. We also tag every piece of collateral in our sales content management system. Those tags dictate when and how to use collateral in the sales process. That said, I think we can do a better job of making sure they’re really taking in the content and using it.
Russ: What’s the design process like for collateral at Segment?
Diana: Our collateral is a team effort. We rely on and collaborate closely with the design team once the content is mostly locked. I am not a designer, but I care about the story and know that design is a large part of the story. That’s why I rely on our design team and contractors to share their opinions. Product marketing usually dictates the length of pieces and thinks through if it needs quotes—stuff like that. Then, we usually collaborate with the design team on diagrams of the products and leave the aesthetic choices, like sizing or images, mostly up to them.
Russ: What’s One Challenge That You’re Working Through Right Now?
Diana: One thing we’re still trying to figure out is what department owns one-off pieces of content that pertain to specific deals. Is it product marketing or sales and sales engineering? For example, this might be a one-off proposal or a case study to expand an account. One-offs are tricky because we always need to determine, “Is it worth our time to do it for one deal if it won’t be used again?”. We’re always thinking about how we can reuse pieces of content. But we also need to be realistic when considering if other reps will actually use it when selling.
Now that we’ve accumulated a library of core collateral that everyone who sells Segment is using, we’re going to be focusing even more on specific topics or objections that can cause leaks in our funnel. Building out that library of core collateral is something I wish we started sooner. It’s been really valuable for our organization to get a common set of reusable content for all our reps, and now it’s time to get more granular.
Russ: For a company that’s just starting out, how would you recommend building out their sales collateral overtime?
Diana: Pitch decks, product sheets and case studies are key. We already talked about case studies — these are your bread and butter. You also need to have product overviews that provide detailed dives into the benefits and features of specific products that you offer. Lastly, you need to have a killer pitch deck. It sounds basic, but it’s actually a lot of work to create a great pitch deck — one that you can send to prospects that they can then take and edit themselves if they want to share it with someone else in their company.
Russ: If you could tell a startup that’s getting into collateral creation for their sales process, what would you say?
Diana: Before you start writing anything, figure out who “owns” the collateral, as well as who are the stakeholders for each piece. Anytime you are writing a piece of content, there are going to be people who provide input. That’s great! That’s what makes a piece of writing better. But you should also determine ahead of time who gives input and who makes the final call on edits (the PMM, the Sales Manager?) Making these parties clear at the beginning will help you avoid a lot of revisions.
You might talk to three different sales people and they all have a subtly different way that they speak about a particular product; product managers will also have their own language to communicate the value of a product they built. In situations like these, having what we call a “DRI,” or directly responsible individual, will help you be create a more efficient content process.
photo by Isaac Bowen it has been cropped and the color has been modified